Taking Legal Action Against Cheaters

TL;DR – video game company sues cheating gamers for copyright infringement.

I find this one really annoying. Shouldn’t they invest the money in making their product better instead of spending money on legal fees, chasing gamers? is this the right approach against cheaters? are they so beaten up?

I don’t completely understand the reciprocation between cheating and copyright infringement, but I do know that this comment from the company regard the issue doesn’t have anything to do with copyright infringement:

“When cheaters use aimbots or other cheat technology, they ruin games for people who are playing fairly”


4 responses to “Taking Legal Action Against Cheaters”

  1. Aylmer Wang

    Though using copyright laws as a tool of tackling cheating is an interesting one, I do think legal means are necessary – it is absolutely worth spending money on this endeavor to protect a developer’s IP. Also, its relevant to note that the developers went after the cheat producers, not simply just cheaters in the game.

    Games have the potential to be completely destroyed off the back of rampant cheating. In fact I think cheating has the most impact in PvP MMOFPS games like Fortnite. The objective of such games is to compete against others online, and the draw of the game is the competitive nature of it. Once you tilt the playing field to an impossible level like against aimbots in this case, the draw of the game disappears and the play base disappears along with it; the excitement and rush of playing is instead replaced by the frustration and anger of knowing you could never outplay an automatic aimbot – who would want to stick around for that kind of experience? More importantly, what developer would allow players of their game to leave for this reason?

    One case study of cheating in PvP MMOFPS games is Combat Arms – a game I personally invested a lot of time in. A fan written account of the history of cheating in this game can be found here: http://combatarms.wikia.com/wiki/The_Great_Hacker_War

    The tl;dr of that is: Cheating was rampant through that game for long periods of time. There were people who genuinely liked playing the game and have been playing since beta, when different levels of cheats began emerging. They then had a choice, to play against various types of cheats ranging from mild annoyance to literally game crashing, or quit. Meanwhile, the websites that distributed these cheats had huge forum followings. The best and most well coded cheats would be sold on a subscription bases, meaning they were generating revenue off the backs of ruining the player experience and contributing to the destruction of the game. Furthermore, free cheats would be given out. These free cheats came in many forms but were generally either lower impact on the game (for example, aimbots were rare as a free cheat in this game but customary in any subscription based package), or included macros that would broadcast in-game the website of the forum where these free and subscription based games were available.

    The player experience suffered heavily in Combat Arms, while the cheat developers and the website creators that distributed these cheats were making profit. Having them run rampant in your game as a developer simply wasn’t an option.

    To go back to the question of copyright infringement, I believe that some (or all) cheats in these types of multiplayer games goes into some part of the user-sided source code that is copyrighted content and manipulates it. Therefore, we could see how a derivative work argument could be made. Sure the question could be posed whether this is within the scope what derivative works was supposed to give protection to, but this kind of usage is certainly necessary in my view for the developer to ensure their IP is not destroyed by cheat creators.

  2. Idan Yaron

    Hi Aylmer,

    Thanks for your enlightening replay.
    From my personal experience, I know exactly what you are talking about and just to make clear I’m totally against cheating (no matter where). I do think that the whole issue could fall under the umbrella of IP (i.e. copyright infringement) as coding a cheat for a computer game could count as a “mod” (which all returns to the discussion last class). however, I think we need to discuss, firstly, whether cheating is a legal action. I’ll demonstrate that using 2 examples.
    1.People standing in line for a bus. the last guy in the line goes all the way to the front, bypassing everyone and goes first. that is a “violation” of human ethics (or politeness?) – but it’s not a legal action. you can’t sue or prosecute that person (I hope not).
    2.The same guy goes on the bus and uses a fake Compass card to ride. that is probably a criminal misdemeanor, at least.

    Cheating can vary from example 1 to 2 and to many other scenarios, but it’s hard to tell where each one of those actions falls under, and because there is a serious misinformation and uncertainty I don’t think the tax payer should pay for investigating a virtual world created by a private company.. do you think a law suit will stop cheaters from cheating? IMHO, the answer is no (but let’s leave the deterrence discussion for another time). The efficient approach here (again, IMO) is to deliver the responsibility (100% of it) to the company. in professional gaming you barely see any cheating (because companies invest in highly advanced anti cheating systems). there is no reason to let those companies run from their own responsibilities.

    Thanks again!


  3. Aylmer Wang

    I personally wouldn’t agree to assigning 100% responsibility to the game developer. No matter the game, and no matter how highly advanced anti cheat systems are, you will still get cheating in games (specifically I am referring to PC video games like Fortnite) – yes even in competitive game titles and in professional games themselves.

    Some examples include bot and script developers for league of legends: https://kotaku.com/league-of-legends-cheating-service-loses-10-million-la-1792991972
    and pro CS:GO players caught in the act: https://kotaku.com/top-counter-strike-players-caught-in-big-cheating-scand-1662810816

    Note that especially in these cases of professional play, it would take only a few instances of cheating to sink the integrity of the whole professional scene for that specific game. This could impact relationships with sponsors and fans, and would cause result in substantial damages in the form of lost revenue for both the players, teams, and the developers.

    A good example of why I believe putting all our faith in developers and anti-cheat is not realistic can be seen in CS:GO and the premium 3rd party service ESEA. ESEA’s whole business model is that they develop an extremely intrusive anti-cheat system so that a legitimate player can play in a cheat-free environment on their private servers for a monthly membership fee. The anti-cheat is so intrusive that ESEA has it installed in the kernel of the operating system, where it stays on constantly. This level of control is NOT something you should ever give to any third party program, yet that is the entirety of ESEA’s business model. ESEA is the premier provider of this service in this space, and literally all of the professional players in CS:GO use the service. That being said, cheaters still somehow get past their anti-cheat from time to time. ESEA relies on manual bans to kick cheaters out, and the cost of the membership fees to keep them out. This is do-able in a private service where the population is a tiny fraction of whole playerbase, but it will certainly not be possible for any large scale games with free-to-play signups.

    Furthermore, you must remember that anti-cheats are not perfect in their accuracy either. False positives need to be kept to a minimum, lest the developers feel the wrath of innocent banned players in online forums like reddit.

    Yes I agree developers share some of the burden of keeping their anti-cheat techniques up to date. Nexon and Combat arms did not do that. However that alone will never stop cheating in their games. Going after cheat developers is a practical and necessary legal tool to supplement existing anti-cheat and efforts on the part of the developer.

    To address your question of whether cheating is actionable legally, I would say no. It would be against practically any TOS for any competent developer, but I don’t believe there’s any actual legal force against such actions. That being said, I believe the issue initially raised in the article and the action I’m all in favour of is legally going after the cheat developers and distributors as opposed to individual cheaters.

  4. Aylmer Wang

    As a last note, to touch on the line cutting example you gave, we can look at cheating outside of the game having effects inside the game. The key example I can think of is League of Legends season 2 world championships where teams looked at the main screen to see information they didn’t have on their own screens: https://kotaku.com/5950746/accused-league-of-legends-cheat-fined-30000

    As you can see in that article, they were fined for “unsportsmanlike conduct” and can be likened to any sort of cheating in professional sports. I think this indicates that there’s probably no legal basis outside of contract law to go after these cheaters.