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Xbox chipper jailed and fined

When the mod-chips are down...

Biren Amin, owner of US games store Pandora's Cube, has been sentenced to five months in prison and given a fine of almost $250,000 for the sale of pirated games and illegally modified Xboxes, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced yesterday.

Games consoles such as the Microsoft Xbox or Sony Playstation 2 include copyright protections that prevent them running pirated games, or games subject to regional control (where a console bought in one part of the world cannot run games purchased in another).

Mod chips are designed to circumvent these protections. As such, mod chips and "chipped" consoles are in breach of the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which prohibits the manufacture and distribution of products or services that circumvent technological protection measures designed to prevent unauthorised access to and copying of copyrighted materials.

According to the ESA, Amin and some of his employees modified Microsoft Xbox video game consoles and turned them into what Pandora's Cube called "Super Xboxes." These Super Xboxes were designed solely to defeat the Xbox's copyright protection system and permit the user to avoid purchasing and paying for legitimate Xbox video games, said the ESA.

The Pandora's Cube employees also loaded illegal copies of video games onto the hard drives of the Super Xboxes, in violation of federal copyright law, it claimed.

Amin was sentenced to five months in prison with three years of supervised release, including five months of home confinement. He was also fined $247,237.05 and ordered to complete 80 hours of community service as part of his sentence.

He is the fourth Pandora’s Cube employee to be found guilty of conspiring to commit felony copyright infringement and conspiring to violate the DMCA. Mguresh Amin, a store manager, has already been sentenced to six months home confinement, twenty-four months probation and 150 hours community service.

Herbie Walker, a senior retail manager, was sentenced to six months home confinement, paying for the costs associated with electronic monitoring, twenty-four months probation and 100 hours of community service, while Hitesh Patel, a store manager and technician, received a sentence of four months in prison, with two years of supervised release including four months of home detention.

According to ESA president, Douglas Lowenstein, "Sentences of this magnitude send a clear message to game retailers that selling pirate products has serious consequences, including prosecution to the fullest extent of the law." UK position

In the UK, the modification of consoles has been an illegal practice since 31st October 2003, when Regulations were passed that made an amendment to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act.

The new regime allows rightholders to take action against individuals who circumvent what the law calls Technological Protection Measures, or TPMs, to make unauthorised use of copyrighted works. Action, including criminal action, can also be taken against those who make and distribute equipment designed to circumvent TPMs.

Accordingly, the whole process of chipping consoles is illegal, including selling and advertising chips as well as providing a service for chipping.

The UK saw its first criminal conviction for the illegal modification of video games consoles in July.

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