U.S. prosecutors have charged three men with copyright infringement for selling modified Xbox consoles that enabled the original video game machine from Microsoft Corp. to play pirated games.
The criminal complaint filed in federal court in Los Angeles Monday named ACME Game Store co-owners Jason Jones, 34, and Jonathan Bryant, 44, as well as Pei "Patrick" Cai, 32.
The complaint alleges that Jones and Bryant sold Xbox systems that Cai modified with chips and hard drives that allowed users to copy rented or borrowed games onto the console for future play.
All three men are charged with one felony count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The charge of conspiracy carries a maximum possible penalty of five years in federal prison.
Lawyers for the men, who will be summoned to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in late January, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Jones and Bryant demonstrated the modified Xbox game consoles in their Melrose Avenue store. They charged from $225 to more than $500 for the modifications, depending on the extent of the modifications and the number of games preloaded onto the hard drive, according to a statement from prosecutors and the complaint affidavit obtained by Reuters.
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.
Microsoft released the Xbox 360, the new version of its game console, on Nov. 22 in North America. The premium version of the system sells for $400 and is sold-out at many retail outlets. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
The original Xbox was released in late 2001 and now retails for around $150. Games for the system cost up to $50 each.