Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have raided more than thirty separate locations in the U.S., in one of the largest ever anti-piracy investigations. According to a statement by the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) thirty-two search warrants were served in sixteen states in a search for modification chips and other piracy related devices for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Wii.
Although not illegal in all Western countries modification chips, which allow users to play imported as well as pirated games, are in contravention of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998.
"Illicit devices like the ones targeted today are created with one purpose in mind, subverting copyright protections," Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE told the Associated Press article. "These crimes cost legitimate businesses billions of dollars annually and facilitate multiple other layers of criminality, such as smuggling, software piracy and money laundering."
The raids were the end result of a yearlong investigation lead by ICE's Office of the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in Cleveland, coordinating with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio and the Department of Justice's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section. Assistance was also reportedly provided by the ESA and other industry members.
Officials from Nintendo of America have already issued a statement praising the investigation and confirming that the company has worked closely with ICE over the last year.
"Nintendo and its developers and publishers lost an estimated $762 million in sales in 2006 due to piracy of its products," said Jodi Daugherty, Nintendo of America's senior director of anti-piracy. "Nintendo's anti-piracy team works closely with law enforcement officials worldwide to seize mod chips and counterfeit software. Since April, Nintendo has seized more than 91,000 counterfeit Wii discs globally."