£1m mod chipper found guilty

£1m mod chipper found guilty

'Mr Modchips' only second UK person to be convicted of chipping games consoles

A man trading under the name of Mr Modchips has been convicted of distributing and selling illegal technology that enables games console users to play illegally copied DVDs and CDs.

Neil Stanley Higgs of Speedwell Road, Bristol became only the second person in the UK to be found guilty of the crimes.

Higgs set up his business in 2002 and it is estimated he enjoyed a turnover of £1m by the time the offences were uncovered, with an estimated 3,700 Executor modchips being found.

Higgs was found guilty of 26 offences under Section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act – an amendment to the 1988 act that came into force in 2003 to tackle the rise in chipping offences.

The 39-year-old was also found guilty on three counts of advertising, supplying and selling a modification chip.

Higgs was also convicted of another 11 counts of possessing Executor modchips for Microsoft consoles and Viper GC chips for Nintendo consoles.

Higgs’ operation was tracked down by Bristol City Council’s Trading Standards after the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) found illegal chips and modification equipment being sold through his websites.

Trading Standards officers and ELSPA investigators led a raid on 19 January 2006, searching his parents’ flat above shops in Speedwell Road where nine computers were seized.

The team examined over 200,000 emails on the computers at the flat to harvest the evidence presented to the Crown Court during the two week trial.

"This case today sets a major precedent in the fight against piracy, protecting the games industry’s investment in fantastic games," said Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA.

"It sends a clear message to anyone tempted to become involved in chipping consoles that this is a criminal offence and will be dealt in the strongest possible way."

Rawlinson said ELSPA’s anti-piracy team was now prioritising the modification of consoles in its fight against piracy.

Following a unanimous guilty verdict by the jury, Higgs' lawyers asked for leave to appeal, which was granted by the judge.

A financial investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act is currently underway and could lead to the confiscation of any of Higgs’ assets that are ruled to have been illegally obtained.