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Chip a Playstation, Go to Jail 703

perogiex writes "A man in Ottawa was convicted of selling and installing mod chips out of his computer store. Sony is overjoyed, man is less than thrilled. This is the first time such a case was tried in Canada." From the article: Garby said he didn't know he was committing a crime and would have never gotten involved in selling mod chips if he had known the law. Update: 07/24 21:53 GMT by M : Headline corrected; it's clearly mod chips for the original Playstation, not the Playstation 2.
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Chip a Playstation, Go to Jail

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  • depressing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iocat ( 572367 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:39PM (#3945194) Homepage Journal
    For anyone who looks at mod chips as a way to do hobbiest development, versus piracy, this kind of thing is just depressing.
  • by dhaberx ( 585739 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:40PM (#3945202)
    This guy was selling a line of 413 pirated games and didn't know what he was doing was illegal? It sounds like he deserves what he got.
  • Old... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Mwongozi ( 176765 ) <slashthree@david ... org minus author> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:40PM (#3945204) Homepage
    Why would you want to chip an old IBM computer []?

    Or did you mean "PS2"? ;)

  • Pirated Games (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LaNMaN2000 ( 173615 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:41PM (#3945213) Homepage
    The article states that he was selling pirated games alongside the mod chips. Maybe the charge of copyright infringement related to the illegal video games being sold (as Sony did not design the mod chips, it is unclear of whose copyright he would be violating).
  • Chips or piracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kevin42 ( 161303 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:41PM (#3945214) Homepage
    It sounds like he was also selling pirated games. I wonder if they would ever have cracked down on him if all he had done was sell and install mod chips. The article seems to downplay the fact that he was selling pirated games as well.

    Even though I think selling mod chips shouldn't be illegal, I don't have sympathy for people who are selling pirated software!
  • by Telastyn ( 206146 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:43PM (#3945241)
    No, but putting a chip in a PS2 to play Japanese games isn't morally questionable, but just as illegal.
  • Re:Kudos to him! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Malc ( 1751 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:45PM (#3945257)
    Assuming he reported his earnings to the CCRAn that fine doesn't leave him much to pay for his overheads, let alone make a profit.
  • wait a second... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by denshi ( 173594 ) <> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:45PM (#3945264) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone know where to get the briefs for this case? One line in the article bothered me:
    He was charged after an RCMP investigation found he was selling a line of 413 pirated video games and charging $30 to install "mod chips" in Sony PlayStation video game consoles.
    ....and then the rest of the article is grandstanding about mod chips from various, easily bribed parties. From first glance, this looks like they had a cut-and-dried case of copyright infringement because he was selling copied games (thus copying & deriving profit from such), but some groups are trying to cast this case into a ruling on mod chip legality -- which would be a much harder case to prosecute. Has anyone seen this case in detail?
  • Re:depressing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xaoswolf ( 524554 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {flowsoaX}> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:47PM (#3945289) Homepage Journal
    he was selling a line of 413 pirated video games

    He wasn't just selling mod chips, he was also selling pirated games. Not sure if they would have just busted him for the mod chips or not though.

  • Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PMadavi ( 583271 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:47PM (#3945290)
    Well, I can see him getting arrested for selling pirated software, that makes sense. What's interesting is that he got charged for the mod-chip, not the games. Should selling something that allows you to do illegal things be illegal? I mean, we sell guns and pipes. All kinds of things. Should you buy those things doesn't mean you're going to kill or do drugs, right?

    Here's a scenario. You bought a rad new PS2 game, you want to make sure that if it gets scratched, eaten, etc. . . you can still play your game, so you burn a copy, and use the mod chip to play the game. You paid for the game once, right? What's wrong with that.

    If you ask me, aside from the selling pirated games, this guy had a case.

  • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:49PM (#3945303)
    Reading over the comments, I've seen people claim 413, 417 and 430... so far. All in the same ballpark, but really, how hard is it to copy a simple number from an article?
  • by Platinum Dragon ( 34829 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:52PM (#3945336) Journal
    Ignorance of the law is no defense.

    That said, I'm interested to find out which part of the Criminal Code specifically makes installing mod chips, and presumably other circumvention devices, a felony offense. It sounds rather DMCA-like. I wonder if Parliament passed something DMCA-like with almost no fanfare. The article makes it sound like the mod chip conviction is the important one for being the first of its kind.
  • Re:Chips or piracy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Psx29 ( 538840 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:52PM (#3945346)
    It sounds like he was also selling pirated games. I wonder if they would ever have cracked down on him if all he had done was sell and install mod chips. The article seems to downplay the fact that he was selling pirated games as well.

    I would have to agree with you that selling pirated games are illegal and he should be prosectued for it. However, the article is very vague as to the details of his guilty plea, and it is not clear if the actual charge of modifying a playstation is illegal or not. They only mention the following:

    Robert Garby, 38, pleaded guilty to two counts of copyright infringement and four counts of selling unauthorized computer equipment.

    Now could that bolded text be referring to a modchip, or not? That, is the question.

  • by pb ( 1020 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:54PM (#3945372)
    He was convicted of selling 413 pirated video games and Playstation mod-chips.
    How do I know this? Well, first, I read the article; second, I know that there aren't 413 GAMES available for the Playstation 2!

    Also, the PS/2 is a computer from IBM, and does not require mod chips to play pirated games. Sony doesn't call their Playstation 2 the PS/2, perhaps because they don't want to get sued. Does slashdot want to get sued? Well, it'd be nice to have some penalties for irresponsible journalism...
    Finally, considering the facts of the case, it is disingenuous for the writers of this article to call it a conviction for selling mod-chips, since that wasn't all it was.

    In conclusion, all you journalists are lazy, illiterate, and incompetent. If you don't agree with me, prove me wrong by writing something accurate, intelligent, or interesting.
  • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:58PM (#3945416)
    You mean like opening the hood of my car and making modifications so that it runs with more horsepower?
  • by Sleepy ( 4551 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @12:59PM (#3945427) Homepage
    >>selling mod chips shouldn't be illegal?!?!
    >Do you also have a hacked cable box? It is theft of service.

    You miss the point so badly:

    If you OWN something, it's YOURS. Not only do you NOT have the right to take away people's freedom, but you also have no right to even KNOW what people do with their property.

    I'll give you a quick lesson in right & wrong:

    RIGHT: You decide to paint your car YOU OWN, a color other than what it was manufactured.

    WRONG: You LEASE (or steal) a car, and repaint it without the owner's permission.

  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kmweber ( 196563 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:04PM (#3945464) Homepage
    It is the moral right of the producer to dictate the terms under which his product is offered. You don't like the terms, you don't use the product. Simple as that.
  • Re:Chips or piracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:07PM (#3945483) Homepage Journal
    Do you also like bread? That doesn't even compare. Now buying pirate games is theft of service, but installing a mod chip so you can back up your games (especially important if you have a dog/small children in the house). And what about those people who import games from Japan and other countries? That may not be looked kindly upon by Sony, but it certainly isn't theft of service (Sony/the game publisher still get the money they deserve).

    There seems to be a vocal contingent on Slashdot that assume that anybody using DeCSS, Napster, Mod Chips, etc... must be pirates and should be thrown in jail. Even if there are legitimate uses for a technology the potental for abuse exists and therefore everyone who uses it is therefore guilty.

    I've used DeCSS dozens of times (everytime I watch a DVD I bought legally in fact) without infringing on copyright once. Does this mean I should go to jail? I've played import games (at conventions, but still...). Those machines were modded. Should I go to jail? I've backed up my games (although I don't actually have a mod chip yet, I'll install it if one of my originals is destroyed). Am I evil? Do I deserve to be thrown in jail for using technologies that can also be used to pirate?
  • by Phoenix ( 2762 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:11PM (#3945514)
    Did he have 413 different titles? or did he have 413 copies of pirated software?

    I agree that the journalists tend to be lazy, but don't blame /. for reporting that is done by an idiot. The story is there if one has the brains to sort it out as you and I have

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PMadavi ( 583271 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:13PM (#3945527)
    In my original post, I had mentioned that someone might want to burn a back-up copy of a game he/she has purchased legitimately from a store, in case the original gets lost or scratched or stolen or something like that. In which case, they'd need a mod-chip to run this back-up copy of the software they purchased. I think that would be a legitimate use for a mod-chip.

    Now, I'm not sure if these gaming companies pull a microsoft, and say that you're buying the CD and not the software on it (essentially paying for the distribution and not the product), but I don't think they do. If they don't, then you have every right to burn a back-up copy of your game and play it on the PS2. . . which would require a mod-chip. So, if this logic holds-up, you've got every right to go out and get yourself a mod-chip. What you choose to do with it is up to you.

  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:18PM (#3945572) Homepage
    If everyone is expected to know all the laws and what they mean, then why are there so many lawyers? Our law systems are so confusing and complex that we have to hire special people to interpret and find laws that will help defend us and prosecute others. So it's not suprising that someone might not know there's a new law saying something is illegal.
  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:19PM (#3945583) Homepage
    If you OWN something, it's YOURS. Not only do you NOT have the right to take away people's freedom, but you also have no right to even KNOW what people do with their property.

    Not that I disagree with your point at all, indeed I heartily agree. But try telling that to the BATF if, for example, you make a minor mechanical modification to a legally owned semi-automatic rifle that converts it to fully-automatic (ie a machine gun), or cut the barrel of your legally owned shotgun down to less than 18 inches.

    If you thought DMCA enforcement was tough...

  • I'll bite... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pb ( 1020 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:42PM (#3945777)
    In general this wouldn't be necessary because journals have an obligation to present the facts and correct themselves as needed. Slashdot rarely reflects these practices, however, and many other online equivalents of pen-and-paper journals are sorely lacking in their journalism.

    However, people and organizations can still be sued for slander and libel, even under the First Amendment. I think that organizations that purport to report the News have an obligation to report the facts accurately, and should be held to a higher standard than are individuals.

    I'm arguing that the headline is negligent and misleading, and should be corrected. Every minute that goes by when it isn't misleads and confuses another person who might have expected news or accurate reporting. Many people have come to expect this sort of inaccurate reporting from slashdot, but that doesn't excuse it.

    Perhaps they could have an "editor" on duty whose job it is to "edit"?
  • by sudog ( 101964 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:48PM (#3945833) Homepage
    The guy was selling about 413 illegally pirated copies of video games. I think that very obviously shows intent to infringe. Selling the mod chips in conjunction with those video games is very obviously going to nail him on intent.

    So suddenly his mod chips are no longer semi-grey market (as the de-Macrovision devices you can get at Radio Shack are, for example) and are now part of the reason he gets the fine and probation.

    Perfectly reasonable and nothing to be ashamed or outraged at.

    Now, if he had just been selling the mod-chips under cover of interoperability with Japanese imports, for example, or for playing back-up games, I doubt very much he'd have been convicted, and I challenge anyone to dig up some Canadian precedent that specifically ruled otherwise.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:50PM (#3945856)
    Ahh - but your analogy is flawed. The property you are modified is already a controlled substance - so the rights to modify it are subsumed by the right of the state to protect its citizens.
    Same goes for other controlled or illegal substances. If you own a poppy field, you don't have the right to create opiates from them. If you own a rifle, you don't have the right to go shoot people with it, or modify its performance so that it falls into a restricted category.

    Take your poor example elsewhere.
  • Re:Mod chips (Score:5, Insightful)

    by notNeilCasey ( 521896 ) <NotNeilCasey@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @01:58PM (#3945917) Homepage
    It's cases like these that nudge public opinion in favor of DMCA-style bans on circumvention devices. This guy selling loads of pirated games and then the mod chips that allow people to play them is criminal activity that all of us anti-DMCA pro fair use people should recognize and identify as such. When people see headlines about "mod chips + piracy," they will often assume "mod chips = piracy," which will make them very susceptible to the rhetoric of the companies and individuals who benefit financially from that erroneous belief.

    If we are going to be vocal on the unfairness of legal roadblocks to fair use in the cases dealing with DeCSS and proposed DRM legislation, we have a responsibility to be equivalently vocal in cases where technologies we advocate and claim rights to are being used illegally. If we want DeCSS to be legal despite its "side effect" of decrypting DVDs, we have to denounce those who exploit that side effect for illegal personal gain.

    If we want mod chips to be a legal and accepted use of our own hardware for playing legally purchased Japanese games or burned backups of others we own, we have to speak against pirates who want to make money using mod chips and CD/DVD copying technology illegally.

    "There are thousands of types of people in the world: The type of people who think there are two types of people in the world, and the thousands of other types."

  • by norton_I ( 64015 ) <> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @02:09PM (#3946003)
    fully automatic weapons and sawed off shotguns are illegal in their own right. Firearms, while legal, are regulated. Playstations are not, and are not illegal. The same argument applies to making illegal drugs, or perscription drugs without a license, or bombs. The final product is illegal. But unless it would be illegal for Sony to sell multi-region PS2s, it shouldn't be illegal for me to make one. Now, if I use that to steal games, that is another story entirely.
  • Re:Mod chips (Score:2, Insightful)

    by xoff00 ( 594043 ) <blue@ro c i> on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @02:24PM (#3946144) Homepage
    > [Mod chips] allow playing games that have been copied to CDR.

    This is the same spurious argument that was used against VCRs (long live Beta!) and audio cassette tapes.

    Just because something can be used illegally doesn't mean it *will* be.

    Thats like saying scissors should be illegal because you could stab someone. Forget the million legitimate cutting up Celine Dion and AOL CDs.
  • by AJWM ( 19027 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @02:32PM (#3946200) Homepage
    Playstations are not [regulated]

    Oh, but indeed they are. The FCC has a whole set of regulations covering consumer electronic devices and their possible RF emissions. You better believe that Sony has to file some serious paperwork with the FCC to get permission to sell the things. (Also with Underwriters Labs and the CSA regarding shock and fire hazards, but that's more of an insurance thing.)

    Although I still believe you should be allowed to do whatever the hell you want to with your own property, so long as it doesn't actually (vs hypothetically) endanger others or trample on their rights.
  • by aftk2 ( 556992 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @02:49PM (#3946307) Homepage Journal
    You should actually read the article you claimed to have read and at least state where this PS2 stuff is coming from. Journalism here is not the problem. Illiteracy is ;-) should read the original post. The Slashdot article states that the mod chips are for the Playstation 2 (Hence "PS/2" (sic) in the Slashdot article title.) The actual article from the CBC News site correctly states nothing about the Playstation 2. The Slashdot reprint completely screwed up the original article - the poster was referring to that.
  • by roju ( 193642 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:10PM (#3946460)
    Who cares what sony says about modifications. If the guy who sells me a car says "Installing new air filters is illegal" I'm going to tell him to suck it long, and suck it hard. Once they've sold you the device, they have no say in what you do with it. Can you imagine the outrage if Ford tried to shut down 'unauthorized' mechanics? "He put a performance clutch on the engine, which is clearly unauthorized mechanics." Bull shit.
  • not at all true (Score:2, Insightful)

    by roju ( 193642 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @03:18PM (#3946509)
    You totally do NOT agree to that. My brother just bought a gamecube. He gave the store X dollars, they gave him a system. Pure sale. No license, nothing. It's his. If he wants to convert it into a fancy disco ball, that's his call. If he wants to rewire it so that the cds spin the wrong way, or fast enough to explode, his call.
  • by dmoen ( 88623 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:26PM (#3946982) Homepage
    >> How does putting an interop chip in your PS1, writing a program on your PC, compiling it with GCC, burning it to a CD, and putting it in the PS1's drive violate Sony's copyright?

    > Your program is linking against Sony's code (the PS1's firmware). According to the FSF, this requires Sony's permission - at least, they say linking against other code requires that code's author's permission. (That's how the GPL bans non-GPL code calling GPLed libraries, unlike the LGPL...)

    That's not right. The FSF says that distributing a combined work consisting of copyrighted code plus your code requires the permission of the copyright owner.
    But there is no distribution of a combined work when you run your own software on a modded PS1.

    Anyway, we already know that the copyright violation in this case was selling pirated games.

    Doug Moen.

  • by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @04:36PM (#3947068) Homepage
    The license agreement that comes with the PS/2 isn't something you sign, and most people don't read these ridiculously restrictive licenses. You might argue that ignoring the license agreement is the purchaser's fault, but the fact remains, Sony is counting on the fact that you won't delve too deeply into it. Furthermore, merely opening the box and using the PS/2 constitutes acceptance of the license. This is similar to shrink-wrap licenses on software, and has come under fire here in the U.S. Personally, I find such licensing schemes to be morally reprehensible.

    In addition, the license agreement is not legally enforceable in many regions, since it attempts to abridge rights that the purchaser already has. In the U.S., the right to reverse engineer is legally sanctioned and assured. Plenty of case law already exists in this area. Most Playstation emulators that Sony tried to squash squeaked by because they were developed from specs that were arrived at through a "clean room" reverse engineering effort. Sony resorted to paying off the developers or buying them out in most cases (e.g., Connectix no longer sells Virtual Game Station because Sony bought the rights to it, and then sat on it).

    I signed a lease agreement for an apartment that I rented once upon a time, and the lease agreement stipulated that I agreed to certain terms which were actually in violation of Arizona's Landlord-Tenant laws. When the management company broke Arizona law, they tried to nail me for leaving the apartment before my lease expired, and so I consulted an attorney. She pointed out that they can't take away my legal rights by having me sign them away in a contract. The property management company broke the law by failing to repair air conditioning in the apartment in a timely fashion (AC is considered an essential service in Arizona by law), and although they had a clause in the lease agreement that "excused" the company from liability if they were unable to perform a repair in a timely fashion, the law took precedence over the contract, and I was vindicated.

    This is why most contracts, including license agreements for software and hardware, include boilerplate clauses that state that if any portion of the contract is found to be unenforceable (e.g., because local law forbids something stipulated in the contract), the rest of the contract remains in force.

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, but I know bullshit when I see it. I can sign a contract that says that I agree to any number of things, but if the contract is legally unenforceable, then I'm not breaking the law or doing anything morally questionable by ignoring the clauses in the contract that are unenforceable and/or illegal.

    If I buy a piece of hardware in the United States, I can do whatever I want to it -- take a sledge hammer to it, desolder the chips on the motherboard, add things to it, etc. The laws in Canada may be different in this regard, so putting mod chips on a PS/2 in Canada might very well be illegal. All the more reason for me to enjoy being a U.S. citizen (until such time as the laws here are modified by corporate interests).
  • Re:Implications (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mpe ( 36238 ) on Wednesday July 24, 2002 @07:58PM (#3948258)
    Well, I guess the problem is that Sony is selling the colsole very cheap, making almost nothing from hardware sales.

    In a truely free market capitalist society that would be entirely Sony's problem. Why should customers (including retailers) be obliged to ensure that Sony's business model works?

    For your analogy to be more accurate you would have to say that when you buy a Ford Ranger the company (Ford) doesn't make very much, if anything. Instead, they get their money from selling gas. So, if you (and about half of Ford's other customers) were to mod your Ford Ranger and install a nuclear reactor in it, I'm sure there would be similar reactions.

    In which case people would be telling Ford that they were being foolish not to get into the nuclear fuel business, make reactor driven cars as a standard option and supply their own mod kits.
    The thing is when it comes to computers people think the rules of basic economics should be tossed out of the window. With laws created to enforce a corporate welfare model.

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