The Australian Customs Service has seized a number of R4 cartridges, which allow piracy on Nintendo handheld DS and DSi consoles, as well as other gaming products claimed to be counterfeit, according to games giant Nintendo.
"This is the first Australian customs seizure of game copiers of this kind," Nintendo said in a statement this morning, which contained scant details on the raid. The company has not yet responded to an emailed enquiry for further details — including whether any charges have been filed as a result of the action or who was importing the devices.
The R4 cartridge — which is popular internationally — runs its own operating system for Nintendo's DS and DSi handheld devices. Individual games and other applications, some of them purporting to be legal, can be downloaded from the internet as small files and simply added to the chip's storage.
The cartridge is then slotted into the top of a Nintendo DS or DSi as any other cartridge would be. It does not permanently modify the handheld console. It is sold by a number of Australian and international distributors.
However, the legality of selling the device in Australia is currently up in the air, due to the fact that Nintendo recently took legal action against RSJ IT Solutions, a retailer which operates the GadgetGear.com.au website and had been selling the R4 cartridges.
Nintendo came to a settlement with the company several weeks ago, which involved damages being paid to the video game manufacturer of $620,000 and the retailer's stock of R4 cartridges being destroyed. At the time Nintendo said it was considering pursuing similar action against other sellers of devices that allow games to be illegally copied for use on its consoles.
But in a statement subsequently issued, law firm Berrigan Doube, which represented RSJ, said the legal issues were not decided in the case because it was settled out of court.
Today Nintendo claimed the case established that selling the R4 cartridges was "illegal" and that "the consequences are real". It said it was also taking action against manufacturers, distributors and sellers of game copiers and other infringing devices in many other countries around the world — and in some countries it had successfully brought criminal proceedings against the accused.
Nintendo said video game piracy continued to be "a serious problem" in Australia and attributed the claimed problem to the availability of devices like the R4 cartridge, which it describes as "game copiers" that circumvent technical protection measures in its handheld console. "Game copiers infringe Nintendo's trademarks and copyright and breach the 'circumvention' device provisions of the Copyright Act," said Nintendo.