Plod goes after mods

A British man has been prosecuted for selling chipped Xboxes, the first case of its kind. As the BBC reports:

The conviction is the first of its kind in the UK, where the modification of video games consoles has been an illegal practice since October 2003, when the UK enacted the EU Copyright Directive.

Under that directive, it is illegal to circumvent copy protection systems.

It’s clear that the man concerned was doing dodgy deeds – the Xboxes came with a hard disk of 80 copied games – but the case is still a worrying one. Chipping does indeed bypass copyright protection, but such protection takes away your legal rights: under UK law you’re legally entitled to make backups of legally purchased computer games, but the copy protection in consoles such as Xboxes prevents you from running those backups. It’s now illegal to modify your Xbox to play backups of your own legal games, even if you’d never dream of playing a pirated game.

Today it’s Xboxes, but will it be DVDs next? It’s perfectly legal to have a multi-region DVD player, and it’s perfectly legal to import DVDs from other countries for your own use. However, the aftermarket mod chips sold by many firms also bypass the Macrovision copy protection, which is intertwined with the region coding; because of this, they could fall foul of the same law as the Xbox man.