Mr. Modchips is guilty
London – Neil Stanley Higgs, a 39-year-old Englishman from Bristol who ran the Mr. Modchips site specializing in the sale of console modifications, was found guilty by Her Majesty’s Court – the second case ever recorded in the Chronicles of the Kingdom – in the context of distribution of illicit technologies designed to incite videogame piracy . Higgs has been trading in modchip since 2002, and it is estimated that his turnover in 2006 amounted to 1 million pounds.
In January last year, officials from Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards, prompted by private investigations conducted by the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), raided the commercial properties of Higgs’ parents, seizing nine computers and thousands of modchips of the Executor line for Microsoft and Nintendo consoles.
In the seized computers, as many as 200 thousand emails were found from which the investigators gathered new clues about the flourishing trafficking of man, emails then used as evidence in front of the judge during the trial. And the consequent sentence it went down hard : Higgs was found guilty of 26 offenses under Section 296ZB of the anti-modchip Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, three offenses for advertising, supplying and selling the devices in question and 11 offenses for possessing Executor chips.
“Today’s case sets an important precedent in the fight against piracy by protecting the gaming industry’s investments in exceptional games,” said ELSPA leader Michael Rawlinson. And it is “a clear message”, sent to those like Higgs who were involved in the trading of mod chips for consoles: this “criminal act” will be treated and punished “in the hardest possible way”. The size of the sentence will be decided in the coming weeks.
Industry action, said Rawlinson, currently focuses on tackling the illegal market, and Higgs’ is a story that follows the iron fist promoted by Nintendo against the Hong Kong factory specializing in chips to modify the its most successful consoles, Wii and DS.