March 8th, 2006

JUSTICE FILES: FBI Busts Xbox Warez Scam in Hawaii

Pirates vs. Ninjas = good times.

Pirates vs. the FBI? Not so much.

In December, 2005, GamePolitics covered the case of three Los Angeles men charged with selling Xbox systems chipped to play pirated games. The consoles also came pre-loaded with 77 pirated games.

More recently, the Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that two Hawaii residents were indicted by a federal grand jury for selling modded Xboxes, this time pre-loaded with hundreds of games, big-screen films, music videos and images.

The FBI's Cyber Squad investigated the case. The suspects, 26-year-old Don Perreira of Pearl City and 39-year-old John Oroyan of Waialua were charged with criminal copyright infringement, a felony which carries a maximum five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

J: While the pre-loading of games and movies onto an Xbox is a clear case of piracy, the legality of modding a system remains a sticky question. Technically. it is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, since the Xbox has to be modified in order to play a copied game, thereby circumventing the copy-protection. But the DMCA is controversial as it prevents users from making a backup copy of a console game legally purchased, which is normally allowed under "fair use" (although the RIAA now claims that backup copies are not "fair use", but that's another story).


Lineage Publisher NCsoft Sued in South Korean Identity Theft Mess

Try and wrap your head around this legal conundrum: Can a company be held responsible for identity theft committed in order to spoof the company's ID verification system?

Lawyers in Korea seem to think so.

Last month, GamePolitics and other news outlets reported on the story of Chinese gold-farmers being hunted down on Lineage servers by South Korean gamers frustrated by ninja-looting. (Pixelantism in its purest form?)

The Chinese gold farmers were apparently using stolen identities to sign up for Lineage accounts, because the servers in question are restricted to South Korean players.

Last week, vnunet reported that a class-action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the more than 230,000 South Korean victims of identity theft. The defendant? NCsoft, makers of Lineage.

Although the official Korean I.D. numbers were not stolen from NCsoft servers, the lawsuit claims $1,000 in damages per incident because the numbers were nicked by underground gaming syndicates and used to register hundreds of thousands of Lineage accounts. Lawyers claim that since NCsoft profited from the criminal activity (via monthly MMO fees) they should be held at least partially responsible.

NCsoft is also accused of facilitating the mass identity theft since its registration system requires government I.D. numbers (as do most South Korean MMO publishers).

For its part, NCsoft has denied responsibility, maintaining it registered what turned out to be bogus accounts in good faith. The company has set up a website for South Korean residents to check whether their government I.D. was used to set up a Lineage account. NCsoft has also begun banning known Chinese IP addresses in order to preempt future abuses.
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Texas Voters Spurn Wacky Game-Taxing Guv Candidate

Star, we hardly knew ye...

His short-lived political career may have come to a crashing halt in yesterday's Texas primary, but gamers will not soon forget ultra-conservative Star Locke.

As reported by GamePolitics, the far-out Republican gubernatorial candidate vowed to impose a 100% sales tax on violent games as well as a 50% tax on fried foods and soda pop.

GP: Taxing games and junk food? There goes my weekend...

Texas voters didn't buy in to Star's program, either. The construction company owner finished last in a four-candidate race, garnering just 3.6% of the vote. Incumbent governor Rick Perry coasted to a win in the Republican primary with 84% of the tally.

GP: Even though Star Locke lost badly, it's a little scary that more than 25,000 people actually cast their vote for him.

In other game-related news from the Texas primary, former congressman Chris Bell easily coasted to victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, and will face Perry in November. Bell is on record as advocating video game legislation. On the bright side, however, Bell leveled the initial ethics complaint against now-indicted Tom DeLay.