Mod Chips Declared Legal In U.K.

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A U.K. appeals court has ruled that the use of mod chips in videogame consoles does not constitute copyright infringement, legalizing their sale and use.

Neil Stanley Higgs, aka Mr. Modchips, was originally found guilty of selling the devices through his website, according to a report by The Sun, which claimed he had earned roughly $2 million through the business. When police raided his parents’ home, they found 3700 mod chips he had imported from Hong Kong as well as 19 modified Xbox systems. At the time, Michael Rawlinson of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association said the verdict represented “a milestone in the fight against piracy.”

On June 11, however, an appeals court ruled in Higgs’ favor, quashing all 26 charges against him. TeamXecuter.com says Higgs appealed the decision based on the argument that copyright infringement takes place when a user copies an original game disk, not as the result of the use of a mod chip. The appeals court agreed, and not only overturned the verdict against him but also awarded him full legal costs. Following the decision, the ELSPA’s Rawlinson was not available for comment.

The Register Hardware website notes that a similar decision was reached in Australia in 2005 as a result of a similar argument; in that case, however, the Australian government responded by changing the law to ban the use of the chips. In the U.S., where the chips are strictly illegal, Frederick Brown was given a one-year sentence in September, including 90 days in prison and the rest spent on work furlough, in addition to five years probation and a $100,000 fine for selling them.

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