Gary Bowser, a 51-year-old Canadian hacker (and not to be confused with Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, or… you know, Mario’s nemesis), has pleaded guilty to multiple charges of hacking against Nintendo. He must now pay $4.5 million and faces up to 10 years in jail, Eurogamer reports.
Bowser initially denied allegations that he worked with hacking group Team-Xecuter, which designed and sold console modchips that allowed users to play pirated games, otherwise known as “ROMs.”
The notoriously litigious Nintendo had chased after Team-Xecuter for several years. Last October, the United States government joined with Nintendo to launch a criminal prosecution of three members of the hacking group. Team-Xecuter maintained that their products were not specifically designed for piracy, and supported the “right to repair” and homebrew gaming communities.
This wasn’t enough to save Bowser, who was arrested in the Dominican Republic in 2020 and deported to the United States. Bowser also operated under the name “GaryOPA,” operating and writing for a site called MaxConsole, which frequently covered Team-Xecuter software. The U.S. government indicated that his relationship with Team-Xecuter ran deeper than being a mere writer, alleging he advertised and trafficked illegal hacking software.
Bowser originally denied the allegations of hacking, but changed his position last week to plead guilty. He admitted to working with Team-Xecuter since 2013, and signed a statement reading that he “knowingly and willfully participated in a cybercriminal enterprise that hacked leading gaming consoles and that developed, manufactured, marketed, and sold a variety of circumvention devices that allowed the enterprise’s customers to play pirated versions of copyrighted video games.”
Bowser’s official indictments include “conspiracy to circumvent technological measures and trafficking in circumvention devices” plus “violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.” Both counts carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Bowser also admitted to earning “at least tens of millions of dollars of proceeds” from their hacking devices, although Bowser only earned a fraction of that.
In addition to his $4.5 million fine, Bowser has also agreed to help the U.S. government locate any additional Team-Xecuter assets. As part of the plea agreement, the government waived nine additional charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Bowser’s final sentence will be issued in the future following final recommendations from the defense and prosecution.
As if Bowser’s future weren’t dire enough, he was also directly sued by Nintendo last April. That case remains ongoing, and Bowser has yet to file any official response to it.
Bowser’s co-defendant Max Louarn, a 48-year-old French national, was arrested in Canada. The third co-defendant, 35-year-old Yuanning Chen of Shenzhen, China, remains at large.
As previously mentioned, Nintendo has been particularly litigious against ROMs of its games and software. The company won a lawsuit against RomUniverse, a Rom-hosting website, which was ordered to pay $2 million in damages and to destroy all of its pirated games, and issuing an injunction that prohibited the site’s operator to “copy, distribute, sell, or even play unauthorized copies of Nintendo games.”
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.
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Author: Joseph Knoop