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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Jail for seller of illegal Xbox chips
Microsoft's Xbox
The chip allowed gamers to bypass controls on the Xbox
An American has been sentenced to five months in jail for selling chips that helped gamers to bypass anti-piracy technology on consoles.

David Rocci had pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to import, market and sell modification, or mod, chips for the Xbox.

He was convicted under the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which makes it a crime to distribute tools that can be used to bypass copyright controls on digital products.

The harshness of the sentence for selling devices that allowed people to modify their own equipment has raised concerns among civil liberties groups.

Grey market chips

Mr Rocci also received a $28,500 fine and five months of home detention with electronic monitoring when he was sentenced in a Virginia court last week.

It's troubling that people are being sent to prison for selling a device that may have uses that may not be infringing to copyright at all
Fred von Lohmann, Electronic Frontier Foundation
The US Government also seized the domain name of his website,, which it said was being used to market the mod chips.

The site, which was estimated to get up 140,000 hits a day, did not contain illegal copies of video games or software but had message boards where people could share tips about pirated material.

Mr Rocci is one of the first people to be sent to prison for violating the DMCA. The law has been criticised as being too broad and restricting the fair use rights of consumers.

The ruling by the court appears to effectively ban mod chips in the US.

Mod chips, which are widely available on the web for game consoles, have been a headache for game hardware makers for years.

The devices are grey market add-ons that can be soldered to a console's main circuit board to bypass copyright controls.

The chips allow people to play games purchased legitimately in other countries, as well as running backup copies or bootleg discs.

"We're not talking about something that is a dedicated piracy tool," said Fred von Lohmann, senior intellectual property attorney at the civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"It's troubling that people are being sent to prison for selling a device that may have uses that may not be infringing to copyright at all."

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