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.