Is it legitimate for a user to ask a question about a hacked or modded game console, provided said question is about gaming on it?

For example, would/should we shut down a question about running MAME on a hacked classic XBox?

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6 Answers 6

Modding a console is not illegal and doesn't hurt anybody. It will void your warranty (that's your problem, not the site's), and you can use a modded console to cheat (this is a separate issue - you don't have to cheat).

Modding questions can also be easily tagged as such, so you can ignore them or find them as you see fit.

So let's allow them.

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It is in fact illegal on any console which uses some amount of encryption to protect or lock down it's firmware or OS - at least, in the United States and most of Europe. –  LessPop_MoreFizz Nov 12 '10 at 16:56
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@LessPop_MoreFizz I know this is really old, but could you back up the "most of Europe" statement? I've only heard of it being illegal under the DMCA. (And even if it is, we should still answer questions about it) –  user56 May 28 '11 at 17:57

There are two parts to this argument: Modding as a legal issue, and modding as a moral issue.

On the moral side, I'm in favor of allowing modding questions as long as they are on morally sound grounds. Cheating online, pirating games, and anything that affects other people's experience are (in my opinion, which I'm assuming is shared by others on this site) not morally good things. I'd rather not see them discussed here.

Modding enables plenty of non-harmful activities. Homebrew software, emulation, custom mods, imports, all that stuff. There's nothing wrong with that. (Again, in my opinion) What's the harm in sharing knowledge for this purpose?

Now, on the other hand, we have the legal argument. Modding is technically illegal in some places. Some people have said that because it is legally wrong it is also morally wrong, but I disagree with this. (My opinion is that the current legal state of mods is an unfortunate bug in the legal system that hasn't been patched out yet.) The legal argument is not one that we have the capability to make, since we don't own this site and we don't pay the lawyers. Stack Overflow Internet Services, Inc. does. It's their playground.

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Should we ask this on meta SO? I know it seems rather specific for the site but still, if it's their call... –  ElfSlice Nov 12 '10 at 17:21

In my opinion, we should, whenever possible, take the agnostic stance.

We know it is a possibility, but we don't help you doing it.

for your example question:

  • if it is a question about how to get MAME running on the xbox, we should clearly delete it.
  • however, if it is about a game while running it via MAME, we should ignore the MAME part, and just assume the original arcade machine where possible.
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We can always edit out the xbox part of the latter, but what you're getting at is, this shouldn't be here. –  tzenes Jul 9 '10 at 6:04
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I agree with the editing, you don't always have to close the question if you can edit the bad parts out –  Ivo Flipse Jul 9 '10 at 6:53

I don't know, I think the question should be allowed, as long as it isn't about how to actually hack or mod the console. I modded my PS2 and original Xbox to allow me to play import games. I think it would be ok as long as there aren't any links on where to download and how to do it.

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Absolutely not. For the same reason Server Fault doesn't encourage discussion of hacking people's computers, we should not tolerate discussion which breaks the ToS. That includes:

  • Cheating through 3rd party software
  • Modding your Xbox
  • Pirating Games
  • Setting up private unauthorized servers (common for MMOs).

We exist for gamers to play games. All of these behaviors disrupt that processes. Cheating is unfair to other people playing games. Pirating and setting up private servers takes money away from developers so that they can make more games or enhance their current ones. Modding is usually in an effort to do one of the above.

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Exactly! Modding your console doesn't add any value to the question ABOUT the game. When it's a question about creating an media center out of your old Xbox, then it's a electronic gadget question –  Ivo Flipse Jul 9 '10 at 6:52
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hmm, but I don't think modding your console fits in the same categories as the others (piracy/cheating) -- I might do it just to run emulators, not because I want to steal software. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 9 '10 at 6:56
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Most of the people I know with modded consoles use them for emulation, myself included. (It's the only reason I keep my classic XBox around!) –  John Rudy Jul 9 '10 at 11:57
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@Jeff - I think it depends on the actual legal aspect. For example, it is illegal to change the OS on an iPhone. It's illegal to run MacOSX on something else than a Mac. I don't know the actual situation for consoles, but if it's same, then it shouldn't be allowed on this site, no matter if you run only homebrews on it after. –  Gnoupi Jul 9 '10 at 13:41
    
@Gnoupi: Actually, you're right on one case, but the other's a mistake. It's illegal to install Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware, yes, because the software has a terms of service. However, the iPhone is hardware and has no such terms -- just doing so voids your warranty. Essentially the same situation as modding a console -- you void your warranty, probably lose out on online play, etc., but the mod itself isn't illegal. (That said, distributing said mods or selling modded consoles can be in some jurisdictions.) –  John Rudy Jul 9 '10 at 13:48
    
@John I'd have to talk to a real lawyer to be sure, but as I read the DMCA unlocking your iPhone is actually a copywrite violation. Again, I'm not a lawyer so I don't know for sure. If I remember correctly about Modded Xbox, the mod itself is not illegal, but the software needed to preform the mod is illegal (It violates the licence on the XDK). –  tzenes Jul 9 '10 at 16:41
    
I would just like to put in comment form my support for this because I feel upvoting it isn't quite enough. I think we should close/delete every question that implies breaking the ToS for the specific context in question. –  StrixVaria Nov 12 '10 at 15:19
    
@JohnRudy: ToS are not contracts. It is not illegal to break a ToS. example. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Nov 29 '12 at 22:39

I say they shouldn't be allowed. I can only see a slippery slope of pain coming from allowing that kind of discussion. There are plenty of forums out there dedicated to that.

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