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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 Wired.com, 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 Wired.com'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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Mark   May 1st, 2010 12:00 pm ET

Thats our Lolly -gaggin good -for -nothin' Government for ya !


Jordan Edwards   June 20th, 2010 11:51 pm ET

i always download games from bittorent and emule. ,:-


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.


Alexandra Cooper   July 18th, 2010 11:46 pm ET

i download a lot of free games online and there are lots of it online."-~


Gamers: Why You Can’t Pass a Hardcore Gamer Test   September 6th, 2010 1:47 am ET

[...] One possible exception to this would be if you tweak your last-generation system to make it better than originally designed. In order for this exception to keep you in the running for hardcore gamer status, the tweak in question must be made for the purpose of pushing the envelope – not as a an attempt to break the law. [...]


Sara Foster   October 11th, 2010 4:52 am ET

i would really like to download games all the day long but most download sites are not free`'`


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. [...]


Metal Cabinets :   October 22nd, 2010 7:55 pm ET

downloading different games is kind of my hobby, i love to play new java games–;


joana   October 25th, 2010 2:36 am ET

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DarkDreamer   November 18th, 2010 12:18 pm ET

Xbox 360 Modding Community – http://www.teammindgames.com


Student Could Get 3 Year Prison Sentence for Modifying XBox 360 | Moral Low Ground   November 30th, 2010 12:15 pm ET

[...] shambolic border security and rising cybercrime, the Department of Homeland Security decided that arresting a college student for modifying  Xbox 360 game consoles so they could play copied games was a top priority. And so it was that DHS apprehended Matthew [...]


R Thomas   December 1st, 2010 8:27 pm ET

I am a console modder . When I say console modder I have'em all and they are all modded.(Yes I do mean all,DS,psp,ps3,wii,xbox,xbox 360,and ps2) I mod mostly to back up my very large videogame library(you should see my game room closet). I have modded countless systems for friends family, family, and piratin.(yes pirating).Modding consoles is fun and it opens up tons of options that are for the most part better. The only bad thing that comes from it is piracy. If i pay $200 or more for a piece of equipment, I should be allowed to make it better. My wii now plays dvds, and it does no harm to nintendo but they do not want me to do it, but it made it better( cause the wii sucks).You could speculate how people could use alot of things but its how they actually use it that matters. I have had guys that want their system modded strictly for pirating and some that just wnat to run homebrew. its just your opinion. I personally have no problem pirating games from a company that makes billions of dollars a year. If you don't like it don't do it . If you do like F#@k the man!!!!


Money Business   December 1st, 2010 9:29 pm ET

ehternet cables are still the ones that i use for my home networking applications .."


Cat   December 3rd, 2010 9:33 pm ET

I seem to recall that there once was a time when taking an object and making it work better was called "Inventing" instead of "Illegal".


Jun   December 7th, 2010 4:18 pm ET

Dec 3rd, 2010 – Prosecutors have dropped the DMCA case !!!

NOW i CAN MOD MY CAR WITH NO FEAR!


Lens Hood   December 12th, 2010 2:28 pm ET

soem sites that offer download games have viruses and spywares on it. so make sure to have some antivirus on your PC .-;


windozesuk   February 6th, 2011 6:32 pm ET

I thought we were allowed one personal backup of any software we purchase.. I know congress passed that many many years ago. ( under 17 U.S.C. § 117)

I don't law that well, but it sounds like we have the right to make one personal copy. NOW, if we have that right to make one to use in the event the original media no longer functions (scratched, broken, etc.), then the console is violating our rights and circumventing United States Law 17 U.S.C. § 117 by building in technology that prevents us from playing a "backed up" game. If that is the case, I hope OUR homeland Security, created to protect WE THE PEOLPE not we the imported CHINESE stuff (yes XBOX is owned by MS, but it is still imported Chinese stuff) will step up and raid MS, Sony, Nintendo.. arrest all the employees and bring them up on criminal charges.. i don't wanna see any CIVIL actions taken, because they do not take civil action against US THE PEOPLE, they arrest us and criminally prosecute us, so they better arrest and criminally prosecute them as well.

Sad people have to "MOD" their personal property to ensure they can enjoy their rights that are granted to them under UNITED STATES CODE passed by CONGRESS, even more sad they get arrested by Homeland security when they do.

I thought Homeland security is supposed to protect us from foreign invasion, instead they protect foreign invasion from us!!!! You do know the new foreign invasion is in the form of trade.. that is the new super weapon, financial war, the only way to defeat the US.... when are we gonna wake up...

I think if it is illegal to mod a game console, then the manufactures need to supply at no cost, one backup disc for each game sold, if not then we need to mod consoles so we can have our legal ONE BACKUP ALLOWED BY CONGRESS

Or maybe I am misunderstanding the law, either way I think Homeland Security should not be allowed and I fell ay pircay offense should be a CIVIL offense, not a CRIMINAL offense... unless we are talking huge organized operations doing some serious high volume, a one man operation.... criminal... really?... are our children not safe with these video game hacker on the streets??? Really? Maybe we can early release the murderers and child molestors to make more room for people that download a movie or song....


Typical Smart American   March 10th, 2011 2:00 am ET

As an American i am appalled. Can't we put our tax dollars into something more useful like having the secret service cut down on jay walking.


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Lynn Hepworth   December 2nd, 2011 5:18 pm ET

Oh, by the way, screw adding another Wild Card team. The 2011 Braves are reason #1 why that's a crummy idea in concept.


someone no one knows   January 6th, 2012 2:10 pm ET

Dude, WTF is wrong with America!!!! Why is Homeland Security trying to stop people from modding the XBOX or XBOX 360 to play LEGAL backups of games that they own!!! SEROUSLY!!! There are terrorists trying to destroy us, but they think money is more important than people's safety!! Don't they realize that less people means less money anyway!!! some people are just so ignorant and greedy... At least Obama has the guts to stop terrorists!


Videogamer555   January 21st, 2012 8:08 pm ET

Lets go though this one step at a time. The government is run by people, people who are greedy for power. They get power (and keep it) when they are elected (and re-elected). However being elected requires people know about your current stance on politics so they can want to vote for you. To tell people about your political belief you need ads on TV. Ads cost money. Money comes from big campaign contributions from big corporations. Big corporations aren't going to sponsor candidates that they think will "go soft" on piracy. Therefore following this chain of logic, a politician ABSOLUTELY MUST make draconian anti-piracy laws to stay in power.

In short, the politician's own greed makes them puppets of big companies. And that means that the big companies (not the government officials) are the REAL people who run our country (even if only indirectly). The heads of companies don't have seats in congress, but they might as well, because the government officials in those seats will do EVERYTHING those companies want them to, even when it means completely ignoring 100% the petitions of ordinary Americans (even if every single American in the US signed onto such petitions).

I have no doubt that if the head of Microsoft wanted every single American in the US (except for MS employees and govt officials of course) do die, the very next day congress and the US president would order a nuclear ICBM strike on ALL major US cities, and that would be followed by the Army, Navy, Marines, and Airforce coming in and ruthlessly slaughtering every survivor of those nuked cities and also smaller cites (even in towns so small that they didn't bother to waste a nuke on). It would be a fullscale military invasion of EVERY city, town, and villiage in the US such that nobody survived except for the Microsoft employees, the government officials, and the soldiers; just as the head of Microsoft had ordered.


jackerofmeat   March 3rd, 2012 6:41 pm ET

homeland security is ICE the coast gaurd and other things. Dont read to much into this


Pay-TV Smartcard Hacking – How Easy Is It? | Gizmodo Australia   March 29th, 2012 7:19 pm ET

[...] just as with modding Xboxes (circumventing the built-in security mechanisms of the Xbox and Xbox 360 videogame consoles), [...]


Pay-TV Smartcard Hacking – How Easy Is It? | ediscountelectronics.com   April 4th, 2012 2:01 am ET

[...] just as with modding Xboxes (circumventing the built-in security mechanisms of the Xbox [...]


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Dee   July 30th, 2012 3:45 am ET

wow....serious.....out of everything in the world. "the feds fucks with a citizen modding xboxs". what ever happen to terrorist hunting, taking drugs off the streets, borderline security, etc..xbox 360 mod??!!! what a fuckin joke...


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defiance187   April 28th, 2013 12:48 pm ET

What I want to know is why more people aren't pissed our government is pimping out Homeland Security to get some guy flashing DVD drives for 30 bucks a pop. It probably cost 30 mil in taxpayer money to catch a guy that cost the game industry a couple thousand, and meanwhile some politician got his pockets lined. Talk about misappropriation of resources.


Preston   May 28th, 2013 1:49 pm ET

What is the problem with the DHS? Bill Gates has $50 billion and he wants to have way more money than he needs. This society is fucked up.


Homeland Security! | Xbox One Reveal   June 8th, 2013 3:20 am ET

[...] scitech.blogs.cnn.com/2009/08/... [...]


Conspiracy Theories! | Xbox One Reveal   June 8th, 2013 6:05 am ET

[...] scitech.blogs.cnn.com/2009/08/... [...]


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 [...]


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In home Personal training Long Island   December 11th, 2013 12:32 pm ET

This guy should have spent his time making his own products and selling them. He sounds talented. He
should start a legal business were he isn't changing someones else's product and calling it his.


The WoIT | Why You Should Be A PC Gamer   February 13th, 2014 12:50 am ET

[...] Not every game is able to be modded.  This is up to the developers of the games, but there are a great many that are not only open to modding but encourage it.  This is the true beauty of many PC games.  The ability to turn someone's creation into your very own is astonishing, and it's something that's missing from console games.  You mod a console game, and you will more than likely be facing a ban on your account or even possibly a lawsuit. [...]


William Ashley   March 17th, 2014 12:32 am ET

I don't like it.

Software companies could add value to thier sale by providing access to server supplied content.. upgrades, bonuses etc..

They should physically control the material, they shouldn't need to kill people for commercial gain, and effectively that is what the power of arrest is.

The system just makes the industry lazy which means less value to the consumer.

this is made worse by now 10 year old technology like the original still being under dmca there should be a moonlight provision on the stuff...I should be able to turn my original into a linux box, server, or media center if I want. It has nothing to do with copyright it is hardware modification. Individuals should have the right to modify their own personal property.


jake   May 13th, 2014 5:06 pm ET

I think modding should not be illegal caus I'm a modder but I don't use it to get into peoples
privice with it moding is fine just people choose to use it wrong


That guy   May 14th, 2014 4:01 pm ET

Nope, not at all. Games do eventually get cheaper over time but when I go out and buy a 60-70$ game newly released I don't like risking the the fact that just about anything could damage those games at any givin time. I bought COD:black ops the second day it was released, 2 days later my 360 got knocked over and not even the back up that I saved on my xbox could help run the game. If I were able to copy the game to my xbox and be able to run it with out the disk none of that would have happened. My xbox wouldn't have been were it was standing up without wanting consistent access to my disc drive. Modding someone's console shouldn't be be a crime for piracy or any other reason. If someone uses it for free games thats their problem not the person modding it. There are many other awesome reasons to mod consoles and phones. Your drunk friend...

THAT GUY!!!!!


Jordan   June 10th, 2014 2:10 pm ET

This is kind of stupid.
Modded Xbox's can be used to hack the pentagon... they can be used as anything. if i modify mine to be a paperweight or a computer(put pc motherboard and items in casing) then i would be arrested right? this is stupid

America is falling apart. No wonder why it took the US so long to find osama bin laden. THEY ARE ARRESTING KIDS insted of looking for terroist that can blow up buildings and kill thousands...

America is not the home of the free anymore and im fed up of it.


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 [...]


Ben   November 29th, 2014 1:42 am ET

should modding be ok well lets see all the feture modding gives u mod menus with god mode, lag switch ,removing centurn bar so carters are nude when u play with them,menus that allow u do reset and derank peoples status in games.mods that let u rip games witch mean u can rent a libary game for free rip it return it any play game any time u want so pretty much yes mods need to go


jeffrey   December 31st, 2014 12:35 am ET

U know wat fuck yall do yall not u derstand that modding crashses servers
And it causes the game companys to go downhill kk wat would yall do
if there was no internet huh exactly stfu keep ur opions to urself
cause i hope yall know the goverment is thinking of shuting down the
internet its causeing to many problems
u know look at yalls selfs what has gameing and internet done for yall
Ill tell u wat its done its made amercai fat as fuck im 19 getting rdy to go into the army if u dont like the laws then leave amercai that would mzke u all terroists under stand wat the internet has done to us we are sufferinf from virsus ill tell u why cause we sit all day playing the interet get out side
and make a change or else ull die fat and lazy rember back in the old days
there were no thing called internet and honestly i hope they do shut down
the internet cause it would make all of u wake up and relise there is a whole world out there to explore get off ur asses and go out and have eome fun fuck technolgy


Matthew   March 5th, 2015 7:09 pm ET

Is piracy wrong? Yes. Is modding wrong? Well it's not that simple now is it. I'd like to bring up a scenario. If due to being a gold member xboxlive gives periodic games away for free. I get a game free for being a member but a friend who had no idea of this but was a member of the same amount of time doesn't get the game is it wrong to mod his xbox so he could get the free game that was given to so many others


Name*freddy   May 19th, 2015 4:30 pm ET

Yep, lock him up forever. He's a menace to society and a threat to national security.

[/sarcasm]


luke   April 29th, 2016 2:01 am ET

I believe they are hurting the human factor of intent, and what a person will do. Example a average person checking Id's now on avg most people, Will forget to do that as they would forget to put up a towel, but In my state that is 2000 dollar fi e and u to 2 years in jail. Thus in turn the expectations our gov. Should and cannot exceed the current hardwar or person I. Society.Thus in a underli e this young mand is smart and has a future making a lot of money.unfortunately if you studied psychology really smart people tend to not develop maturly until much later.as the more mature or character you have, it creates a blocker to easily remember things into long term memory process.thus the ability of having large amount of knowledge actually signifies a lot I internaly you would not expect seeing former outside.thus a low development of specific character says he is a really smart kid in a grown ups body. Meaning he mentally does not have the Same thinking process as a adult does. Which signifies 1 he probably was doing it for fun.2 lack of impulse control would exempt him intentional purpose of action.3 he was a really smart kid with a future for finances much better than most. Thus the I tent of making money was shown ,but to make it in a large scale of any significant value is rideclous , as they are looking to ruin his life for a meadile action.and should simple make him pay all money earned. And let him continue to play a significant role in our society. Compared to going to jail. Lossing college for a reason. Of gov expection that is not commonly diffined and in most cases connot be expected to be able to be done by people.


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