Game Modding Illegal In Japan, Punishable By Prison And Fines

Game Modding Illegal In Japan, Punishable By Prison And Fines
Photo: <a href="">Fenryl</a>, <a href="">Flickr</a>

It is illegal to mod game data and game consoles in Japan. Both are punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to 5 million yen ($64728).

According to the official site for Japan’s Association of Copyright for Computer Software, modding games and consoles violate the country’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law.

This was first published by Japanese game sites like Hachima Kikou after peripheral maker Cyber Gadget stopped selling its Save Editor data tool, allowing players to use cheats and patch codes.

Cyber Gadget has since stopped selling the Save Editor on its Japanese site.

The Association of Copyright for Computer Software also mentions that unofficial software codes and keys are also illegal. Specifically, mentioned is offering these on online auctions and making them available for download.

Finally, modding game consoles, as well as games, are included the third provision mentioned by the association.

All were recently included under amendments to Unfair Competition Prevention Law.


  • Was this article written in reverse? It seems like it might have been nice to have the context of recent amendments to Japanese Unfair Competition Law before seemingly stating random facts about Japanese law.

  • This just seems so weird. Who exactly thinks they’re benefiting out of this? It’s like outlawing dancing or something.

    • it is weird, japanese corperations of all types have this weird anti modding ideology that extends from not just game and console modding but through to car modifying. Its why Sony of Japan had to be dragged kicking and screaming to allow the mods that fallout 4 got.

      I can guarentee you that Sony of America would of had no issue with modding of fallout 4 and Skyrim

      • Sony of Japan is most likely, they have been vicious in going after chip modifiers that allow pirate games to get past their DRM code. The modding law is a bit too broad in definition/scope, but still comes down to the fact that the manufacturers/publishers to make claims under this law will be either console manufacturers of online gaming services tackling bots/hack mods.

        Sony of America is irrelevant, just like how Nintendo of America is irrelevant… they follow the command of their head offices of Japan at all times.

        Remember Sony of Japan doesn’t care what the average user does (ever since they included two tape decks in stereos, while they were one of the largest music companies in the world), its what the 1% of malicious users who decide to profit/break their market with piracy and hacking.

    • The product mentioned in the article is a save game editor for the PS4 (copy save to a USB thumb drive, edit on PC, copy back to the PS4).

      If you have a game that assumes the save data is secure (rather than storing state on their own servers), that tool could be used to e.g. acquire cash without purchasing microtransactions, or unlock progress without purchasing a “timesavers DLC”. So it’s not surprising that a group representing game publishers would want to push an interpretation that this violates copyright law.

      One thing missing from this article though is any opinion from the courts. As it is, we’ve just got one party saying “this is our interpretation of the law, and we’re willing to sue”. I’d also think save game editors are _less_ likely to be illegal than mods, since it seems a bit of a stretch for a publisher to claim copyright on the save data itself.

      • I think there is (or should be) an onus on the company to secure their saves if it’s a game with a shared world (like an mmo) where hacking the save to give more money would give a player an unfair advantage. If it’s a single player type game you should be able to hack it any way you like since you’re not affecting anyone else.

        It seems weird that unfair competition legislation appears to be creating a scenario where there is unfair competition. Even in the US they’re starting to soften some of the DMCA type rules to allow modding/repair of hardware by third parties. Largely because they realised it was creating an anti-competitive environment.

      • They’d argue you’re modding the save game process rather than the data itself. By ripping the data and using a third party program to edit it, you’re interfering with how the process is intended to operate. That’s pretty much what modding is.

        Catching them and proving it with offline games is a different matter of course. If they’re monitoring your data that closely it would raise some serious privacy issues.

        • A lawyer could certainly argue that, but it isn’t clear to me that the argument would hold up.

          If the save editor is just doing things like changing the amount of money you’ve got or altering the inventory or modifying character stats to other valid quantities, then the save loading code isn’t even acting noticeably different to how it might with other unmodified files.

          The argument might hold more weight if you’d identified a buffer overflow in the game and constructed a save game to exploit it. But it’s not at all clear that Cyber Gadget fits into that case.

          • Oh, definitely. This is all speculation, and doesn’t really mean much until theres a precedent in the courts. Until then, any opinions are just that – opinions.

            But I’ve worked with legislation long enough (near 30 years, different field) to know that technicalities matter. It usually comes down to what the intent of the law is, and what its meant to do, and if they align with the prosecution, they win.

            In this case, the laws (if all this is true at all) suggest to me that modding overall is now illegal, and that there wont be much wriggle room. Hardware or software modding doesn’t seem to matter – you’d get into similar trouble if you jailbroke a PS4 versus chipping one. But until theres a decision in court, its just words on paper.

            We had a similar situation here when PS1’s (or was it PS2’s) were chipped back in the day. Modders were taken to court, and won, after the courts determined that chipping merely opened up to ability to play legit games from other markets, not enable illegal gaming or otherwise.

            The intent of the law was to stop piracy, not stop people playing legitimate games – in that case, Japanese games region locked to just be playable there. At a similar time, various wholesale pirates (video and games) were busted in a number of raids and sent to jail so it wasn’t a hollow threat.

          • The software mentioned in the article doesn’t sound like it relies on console modification or enable piracy of actual games: you ask the console to copy the save game to an industry standard mass storage device using the industry standard FAT file system. You then ask it to copy another save game back to the console in the same way. IIRC, game developers can even control whether save games can be copied in this fashion. It seems no different to e.g. asking Microsoft Word to open a .doc file produced by LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

            It doesn’t look like we’re dealing with any new Japanese law, or seeing new case law from the courts. Which is why I’m a little cautious of accepting a copyright maximalist reading.

  • I’ll try and find some sources but from what I’ve read this reporting is actually untrue and purely speculative.

  • Industry: Some people are cheating in our online games and its hurting profits, we need to lobby to do something about it.

    Government: Ok, lets just blanket ban cheats and modding.

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