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August 5, 2009

Student arrested for 'modding' Xbox consoles

Posted: 09:53 AM ET

Homeland Security officers arrested Cal State Fullerton student Michael Crippen on Monday for modifying Xbox video game consoles to play copied games.

The practice of "modding" a video game console is fairly common. Directions to modify the Xbox and Xbox 360, and even instructional videos, can be found online.

Xbox "modders" defend their actions by claiming the game console is personal property and that modification is necessary to upgrade console hard drives or play legal backups of games they already own.

However, bypassing DRM security is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, which states, "no person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title."

In an indictment provided by, authorities claim Crippen "willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage and private financial gain, circumvented a technological measure that effectively controlled access to a copyrighted work, more particularly, used software to modify a Xbox machine's Optical Disc drive so it would circumvent anti-piracy measures contained on the original unmodified Optical Disc Drive."

Speaking to's Threat Level blog, Crippen admits he modified consoles for $30 a job, but claims “This is for your legally made backups. If you’re talking about piracy, I’m not helping you out.”

Crippen faces two counts of violating the DMCA and the possibility of ten years in prison. He is currently free on $5,000 bond.

Crippen was targeted by the federal government for allegedly running a console-modifying business out of his house. But what do you think of people who modify their Xboxes for personal use? Should modding be illegal simply because it could result in piracy, despite other legal applications?

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Filed under: consumer tech • DRM • Games • Microsoft Corp. • piracy

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Loyal   July 7th, 2010 3:01 pm ET

In response to Robert.
If you think positive about making this a crime of piracy then if you truly get down to everything. You can not buy a used game and you can not buy a game at a yard sale because it would hurt the gaming industry. If you get second hand stuff whether it come on an actual disk made by the company or not it is in violation of the industry. So no resales of the product because even tho someone bought the product. You must also pay the full price of the product new to get around the word stealing from the industry. So your philosophy of not stealing from the industry will also apply to second hand items also.

EULA: Red, White, and Blues « There Will Be Blood.   October 21st, 2010 11:25 am ET

[...] I find it insane that people agree that $60 is a fair price for games these days. With the use of the EULA contracts, I am compelled to even play games sometimes. If I don't own the game, why do I have to pay full price for the game then? I've heard (possible rumors) that the EULA means jack squat in other countries, but in America, our corporations make the laws, and the laws say pay up. Or, in some cases, get sued. Or better yet, have Homeland Security knocking on your door for breaking a console's ToS. [...]

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Kickstarter: Xbox 360 in Open Source Laptop Form - 3D Printing Industry   June 11th, 2013 1:03 pm ET

[...] coming across an article describing an instance in which someone was arrested by Homeland Security for modding people’s [...]

A Step-by-Step Guide to Handling a Fandom Blowup By Not Being an Idiot | Zoe Fraade-Blanar   June 20th, 2014 6:16 pm ET

[...] time to learn.  So when Microsoft decided to ask the Department of Homeland Security to start arresting XBox modders, the community was rightfully taken aback. As a dog owner, the only metaphor I can think of is the [...]

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