Xbox chipping and ELSPA

The European Copyright Directive makes it an offence to alter games consoles so as to circumvent games copying controls. ELSPA has successfully prosecuted a case recently in the UK, and this raises issues about ‘change of use’ modification of platforms such as the xbox.

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association acts for its members to report copyright infringements to the Police and local trading standards officers. The ELSPA Web site is a very useful resource for teaching / discussing aspects of software piracy in the UK. The Anti-piracy – press office – press releases section of the site has useful short accounts of successful prosecutions of the more blatant infringements. This site is an excellent resource for case studies to highlight the importance of intellectual property and copy- rights generally. I have used case studies to motivate classroom discussions that have often become quite heated.

One recent story that has not made the ELSPA press release page yet was that of a 22 year old Cambridge graduate who is the first person to be prosecuted for selling modified xbox consoles. According to the BBC News report , the modifications consisted of

  • adding a large capacity hard drive
  • adding additional circuits to bypass copy protection software – so called ‘chipping’
  • selling xbox consoles with hard drives loaded with up to 80 games via his own e-commerce Web site

The prosecution was brought under the EU directive that apparently makes the ‘chipping’ of games consoles a specific offence.

I am just wondering which step prompted the prosecution. I hope it was the supply of the hard drive full of pirated games. The xbox console contains a high performance IBM G5 microprocessor. Some years ago, at least one Czech company was selling Playstation 1 consoles adapted to run Linux, with a hard drive, keyboard and facility for connection to a domestic television. The resulting device provided low cost computing access to a number of people.

I hope that similar ‘change of purpose’ modifications to the xbox will not fall under the regulations (outrageous sales of ripped off games should of course).

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