To Mod or Not to Mod

To Mod or Not to Mod

Poor Microsoft. They've been run through the ringer lately. Most recently, they announced that every single Xbox 360 sold has the same defect that can cause the unit to overheat and malfunction, rendering it permanently unusable.


"There are, of course, many legitimate uses for modding outside of piracy. One of the most common is to allow games released overseas (but not here) to be played on any version of the console, kind of like hacking a DVD player to play discs from anywhere in the world. This commonly accepted practice has been going on since the industry began region-coding its consoles."

While it's common, it's still illegal(region based copyright laws), so this would definitely not be considered a legitimate use.
Modding a system is voiding the warranty and Microsoft is completely legitimate in banning those users from Xbox live.

Mr. Rhodes specifically said "games released overseas (but not here)". Legally, do region encoding restrictions apply to games only released in one place? Same for movies? Or, from the industry's pov, are non-region matched devices and content simply "incompatible", despite the hardware's near identicality?

Also, given region-encoding standards, is it illegal for me to OWN a console from another region? And to play discs from that region on it? As a citizen of the US, am I just not allowed?

I've always thought the region stuff was complete BS. But whatevs. My Oppo sure doesn't care where a disc came from.

Aside from piracy, the lockout of modified consoles from Xbox Live is equally important to combat cheating. Microsoft is operating one of the only pay-to-play online multiplayer gaming systems still in existence, and one of the only ways to justify that is to do whatever it takes to make sure it's a 'fair' environment. The same openness of the platform that allows both piracy and homebrew tinkering to exist also provides a lot of ways to cheat in online multiplayer, which would ultimately kill the service.

That said, for the tinkerers, XNA is a very interesting set of tools - it's not "Linux on the X-Box" (I don't really 'get' that fascination) but for the people that want to build software it's at least a starting point, though it's sandboxed and has an additional fee.

Also, given region-encoding standards, is it illegal for me to OWN a console from another region? And to play discs from that region on it? As a citizen of the US, am I just not allowed?

No, that's perfectly fine - the imports and (usually) exports of consoles and games don't have any restrictions on them, and owning them, using them, or selling them isn't illegal. On the other hand, it is theoretically illegal to bypass regional encodings in the US under the DMCA (via "circumventing a scheme used to restrict access to copyrighted material"). So owning a foreign player to play foreign content is legal, but modifying your US player to play foreign content is not. Doesn't make sense to me either.

Other regions have different laws. For example, in Australia regional encoding (at least on movies) is illegal, and all DVD players sold are region-free.

Tom Rhodes:
Microsoft just became the first console manufacturer to take action like this against modified consoles.

actually, they did this on the original xbox too. people would be banned from xbox live if they used a copied backup or a ripped game on the hard drive to go online. also, a modchip was detectable if it was left on. but with the 360, you get banned because it detects the copied disc, not the firmware.

So, Virgil, it's technically illegal for me to input the "magic code" into my Oppo that switches it to Region-Free mode, because it was purchased in the US? But if I buy the same player from Australia (probably a different power cord? Never been there, don't know), where they must be sold Region-Free (and therefore, the low-level programming switch has already been thrown) then it's perfectly okay? (I'm aware of the DMCA provision against "circumvention", so this question is semi-rhetorical)

What if I bought it while living in the US, from Australia? Sometimes, I get the sneaking suspicion that our legislators have no clue what they're legislating. And, if I pointed out such loopholes to them, they would probably, RATHER than seeing the error of their ways, instead try to make it illegal to import region-free players. But just for individuals, corporations have valid uses for such things...

Also, you mention that DVD movie region encoding is illegal in Australia; how has that fared with the 360 or PS3? Do their movie playing capabilities have to be region free, but their game playing capabilities are allowed to remain region-locked?

Write your congressmen!

...Sorry, I couldn't hold it in any longer.

Concerning region encoding: as far as I'm aware, region encoding is not covered by the DMCA, although it may. Inputting the "region-free" code to DVD players has not been actionable in court, although that may only be because no manufacturer has tried (if there is an example of this, please let me know). Not producing content for the DVD players themselves (most of them, anyway), I don't think they much care.

Outside of the US gray area, consoles can be modified without problems in many places. For instance, in Australia, it is legal to disable regional protection and copyright protection under the 2006 Copyright Reforms.

As for the detection, every source I've found said that Xbox Live detects the running BIOS, and mod chips make that different from the original. If modified, it is banned, not just if there's a pirated game in the drive, but for any modified console. It also bans users for larger hard drives and other non-standard modified features.

I'm still surprised that the age-old court proceedings that allowed Activision to produce games for the Atari console got basically binned after Nintendo started their dubious "Seal of Quality" (which it never was, mind you).

It is interesting consoles are not found to be more like VCR, DVD or other media players, and instead held so tightly by the console manufacturers, although I have no idea about the legality, since it is likely USA law that'd influence everyone anyway (and I don't live there).

It'd be interesting if it ever got to any kind of court, although nowadays reverse-engineering to put a game on a system probably is the thing that'd simply cost too much to do.


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