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Category — Modding Cases

Texas Student in Hot Water For Making Counterstike Map Based on his High School

Categories: Modding CasesPolice Actions

Police Report (April 26, 2007)
A day after the Virginia Tech massacre, police in Fort Bend Texas investigated an Asian high school senior, Paul Hwang, as a potential “terrorist threat” for making a counter-strike map mod based on his high-school, Clements High. His family’s home was subsequently searched.

No charges were laid but ornamental knives and a hammer were seized from his room. The student was transferred to another school. The parents are appealing the transfer.

Note: It is unclear from conflicting reports whether the student was arrested or not.

Dale’s Comment: This is an example of a talented Counter-Strike modder being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is nothing unusual about high-schoolers making mods for the popular Counter-Strike video game. In a twist on the common writing adage “write what you know”, this unfortunate student modded what he knew, and got caught up in a storm of contemporary controversy.

As a side note: This teen looks like he may have a career in the video game industry. As can be seen on this Fox News Video Report the mod is very good.
Fox News Video Report

Sources: FortBendNow | Houston Chronicle| GamePolitics.com | Kotaku | Kotaku II | Joystiq | Joystiq II

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British ‘While You Wait’ Chipper/Modder Convicted

Categories: Criminal ConvictionsModding Cases

Stephen Fitgerald offered a while-you-wait chipping/modding service at computer fairs contrary to the U.K. Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (copyright circumvention offences). He offered pre-chipped consoles and/or would install copy-protection and region-code defeating chips in PS2s and Xboxes while customers waited.

After pleading guilty, he was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, ordered to pay £2,500 towards prosecution costs and was subject to a confiscation order for £2,710 under the British Proceeds of Crime Act (2002). He has until May 23, May 2007 to pay-up, or face three months in jail. The maximum penalty is two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Dale's Comment: Gamasutra characterized this case as being "in stark contrast" to Australia's recent legalization of region-code defeating mod-chips. While Australia did make it legal for users to mod game consoles to defeat region-coding, Australian has not made it legal to install chips to defeat copy protection systems. 

Sources: Hexus | PC Pro | Gamasutra | This is Lancashire | News&Star 

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Australia Copyright Reform to Explicitly Permit Region-Code Mod Chips

Categories: DMCA-TPM CasesDRMModding CasesRegion Coding Cases

Text of Copyright Amendment Bill 2006
In stark contrast to American and British modding decisions and copyright law, Australia is set to amend its copyright laws to make it legal for consumers to purchase/use mod chips that circumvent anti-piracy technology (TPMs and DRM) built into game consoles when used to overcome region-coding measures that restrict the use of DVDs and games titles purchased legally in other regions. Most of the Copyright Amendment Bill 2006 passed through both houses of Parliament, will become law by January 1, 2007.

Dale’s Comment: This doesn’t really change the law in Australia because, as you can see from the related posts below, Australian courts had held that such modding did not breach Australian copyright and anti-circumvention laws. As far as I can tell, these amendments merely codify the existing case-law. These amendments may be important though because it was thought that Australia’s recent free-trade agreement with the United States may have resulted in copyright reform to explicitly overrule existing mod-chip case-law.

Sources: Gamasutra | P2PNet | News.com.au | Austrian IT | Kotaku | FAQ

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Mark Bragg File’s Virtual Property Complaint Against Linden Labs

Categories: CheatingHackingMisc. Contract CasesModding CasesPlayer BansUnfair Business Practice CassesVirtual Property Cases

Text of Bragg v. Linden Labs Complaint (Oct 4, 2006)[.zip format]
Jurisdiction and other Interim Court Filings
While I was converting this blog to WordPress over the last 8 weeks, Mark Bragg sent me his updated complaint against Linden Research Inc. ("Linden") that was filed on October 4 in the Chester County (Pennsylvania) Court of Common Pleas.  Mr. Bragg is seeking a jury trial. On November 7, Linden petitioned the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to take jurisdiction of the case. 

I'm just now getting the time to review the claim and post this blog entry about it. 

The complaint contains a terrific history (frankly, the best I've read) of Linden, its MMORPG Second Life and describes how Linden differentiated Second Life from its competitors by granting "ownership rights" to in-game property (most MMORPG publishers claim/retain ownership in all related virtual property). It also contains a history/description of virtual property generally in the context of the growing MMORPG phenomena.

The 239 paragraph complaint alleges violation of Californian and Pennsylvanian unfair practices and consumer protection laws, fraud, violation of California's Civil Code concerning auctions, conversion (theft), interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, unjust enrichment and tortuous breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. He discounts many of the provisions of the Linden Labs Terms of Service ("TOS") as being unenforceable due to unconscionably. Suffice it to say, when this case is over, I suspect Linden will be updating its TOS! Laughing

This Law.com article provides a good summary of the facts. The complaint, itself, is worth reading if only for its best-in-class description of the MMORPG industry and related virtual property issues. Excellent job Mark!

Dale's Comment: Given that many courts in many countries have upheld the validity of extremely one-sided Internet-service click-wrap/shrink-wrap agreements, I think Mark will have a tough time overcoming the clear provisions contained in the TOS. But he makes many compelling arguments pertaining to the contradicting public statements of Linden representatives, rights in and to virtual property purchased from other Second Life users, and the right to recoup the real $U.S. dollars he paid into the Second Life economy and not returned when Linden booted him from the game.

Bragg is claiming ownership to his in-game property. I am quite sympathetic to his arguments and have advocated, here, for the the recognition, at law, of rights in and to virtual property. But, if analogies to real-world and intangible property are taken to their logical extreme, Second Life players could argue that Linden would never have the right to shutdown their MMORPG and deny virtual property owners of their "right" to access, use, sell and other wise deal with their virtual property when, as will inevitably be the case one day, Second Life ceases to be a profitable game for Linden. 

This could be a very important, precedent setting case if it goes to trial. It could set the ground rules for the application of laws to virtual property going forward. Needless to say, I'll be following this one closely.

[Dec 13, 2006 Update: Mark has sent me this link where the most recent court filings in the case can be found. At the moment the parties are fighting over the most appropriate jurisdiction for further proceedings.] 

Sources: *Law.com | Blogger News Network | MMORPG BLog | Pilly.com

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Microsoft Begins Banning 360 Modders

Categories: Game BansModding Cases

Microsoft has began banning Xbox 360 Users that have modded their consoles from Xbox Live. According to CrunchGear, some users of non-modded boxes are getting caught up in the cross-fire.

Sources: CrunchGear | Planet Xbox 360 | The Inquirer | Xboxic | Xbox 360 Fanboy

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Hot Coffee’s Effects on the Mod Scene

Categories: Featured ArticlesGame RatingsModding CasesSexuality Cases

This Gamasutra feature article is a very interesting article on the Effects of ‘Hot Coffee’ on the game modding scene. Mods can inprove and extend the life of video games but since Hot Coffee, there is a keen awareness of the liability that game modding can expose developers and publishers to.

Sources: Gamasutra

‘Hot Coffee’ Related Posts:

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French Mod-chip Maker Divineo Ordered to Pay $9 Million in Fines for Violating DMCA

Categories: DecisionsDMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesPiracy Cases

On September 11, 2006, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken assessed more than $9 million in penalties against France-based mod-chip maker Divineo for trafficking in mod chips and the associated HDLoader software. HDLoader allows users to copy their games from CD/DVD disks to their hard drive. Despite legitimate use by legions of honest gamers, this mod-chip/software bundle works by circumventing copy protection measures contained on the game CD/DVD and thereby contravenes the controversial DMCA.

Dale’s Comment: Mod-chips and software like HDLoader is hated by game developers/publishers because they are commonly used to distribute pirated video games on PS2 consoles. For honest gamers, they are a terrific way to install all purchased games on a hard drive so that they can be quickly and conveniently served up like records in a jukebox. Without it gamers must manually flip game disks each time they want to change the current game.

Sources: Gamasutra | Digital Trends | GameDaily.biz | Businesswire | ars technica | Next Generation | Engadget | ESA Press Release

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XBox 360 Piracy Spreading in China After Firmware Hacked

Categories: HackingModding CasesPiracy Cases

Hackers have managed to flash images of the XBox 360′s firmware onto DVD-ROMs. 360 game piracy appears to be on the rise in China.

Source: Gamasutra

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British Man Jailed For Mod Chip Possession

Categories: Criminal ConvictionsModding Cases

David Hoang, 43, of Essex in south east England has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for being in possession of modified games console chips. While banned in Britain and the United States, several countries, including Australia, Italy and Spain, permit the use of mod chips for importing region-coded games that may be delayed or never released in a country. Mod chips often, but not always, also permit the play of pirated games.
Sources: Gamasutra  |  GameIndustry.biz  |  Hexus  |  Press Start Online  |  virgin.net  |  iafrica.com

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Sony Wins $6 Million Award Against U.S. PlayStation Modder

Categories: DecisionsDMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesPiracy Cases

Text of Sony v. Filipiak Decision
On Dec 27, 2005, In this decision, Sony was awarded more than $6 million in statutory damages against an individual that sold Playstation mod chips in contravention of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA. The statutory minimum and maximums are $200 and $2,500 per violation. Sony was awarded $800 per “wilful” circumvention/infringement for initial violations and the highest possible, $2,500, for violations that occurred after the defendant had signed a consent judgment agreeing to stop such violations – he didn’t! In this case a computer forensics expert was able to determine that the defendant had erased thousands of incriminating transaction files/records just prior to handing his hard drive over to Sony’s counsel as agreed in a consent judgment.

Sources: Findlaw | InternetCases.com | Davis & Co

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Three Indicted In Xbox Piracy/Modding Case

Categories: Criminal ProsecutionsDMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesPiracy Cases

Two Hollywood video game store owners and a third man who were charged in December for allegedly pirating video games and installing them on modified Microsoft Corp. Xbox consoles were indicted on Thursday, according to the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. The indictment also charged the three with two felony violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,

Sources: Gamasutra  |  Next Generation  |  Information Week

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Original XBox Modders Charged with DMCA Violations

Categories: Criminal ProsecutionsDMCA-TPM CasesHackingModding CasesPiracy Cases

Authorities charge three Los Angeles-area men with hacking Xbox game consoles to allow pirated games to run on them.

Sources: Red Herring | Information Week | Reuters UK | 1Up | Techtree | NextGen.biz | Joystiq | Gamasutra | Law Fuel | Xbox 360 Fanboy

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Australian High Court Rules PlayStation Region Code Mod Chips Legal

Categories: DecisionsDMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesRegion Coding Cases

Text of Stevens v. Sony Decision
In Stevens v. Sony, the Australian High Court ruled that modding Playstation consoles to circumvent region coding restrictions does not breach Australian copyright laws.

Sources: High Court Press Release | Freehills | GameIndustry.biz | Gamasutra | PS3Focus.com

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Blizzard Wins Video Game Hacking Lawsuit Against BNetD

Categories: DMCA-TPM CasesHackingModding Cases

Text of Blizzard v. BNetD Decision
Audio of Oral Arguments before the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals [MP3 from EFF]

In making a more stable and feature-rich, multi-player online video game server available for free to Blizzard’s video game customers, in competition to Blizzard’s own proprietary Battle.net server, the 8th circuit CA held, among other things, that the appellants’ (i) reverse engineering and circumventing of Blizzard’s CD key validation process; (ii) distribution of the resultant circumvention software; violated the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the DMCA.

Dale’s Comment: It seems to me that this is yet another unintended consequence of of the DMCA. The DMCA’s primary purpose is to protect copyright, not to protect Blizzard’s business model. So long as players are using properly purchased/licensed versions of the game, end users should not be liable if they create a competitive online means of playing that game.

Sources: CNet News | Gamasutra | ars technica | Red Herring | GameSpot | EFF Page on Case | EFF Critique of Case | Salon.com Back Story Article

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Pandora’s Cube Pirate Sentenced

Categories: Criminal ConvictionsModding CasesPiracy Cases

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland hands out a four-month jail sentence to an employee of Pandora’s Cube, a major retailer of pirated software and modified consoles in the Washington, DC area.

Sources: Next Generation | ign.com | Gamespot | Team Xbox | Softpedia

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United Kingdom Convicts For XBox Modding Piracy

Categories: Criminal ConvictionsModding CasesPiracy Cases

A 22 year old Cambridge university graduate has become the first ever person in the UK to be convicted for the illegal modification of video game consoles, alongside more conventional game piracy charges, following a trial at Caerphilly Magistrates Court in Wales.

Source: Gamasutra  |  BBC  |  Pocket-Lint

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Xbox-Modding Retailers Plead Guilty to DMCA Violations

Categories: Criminal ConvictionsDMCA-TPM CasesModding Cases

Several retailers in Maryland have pleaded guilty to selling modified Xboxes, called “Super Xboxes” by the group, thereby violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The maximum penalty for first-time violators of the DMCA is five years in prison along with a $250,000 fine.

Source: Gamasutra
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Tecmo’s Nude Volleyball Lawsuit is More Dead than Alive

Categories: DMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesSettlements

NinjaHacker.net reportedly settled with Tecmo. The case was dismissed, with leave to reinstate if the settlement is not finalized.

Sources: ars technica | Gamasutra | Wired

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Sony Plans New Legal Challenge to Mod Chips in Australia

Categories: Modding CasesNew LawsPolice ActionsRegion Coding Cases

Changes to copyright laws in Australia to implement its free trade agreement with the United States have opened the door for a fresh legal challenge to mod chips, according to Sony Computer Entertainment Australia, which has instructed its lawyers to prepare a new case against the devices.

Source: GameIndustry.biz

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Tecmo Sues Hackers Over Xbox Game Modifications

Categories: DMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesPolice Actions

Tecmo alleges that modifications to its Games both infringe and circumvent copy protection systems in violation of the DMCA.

Sources: Gamasutra | The Register | CNet | GameSpot | Gaming Horizon | IGN | The Inquirer

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3D Realms Shuts Down Duke Nukem Based Mod Project

Categories: Cease & DesistCharacter License CasesCopyright CasesDMCA-TPM CasesModding CasesPolice ActionsTrademark Cases

Those working on the mod were informed by 3D Realms that it does not allow any of its intellectual property to be used in conversions or mods for other game engines, forcing the project to be shut down.

Source: GameIndustry.biz

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Sony Wins Landmark U.K. Modding Case

Categories: DecisionsModding CasesPiracy CasesPolice ActionsRegion Coding Cases

The British High Court has ruled that using, possessing, selling or advertising modded PS2 consoles is illegal. Justice Laddie ruled that Ball had violated the European Union Copyright Directive, which came into UK law in 2003. The defendant had sold some 1,500 Messiah 2 chips allowing customers to defeat both the PS2′s region coding restrictions and the PS2′s built-in piracy protections.

Sources: ZDNet | GameIndustry.biz | The Register | BBC | GamePlanet | Outlaw-com

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Some Jurisdictions Require Finger Prints to Sell Video Games

Categories: Modding CasesPiracy CasesPolice ActionsRetail Sales

Some communities now require anyone selling used video games to give fingerprints for police records. The question is: Why?

Dale’s Comment: My guess is its for possible subsequent video game hacking/modding/piracy prosecutions.

Source: GameSpot

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Spanish Judge Rules X-Box Region-code Mods ‘legal’

Categories: DecisionsModding CasesPolice ActionsRegion Coding Cases

A Spanish judge has ruled that modifications to games consoles to allow them to play DVDs and games from other countries “are not illegal”.

Source: The Register

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Italian Court Rules Region-code Thwarting PS2 Mod Chips Legal

Categories: DecisionsModding CasesPolice ActionsRegion Coding Cases

A court in Italy has dealt a major blow to the efforts of console manufactures to crack down on mod chips, ruling that PS2 mod chip devices are designed to “avoid monopolistic positions.”

Sources: The Register | GameIndustry.biz | Silicon.com | Outlaw.com

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