The offender had developed a new method of modifying Microsoft Xbox consoles, discovered in October 2004 by ELSPA's Internet Investigator, who then informed Caerphilly County Borough Council Trading Standards and Gwent Constabulary. He sold the consoles, fitting them with a hard-drive of 200GB and 80 pre-installed games, via his website for £380. The retail cost of this package, if genuine and unmodified, would be an estimated £3,000 for each one. ELSPA gathered the forensic evidence against him which led to the court result.
Mike Rawlinson, deputy director general of ELSPA commented: "This case sets a major precedent which marks a milestone in the fight against piracy and in protecting the games industry's intellectual property. It sends a clear message to anyone tempted to become involved in 'chipping' consoles that this is a criminal offence and will be dealt with accordingly. The modification of consoles is an activity that ELSPA's anti-piracy team is prioritising – it is encouraging to see the UK courts do the same."
The penalty imposed yesterday, comprising a 140-hour community service order to be carried out in the next 12 months, £750 costs and forfeiture of all equipment seized including three tower PCs, two printers, three Xbox consoles and 38 hard-drives, reflected the youth of the individual and the fact that this was his first offence.
The modification of consoles has been an illegal practice since October 2003. After intense lobbying by ELSPA, the Patent office laid the Statutory Instrument for the introduction of the Copyright Directive. This Act made the whole process of chipping consoles illegal, including selling and advertising chips as well as providing a service for chipping.
The chipping process, which enables counterfeit games to be played on a console, leaves the consumer with no recourse under any guarantee from the manufacturer and can damage the console.