Import Legality

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Ray Warner, Jun 11, 2003.

  1. Ray Warner

    Ray Warner Stunt Coordinator

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    Right off the bat, I'm not starting this as a thread on the "how-to's" of modding or with the intention of promoting it, but rather on the facts of what's legal and what isn't. If this breeches board policy anyway, my apologies in advance as it wasn't my intention, and I'll delete the thread voluntarily.

    But, healthy discussion is encouraged, yes? So, please read before passing judgement.

    Here's the law as I understand it:

    Once you actually own a console, it's yours, and you're free to do with it as you please. If that Dreamcast makes an excellent doorstop, nobody's saying you can't use it as one (I think that's the most common use for N64s these days, come to think of it.)

    Likewise, if you want to crack it open and mess with the electronics, that's your call. The company producing the console will obvoiously consider your warranty voided, but the act of changing the programming on your console is not an illegal action in and of itself. It's sort of the same reasoning that it's perfectly legal to own a bong, but not to smoke pot out of it.

    Where you run into illegality with a modded console is when you use it to play pirated games, which is illegal, as the people who produced the games are not recieving any compensation for their work and the game has not been paid for.

    Here's where people seem to differ in opinion. On the one side, I've had people swear to me up and down that imported games are illegal to own, as are any kind of modified consoles.

    Personally, I think this isn't true. Shenmue II for the Dreamcast was widely sold at Electronics Boutique as a European import for the Dreamcast, usually bundled with the DC-X import player, essentially a peice of hardware that achieved the same effect as modifying a console. Nowadays, it's a simple matter to buy a Freeloader for your GameCube, which does the same thing. They're sold nearly everywhere, something I would assume wouldn't be possible if it were illegal.

    The thing with imports is that they're still legitimate games. They were purchased legally, the developers were paid accordingly, and if all accounts are settled, it doesn't matter where the game itself ends up after that.

    I know there's a law on the books that forbids modification to circumvent piracy protection, but import games are not pirated, they're merely from another market than the domestic versions. It's also quite possible (and, in most cases, quite simple) to modify a given console to fool it into thinking it's from a separate territory, since the hardware is always exactly the same. Doing so will not, however, allow it to play illegitimate games. If a US console thinks it's a Japanese console, it's still not going to play a game it recognizes as a fake. Barring mod work, there's also a slew of hardware products that achieve the same effect, and these are widely available at most retailers.

    Assuming that mod work still allows a console to reject pirated games, nothing illegal has transpired from the modification itself since the anti-piracy software is perfectly intact. In fact, handhelds forego reigon encoding altogether! A Japanese or European game will work swimmingly on a North American Gameboy, and vice versa.

    In a nutshell:

    Pirated games are illegal to own and use, but legitimate imported games are not.

    The grey area: Is mod work on a console that allows the use of imports, but not pirated games, still illegal? In fact, is the mod legal regardles, and it's only the use of pirated games alone that's illegal?

    Again with the bong analogy: You can buy a bong and parade it around in front of a police station all you want; until you use it for drugs, you haven't done anything wrong, and if you do nothing but smoke tobacco out of it, it's perfectly legal, despite what it could (and probably will) be used for.

    To reiterate, this thread isn't a "how-to" of this in any way, but there's a lot of grey area regarding this topic, and I think it'll make for interesting discussion as long as it doesn't stray from that. [​IMG] I've also read articles on this topic in all sorts of major publications, including the Official Xbox Magazine, so if they're willing to broach the subject with a seven page article, it's obviously a point of interest even as far as official channels are concerned.

    So, anyone out there think I'm dead wrong? Agree, disagree, don't know? Fire away.
     
  2. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    Recently Nintendo has been cracking down on importers - see this link on gamers.com :
     
  3. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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  4. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    Didn't they crack down on stores selling bongs? Can't you be charged for possession of drug paraphanelia, or something? And mods violate the DMCA.
     
  5. Dave F

    Dave F Cinematographer

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  6. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Modding as stated above is illegal under the DCMA. You are bypassing copy guards

    However

    If they tried to arrest you for having a modded piece of equipment to just play legit imports on your system, I believe any sane judge would laugh them out of the courtroom
     
  7. JamesHl

    JamesHl Supporting Actor

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    " If they tried to arrest you for having a modded piece of equipment to just play legit imports on your system, I believe any sane judge would laugh them out of the courtroom"

    Depends on who the plaintiff is. Microsoft couldn't let something like that go, that would be like saying that it is in fact okay with them to mod the xbox.

    However, the likelihood that you would be arrested is extremely low. They target suppliers, not individuals. They're content to just screw up your xbox live if you mod your box.
     
  8. Morgan Jolley

    Morgan Jolley Lead Actor

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    The problem is that they can't prove you're going to just play legal import copies. If you put a gun in my hand, you committ a crime because you don't know what I'm going to do with it and I don't have a license for it. Same thing here. It's the potential for a crime that would not be prevented by the safeguards already put in place.

    The most legal way to import a game is to buy an imported console.

    And also, using software to play import games is generally OK, but using hardware (like chips) isn't.
     
  9. Ray Warner

    Ray Warner Stunt Coordinator

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    Hmm. Interesting points across the board...And no, you can own a bong without problem. It isn't "drug paraphenalia" until it's actually used for drugs. A bong loaded with pot resin will get you in trouble, a "virgin" one will not.

    Here's a curveball; does anyone else see certain companies as being clandestinely in favor of importing? I'm looking in Treasure's general direction with this, but you also get things like a perfectly-translated English Language option on Super Smash Bros. Melee, nevermind that HAL Labs is notoriously user-friendly when it comes to games.

    Bear in mind that, while the PS2 is near-impossible to mod without going through a ton of trouble, the GameCube can be modded without even using a chip. This could be cost-cutting on Nintendo's part (they already use proprietary discs for their games) but it makes you wonder a bit.
     
  10. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  11. BrianB

    BrianB Producer

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  12. Ray Warner

    Ray Warner Stunt Coordinator

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    Yeah, but that's the UK. I haven't seen anything like that on US or JP shores.

    Bear in mind, I'm not trying to shit on the UK gaming scene (you guys are getting the best version of Metroid Prime, off the top of my head,) but Europe always seems to wind up getting the short end of the stick from the major companies -- which explains why there are so many import locations there. NOE works independently of NOJ or NOA. Obviously, all major decisions have to go through corporate in Japan, but what applies for one theatre of operations needn't apply for the other.

    I can't speak for Japan, but in the US, importing is damn near casual, and I haven't heard so much as a peep about it from anyone but Sony, who has always been a colossal pain in the ass in regards to their hardware. Microsoft is taking a passive-aggressive stance on modification with the XBL lockout, but they're certaintly not dodging the subject.

    Nintendo is, well, Nintendo. Their breifings on pretty much everything tend to sound like the Iraqi Info Minister. "There is no Microsoft, we've crushed Sony, the GameCube is the most popular console on the planet, and there's no such thing as 'modding' a console."

    The companies I'm referring to (Treasure, Playmore/SNK, HAL, Sega, a few others) have no stake in the Hardware being from a specific reigon. If they sell a game, it's sold, and they could care less where it ends up afterward. While they may not be in favor, per se, they're certaintly apathetic to a degree.
     
  13. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Good thing with N64 that you could just buy a gamebit screwdriver, open it up and remove a piece and all carts fit fine [​IMG]

    Sony ha been doing to the same thing except in Japan, actively trying to ban used game sales. Since the Japanese don't tend to care much about game imports, that's never really been an issue
     
  14. Ray Warner

    Ray Warner Stunt Coordinator

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    Oh yeah...That worked on the SNES as well, right? The little grey tabs you could just clip off with a drill bit?
     

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