Nintendo doesn’t want anyone to install mod chips in the Switch, and it’s claiming that doing so violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). In a cease-and-desist letter obtained by Ars Technica, Nintendo told the Connecticut-based repair store Logistics LLC to stop offering to install mod chips on Nintendo Switch or face further legal action.
Nintendo has been fighting against mods and piracy for years now. One of its current targets is Team-Xecutor’s SX devices. Once installed, the SX device allows the Switch to play pirated games and backup saves to an external SD card. Logistics LLC didn’t sell the devices, but it would install them for $60 if a customer provided the chip and the Switch.
In its cease and desist letter, Nintendo claimed the installation of the mod chip violates the DMCA. “Through the mod service you are offering, you literally break open a customer’s Nintendo Switch, and then solder the SX Core and SX Lite into the console,” the letter said. “The SX Core and SX Lite...are illegal pirate modchips...that circumvent Nintendo’s Technical Measures.”
The letter cites Section 1201(a)(1) of the U.S. Copyright Act, which says that no one “shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” The letter also claimed that Logistics LLC’s mod service also violated anti-trafficking provisions of the DMCA.
Logistics LLC’s advertisement for the service told customers they couldn’t purchase the chips from Logistics LLC and that some vendors who’d been selling them had cancelled pre-orders.
“This letter should come as no surprise to you, given the fact that you seem well aware of the unlawful nature of your entire operation,” the letter said. “And yet you are continuing to provide a service to install those very same modchips into the Nintendo Switch consoles. Nintendo will not tolerate such badly unlawful conduct.”
The cease-and-desist letter gives Logistics LLC until June 22 to stop installing the mod chips and remove references to the chips from its website or face legal repercussions. According to Ben Van Rheen, owner of Logistics LLC, the ad for the install service had been up for less than two weeks and his company hasn’t performed a single install.
He hasn’t finished discussing the matter with his lawyers, but he’s wary of fighting Nintendo in court. “I wish I had the time to do it,” he told VICE on the phone. “This isn’t my main business. We repair laptop boards, desktops, I do a lot of soldering for people all over the country. This was just one more thing for me to solder. It’s not going to destroy my business. Obviously, if I go to court with them I’d probably run out of money.”
Van Rheen doesn’t think Nintendo can stop piracy or people modifying their Switches. “The people interested in the scene are going to do it regardless,” he said. “Whether Nintendo likes it or not, it will happen. They’re not going to stop the people from doing what they want.”
The bigger issue for Van Rheen is the right-to-repair, the idea that people should be allowed to fix and modify stuff they’ve purchased. “People have the right to do what they want for their devices, the right to repair,” he said. “I don’t think the general population understands that companies don’t want you to touch the stuff that you paid for. They will fight to make you buy a new one every year.”
Ifixit CEO Kyle Wiens agrees, and believes that current copyright law is too broad. “We've spent a lot of time arguing with the Copyright Office that third party servicing is necessary, but they haven't been willing to grant those exemptions,” Wiens said in an email to VICE. “Unfortunately, this stifles economic activity and drives innovation outside of the U.S. If people are outraged about this, then they need to work to repeal [DMCA Section 1201.]”
Nintendo did not return VICE’s request for comment.