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Console homebrew may not be illegal, European Court of Justice rules

Friday, 24th January 2014 02:42 GMT By Brenna Hillier

The Court of Justice of the European Union has determined that in the circumvention of a console’s protection software is lawful, when the content so accessed is in itself lawful.

The ruling arose as part of a case brought by Nintendo against PC Box, which distributes software allowing unauthorised content on DS and Wii consoles – namely movies, videos and music. Nintendo alleged that PC Box’s software allowed for the use of pirated games, but PC Box adamantly objected to this claim.

The Court of Justice ruled today that PC Box’s offerings are not unlawful, because the content it enables is not itself unlawful. According to the court’s interpretation of existing law, PC Box would be in the wrong if it distributed equipment to get around copy or broadcast protection, enabling games to be pirated or otherwise illegally shared.

In a statement issued to the press via a press release, Nintendo said it will continue to battle its civil case against PC Box in the Milan Tribunal, which had passed this query to the CJEU.

“Since Nintendo only ever utilizes technological protection measures which are both necessary and proportionate to prevent widespread piracy of its intellectual property, and since the preponderant purpose of the circumvention devices marketed by PC Box is to enable piracy of legitimate video games, Nintendo is confident that the application of the guidance set out by the CJEU relating to proportionality will enable the Milan Tribunal to determine that the sale of circumvention devices is unlawful,” the company said.

“In the meantime, Nintendo maintains that the commercial dealings in circumvention devices infringe copyright laws as well as other intellectual property laws and Nintendo will continue to pursue those involved in the distribution of such devices.”

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9 Comments

  1. SplatteredHouse

    So, the courts now accept enabling your box to play content that is not illegal through a means that is merely unofficial. Time to end region lock?

    #1 10 months ago
  2. dkpunk

    This would never happen in the U.S. This is actually the way it should be. Just like emulators aren’t illegal until you package roms with them.

    #2 10 months ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    @3 Actually, this has happened in the US. It was a court ruling that went in hacker’s favour when Apple tried to sue them for creating jailbreaks for iOS.

    The court essentially declared that it is completely legal for a person to modify the hardware they own (and the software that runs it) as long as it isn’t used for piracy purposes. We now have a huge, thriving, legitimate jailbreaking scene on the iOS format as a result, all because Apple tried to stop it. =P

    You’ve always been able to do this in Europe. This ruling basically solidifies the fact. If you own it, it’s yours to do so as you wish, hardware and software alike, physical or digital. The courts almost unanimously back this up.

    #3 10 months ago
  4. The_Red

    I just hope this somehow puts and end to the whole region locking. If Nintendo was smart, they would realize that those with a jailbroken console could get into piracy much easier than those without a jailbreak. And since many jailbreaks are to import games from other regions, they could actually PREVENT that by making their console region free just like PS4 and XB1.

    #4 10 months ago
  5. MrWaffles

    You can always count on Europeans to have a little bit of common sense.

    #5 10 months ago
  6. schnide

    @5

    If only that were true, and not an absolutely ridiculous and unfounded generalisation.

    Otherwise, this ruling is absolutely spot-on. Hard to enforce, and it opens up more routes to piracy – because the hardware circumventions that enable homebrew are the same ones that let in pirated content, but in the spirit of the law at least it’s exactly as it should be.

    #6 10 months ago
  7. dizzygear

    This is good news indeed. I guess this makes those Gateway Cards for 3DS legal as well.
    I really hope someone manages to find a new exploit in the 3DS’s current firmware one so i can use one of those to get around that fucking region lock and play SMT4 and Rune Factory 4.

    #7 10 months ago
  8. Dragon

    @7,
    Those Gateway cards still haven’t removed region lock, have they?
    I may look at it IF it can region free 3DS for all games.

    #8 10 months ago
  9. dizzygear

    @8 Apparently you can: http://gbatemp.net/threads/region-free-cart-loading-with-emunand-no-flashcards.360261/

    The biggest problem is that you need a 3DS with Firmware 4.5

    I miss the good old days where beating region locks on a console was easy.

    #9 10 months ago

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