Good morning! You can now go to jail for modding a game console in Japan. This recent development was a result of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act, which passed in late 2018 and forbids three specific actions:

  • 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

This makes it not only illegal to mod a console, but sell a cheat device that hacks game code such as Action Replay (which, we’re told, they still make). A product called Cyber Save Editor, which allowed Japanese PS4 gamers to tweak and edit their save files, has been effectively rendered outside the law and has now been discontinued in Japan, as have all Japanese sales of Action Replay.

Japan has always had stricter laws than the West regarding the sale and use of video games. Renting a video game was made illegal back in the 80s when Nintendo placed pressure on merchants, and that law is still on the books today. (Nintendo tried similar pressure tactics here, but the courts declared THEIR actions illegal instead.)

The new laws are worded so vaguely that they could even apply to self-mods consumers make on their own consoles, such as adding extra games to an NES Classic or soldering LED lights onto a PS4. These would be much harder to catch, though, and for that reason aren’t likely to be enforced.

At least, for the millions of Japanese citizens, we hope they won’t be. Anyone caught violating the new laws could face up to a 5 million yen fine (46,000 US dollars), five years of prison time, or both.

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