Homebrewers "have other options" and "are not doing anything that is qualitatively different from developing games for the PC," they argue. As for research, the company argues that the "console is not intended to be a general-purpose computing platform and it is not necessarily well-suited for research applications."
The EFF and hackers argue that modifying their consoles for purposes other than piracy is a "fair use" of the technology. In a letter to the copyright office, Huang takes a "once you buy it, it's yours" approach. He and the EFF argue that hackers often dream up new and unintended features and uses the manufacturers never thought of, and that manufacturers sometimes embrace.
Microsoft's Xbox Kinect camera was designed to be for motion gaming only. Soon after its release in late 2010, hackers reverse engineered the $99, high-tech camera. It's now widely used in medicine, education, and robotics.
At first, Microsoft cried foul, telling CNET that "Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products." The company soon backed off and encouraged alternative uses of the camera.
A Microsoft spokesman puts the company firmly against the proposed Digital Millennium Copyright Act video game exemption.
"Kinect inspired game developers, entertainment brands, hobbyists, academics, and commercial partners to develop exciting new ways to use Kinect in areas we hadn't planned on when we created it. We support this innovation," says a Microsoft spokesman. "By contrast, the overwhelming goal of 'hacking' the Xbox 360 console is to remove security features in order to play illegally pirated game discs. The health of the video game business depends on customers paying for genuine products."
Huang says that's a fundamentally different approach that may have stifled innovation in the Xbox. With the Kinect, it took a more lax security approach and has reaped the benefits. With Xbox, it's still stifling creativity, Huang says.
"It's much easier to pirate games than it is to say, boot Linux on the Xbox or run other non-sanctioned but also non-infringing software on the box," Huang writes in an E-mail. "One may argue that because they made the barriers so high for people to do legitimate activities on the [Xbox], they have constrained innovation and thus the only thing left are illegitimate activities."