In a press release that went largely unnoticed last month (hat tip: GamePolitics), the Department of Justice announced indictments against ten individuals that were the subject of a nationwide raid targeting alleged video game console mod chip suppliers and sellers conducted nearly five years ago. 

The ten individuals, who hail from Florida, New York, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts, were the focus of "Operation Tangled Web," an industry-aided effort undertaken by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in the summer of 2007. They've been charged with violating the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by trafficking in mod chips for the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii, Xbox, and Xbox 360, devices prosecutors say are "primarily designed to circumvent technological measures designed to effectively control access to a work copyrighted under Title 17 of the United States Code, for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain."

But defenders note that console mod chips have extensive legal uses as well, including the ability to let users run homebrew code, legal backups, and imported games on their hardware. For this reason, last year the Electronic Frontier Foundation formally requested (PDF) that the US Copyright Office exempt mod chips from DMCA enforcement, much as it has excepted "jailbroken" smartphones since 2010. A final ruling on that request is expected later this year.

In 2009, following an ICE investigation, Anaheim resident Matthew Lloyd Crippen became the first person to face DMCA charges for installing mod chips on the Xbox 360. Those charges were later dropped, thanks to issues surrounding the prosecution use of evidence.

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