Xbox modders charged with copyright crime

Two owners of a Los Angeles game store and a third man face up to five years in prison on charges filed Monday in a federal copyright infringement case for selling modified Xbox game consoles, prosecutors said. The modifications allowed the machines to play pirated video games, they said.

The three men are being accused of "conspiring to traffic in a technology used to circumvent a copyright protection system and conspiring to commit criminal copyright infringement," in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California.

Jason Jones and Jonathan Bryant, two Los Angeles residents who own the ACME Game Store on Melrose Ave., allegedly sold Xbox game systems that had been modified by Pei Cai, of Pico Rivera, Calif.

Cai allegedly equipped the Xbox consoles with modification chips and large hard drives to allow the user to copy rented or borrowed games onto the device for future playback. Buyers would pay from $225 to more than $500 for the changes.

During the investigation, undercover agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement paid $265 to have a modification chip, a hard drive and 77 pirated games installed on an Xbox, according to the criminal complaint.

The consoles involved in this case were of the first-generation Xbox, not the recently launched Xbox 360, a representative for the prosecution said. This isn't the first crackdown on modding.

The defendants will have to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in late January, the prosecution said.

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