The game consoles were modified with a new control chip and a 250-gigabyte hard drive. The embedded software on the chip creates a new start menu to play any of a number of pirated games, authorities say.
By Laurie Sullivan
Dec 19, 2005 09:28 PM
Two store owners and a third man were charged on Monday in a federal copyright infringement case for allegedly selling modified Microsoft Corp. Xbox consoles that allowed them to play pirated video games copied onto a multi-gigabyte hard drive.
The game consoles were modified with a new control chip and a 250 gigabyte hard drive. The embedded software on the chip creates a new start menu. “Turn on the Xbox, and the software comes up with the name of the modification chip,” said Thomas Loeser, assistant United States attorney in Los Angeles. “You’ll page through a menu similar to Windows browser to select any internal game to play it.”
A criminal complaint filed in a Los Angeles federal court accuses Jason Jones, 34, Jonathan Bryant, 44, both of Los Angeles, and Pei “Patrick” Cai, 32, of Pico Rivera, Calif., of conspiring to traffic technology used to outwit a copyright protection system and conspire to commit criminal copyright infringement.
The complaint affidavit alleges Jones and Bryant, who co-own the ACME Game Store in Los Angeles, sold Xbox game consoles, that Cai modified. The chips and hard drives apparently allowed the user to copy rented or borrowed games onto the consoles for future playback.
Customers paid between $225 and $500 depending on the extent of the modifications requested and the number of games pre-loaded onto the hard drive. Cai would pick up game consoles to be modified from ACME Game Store, modify the systems at his home, and then return the game consoles to ACME Game Store to be picked up by ACME Game Store customers, law enforcement officials allege.
Jones, Bryant and Cai are charged with a felony count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A hearing is scheduled in federal court in Los Angeles in late January.
This case began when the Entertainment Software Alliance contacted federal law enforcement and reported that undercover private investigators had purchased a modified Xbox game console, pre-loaded with several copyrighted games, from ACME Game Store in May 2005.
During the investigation, undercover agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say they paid $265 to have a modification chip a hard drive and 77 pirated games installed in an Xbox. Loeser said the department priced the games found on the hard drive at more than $3,000. “You can fit about 80 video games on a 250 gigabyte hard drive,” he said. “They’ll run you about $50 each.”
The defendants told the undercover officer they would have modification to the Xbox 360 within two weeks after the new product was released. “I expect it will continue to be an issue because this is a very popular device and it’s designed to play games you own,” Loeser said.
The Department of Justice has other leads concerning similar cases. “They’re not investigations yet, but we’re continuing to pursue leads where there’s a store front involving these modifications,” Loeser said.