ESA, Mexican Police Raid Video Game Bootleggers

March 18, 2008 -

The Entertainment Software Association reports via press release that Mexican law enforcement authorities recently staged a crackdown on video game bootlegging operations in Mexico City.

Working with ESA representatives, more than 500 Mexican police coordinated raids on four game duplication facilities and three storage locations. The haul of contraband was impressive: 290 DVD/CD burners, 28,800 bootleg game copies and over 900,000 video game cover inserts. Said Ric Hirsch, the ESA's senior vice president for Intellectual Property Enforcement:
 

Mexico is an important market for ESA members due to the enormous popularity of entertainment software. Unfortunately, Mexico also has an alarmingly high rate of game software piracy that by our estimates reaches 88%. We are very grateful for the efforts of [the Mexican authorities] in attacking the sources of pirate video games circulating in Mexico City markets, as such enforcement actions are the best way to reduce high levels of game piracy.


The raids, which followed months of investigation by the ESA, took place in Mexico City's Tepito market area, which, according to the ESA, is "one of the most popular shopping areas in Mexico City and is a local center of black market activity."

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Japanese ISPs to Cut Service of File-sharers... Game Biz, Big Media Pressure Behind Move

March 15, 2008 -

Could it happen here?

AFP reports that Japanese Internet Service Providers will sever the Internet connection of those who illegally download files. It is said to be one of the strictest online piracy measures anywhere.

And the video game biz is right in the middle of it. From the AFP story:

Faced with mounting complaints from the music, movie and video-game industries, four associations representing Japan's Internet service providers have agreed to take drastic action, the Yomiuri Shimbun [newspaper] said...

The Yomiuri Shimbun estimated that 1.75 million people in Japan use file-sharing software, mostly to swap illegal copies...

One [ISP] considered two years ago a plan to disconnect people who swap illegal files but dropped the plan after the government said it may violate the right to privacy, the Yomiuri said.


Japanese government officials were unable to be reached for comment by AFP.

GP: While we don't condone illegal file-sharing, ham-handed moves like this one just leave GP shaking his head. Internet connections are as ubiquitous - and as necessary - as telephone connections in developed nations. Would the Japanese government permit its citizens' phone service to be yanked out over pressure from Big Media?

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Report: China's Official Olympics Website Rips Off Games

March 14, 2008 -
The video game industry has long complained that China is a nation where copyrights don't mean much.

But in what would appear to be a new low, the Chinese government's official website for the upcoming Beijing Summer Olympics seems to feature online games lifted from Western creators.

As reported by Ars Technica, the IP theft was outed when developer Cadin Batrack scanned the Online Games section of the Chinese site and noticed what appeared to be an altered version of one of his designs:
According to Batrack, the Olympics' game, Fuwa Fight the Winter Clouds, looks like someone downloaded and decompiled the SWF file from his site, swapped out some of the graphics, and then published it as their own game. Since this information was unveiled, Fuwa Fight the Winter Clouds has been removed, but it appears as if a couple of other games might also be copies.

Ironically, as Ars Technica reports:
The Beijing Olympic Committee have a stern warning on its site to deter anyone from stealing any of the IP posted therein (with fines up to $7,000 or five times the "illegal income" generated by the theft), but the site was developed by Sohu. Sohu is currently being sued for allegedly promoting online piracy (by providing links to illegal file-sharing web sites)...
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Canadian Legislator: We Don't Want a USA-style DMCA

March 11, 2008 -

Here in the United States, entertainment industry lobbying groups such as the ESA, RIAA and MPAA have wielded the Digital Millenium Copyright Act like a club against consumers. A member of Canada's Parliament does not want to see the same thing happen north of the border.

As reported by Boing Boing, New Democratic Party member Charlie Angus (left) has ripped Industry Minister Jim Prentice over Prentice's push for a DMCA-like law in Canada:
 

Prentice has consistently refused to allow public consultation into his bill, and instead has drafted a kind of wish-list representing the fondest fantasies of US entertainment giants.

Instead of marching off the same cliff that the US fell off of in 1998 with its DMCA, Canada could adopt a balanced copyright approach that will pay artists without criminalizing the public...


Indeed, Angus pulls no punches:
 

We are in no way obligated to go down the same dead end road as the United States with their restrictive legislation... However, if Mr. Prentice is going to let Canadian copyright legislation be written by U.S. trade interests he will certainly face a major backlash from both artist’s organizations, consumers and Canadian business groups.

 

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Why is National Institute on Media & Family Jumping into the File Sharing Debate?

March 5, 2008 -

In an unusual move, the National Institute on Media & the Family issued a newsletter alert last Thursday under the heading, "Does your teen understand illegal downloading?"

We found this both surprising and unsettling, for a couple of reasons.

First, the file sharing debate is a hot button issue between media content owners and consumers, and it's not one that's going away any time soon. Nor is it a simple issue. And while reasonable points can be made by both sides, the tactics of the content owners and their apparatchiks have been little short of draconian at times.

But even beyond the various arguments to be made, our question is simply this: Why is an organization founded and operated by a child psychologist (Dr. David Walsh), an organization which has historically attempted to relate modern digital media to developmental and emotional health issues, getting involved in a fight which is fraught with elements of politics and class struggle?

We note that the non-profit NIMF recently agreed to partner with Microsoft on PACT, a video game usage contract between parents and kids which also enjoys the backing of the National PTA. It is unknown whether NIMF's relationship with Microsoft is related to the non-profit's position on downloading. Figures compiled by Microsoft, however, are cited in last week's newsletter:
 

Parents have understood for millennia that they must teach their kids values like honesty and that you cannot just walk into a store and take stuff. Modern parenting includes preparing kids for honesty in the digital age.


 

Microsoft released results from an online survey showing that teens are less likely to illegally download or share content from the Internet when they understand the laws protecting intellectual property. However (and here’s the heads-up for parents and teachers), 49% of those surveyed said they did not understand the rules for downloading music, movies, images, literature, and software. Only 11% of teens surveyed said they “understood the rules very well.”


Attempts to reach NIMF for comment were unsuccessful. However, we will update if we hear from the organization.

GP: Let's be clear: we don't support copyright violation or illegal downloading. Nor, on the other hand, can we get behind many of the heavy-handed tactics employed by content providers. The bottom line? NIMF should stick to what it does best and let the wealthy media corporations fight their own battles.

ESA Boss Talks Politics, Prez Candidates, Piracy

March 3, 2008 -

GameDaily BIZ serves up a lengthy interview with ESA CEO Mike Gallagher (left). It's definitely worth a read as the first-year CEO dishes on a number of topics, starting with piracy:
 

For video games, [piracy is] a $3 billion issue, and that's from an industry that has $9.5 billion dollars in sales. That's a huge amount of leakage... and it's only going to grow as broadband speeds increase and as the hackers are more adept at circumventing [console] security preventions. It's already just a disaster in the PC space...


 

How do we send the message?... we have an anti-piracy division within ESA... it works on enforcement very aggressively... we're going after the sources of the material in Malaysia, Uruguay, and Mexico. We're working together in Canada... North Korea... We're also collaborating for the first time with MPAA...


Gallagher also mentioned last summer's controversial Homeland Security raids on mod chip dealers inside the United States:
 

Domestically, we had a sting where we used 20 different locations, 16 different U.S. Attorney offices, which simultaneously busted a network of traffickers of pirated goods here in the United States.


GamePolitics was among those which questioned the ESA's radio silence on Fox News' January smear of Mass Effect. Gallagher spoke about why the ESA held back:
 

We have to be careful as an association that represents the entire industry, that our activities relative to specific companies and specific titles are very carefully selected. We certainly support the thrust of the industry activities and the reaction of the video gaming community to the distortion that Fox published...


Gallagher acknowledged the clout wielded by game consumers in the Mass Effect episode:
 

They pay attention, they are vocal, they are digital... they are heard immediately... That same power is what we want to harness when it comes to influencing policy makers. Policy makers are very gun shy about the Internet... they fear it because its mobilizing capabilities are outside their comfortable zones...


The ESA head diplomatically side-stepped GDB's question about how the industry viewed the current field of presidential candidates:
 

[The candidates] love technology, they love high tech jobs, they all worry about the economy... So we're going to focus on those and make sure that our profile as an industry is known to those campaigns... but the cultural aspect of video games, the historical [political] football nature of the industry in the presidential space means we have to be vigilant. I don't necessarily see the risk being something we can look past with any of the candidates...


Asked about a threat by watchdog group the Parents Television Council to target candidates who accept campaign contributions from the ESA's new political action committee, Gallaher was dismissive:
 

How many voices have you heard? The one. What we've heard in the meantime from other sources is many, many voices saying, "It's about time [that the industry began contributing.]" And the politicians, our policy makers in this country, will be very appreciative of our industry's support...

 

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ESA Wants Govt Help Against Canada, Others over Game Piracy

February 12, 2008 -

Those pesky Canadians...

A press release issued yesterday by the Entertainment Software Association calls on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to provide support to the video game industry in its ongoing struggle with software piracy. The ESA, of course, represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers.

Citing what he calls "persistent problems" in Canada, China, Malaysia, Russia, and parts of Europe, ESA CEO Michael Gallagher said:
 

Countries that support computer and video game piracy discourage publishers from establishing viable and legitimate markets... In 2007, our industry had a record-breaking year with receipts totaling $18.85 billion, but piracy closes off promising markets, artificially limiting our industry’s ability to contribute even more economic growth to the American high-tech economy and economies of our trading partners.


The ESA makes reference to a report issued by the International Intellectual Property Alliance which cites online piracy as well as factory production of discs, Internet cafe piracy, game cartridge counterfeiting and file trading. Regarding Canada, the ESA press release alleges:
 

Pirated copies of games and circumvention devices have permeated retail markets in Canada, due to legal deficiencies and that [IP] enforcement remains a low priority for public officials.


GP: We note that the IIPA report does not cite a figure for pirated entertainment software in Canada. The organization does, however, report a loss of $511 million worth of business software in the Canadian market in 2007.

Other nations highlighted for IP theft issues by the ESA include China, Malaysia, Russia, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Brazil, Paraguay and India. Said the ESA's Gallagher:
 

We look forward to working with USTR and other supporting government agencies to achieve tangible results and hopefully succeed in lowering piracy in these key countries. Freeing these markets from the pirates’ stranglehold will also help empower a local video game economy.


A similar report from the ESA was released in February, 2007 (see: ESA Part of Group Seeking to Blacklist Canada).

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Who Are the Tech-Friendly Candidates?

February 6, 2008 -

Last week, GamePolitics reported on Yahoo! Games' recap of where the major presidential candidates stand on video game issues.

Cnet's Declan McCullagh has now penned an insightful article which outlines how the top candidates view some critical technology issues. While not game-specific, some of these issues will certainly affect gamers in a significant way. Writes McCullagh:
 

Who would be the most tech-friendly president?

The short answer: it depends. Do you like the idea of Net neutrality so much that you'd hand the Federal Communications Commission the authority to levy open-ended Internet regulations? Do you support pro-fair use changes to copyright law, which many programmers and computer scientists do--but which practically all software and video game companies oppose?


McCullagh sought the candidates' positions on seven key tech issues: Net neutrality legislation; Telecom spying immunity; DMCA fair use reform; Supports Real ID Act; ISP data retention required; Permanent Net-tax ban; and Increased H1-B visas.

Of these, Net neutrality and DMCA fair use reform are probably of the most immediate interest to gamers, so we'll look at those.

On Net neutrality, the question posed to the candidates was:
 

Congress has considered Net neutrality legislation, but it never became law. Do you support the legislation that was re-introduced in 2007 (S 215), which gives the FCC the power to punish "discriminatory" conduct by broadband providers?


Those strongly in favor of Net neutrality: Clinton, Obama
Those opposed: McCain, Paul
"Maybe": Huckabee
Ducked question: Romney

On DMCA fair use reform, the question posed to the candidates was:
 

The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act's section restricting the "circumvention" of copy protection measures is supported by many copyright holders but has been criticized by some technologists as hindering innovation. Would you support changing the DMCA to permit Americans to make a single backup copy of a DVD, Blu-ray Disc DVD, HD DVD, or video game disc they have legally purchased?


Those probably in favor: Obama, Paul
Ducked question: Romney, McCain, Huckabee, Clinton

Read McCullagh's full article here...

ELSPA Denies 90% DS Piracy Quote

February 1, 2008 -
ELSPA officials have completely disavowed a newspaper report in which the organization's head of IP security is quoted as saying that 90% of American DS owners use a particular copyright circumvention device. gi.biz has ELSPA's denial, quoting an unnamed spokesperson:
[IP security head John Hillier] didn't quote The Sunday Post on any figures whatsoever. ELSPA (which represents U.K. game publishers) would certainly never presume to comment about America or anywhere else outside of the UK.

The quotes from The Sunday Post were ascribed to his name from another article which originates from a website in Singapore. This, it appears, is where The Sunday Post first found out about the supposed R4 situation and for some reason unknown to John have quoted him on what this article said.

As far as Nintendo are concerned, the facts are completely spurious.
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ELSPA: 90% of American DS Owners Use Pirate Device

February 1, 2008 -
An official with ELSPA, the European game publishers' trade association, has told a U.K. newspaper that 90% of American Nintendo DS owners are believed to be using a Chinese-made copyright-cracking device known as the R4 (left).

In an interview with the Sunday Post, John Hillier, who manages ELSPA’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit, said:
Legitimate business is at serious risk from the R4... It gets around the protection built into the Nintendo DS to prevent playing of unauthorised games. The R4 in effect blinds the console and makes it think it’s seeing a genuine game. Trading standards and police are finding these devices in raids on people who sell pirated games...

The implications are massive. In America it’s thought 90 per cent of Nintendo DS users are playing pirated games because of R4s. Takings from Nintendo DS games in the US are lower than any other console and no doubt it will have a similar impact here...

The R4 has shifted balance of power in the piracy industry to the consumer — and that is hugely worrying. That’s why we intend to stop trade in these chips wherever we can.

According to the Sunday Post, the R4 sells for about £40 in the U.K.

GP: While I don't doubt that the video game industry has legitimate concerns about the R4 (see video below), the 90% figure cited by John Hillier is absurd on its face. 

Seriously, does anyone really believe that nine out of ten DS users are jumping through these hoops with their handheld? This comment, posted on Next Generation by a reader, pretty well sums it up:
NINETY percent? As in a nine followed by a zero? I find that number completely impossible to swallow. That means MOST of the little kids out there who got a DS for Christmas immediately went online and bought a chip.

Stake out the Wal Mart or Target near your home, and take note of how many people buy a DS in one day, now try to imagine nine in ten of them even knowing what an R4 chip is. Doesn't work for me.

ELSPA is really overreaching in their bid to sensationalize this R4 boogeyman. I support their efforts to ensure that developers get paid for their games, but I suggest they make up a more believable statistic next time.

GP: I'm also wondering why ELSPA, which represents the European game industry, is issuing statistics on alleged American piracy. Why wouldn't this "information" come from the ESA? Why wouldn't ELSPA issue a percentage that relates to European use of the R4?

Early this morning I sent an e-mail to the ESA requesting clarification on this issue and will update the story when they respond.

Via: Next Generation


 
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Is the RIAA Going Bye-Bye?

January 15, 2008 -
Could this be the end for the Recording Industry Association of America and its Draconian IP enforcement tactics?

Hey, digital consumers can dream, can't we?

This dream, however, could become a reality. Ars Technica reports that EMI, one of four major record labels, may be dropping support of the RIAA. Ars cites a Variety article which holds that EMI will pull out of both the RIAA and the IFPI (U.K. version) by March 31st. The loss of EMI funding would be a huge blow to the RIAA.

The rub for the record label seems to be primarily philosophical. From the Ars Technica report:
EMI has been unhappy with the trade groups' work for some time... EMI, the smallest of the four major labels, was recently purchased by a private equity fund that is looking to reinvigorate the label and cut expenses.

EMI was the first of the majors to drop DRM at iTunes and Amazon, moves that have made its digital music a more attractive option. But if EMI can force a restructuring of the IFPI and RIAA, the impact could be just as significant for the industry.

Few consumers will shed a tear if the RIAA goes away. The organization has become infamous for targeting consumers with lawsuits over digital music downloads.
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RIAA's Latest Craziness: Illegal to Copy CD's to Hard Drive

December 31, 2007 -
The Recording Industry Association of America, the Darth Vader of the entertainment industry, is known for targeting average citizens who download music.

Now the RIAA has taken a new - and wildly outrageous - position. In a lawsut against an Arizona man who refused to knuckle under to a menacing letter from the RIAA, the organization asserts that it is illegal to transfer music from a CD one has purchased to one's own computer.

From the Washington Post report:
Sony BMG's chief of litigation, Jennifer Pariser, testified that "when an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." Copying a song you bought is "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy,' " she said...

The RIAA's legal crusade against its customers is a classic example of an old media company clinging to a business model that has collapsed. Four years of a failed strategy has only "created a whole market of people who specifically look to buy independent goods so as not to deal with the big record companies," [New York attorney Ray] Beckerman says. "Every problem they're trying to solve is worse now than when they started."  

Via: Dvorak Uncensored
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DRM, Fanboys, Region Encoding Among PC World's "10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends"

November 15, 2007 -

PC World Canada has a great piece out this week, 10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends.

We love it when author Erin Bell lays it on the line in her opening sentence:

I don't care about corporate interests or revenue streams. I'm the consumer, and as far as I'm concerned it's all about me.


While the article is about consumer tech generally, several issues identified by Bell affect gamers specifically. Like #9: Over-promising and under-delivering:

We're still waiting to see the PlayStation Home (the MMORPG-like social networking platform that Sony announced for PlayStation 3 users).


Nor is she crazy about fanboys, who, collectively, weigh in at #8: 

Why do people feel such fierce loyalty to a corporation? You can rest assured the corporation doesn't feel the same level of loyalty towards you.


But we really loved her thoughts on #7, region encoding:

Historically, if you bought a video game in Japan, it wouldn't always work in your North American console... Add to the fact that not all movies and games are released world-wide, the only chance a North American gamer might have to play certain Japanese titles is to import them.

It seems strange that companies would rather deny consumers the right to experience games or movies altogether simply because they haven't been officially released in that consumer's country.


And Erin's #1 consumer gripe? Digital rights management (DRM):

This is a no-brainer. DRM... the industry's answer to piracy, has probably incited more consumers to pirate content than anything else in the history of consumer electronics... The most tragic thing about DRM is that it's alienating ethical people who would otherwise pay to download songs, but who resent the restrictions that these songs come with.
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id's Carmack Bemoans Lack of Support for DS Homebrew

November 11, 2007 -
So... explain to me again why homebrew can't be supported?

Oh, right... it's DMCA thing...

Still, famed game designer John Carmack (Doom, Quake) recognizes the homebrew potential the Nintendo DS and seems to wish that all of those creativity-killing IP restrictions weren't in place.

In a lengthy interview with IGN's Craig Harris, Carmack said:
[The Nintendo DS] was probably the most fun platform that I have personally worked on. The early consoles that I worked on (SNES, Genesis-32X, and Jaguar) had fun hardware and full documentation, but a lousy development tool chain. A lot of later consoles had much better development tools, but they started playing secretive with the exact hardware specs, at least around console introduction time.

While there are a few nooks on the DS that aren't documented, they weren't things I cared about, so to me it was almost perfect. It is a shame that homebrew development can't be officially sanctioned and supported, because it would be a wonderful platform for a modern generation of programmers to be able to get a real feel for low level design work, to be contrasted with the high level web and application work that so many entry level people start with.

Carmack's made his homebrew remarks while speaking to IGN about his upcoming DS game, Orcs & Elves.

Via: Next Generation 
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"Operation Games Attack" is Launched as Hollywood, Game Biz Target Malaysian Piracy

October 31, 2007 -

Operation Games Attack...

No, it's not a new release for the Wii. The name refers to a new anti-piracy initiative in Malaysia.

The ESA announced yesterday that it is teaming up with the Motion Picture Association (MPA, international wing of the MPAA) to battle video game and motion picture piracy in Malaysia. The ESA press release reported that "large-scale infringment" of video game IP was taking place in the Southeast Asian country. Said ESA boss Mike Gallagher:
 

The ESA focuses resources where we save US jobs, enhance the value of the video game industry, and get results. Piracy penalizes investment and harms the ability of video game companies to make great games. We are proud to partner with MPA on this program...


Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, added: 
 

I’m encouraged by this news and commend this joint enforcement effort. Malaysia has been a nation of concern with regard to international piracy for some time now, and this is exactly the type of private industry support and cooperation needed to crack down on this problem.


The announcement came during the launch of Operation Games Attack, which was presided over by a Malaysian government official.

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Virtual Sex Toys + Hacks = Second Life Lawsuit

October 28, 2007 -
If someone swiped your SexGen Platinum Base Unit v4.01 (left) or your Classic DeVille Floor Lamp, you'd complain wouldn't you?

Hell, yeah...

A half-dozen Second Life entrepreneurs have done a bit more than that, actually. They've filed suit in U.S. District Court against a New York Second Lifer who, they allege, stole their virtual item designs and resold them within the game.

According to the New York Post:
Here's the catch: The products aren't real, and the alleged crimes took place in a virtual world on the Web. [The lawsuit] was filed last week in Brooklyn federal court against 36-year-old Flushing resident Thomas Simon, aka Rase Kenzo on Second Life...

"It's stealing," insisted Kevin Alderman, a Florida man whose Second Life alter ego is called Stroker Serpentine.

He operates the Second Life sex store Strokerz Toyz, which sells beds, sofas, rugs and toys embedded with computer code that facilitates sex between virtual characters...

Attorney Frank Tanney, representing the plaintiffs, said:
This is not a joke. This is not a game. This hurts them.

Defendant Simon told the NY Post:
They can say whatever they want to say. It's a video game. I didn't know you could sue anyone over it.

There's actually quite a story behind all of this, including private investigators, co-conspirators and manipulations of Second Life's inventory system, as described by Reuters.

Apparently the items were copied using an exploit, as reported by VintFalken. One of the plaintiffs has posted a lengthy set of screenshots, apparently documenting the allegedly stolen items, on Flickr. For those who want all of the legal nitty-gritty, here's the complaint (73-page pdf).
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BREAKING: ECA Takes a Stand on Fair Use, Disses DMCA

October 26, 2007 -

Gamers, the Entertainment Consumers Association officially has your back.

Later today the ECA will announce its support for HR1201, known as the Fair Use Act of 2007. The move represents the ECA's first foray into the legislative arena.

HR1201 was originally introduced in Congress by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) and co-sponsored by Rep. Charlie Wyatt (R-CA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA). The proposed legislation seeks to restore the historical balance in copyright law and return to consumers many of the fair use rights lost with the 1998 passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

As a practical matter, the DMCA has been wielded like a club against consumers by corporate interests such as the RIAA, MPAA and Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents U.S. video game publishers. (see: Fear & Loathing Over Feds' Mod Chip Sting)

Of his proposal to modify the consumer-unfriendly DMCA, Rep. Boucher writes:
 

For example, under [the consumer-oriented] bill a user may circumvent an access control on an electronic book he purchased for the purpose of reading it on a different electronic reader.


Circumventing access control? Why, that could mean bypassing the region code lockout to play a Japanese game release on your modded console, and what's so bad about that? Nothing, except that under the DMCA, you're a criminal. Say hello to the friendly federal agent knocking at your door.

Of the move, ECA president Hal Halpin (top left) said:
 

We understand and respect the careful balance that must exist between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of consumers of copyrighted material. We believe in the protection of intellectual property while maintaining consumers’ rights, and ability to lawfully use acquired media for non-commercial purposes. Additionally, digital rights issues should be subject to private sector inter-industry resolution rather than government imposed intervention.


Rep. Boucher (left), sponsor of the Fair Use Act, added:
 

The fair use doctrine is threatened today as never before.  Historically, the nation’s copyright laws have reflected a carefully calibrated balance between the rights of copyright owners and the rights of the users of copyrighted material. 

We have introduced the Fair Use Act to restore this balance, and correct the Fair Use disparities created by the DMCA.  I am thrilled to enlist the support of the ECA in this effort to ensure that consumers who purchase digital media can enjoy a broad range of uses of the media for their own convenience in a way which does not infringe the copyright in the work.


GP: For those gamers who have been waiting to see what the ECA is all about, here's the answer - or at least the beginning of the answer. I'm really proud to see the organization take a stand like this on behalf of game consumers, a stand that is 180 degrees from the position of the video game industry.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.  

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Nintendo Busts Mod Chip Shop in Hong Kong

October 23, 2007 -
Nintendo has taken down what appears to be a large-scale Wii and DS mod chip operation in Hong Kong.

A company press release said that Hong Kong's High Court issued the order for the raid, which occurred earlier this month. It took Nintendo reps three full days to seize over 10,000 mod chips and other game copying devices from the Supreme Factory Limited. As described by Nintendo:
The game copying devices connect to the Nintendo DS and are used to copy and play game files offered unlawfully via the Internet. The mod chips allow the play of pirated Wii discs or illegal copies of Nintendo games downloaded from the Internet.

The Supreme Factory Limited has connection to a French company called Divineo SARL as well as its owner Max Louarn (Louarn has quite the history... give him a Google). All three are named in the legal action and have had their assets frozen by Hong Kong High Court.

Said Jodi Daugherty, Nintendo of America's senior piracy fighter:
Piracy affects the entire video game industry, from large companies to independent developers. It can destroy years of hard work by a team of very talented software developers, who strive to create games consumers enjoy playing. Copying the developers' work and spreading the game files globally is blatant stealing.

The Nintendo press release recounted past successes against copying device manufacturers, including a $5 million judgment against Lik Sang in 2005.
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Congressional Hearing Today on International Piracy

October 18, 2007 -

A House subcommittee will hold hearings today on International Piracy: The Challenges of Protecting Intellectual Property in the 21st Century.

The Subcommittee on Court, the Internet and Intellectual Property comes under the House Judiciary Committee and is chaired by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA, left). 

Among witnesses scheduled to testify is Eric Smith, president of the International Intellectual Property Alliance, of which the ESA, representing U.S. video game publishers, is one of seven member organizations.

Presumably, Smith will represent the interests of the video game industry at the hearing. Other IIPA member organizations include the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

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Madden, Mario on Capitol Hill as Copyright Alliance Ramps Up

October 12, 2007 -

Earlier this year GamePolitics reported that the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), which represents the interests of U.S. video game publishers, had signed on with the Copyright Alliance, a new lobbying group created to promote copyright protection.

A story in today's Los Angeles Times details the new organization's first major event on Capitol Hill:
 

Under the crystal chandeliers of one of Capitol Hill's most ornate caucus rooms, the makers of movies, music, TV shows, computer software and other copyrighted products joined Thursday to show off their stuff -- and argue that people shouldn't be allowed to steal it...


 

The association lured congressional staffers with free gourmet sandwiches and DVD-size cookies to a room filled with big-screen TVs, laptops and glossy brochures. Capitol Hill aides took turns playing video games such as "Madden NFL 08" and "Super Mario Bros." at one booth. At another, they lined up for autographs from soul singer Isaac Hayes.


Said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI):
 

When you walk into this room, copyright becomes real.


MPAA President Dan Glickman explained the need for the alliance:
 

The issues are very, very big, and I think it needed the power of all the copyright industries in order to collectively impact Capitol Hill, the federal government and the intellectual establishment.


Gigi Sohn, who is associated with the consumer-oriented Digital Freedom, told the Times she was puzzled by the Copyright Alliance's approach:
 

Rather than figure out how to change their business models in ways that appeal to their customers, they're starting another Washington inside-the-Beltway advocacy group. I'm not sure it's the best expenditure of money.

 

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ESA Boss A-OK with DMCA

October 4, 2007 -

Yesterday, GamePolitics reported on the ESA's disturbing plan to implement its anti-piracy curriculum in kindergarten and elementary schools.

Cnet is now reporting that ESA president Michael Gallagher has come out strongly in favor of the controversial Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

No surprise there, as the DMCA is heavily weighted in favor of content providers. In fact, Gallagher called for other countries to sign on:
 

The problem is, "very few countries follow the path of the DMCA," Gallagher said at an antipiracy summit [in Washington, D.C] hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "It's very important (that) we see that extended."


 

Gallagher went on to declare the United States the "beacon of intellectual property protection in the world."

 

52 comments

Gamer Protests Mod Chip Raids, Gets Off-Topic Form Letter Back

September 30, 2007 -

Remember those disgraceful Homeland Security mod chips raids that targeted not terrorists, but U.S. citizens, during the summer?

World of Warcraft gamer by the name of Jason Richey sure does, and he wrote a letter protesting the federal action to his elected representative, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH):
 

I am a concerned citizen writing you about the negative repercussions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA)... Installing a mod chip is similar to installing a V-8 engine in your car, or changing your own oil... 

There are many legal reasons for mod chips... a person should be able to do whatever they wish to things they own, including reprogramming them to do things not intended by the manufacturer.

I urge you... heed the will of the people you are sworn to represent and push for the revocation of the DMCA...


Nor was this a mere academic exercise for Jason. As he writes, a friend of his was caught up in the mod chip sweep. In any case, here at GamePolitics we respect what he has done for a whole bunch of reasons.

First, it's an example of grassroots democracy in action - a gamer/voter exercising his right to protest what he sees as an abuse of federal law enforcement power. Second, the guy is clearly passionate about the topic. Finally, he's putting it out there for everyone to see on his blog, Richtastic.

Unfortunately, Jason's story doesn't exactly have a happy ending:
 

I got a reply today from Marcy Kaptur... The first line read "Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Copyright Royalty Board's decision to raise music royalty rates."


 

That's right, I wrote a detailed letter about the problems with the DMCA... and in return I got a form letter on the topic of internet radio... I just wish our governmental leaders would take the time to read whatever it is that they are responding to...


Jason does give props to Rep. Kaptur (seen on the big screen at left) credit, however, for favoring Net Neutrality. He has included copies of both his letter and Rep. Kaptur's response on his site.

64 comments

Game Industry Lobby Goes into Overdrive

September 21, 2007 -

When he came on board, ESA Boss Mike Gallagher (left) promised to flex the video game industry's political muscle, and that's just what he has been doing since taking over in May.

With its new captain at the helm, the video game industry has definitely amped up its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.

A mid-year report filed with the government shows that the ESA spent $1.4 million during the first six months of 2007, a 24% jump over the same period of 2006. ESA lobbying efforts focused on the following issues:
 

anti-piracy, Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), P2P file sharing, First sale, Technology Mandates, anti-circumvention (i.e., mod chips), media violence, First Amendment protection, entertainment industry ratings systems, parental control technology, content/video game sale regulation, retailer enforcement of ratings systems, Internet privacy, Internet gambling (???), a variety of trade issues, Virtual property taxation


The ESA lobbied a panopoly of federal government entities, including the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, Customs, Copyright Office, Patent & Trademark Office, Department of Justice, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, U.S.Trade Representative, FBI, National Security Council, Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Department of Treasury, State Deparment, National Security Council, and the Patent & Trademark Office.

GP: Some of the ESA's issues are obvious. Others, not so... Where are they heading, for example, with Internet gambling? Virtual property taxation? P2P file sharing? First sale?

Via GameSpot

 

58 comments

Video Game Pirate Walks the Plank on 'Talk Like a Pirate Day'

September 20, 2007 -

Is it possible that the suits at the ESA have a sense of humor?

We have to ask because yesterday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Yarrr!) and, lo and behold, an e-mail arrived from the ESA trumpeting the jail sentence imposed on a game software pirate in California.

From the press release:

19 comments | Read more

Early Manhunt 2 Version Reportedly Leaked Online

September 8, 2007 -
A number of game media outlets are reporting that an apparent early PS2 build of Manhunt 2 has been leaked online. According to Kotaku:
Though credited to Rockstar-unaffiliated Team Slonik the software had to come from somewhere and YouTube clips are already appearing for public consumption—meaning this could become a quite literal torrent of bad press for Rockstar...who was finally (kinda) out of the fire for Hot Coffee.

A note included with the download, which is available on both Usenet and via Bittorrent, reads: 
Greetz to the scene. Here we have the kick ass game (Manhunt 2 Banned Uncut Version) from Team Slonik.

Fan site Projectmanhunt, which broke the story, has more.

GP: It's hard to tell what impact this development - if it's even true - will have on the continuing Manhunt 2 controversy. Should the release prove to be genuine, could it have been made by a beta tester? Disgruntled employee? Rockstar itself as some form of viral marketing?

That last option seems unlikely, given all that R* went through with the 2005 Hot Coffee fiasco. And, if Hot Coffee required jumping through hoops to access, this release also poses technical challenges to the average gamer.

For its part, the mysterious Team Slonik is sporting a Russian Gmail address. A soundless trailer uploaded to YouTube yesterday has been removed. However a copy - now with background music (unknown if it's authentic in-game soundtrack) has replaced it:

132 comments

ESA Altered Wikipedia Entries on Mod Chips, Abandonware

August 18, 2007 -

Using a publicly available software tool, GamePolitics has learned that the ESA, the trade organization which represents U.S. video game publishers, altered the Wikipedia entry pertaining to mod chips in August, 2006 and again in April, 2007. An entry detailing a popular abandonware website was also edited by the ESA in August, 2006.

The edits were traced to ESA HQ in Washington, D.C. using the newly-released Wikipedia Scanner.

Earlier this month, as reported by GamePolitics, federal Homeland Security agents, supported by the ESA, raided 32 locations in 16 U.S. cities over alleged copyright violations. The federal agents were seeking mod chips under provisions of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The raids generated controversy on several grounds. While mod chips may be used to play pirated game software, they serve legitimate purposes as well, including the creation of so-called homebrew games.

In addition, GamePolitics and some other media outlets were critical of the use of Homeland Security agents in what was essentially an enforcement of big business claims against U.S. citizens.

The ESA's Wikipedia edits precede the federal raids by nearly a year, but show the organization's effort to spin the mod chip issue:

89 comments | Read more

GP on Joystiq: The Mod Squad

August 13, 2007 -
...the one in which taxpayer GP summons up some righteous indignation over Homeland Security forces being used to protect Microsoft and Nintendo against American citizens instead of protecting American citizens against foreign threats.

Catch it only on Joystiq...
10 comments

Media Backlash Hits Homeland Security Mod Chip Raids

August 13, 2007 -

In the wake of recent Homeland Security raids on mod chippers in 16 U.S. states, several journalists have taken the government to task.

In the Raleigh News-Observer, reporter Sam LaGrone writes:
 

Under the [DMCA]... bypassing copy protection controls are illegal... The raids were supported in a big way by Microsoft and Nintendo, which actively aided ICE in its investigation. Piracy, of course, was the issue behind the raids, but there are legitimate uses for mod chips that do not involve playing stolen software.

Amateur game makers can use them to play their own creations on their consoles; they also bypass the region codes that only allow certain consoles to play certain games. All told, it's an odd move for ICE to hit modders so hard.


Wired's Charlie Sorrel:

32 comments | Read more

Wii Update Breaks Freeloader; Nintendo Yawns

August 10, 2007 -
freeloader.jpgAt half past midnight on Tuesday morning, insomniacs like me were greeted by the uber sexy, glowing blue light of the Wii.  A message from Nintendo had arrived advising of a system update that would streamline and add additional functionality to the Wii’s main interface.  Nifty as that is, my attention was captured by a warning in Nintendo’s message:
47 comments | Read more

Irony on ICE ? Feds' Mod Chip Raid Pix Questioned

August 6, 2007 -

Following our in-depth weekend coverage, GamePolitics is pretty well talked out concerning last week's mod chip raid conducted by U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE).

But before we move off the topic, we should note an observation made by one twistedsymphony of Xbox Scene.

The embittered modder notes that while the ICE operation was, at least in theory, all about protecting copyrights, the agency itself appears to be using photos of mod chips and related items lifted from website advertisements.

So, if twistedsymphony is correct, the IP enforcement operation is being bragged about with um, borrowed IP.

From the modder's lengthy rant:
 

There is some cruel irony that none of the [photos] provided are actually owned by ICE or the DHS but are rather copyrighted images created and owned by the modchip manufacturers and stripped straight off of their websites.

They even went so far as to blatantly black out watermarks placed on the images by the legitimate owners and then had the audacity to state that to use any of the images you'd need to get their permission. I got a good chuckle out of the fact that the media attached to the press release about squashing copyright infringement include blatant copyright infringement itself. But who's going to police them? 


GP: We're not sure if twistedsymphony is correct about the origin of the photos. However, ICE's image gallery of mod chips and related items certainly doesn't appear to have originated in the agency's evidence room. Most, if not all, of the photos look professionally produced and some are obviously marketing images. In fact, the pic seen at left can readily be found on the Swap Magic 3 website.

That being the case, the following admonition on the ICE website seems a bit misguided:
 

Use of appropriate byline/photo/image credit of "Photo Courtesy of ICE" or "Image Courtesy of ICE" is requested.

 

29 comments

 
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Papa MidnightThe Verge says the sequel to Flappy Bird is nearly impossible. http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/21/6053297/swing-copters-flappy-bird-sequel08/21/2014 - 12:22pm
SleakerPC-Gamer wrote an article on what's going on with the Minecraft stuff: http://www.pcgamer.com/2014/08/21/minecraft-bukkit-team-lead-tries-to-end-development-but-mojang-steps-in/08/21/2014 - 11:55am
SleakerEVE had a high-profile ban today: http://massively.joystiq.com/2014/08/20/eve-online-lottery-site-somer-blink-shutting-down/#continued08/21/2014 - 10:26am
SleakerBut where have all the Ethics gone?08/21/2014 - 9:08am
Sleaker@EZK - one of the bigger things is that since Mojang has owned Bukkit for 2 years now, people contributing to the project have basically been doing work for them pro-bono. On top of never formalizing support. They hid the fact probably to prevent support08/21/2014 - 9:07am
SleakerIf you've played on a server with mods/plugins, you've almost for sure played on a Bukkit-based server.08/21/2014 - 8:56am
SleakerHere's Bukkit's explanation attempt at shutting down due to EULA changes: http://forums.bukkit.org/threads/bukkit-its-time-to-say.305106/08/21/2014 - 8:55am
SleakerEZK - it's the largest server mod for MC, in actuality without it minecraft for sure would not have been as popular (#1 game now).08/21/2014 - 8:54am
SleakerTo the point that it seems they have completely lost what it means to be for-community, and having transparency. Along with dumping restrictive EULA's onto people.08/21/2014 - 8:53am
E. Zachary KnightWhat is Bukkit and why should I care?08/21/2014 - 8:53am
SleakerMinecraft community exploded again today. Apparently Mojang owns all of Bukkit, and never put out a statement saying as such 2 years ago when they acquired them. I have to say, their transition from indie has been rough.08/21/2014 - 8:52am
james_fudgeThere aren't many left in America08/21/2014 - 1:50am
MechaTama31I sure have. Dorky's barcade in Tacoma, WA.08/20/2014 - 5:56pm
Matthew WilsonI have not been to a arcade in years. I know arcades are still big in japan.08/20/2014 - 5:38pm
Sleaker@AE - Ah no it's called GroundKontrol - I was just referring to it as a Bar-Arcade.08/20/2014 - 4:39pm
Andrew EisenStill looking for confirmation that High Moon Studios (dev behind the PS3/360 versions) isn't working on it.08/20/2014 - 4:38pm
ZenGotcha.08/20/2014 - 4:37pm
Andrew EisenI already updated the story with it!08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
Zenhttp://www.gonintendo.com/s/235574-treyarch-isn-t-working-call-of-duty-advanced-warfare-for-wii-u-either08/20/2014 - 4:36pm
ZenLet me send the link for the Tweet as well...they state Treyarch is not working on it. Grabbing it now.08/20/2014 - 4:34pm
 

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