Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Charges Dropped Against Xbox Modder

Matthew Crippen was being charged with 2 counts of violating anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). Mr. Crippen was allegedly running a chip-modding business where he would modify an Xbox so that it could run copies of games. Normally, and Xbox can only run official copies of games, and games that are burned to DVDs will not play. Modifying allows the Xbox to play backup copies of games you already own, but it also allows you to play pirated games you downloaded from the web.

Needing to prove Mens rea, that the defendant willfully broke the law, the Prosecution's first witness testified that he secretly videotaped Matthew Crippen modify an xbox and tested the mod job with a pirated copy of a game. While relevant, the testimony that Mr. Crippen tested his modification with a pirated game was not first submitted to Mr. Crippen's attorneys, a huge procedural misstep. In addition, the act of secretly videotaping the defendant was likely in violation of California's privacy laws.

Prosecutor Allen Chiu admitted that the evidence should have been shared with the defendant's attorneys beforehand and requested the case be dropped for “fairness and justice.”

This was an interesting case and I will dig deeper into the facts and pleadings in later installments.

See also Wired's reporting of the case.

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