A man named David Hoang, 43, of Essex in south east England has been prosecuted for handling stolen goods, and has also received an extended sentence for being in possession of modified games console chips.
Hoang was arrested on February 23rd following a police raid on his shop, DH Wings. Investigators from British trade organization ELSPA were called to provide evidence at the trial, following a plea of not guilty to chipping offences. With the input of the ELSPA investigators, he was successfully convicted of possessing the chips and received an extra month to his sentence, taking his full prison term to eighteen months.
"We're pleased we could assist in this case," said Michael Rawlinson, deputy director general of ELSPA. "The modification of games consoles, more commonly known as 'chipping', is a criminal offence and so is the possession of modified chips. The successful resolution of this case highlights the very real threat of prosecution and a criminal record to anyone tempted to become involved."
The question of mod chip use in the UK has long been a source of consternation amongst hardcore games players, since they are widely used to play imported U.S. and Japanese game titles which are either not released or significantly delayed in Britain. Although the market does not generally suffer as much from delayed releases, and has a wider range of esoteric titles, mod chips are also popular in North America, where they are also banned.
However, many countries have recognized the use of mod chips for importing games, notably Australia
where concerns over the chips' dual use for piracy were overcome by concerns over free trade, with game prices in many smaller markets making importing titles a significantly cheaper option.
The questions surrounding importing and mod chips may be resolved to some degree following the release of the PlayStation 3, which Sony has indicated may be region free
. However, publishers will still be given the chance to region lock titles, as they are on the already region-free Xbox and Xbox 360, which could still lead to mod chips being used for non-piratical purposes.