Mr Modchips – UK Pirate Faces Jail And £1 Million Fine

Poor Mr Modchips, seems to have moved to Thailand

Posted by Staff
Mr Modchips – UK Pirate Faces Jail And £1 Million Fine
A Bristol-based console 'Chipper' who has made in excess of £1 million from flogging dodgy console chips online has been convicted in what ELSPA’s anti-piracy unit is calling a landmark crown court hearing.

'Mr Modchips' is the second person in UK to be convicted in crown court for console chipping offenses.

‘Modchips’ (otherwise known in his Earth identity as 39-year-old Neil Stanley Higgs of Speedwell Road, Bristol) was found guilty at Bristol Crown Court last month of 26 offences under Section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act – which is an amendment to the 1988 act that came into force in 2003 to tackle the burgeoning chipping offences problem.

Higgs was found guilty on counts of advertising, supplying and selling modchips, in addition to being found guilty of 12 counts of possessing chipped games consoles in the course of a business and another 11 counts of possessing ‘Executor’ modchips for Microsoft consoles and Viper GC chip for Nintendo consoles in the course of a business.

He was cleared of a further four counts of possessing chipped consoles in the course of a business as it was shown to the court that these were owned by friends and family (a “bit ‘o’ personal”, as the drug dealer would have it!). He originally claimed all nineteen chipped consoles were owned by friends and family, but it seems that the judge wasn’t having any of that.

Higgs’ business premises (his parents' flat!) were raided by police and Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards after ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) investigators unearthed illegal chips and modification equipment being sold through his website at www.mrmodchips.com.

The raid was one of three carried out at the time by three Trading Standards teams simultaneously under the moniker ‘Operation Barnet’.

Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, said, “This case today sets a major precedent which marks a milestone in the fight against piracy, protecting the games industry’s investment in fantastic games. It sends a clear message to anyone tempted to become involved in ‘chipping’ consoles that this is a criminal offence and will be dealt in the strongest possible way. 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.”

Robin Whittle, Principal Trading Standards Officer for Bristol Trading Standards, said, “This is a very significant result following a complex investigation. The defendant has been running a business of providing the means to get around the copyright protection on games consoles and the jury have clearly recognised this in the guilty verdicts they returned today."

Further court proceedings are imminent and a financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) is underway. It is highly likely that Higgs will face both a custodial sentence at Her Majesty’s Pleasure and have to pay back the whopping great amounts of cash that he has made.

Or will he? Closer investigation unearths the fact that Higgs is seemingly still operating www.mrmodchips.com but from a new address. In Bangkok, Thailand.

Has Higgs done a runner? Or will he return home to face the wrath of ELSPA’s Anti Piracy Unit sometime soon? SPOnG will be the first to let you know.

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Comments

realvictory 25 Oct 2007 14:03
1/15
No, this is a case of the law being immoral. I don't know or care where the law about mod chips being illegal came from, but they shouldn't be.

What is fair to me is:
- You buy a console, you should be able to do what you want with it (to an extent)
- If you break it by opening it up or changing it, you invalidate the warranty
- Playing pirate copies of games is illegal

But changing the behavious of your own console, manually, is not intrinsically losing the manufacturer anything whatsoever, you do it at your own risk, and you are harming no one but yourself. What is wrong with that?

Let's not be stupid here, either - a mod chip may or may not use reverse engineering, but every company does this in one way or another to its competitors. The difference is, the people with more money are the ones who are in control. This is what should be illegal.
Joji 25 Oct 2007 14:34
2/15
This mod chip stuff always was, so those that want to can play import games. The trouble is they are getting import gamers mixed up with modders, which is a wrong way to go about it but to MS, Nintendo etc, is killing two birds with one stone. The government have been fooled because they aren't tech wise.

Its not illegal to chip or mess with something you purchase with your money. This chap could easily argue that if you purchased a car legally, that once payment is done, you can tweak it to your hearts content. The same principal stands for consoles too, and more so PC.

Piracy is illegal and developers get no money, but importing games is legal and gives them their cut regardless.
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deleted 25 Oct 2007 15:40
3/15
Joji wrote:


Piracy is illegal and developers get no money, but importing games is legal and gives them their cut regardless.



What about the Marketing, Shipping, Regional Coding, Translation, Advertising that they pay in the UK to Promote and Produce and Sell the Games, importing costs Devs and Publishers money if everyone imported from US or Japan, then what point would there be for them to add European languages to Advertise in European Countries?

Why would they even bother shipping any units over here, if no one would buy them, what would happen to Game/Gamestation etc, Would even play.com exsist?

Think Logistics, Think Money, Think its a business to Devs not fun.
realvictory 26 Oct 2007 00:21
4/15
People shouldn't be forced to buy what they don't want, people should be allowed to buy what they want (which isn't the same thing as stealing). If people want a particular version, why shouldn't they be allowed to buy it, just because they're in a different country?

Piracy, too, isn't something you can stop simply by stopping one man - "pirates" don't care about business in the same way that the companies ("victims") do, so it won't change a thing. Even stopping piracy isn't going to force people to buy games that they would have got for free. If you offer someone something for free, they're a lot more likely to accept it than if you charge people for it.

Still, this isn't necessarily about that, it's about installing mod chips, which doesn't intrinsically harm anyone - it's not taking anything away from anyone. To me, it's the same concept as using an unlicenced controller - I don't see the crime in it. You have to think, what did the people punishing the man lose from him selling mod chips? It's disgusting, and makes me ashamed to live in such a world.
PreciousRoi 26 Oct 2007 04:17
5/15
This isn't about anything aside from some guy who tried to make money off something he knew was illegal.

He's no better nor worse than a bootlegger or drug dealer. If it wasn't illegal, he couldn't charge as much as he did. (I don't know how bad he soaked his customers, but if he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart, hes an even bigger idiot) Now the butcher's bill has come due. Lets all cry crocodile tears of purple piss. This isn't some guy who did a few chips for friends and family, this guy built a buisness by breaking the law. Agree with the law or disagree with it, its the law, he broke it as a part of his buisness plan. And he commited the cardinal sin...he got caught. If theres any debate its about the law, not this guy. This guy punched his own ticket and will live with the consequences, which is as it should be.
Saurian 26 Oct 2007 07:45
6/15
Lets get one thing straight. No-one modifies a console for fun. The reason is either so they dont have to pay for games or so they can make money selling the stuff to others. All the other talk is just crap. If you want to 'homebrew' why not just use a PC ?. Pirating is wrong and hurts the industry as a whole. It is one of the excuses for games being so high priced. I say excuses because I think game companies overcharge anyway. Thats why I dont buy as many as I would if they were cheaper. But thats no excuse for stealing them.
One other thing - PerciousRoi - although I mostly agree with you, I do not think this is as bad as drug dealing - that kills people, piracy just ruins the games industry and ruins our experience.
PreciousRoi 26 Oct 2007 08:10
7/15
realvictory wrote:
(Opens weakly...mostly irrelevant to everything but imports)

Piracy, too, isn't something you can stop simply by stopping one man - "pirates" don't care about business in the same way that the companies ("victims") do, so it won't change a thing. Even stopping piracy isn't going to force people to buy games that they would have got for free. If you offer someone something for free, they're a lot more likely to accept it than if you charge people for it.

Still, this isn't necessarily about that, it's about installing mod chips, which doesn't intrinsically harm anyone - it's not taking anything away from anyone. (dissolves into purile nonsense)

I agree, you don't stop piracy by stopping one man. However, you certainly don't stop piracy by allowing someone to advertise and run a buisness founded upon enabling piracy. I also agree that stopping piracy isn't going to force people to...ehh...what you said...yadda yadda(quoted above) Estimates of the "damages" done by all forms of piracy are universally grossly inflated by those with an axe to grind. (Also the only people who'd care to make such an estimate). I think there should be real consequences for this...say the next time someone is fined for piracy the judge says "Well, I'd like to fine this guy, but I have no way to calculate what a fair fine would be since your figures are obviously bullshit, so no fine will be assessed until and unless you can come back to me with some realistic numbers. So ordered." Next you'd hear two bangs, one would be the gavel the other would be the (**AA or other)'s lawyers jaw hitting the desk. But don't lets make a martyr out of this guy, we can do better.

Thats right, this isn't about piracy. Its about installing mod chips. Which is illegal. The catch being the only way they're going to bust you for this is if you make a buisness out of it. I think I can live with that.
PreciousRoi 26 Oct 2007 08:11
8/15
Saurian wrote:

One other thing - PerciousRoi - although I mostly agree with you, I do not think this is as bad as drug dealing - that kills people, piracy just ruins the games industry and ruins our experience.


Yeah, it was too late to edit when I changed my mind about that...redact "drug dealer" to "pot grower" Also, I think you're buying into the industry propaganda melodrama there with the ruination.

But you are soooo wrong about the not modifying for fun...thats why the real geeks do it...also I know several people who the only thing they did when they modded their Xbox was add lights. Which counts as "for fun" as opposed to playing pirated games. XBMC is too f**king useful to count as "for fun".
deleted 29 Oct 2007 22:43
9/15
Saurian wrote:
One other thing - PerciousRoi - although I mostly agree with you, I do not think this is as bad as drug dealing - that kills people, piracy just ruins the games industry and ruins our experience.


Piracy is a massive source of funding to organised crime, and is also a massive income for terroism, so piracy takes lifes too, not as much as drugs would or do, but its up there, in fact i believe i read somewhere that during the 80`s the IRA`s largest source of income was from VHS piracy.
PreciousRoi 29 Oct 2007 23:18
10/15
Right, organized piracy is by definition orgainized crime...or much of the history of the Royal Navy...

Seriously (not really), shut up about that...if certain politicians got wind of that we'll have a CIA report about how North Korea has been designing mod chips with the help of Iran.

I guess some people have been killed over pot, but thats more governments fault for banning it when they knew it wasn't a good idea in the first place, much as the American government (and women and Protestant fundamentalists) gets full credit for making the Mafia as powerful as they are.
jeff 26 Nov 2007 04:05
11/15
pirated wii games are all over bangkok now $1 each now thats cheap
Arthur 20 Dec 2007 10:12
12/15
Mr Mod Chips is a Piece of S*** and owes me money for not suppling my mod chip.Arg!!!!!!!!
I purchased it as my hard drive was broken and bought a new one and installed it as i needed to play my games by the mod chip way as you cant replace a hard drive in the xbox as its hard wired :( another Con from the thieving Bas***** called Microsoft.:(
monkey 26 Jan 2008 02:59
13/15
Sounds like a load of B**ll*X to me. Modchips illigal?
Might as well convict me of rape then coz i've got the equipment
derek 21 Dec 2008 01:31
14/15
Its a joke to say what he is doing is illegal, Its not illegal to make your own backup copies and the only way to play such games is modding the drive.

Im sick of this nanny state.
It make me kinda angry, I hope he moved away and I hope he keep doing what hes doing.

"The difference is, the people with more money are the ones who are in control. This is what should be illegal"

So true, We are ruled by money the goverment is a joke time to vote someone in whoes not a f**king coward or a greedy bas*ard.


Tim Smith 22 Dec 2008 09:44
15/15
derek wrote:
So true, We are ruled by money the goverment is a joke time to vote someone in whoes not a f**king coward or a greedy bas*ard.


I don't think that Tony Benn wants to be Prime Minister though.

Tim
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