Xbox Modding Case Dismissed

Federal prosecutors dropped their case against a California man accused of modding Xboxes to to play pirated and unlicensed games. The reasons the lawyers gave were “fairness and justice,” which was a way of saying they screwed up the case.

Wired reports the decision to drop the case came after the feds’ first witness — an undercover agent who paid the alleged modder to tweak his console — couldn’t show proof that the modder placed a pirated game on his console that backed up the witness’s testimony.

Because the prosecution didn’t reveal in advance to the defense that a witness would testify that the accused modder tested a pirated game on the hacked console, the defense objected to the testimony.

So now the cleared modder, who last year denied a plea deal for probation and restricted computer use, is free and clear, able to change careers and pursue a teaching job.

Prosecutors Dismiss Xbox-Modding Case Mid-Trial [Wired via Engadget]

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  1. VashTS says:

    I never knew the federal government cared this much about my well being.

  2. Darrone says:

    When did the prosecution start working for Microsoft? This seems like the most MINOR of crimes possible. The guy modded an x-box, and didn’t even put pirated software on there. You would think of all places, California would not waste court time on that.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Likely, he did in fact put pirated content on there. But the prosecution/witness screwed up the case.

      • Dre' says:

        Nope, you’re wrong. If he had actually put pirated software on the xbox in question, then the prosecution’s star witness wouldn’t have had to lie about that very point & the case would have continued.

        “All of that had been laid out in pretrial motions. But during his testimony, ***Rosario also said Crippen inserted a pirated video game into the console to verify that the hack worked.*** That was a new detail that helped the government meet an obligation imposed by the judge that very morning, when Gutierrez ruled that the government had to prove Crippen knew he was breaking the law by modding Xboxes.

        ***But nowhere in Rosario’s reports or sworn declarations was it mentioned that Crippen put a pirated game into the console. During the opening statements shortly before Rosario’s testimony, defense attorney Koren Bell told jurors that there would be no evidence of that kind.”***

        How could the “witness” have possibly known whether the game in question was pirated or a backup of one of Crippen’s many legally purchased games?

        • JennQPublic says:

          I don’t understand how modifying computer hardware I own could possibly be illegal!

          • Gtmac says:

            It’s called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

            • JennQPublic says:

              Sorry, I’m not interested in reading the entire Wikipedia page on the DMCA, so I still don’t understand how modifying hardware I own is illegal. :-(

              • plumbob says:

                Because the government says it is basically. This is what happens when Sony, Microsoft, Apple, etc. write the laws.

                • JennQPublic says:

                  Does this apply to everything? Can I no longer modify my car? If I buy a PC from Dell (not that I would), can I not add components without their authorization? Where is the line?

                  I don’t understand the theory behind this aspect of the law.

                  • Ubernostrom says:

                    If you buy an apple computer your dell reference is absolutely true. And while you can still, legally, modify your vehicle, it doesn’t stop them from requiring you to buy special tools made by the manufacturer that only work on x brand of car.

                  • kujospam says:

                    True, you cannot modify your car in certain ways or you will violate the law unless if you get permission from the people who made the parts. Which you generally do when you buy them. Although it isn’t written out which is bad. There was a problem I think a year ago about the code readers, and how some are encrypted, and by breaking that encryption for the code readers you violate this law.

          • Ubernostrom says:

            If you read the eula in your xbox’s/kinect’/game’s manual, you would see that you really don’t own the thing. You are actually just licensing it from Microsoft.

        • regis-s says:

          When did the government have to start proving someone knew they were breaking the law? Whatever happened to ignorance of the law is no excuse?

          • Eviile says:

            In some cases, intent is required. Here’s why it’s needed here.

            Modding an Xbox to play a legal backup is legal.
            Modding an Xbox to play a illegal backup (pirated) is illegal.

            To be able to play a legal backup, you must also be able to play illegal backups.

      • Runner says:

        He tested a pirated game on it, but didn’t put it (install) it onto the Xbox.

        More than likely he stuck a CD/DVD with a pirated game into it, it worked, then after he tested it he removed the CD/DVD.

    • mariusvinchi says:

      Are you seriously just NOW realizing that the federal government is a paid subsidiary of corporate America?

  3. SonarTech52 says:

    couldn’t show proof that the modder placed a pirated game on his console that backed up the witness’s testimony

    From my understanding, most of the time the mod is a firmware update to the optical drive, allowing it to read “burned” games… So why would there be any pirated software on the xBox?

  4. mrscoach says:

    I read of this yesterday morning, before the case fell apart completely. The judge spent 30 minutes ripping the prosecution a new one before they recessed, because in opening statements the prosecutor claimed that they didn’t have to prove that the defendant knew he was doing something illegal. That went agains some handbook and the judge called them on it.

    Also to be picked upon by the judge was the fact that they weren’t disclosing the fact that the defendant was illegally videotaped and that another witness also had performed an illegal action by modding his own console while in college. The judge felt these facts should have been revealed to the jury.

    All in all, the judge was not happy with the prosecution. I’m sure this last little slip-up was just icing on that cake. The fact that the prosecution had to now prove that the defendant KNEW he was breaking the last, instead of just proving that he DID break the law, probably threw them into a tailspin.

    • mrscoach says:

      The judge also decided to allow the defense to claim ‘fair use’, something he had disallowed just a few days earlier. He brought up the fact that moding allowed for the use of backup copies of legally owned games or personally deveveloped work.

    • Jerem43 says:

      The ripping was so unusual for that judge and unprecedented that attorneys from throughout the court house were coming into the gallery to watch the prosecutors get there asses chewed out. The prosecutors were really unprepared for the case.

    • shadowboxer524 says:

      +1 to the judge

  5. shepd says:

    Good to see other legitimate modders getting the jackboots removed from them. I did this as a career for a couple of years and I can tell you, it’s very difficult to get customers to understand that the only service you’ll be providing is the soldering (well, when I was doing it for PS2, that’s all you needed to do). By keeping it legit I stayed in business for several thousand repairs/mods until I switched careers (by choice, not by legal threat).

    I’m certain at least a couple of times I was doing mods for snitches/the RCMP, but it didn’t matter, because it’s all legal (here, at least). What a waste of government resources, though.

  6. mrscoach says:

    Here is the first article from wired, written after the recess requested by the prosecution.

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/12/xbox-judge-riled/

  7. jjups says:

    This is what we waste our tax dollars on. Chasing down moders. Wow, no wonder our country is broke and the bankers that rob us go free.

  8. dolemite says:

    Just another case of our government using tax dollars to enforce DRM of corporations. Law enforcement is slowly but surely being turned to the side of corporate overlords. Really? He was in danger of JAIL time for this? His whole life would be ruined because of a firmware update to allow consoles to play pirated games? He wasn’t even doing any pirating! It’s like if a guy was arrested for installing a turbo on a car, because the owner might go above the speed limit.

    • Ubernostrom says:

      If you read the article, you would see that the case has been dropped. This will hopefully set a precedent for future cases such as this, and all in all the world is a very, very slightly better place.

  9. jaredwilliams says:

    and this is the problem with big government. Doing a sting for the equivalent of a burnt disc. Fucking bullshit

  10. coren says:

    It’s interesting that there’s some sort of requirement that you know you’re violating the law for them to charge you in these sorts of cases – that certainly doesn’t extend to most other crimes. I wonder why that is?