Japan Outlaws Console Modding, Now Punishable by Fines and Prison Time

Modding video game consoles and editing save files is now illegal in Japan with more than $45,000 in fines and up to five years in prison awaiting those who break the new law.

GameSpot reported that Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act had some amendments made to it which were revealed in December 2018 and now prevents people from tampering with consoles to mod them. Not only does the law encompass actions that many gamers would consider detrimental to the community such as modding devices to gain an unfair advantage, it also is broad enough to prevent actions such as adding extra games to Nintendo and Sony’s classic consoles. These come with a pre-loaded number of games that many people have expanded on by modding more titles into the devices, but that, too, is now punishable under Japan’s new law.

The umbrella of the law also now includes save editing services. Action Replay and Cyber Save Editor are now forbidden as well with GameSpot reporting that both of those have been forcibly discontinued, both of those products being ones which were popular in Japan.

Siliconera translated the wording of the Japanese law and revealed that it takes aim not only on console modders and hackers but also those who would resell codes or keys for games. The reselling and code distribution for games that takes place within the gaming community has always been an uncertain area compared to buying the games from official retailers, so it appears that these new amendments are cracking down on that market.

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The following actions are all included in the text of the newly amended law:

  • Distribution of game save data editors and programs
  • Distribution, selling, auctioning serial codes and product keys without the software maker's permission
  • Services that offer the editing/hacking of save data, and/or modifying/hacking game consoles

Those who violate the Unfair Competition Prevention Act by committing any of the three infractions above are subject to paying 5 million yen in fines, a number that roughly equates to $46,000. Prison time is also a possibility with lawbreakers facing up to either five years in prison, the expensive fine, or both, depending on the severity of the violations.