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Sunday, July 25, 2010

You don't really own your Nintendo Wii

I'd like to tell you a little story. It's historical fiction, as the main character is fictional, but it has happened to many people online.

Before I start, I would like to inform you on normal property law in the USA (not "intellectual" property law a.k.a. the DMCA). Basically, if you bought it, you can do what ever you want with it. You can sell it, you can keep it, you can take it apart, you can modify it, and no one can take away those rights. Yes, modify, as in change it.

Anyway, Joe Haxor had installed the Homebrew channel and several custom tracks for Mario Kart Wii on his Nintendo Wii. He connects to Nintendo WFC so that he can catch up with his friends who had done the same, but he gets an error code.


He tries to reconnect.


He tries a third time.


He looks up the problem in his Wii's user manual, but it isn't listed. He looks online.

"Error Code: 20102

This error code indicates some type of unauthorized activity has occured in an online feature of a Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection game.

What to do:

Please call 1-800-895-1672 in the USA or Canada for more information."

He calls the number, waits 30 minutes to speak with a person, and when he finally gets someone, he tells them the problem. He is told that they had detected the Homebrew Channel on his system and there is nothing they can do to fix it. Before he is able to ask any more questions, the service operator hangs up on him.

What is wrong with this story? He was banned because he had the Homebrew Channel on his system. Why is it wrong? The ban violates property laws, yet Nintendo got away with it.

It's one thing to be banned for doing something, but being banned due to an "unauthorized" modification? Now I know that it can void warranties, but Wi-Fi privileges have no connections with warranty status, and he never intended to use his modified Wii to cheat on Wi-Fi or to pirate games.

Basically, he modified "his" Nintendo Wii without permission of the real owners: Nintendo.

Is my bottom line that Nintendo still owns that Mac-White or Jet-Black Linux-Powered IBM Power PC, and the $249.99 that you payed for it was just to purchase the rights to have it sit in your TV cabinet? No, my bottom line is that Nintendo is essentially breaking every property law in the book, except the DMCA. If either economic system, capitalist or communist, had the checks and balances to keep whoever is running the show from abusing their power like this (the large scale international corporations and the government, respectively), then that alone would make my day.

Legal Notice: Any demands to take this post down will be fought in court, and an automatic removal will force my hand to the point that the constitution will get involved. Long live the first amendment!

P.s.: Phew... that was a lot. If you are wondering why I am suddenly so politically active, it's because I'd rather get it out now instead of keeping it bottled up, only to release it all on some random forum.

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About Me

Sean McCartin, or 40KEndgame as he is known online as and perfers to be called on the internet, is a High School Senior with more than enough experience in science and engineering and a talent for debate and negotiations. He has also competed in two national level RC racing events, the most recent being the Futaba Nitro Challenge. On 7/28/2010, he caught a 7 foot Sailfish while fishing on a charter boat named the Whipsaw off the coast of Wrightsville Beach, NC.