Nintendo’s Draconian Stance Against System Modification

Nintendo is one of the most creative and innovative video game companies in the world, but their stance against modifications of their products is nothing short of Draconian. In short, Nintendo says there is no legitimate purpose for game copying devices, emulators, and modification (mod) chips or other devices that enable homebrew applications. Sony and Microsoft have similar stances, but are a little more discreet in expressing their disdain for such devices, though no less aggressive in filing lawsuits against large-scale distributors of such devices.

Nintendo’s own legal information FAQ states, “Mod chips circumvent the security embedded into Nintendo’s products. To install the mod chips into a Nintendo hardware system, it is necessary to dismantle the product and, in some instances, remove components.” Nintendo automatically equates using mod chips with circumventing security of NINTENDO’S products. This is an interesting view considering most of us believe that once we buy a product it is now OUR product and not the manufacturer’s. Can you imagine a car manufacturer asserting similar claims? Ford could claim that changing out the computer chip in your car circumvents the security on FORD’S product. However, most of us believe that once you pay for a vehicle it is yours to alter in most any way you choose. Nintendo claims exceptions for video game consoles that few other companies would dare claim. Nintendo claims that even though you bought the product, it still belongs to Nintendo and that altering it, no matter the reason, somehow damages Nintendo. They want the very act of altering the device to be illegal even without proof of criminal use of the modified product.

Just because a game system modification enables illegal activity does not mean it will be used for the purpose. Using the car metaphor from earlier, just because I could modify my Ford vehicle to greatly exceed the speed limit does not mean I will blow through a school zone doing 88 mph. Just because I modify my Nintendo game system does not mean I will use it to illegally copy and/or distribute games.

In almost any area outside of the video games industry, making a modification to your property would not be illegal, even if that modification could enable the performance of an illegal act. Nintendo acknowledges only one use for these devices, and that is the illegal copying and distribution of video games. This view discounts the numerous legitimate uses for modification devices. For instance, many people use their Nintendo handhelds to read classic literature. This requires the use of devices Nintendo claims are only used for piracy.

Making it illegal to modify a product you paid for is absurd. Unfortunately, if Nintendo has its way, you will pay for a device and not legally be allowed to use it for anything for which Nintendo does not approve.

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