On Wednesday 11th June 2008 at the court of appeal criminal division Judge Justice Jacobs threw out 26 charges against the self-styled "No. 1 name in console modifications," MrModChips (aka Neil Higgs).
Neil Higgs got into trouble because, yes you guessed it, he sold mod chips that allowed pirated and imported games to be played on Nintendo and Microsoft consoles. Back in October he was the second person to be convicted for distributing and selling chipped consoles or console mod chips.
He was convicted of 26 anti-piracy counts and faced a Â£1 million fine and 2 years in jail. Ouch. Luckily for him the legal argument that modchips do not circumvent copyright protection was upheld by Judge Jacobs based on the argument that the copyright infringement has already taken place before the use of a modchip. Hurray! This means that not only was his legal fees reimbursed but he is now free to do business as usual.
So what does it mean? Does it mean that the UK is now on the verge of legalizing mod chips like Australia did in 2002? If you look at the case in Australia that led to the legalization of mod chips, the judge found that banning mod chips prevented legal activities such as playing backed-up or imported games. More importantly though that ruling also found that mod chips did not violate laws against circumventing copyright protections, the same finding was seen in the case against MrModChips.
So it is possible that mod chips will become legal in the UK at some point and you won't get banned from Xbox live if you do so but putting one in your console of choice will still no doubt void the warranty. Also the majority of people who will mod their consoles will do so to play pirated games. If mod chips do become legal will we see a shift in how Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo treat the UK/Europe. You can argue that they can't do anything worse than they are doing already but can we be sure of that? or will they even care?