Nintendo applauds first criminal arrest in Japan for selling DS flashcarts

The company says authorities will criminally prosecute an individual for selling a device that plays copied games on the DS

Japanese game maker Nintendo applauded the first arrest of and criminal charges against a Japanese individual for selling devices that allow illegal copies of games to be played on its DS handheld console.

The company said the arrest on Wednesday was the first under a law that was revised in December 2011, for selling "majicon" devices, short for "magic computer," and known as "flashcarts" in English. The devices, widely available for the DS and other devices, are cartridges with rewriteable memory that can easily be flashed with illegal game files downloaded online, as well as features to use game cheats and evade copy protection software.

Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Act was revised to make importing or selling the devices a criminal offense. Previously offenders were only issued warnings, or companies like Nintendo could pursue civil action against them.

The individual is a 39-year-old man from Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo, who is accused of selling flashcarts for the Nintendo DS online three times between Feb. 14 and March 9 for ¥7,200 (US$91) each, according to Japan's Association of Copyright for Computer Software. The group also said it was the first time an individual had been charged for selling them under the revised law.

The cartridges used by Nintendo's DS and other game consoles have long presented a physical barrier to gamers who want to play illegally copied games, because a flashcart or other device that mimics a cartridge is required. But the company said in April it will begin to sell mainstream titles digitally, potentially removing that hurdle for hackers.

Nintendo said a separate individual has already been found guilty under the new version of the law, for modifying Wii consoles in Fukuoka Prefecture on Japan's southern Kyushu island.

In 2009, the Kyoto-based company along with 54 software makers won an injunction from the Tokyo District Court blocking the import and sale of the "RS Revolution for DS," a popular flashcart. At the time Nintendo vowed to strengthen its efforts to eliminate the devices.

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