Jonathan Pink — Entertainment, Internet and New Media Partner at Lewis Brisbois, LLP Rotating Header Image

Jailbirds and the DMCA

Breaking news: SoCal man busted on charges of “jail breaking” videogame consoles in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Not sure this really rises to the level of such extensive law enforcement, but according to Wired News, Homeland Security authorities arrested 27 year old Matthew Crippen this week on charges of having circumvented the copyright encryption technology on a number of videogame consoles including Wii, PlayStation and the Xbox. Crippen, an Anaheim, California resident and Cal State Fullerton liberal arts student, charged customers $30 a pop for this — uh — service.

I could make a comment here about Anaheim being the home of Disneyland, and Crippen’s age being a little advanced for an undergrad, or the fact that he was doing all this for $30 a pop when a job at Starbucks probably would have paid just as well (and would not have led to his arrest), but I won’t. I’ll refrain. So, enough of that, and on to the next paragraph, please.

Really, this story makes me feel very, very secure. I mean, what with the Bush administration (and Chenney in particular), I really thought that terrorists were practically at our front door. Turns out, this must not be the case given that Homeland Security has time to bust a guy who’s gaming videogame consoles. Wow, what must the strategy sessions that led to that bust have been like? “Guys, we’ve got a big one.” (Tense silence as the team, clad in black, waits . . . .) “Hacker.” (Team’s thinking: code for Bin Laden, no . . . for . . . who?! They all nod knowingly as their leader continues.) “Bastard’s breaking into Xboxes, the Wii and . . . the PlayStation.” (Whoa. Sweat starts to form on foreheads . . . .) Cut to the five black vans with blackened windows pulling up outside Crippen’s house, firepower in abundance, men taking positions and “ BAM! the door comes down and the fugitive comes out — dressed in boxes and holding a screw driver? At least that’s how I imagine it.

Anyway, why all the fuss? Because under the DMCA, jailbreaking a video game is a copyright no-no. The DMCA provides, in relevant part, that, “no person shall circumvent a technological measure that affectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” Stated another way, no jailbreaking decrypted copies of videogame unless you’re ready to do some hard time . . . and have Homeland Security come knocking at your door. Now don’t get me wrong: the DMCA is a great statute and I’ve used it in some of my own cases, but this really seems like killing a gnat with a sledgehammer when a rolled up newspaper would suffice.

So now the big question now is: where did Crippen get his training? Afghanistan? Pakistan? From the The Big Man? No, according to Wired, Crippen learned his skill on “Google, man.” He was released on Monday on $5,000 bond.

Jonathan Pink is a business lawyer with a specialty in copyright, patent and trademark litigation. His clients include many of the biggest names in the automotive and motorcycle aftermarket parts industries, and one of world's largest media companies. He has extensive experience in a wide range of intellectual property and commercial disputes including breach of contract, fraud, and the misappropriation of trade secrets. He can be reached at 949.223.7173, or at jonathan.pink@bryancave.com, and his full profile can be viewed at www.bryancave.com.

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