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First Criminal Trial Regarding Console Modding

Southern California's 28-year-old Matthew Crippen, is to appear in front of a jury today on criminal charges of violating copyright law by modifying Xbox 360 consoles in order to play pirated games.

Charged with two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, he faces a maximum three years in prison if convicted. 

This case, the first criminal trial regarding mod chips, could develop a precedent for future cases involving console modification. Although a conviction may sound likely, since this is a criminal case the jury must find Crippen guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest burden of proof.

In addition, one of the major pieces of evidence against Crippen is a covert video recording of Crippen allegedly modifying a Xbox 360. The admissibility of this evidence has been argued due to the fact that it was unlawfully produced in Crippen's home without his consent.

Another issue that has come up is whether or not hardware-hacking guru Andrew Huang, who wrote a book on Xbox hacking, will be able to testify. A part of Crippen's defense, Huang is to testify that the installation of mod chips do not circumvent a copy-control mechanism within the boundaries of the DMCA. The state has firmly stated however, that Huang's testimony is irrelevant.

Despite the shaky evidence against Crippen, he still faces an uphill battle due to the type of defense that was planned. Crippen's counsel prepared a "fair use" defense arguing that the mod chips installed had non-infringing purposes such as running homebrew software. Last week, the judge assigned to the case ruled that such a defense is not allowed by the DMCA.

Stay tuned for more details after the trial.

  • zachary k
    if piracy has taught us anything, is that lawsuits don't change anything, in this internet era, lawmakers will have to be more crafty to stop things like this.
    Reply
  • dogman_1234
    ...if he wins,( like many others)...Microsoft ans the other BIG GUYS will become weak....hopefully dropping price to compete with pirates. It is, however, a demanding consumer market. Whoever has the best deal wins!
    Reply
  • I can understand software piracy problems, but if I buy a console, I should be allowed to modify it any way I want to. I bought hardware...not a license to use the hardware.
    Reply
  • applegetsmelaid
    This is the stupidest thing I've heard so far today. They're just trying to make an example out of this kid. Mr Crippen, I sympathize that you have to endure this... I'll be routin for you.
    Reply
  • mlopinto2k1
    LinuxLoverI can understand software piracy problems, but if I buy a console, I should be allowed to modify it any way I want to. I bought hardware...not a license to use the hardware.You can modify it, just not to play pirated games. That defeats the purpose of Microsoft selling you the console and developers making games in the first place... HELLO! The only purpose of those machines are to entertain and make money. Just like 1,000's of other consumer products on the market.
    Reply
  • mlopinto2k1
    I just don't understand why people don't get the "MONETARY" system. Let me rephrase that, I just don't understand why over 50% of the readers that post on Tom's don't understand these laws and regulations. If it is truly a burden, voice your opinion to the government... your words will be lost in time here. If you think you have a valid argument and think you can state a case "beyond a reasonable doubt", then go for it! Tell the law makers and Microsoft why you think DMCA is a joke!
    Reply
  • cronik93
    Regarding the main reasons of piracy on PC:

    Cheap P2P lobby systems(Mw2)
    Badly Optimized(Metro 2033)
    scripted singleplayer(Call of Duty: Black Ops)
    Benchmark games(Crysis)
    _____________________________

    They really expect people to stop pirating, hacking, and modding because they picked one out of the millions? Lawsuits don't change a damn thing. Just shows how you could avoid sh*t like this......by not making "How to do" video's.
    Reply
  • f-14
    if he was modding it for testing or researching he's in the clear, if he was caught selling any of these to people, he's screwed. i ran across those exceptions in the dmca made by the judges involved with the copyright and patent offices in lawful exceptions clauses just last night regarding encrypted message protections while looking up all the charges the dude from wiki is going to be facing with just the DOJ in the usa over his part in the leaks.
    Reply
  • XZaapryca
    An Xbox360 is a five year old PC disguised as a console. People modify PC's all day long. I think it's ridiculous that this guy has had to go to court. As a precedent case, I'm glad it's happening though and hope it goes this guy's way. If so, less BS like this will happen. However, M$ vs some guy without billions of dollars is a bad match up.

    Other than for playing with friends and family in the same room, consoles have a lot of drawbacks. Draconian measures by manufacturers to maintain an iron grip on every aspect of their platform being one of the problems with consoles. Lawsuits, banning, 12yo idiots, lack of scalability, expensive DLC, lack of input options, etc. Can you even dl pr0n? Consoles are weak-sauce.

    Last year I won an Xbox360 on a bet and enjoyed it for a time. But it was no replacement for my PC for gaming. Sold it a week before last years ban and that just reinforced how right I was to get rid of it.
    Reply
  • kinggraves
    mlopinto2k1I just don't understand why people don't get the "MONETARY" system. Let me rephrase that, I just don't understand why over 50% of the readers that post on Tom's don't understand these laws and regulations. If it is truly a burden, voice your opinion to the government... your words will be lost in time here. If you think you have a valid argument and think you can state a case "beyond a reasonable doubt", then go for it! Tell the law makers and Microsoft why you think DMCA is a joke!
    The issue is that he himself is not violating copyright laws, and while mods can facilitate others to break copyright laws, they can also have legit uses. Take the Wii for example, a mod can allow you to copy and illegally play games, but also allow a better web browser, media player, and access to games from a USB device, features which many find beneficial. Piracy is but a small aspect of what the mod community accomplishes.

    Also, I wouldn't mind you telling me why DMCA and DRM aren't a joke. They've done nothing to prevent piracy and constantly make it harder for legit users to use their products as they wish. This case will do nothing to prevent console modding, since most mods are based out of Asia.

    This case also seems based on shaky grounds, with illegally acquired video as evidence and the fact that changes in the DMCA this year allow for mods for "testing purposes"
    Reply