UK Government Effectively Decriminalises Download Piracy, Raising Importance of System Security

Nintendo is still battling hackers of the Wii U and 3DS

The Wii and DS were compromised for a significant period of their lifespan, with the latter being a victim of rampant game piracy with the sale and availability of R4 cards. Though there are always those that make the case for such devices as a means for obtaining backups of games already owned, in many cases the devices were used to download and play games without paying for them.

Download piracy is a significant problem, and one that Nintendo experienced with a vengeance with the DS — it's still, to this day, legally challenging retailers and manufacturers of R4 devices around the world. To date the Wii U and 3DS haven't fallen victim to the same problem, though there are attempts — so far unsuccessful — to release a mainstream product to allow people to play 3DS game ROMS off an SD card; in addition, a recent Wii U hack shows that some are making progress in breaking through the Wii U's security. Nintendo is continually releasing system updates, however, and any limited exploits discovered so far have typically been blocked off, forcing users to keep their systems offline or on an earlier version of the system firmware. That's a bigger drawback in the current generation, with online features and games more prominent than ever.

The threat remains, though, and a recent announcement by the UK government and ISP providers in the country is likely to dismay content providers, whether of games, movies, music or any other download content. There were previously announced plans to tackle download piracy by warning offenders and then, should they continue, shutting off their internet supply entirely. It was a bold plan that's now been dropped due to it being unworkable, and following talks with internet providers such as BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky, offenders will now simply be given four warnings under the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme, but no further action will be taken. In place of the previous plans to pursue and block those downloading content, there will instead be this warning system and a substantial public awareness campaign — over three years — to promote legal content.

Some would argue that this makes sense, as the UK government states it'll maintain efforts to shut down and restrict providers and uploaders of stolen download content. There's a line of thought that chasing those that simply download content is a fruitless exercise and poor use of resources, and that the source should be targeted above the users.

Nevertheless, this may disappoint some content providers, and serves as a reminder for companies like Nintendo to be vigilant with its security and DRM (digital rights management).


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