The owners of a Los Angeles videogame shop and a business associate have been charged with copyright infringement for allegedly selling modified Xbox consoles loaded with pirated games.
According to a complaint filed in LA federal court, ACME Game Store owners Jason Jones and Jonathan Bryant sold systems, which had been modified by Pei "Patrick" Cai", loaded with mod chips and larger hard disks, allegedly violating the ever-popular Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
However the key thing to note here, it would appear, is that an investigation into the trio's activities involved the purchase of a modded Xbox for $265 with 77 pirated games installed - something that casts a much darker shadow over their activities than simply modifying the consoles, the legality of which remains a hotly contested point.
The three men will be summoned to appear in court in late January, and their shop continues to operate in the meantime according to various reports.
The arguments for and against mod chips are many, but the general thrust of the thing is that proponents believe their legitimate uses justify them and that circumvention of region lock-out, for example, is not copyright infringement, while opponents point to their complicity in piracy - something certainly not helped by the alleged activities of the three men cited in Los Angeles.
Battles have been fought and won on both sides. Most recently, the Australian High Court ruled that the PlayStation chips circumvented by mod chips are not primarily copy protection devices and thus not covered by copyright laws which prevent the circumvention of such devices.
The capabilities of modern Xbox mod chips are more far-reaching than their PlayStation counterparts, mind you. A modded Xbox with an expanded hard disk can be expected to display networked multimedia content of a high standard, with more capabilities and freedom in this area than even an Xbox 360, as well as offering region-free DVD and game playback. Third-party programs also allow modders to play emulated versions of older consoles such as the Super Nintendo.