A 27-year-old California State Fullerton student could go to prison for 10 years - for modifying his videogame consoles. Last week, Matthew Lloyd Crippen was indicted on two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, after getting caught tweaking a number of game machines. Console hacking is nothing new, and is often done for recreation by obsessive fans who want to play foreign or homebrewed games. Some even modify old Nintendo GameBoy devices to create their own music. Of course, hackers are also modifying consoles in order to play bootlegged games, which is where the DMCA comes in. Apparently, Crippen was modding for profit, though I have yet to read how or why.
To me, the game industry should respect and protect a consumer’s right – wish – to void the copyright on a machine by futzing around under the hood. Not every console modder is making money on this stuff. I can’t imagine that console modders have much to do with the estimated $200 billion lost to piracy and counterfeiting each year.
David Kushner is the author of many books, including Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic & the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, The Bones of Marianna, and Alligator Candy. A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, he has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, and The New York Times Magazine.