Banhammer Illegal? Not Bloody Likely Says Microsoft

Posted by WhenYourGodGivesYouLemons On 12:48 PM

In the wake of Microsoft's decision to ban several hundred thousand gamers from the Xbox Live network a law firm by the name of Abington IP has announced that they are considering a class action suit against Microsoft and are seeking the help of any gamers who were banned.

When Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was gearing up for it's Holiday release Microsoft was also gearing up it's own Holiday release, a worldwide ban on modified Xbox 360 systems. While the reported number of bans differs, original reports pegged it at anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million systems Microsoft has since stated that that number was false and "It wasn't a million people", the bans have no doubt affected a lot of people. What Microsoft has done is ban consoles and accounts from their Xbox Live network which allows gamers from all over the world to play against each other. Members were banned from this service due to a breach in the "Terms of Use" Agreement which all players must accept when they sign up for Xbox Live. The agreement states that members agree there systems:

"have not been modified in any unauthorized way ... and that we (Microsoft) have the right to send data, applications or other content to any software or hardware that you are using to access the Service for the express purpose of detecting an unauthorized modification."
And Microsoft states that:
"any attempt to disassemble, decompile, create derivative works of, reverse engineer, modify, further sublicense, distribute, or use for other purposes the Service, any game, application, or other content available or accessible through the Service, or any hardware or software associated with the Service or with an original Xbox or Xbox 360 console is strictly prohibited and may result in cancellation of your account and/or your ability to access the Service, and the pursuit of other legal remedies by Microsoft."
This "Terms of Use" Agreement formed the basis for Microsoft's planned banning of members and appears legally sound. Microsoft clearly state that they can take legal action against those caught pirating and modifying systems and software and they are also able to search your system to discover any of these modifications. There stance remains that "Microsoft is well within its legal rights to ban these users from Xbox Live."

Some gamers may be drawn to the class action suit, though, because they may have modified there hard drive purely to increase its size. Legally you can purchase bigger hard drives but these are currently very expensive and in an attempt to get around the small, original hard drive and avoid the costs of purchasing a new hard drive there are ways to modify the hard drive and increase it's size considerably. While still being in breach of Microsoft's agreement these gamers are not using the modification to pirate games but to just access more content ie download demos, videos, arcade games which they can store on their hard drive.

Personally, it is situations like this which make me glad I don't partake in the modification of my system. While piracy is usually one or two steps ahead of the industry, whether it be movies, music or video games, eventually enough money is lost through piracy that the industry heads say enough is enough and invest considerable time and money into developing counter measures to prevent or punish piracy. In June a Minneapolis jury ruled that a 32 year old mother of four must pay $1.92 million dollars in damages for downloading 22 songs from Kazaa, a peer-to-peer file sharing site. $1.92 million!! It is an outrageous figure and there is still some ambiguity over the current laws and punishments and quite possibly there will be an appeal but piracy is becoming a serious issue for the entertainment industries. You always think they won't target you, they will target the site or company you go through but as you can see individuals are being targeted more and more, and really, is it worth it?

It'll be interesting to see whether the class action gets off the ground but in the meantime I'll be hitting up Xbox Live on my unmodified, free to play Xbox 360.



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