Photo, fingerprints, eye color, height required: Your crime? Selling used video games

Careful as you approach GameStop with a used video game in hand as it's a slippery slope. While there's nothing illegal about reselling used Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii video games, 10 states and D.C. will fingerprint and photograph you as if you are a potential criminal.

The next Xbox "720" -- also codenamed Durango -- may not play used games. An unnamed source told Kotaku it was unknown "how Microsoft intended to implement any anti-used game system in the new machine." If Microsoft's new Xbox gaming system will not play used games, "it could potentially anger consumers who rely on buying cheaply-sold used games or even pass games to relatives or friends." You think? Saber Interactive CEO, Matthew Karch, a developer behind Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary campaign, said such an anti-used game system by Microsoft is unfair. "$60 is a lot to pay for a game and if a player buys a dud and is stuck with it, then that's just not fair to force him to keep it," Karch told ComputerAndVideoGames. "If people buy Inversion and it's not for them, then why should they be forced to turn it into a drink coaster."

If you are a gamer who resells your XBox, Wii or Playstation video games, or may plan to sell those games -- such as if the new Xbox won't play them -- then I'm sorry to tell you that in 10 states and the District of Columbia, you may be treated like a potential criminal because of it. Gamers, The Verge explained how selling used games can mark you as a potential criminal. "Identified by eye color, hair color, height and weight. Then fingerprinted, mug shot taken, an affidavit signed. You've likely just been processed through the justice system as a suspect in a crime. Then again, maybe you just sold a copy of Madden NFL 2009 at your local video game shop."

Secondhand Goods laws can be created at the city, county or state level. Currently Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio, Utah and Washington state include video games as items that need to be tracked and reported to police. Many counties and municipalities also have secondhand goods ordinances that apply to purchases of used video games. That means that stores like Best Buy, Target, Play N Trade and GameStop now find themselves asking employees in some states to collect a variety of information on their customers including fingerprints, photos and physical descriptions. That information is then entered into a database shared with local law enforcement.

So The Consumerist echoed, "Why do you need my eye color and height to let me trade in my old copy of Mass Effect?" Also according to The Verge, "One recent law would have required store employees to go out into a parking lot and write down the license plate from a customer's vehicle. The EMA (Entertainment Merchants Association) managed to cut that out of the law, arguing it was an excessive violation of a person's privacy and potentially dangerous to employees. Another law asked employees to take pictures of customers turning in used games, something the association worried would scare away legitimate customers."

Oh boy, so all that personal information is being dumped into databases. One system by LeadsOnline, "receives millions of transactions each month from the more than 15,000 businesses that use their service around the country." The Verge reported, "Businesses that use the service include game stores, mall kiosks, pawn shops, music stores and secondhand stores. She said that more than 4,000 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies have access to that information to help in crime solving."

Yet when questioned, LeadsOnline declined to answer specifics like 1) Could you give me the numbers or statistics of how many video games logged in your system are discovered to be stolen? 2) What would you like to say to consumers who object to the invasion of privacy such as taking eye color, hair color, height, weight, fingerprints and photograph just to trade in a video game? 3) Are you concerned that more consumers-turned-sellers will instead start using online secondhand goods stores for video game trade-in or sales?

Instead, the company replied:

Thank you for your inquiry. LeadsOnline works with law enforcement nationwide to help solve crimes involving property. For more information about the crimes solved, please visit our website. If you have questions about reporting requirements for businesses, please contact your local law enforcement agency.

New Hampshire may require such a database for seller ID and digital image of the secondhand goods at pawn shops since "every now and then, a suspicious character walks in, looking for instant cash - most likely, to pay for drugs." Ah, while that may be true, how very see-something say-something of them. Perhaps gamers should use Amazon Video Game Trade-In, or Yardsellr, Craigslist, eBay to resell used video games?

ACLU policy analyst Jay Stanley said, "It's a classic example of a slippery slope. Initially, limited information was collected about high value, frequently stolen items and the next thing you know they're collecting information for $20 video games."

Louisiana went so far as to ban cold hard cash for secondhand goods. In fact attorney Thad Ackel said, "The broad scope of this definition can essentially encompass everyone; from your local flea market vendors and buyers to a housewife purchasing goods on eBay or Craigslist, to a group of guys trading baseball cards, they could all be considered secondhand dealers. Lawmakers in Louisiana have effectively banned its citizens from freely using United States legal tender." Does this make bitcoin look better and better?

Oh, and as for the upcoming Xbox, "The XBox Next/720 Oban chip is in initial production. Sources at a foundry with a blue logo, confirm that Oban wafers started running in the final days of 2011," SemiAccurate reported. When questioned, Microsoft Redmond sources said, "Who the f*&$ told you that? I am going to f#*&ing rip someone's head off. We at SemiAccurate take this as confirmation that the initial sources were in the right ballpark."

Times are tough, Big M, so is it other than greed that would spur the company to outlaw used games for a new system? But then again, maybe Microsoft will mellow on that idea. It went from "working closely with law enforcement  to keep Kinect tamper-resistant," to "hacker friendly" when Kinect's security was broken almost immediately. Seriously, Microsoft, do you think gamers want to be treated like potential criminals for selling or trading their used Xbox games?

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