Meanwhile, In Japan: More Arrests For Cheating At Video Games

from the h4x0r! dept

Some months back, we noted that something odd was happening in Japan: online gaming cheaters were being arrested. Yes, arrested. Not arrested in a virtual sense, not banned from games, arrested as in picked up by police and charged with a crime. This, in case you are undecided on the matter, is insane. Cheating and online gaming have been a virtual arms-race for going on forever and generally it’s been on the gaming companies to win that war. If they can use law enforcement as a new ally, the implications could be scary, especially when it’s quite easy to levy accusations of cheating and when simply finding ways to exploit an advantage within a game is often times mistaken for cheating as well.

The latest incident is not an example of the latter. A man in his thirties in Japan, named Akihide Yamamoto, was picked up for running a web-store for cheats to exploit a game titled Alliance of Valiant Arms.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest paper, Yamamoto was arrested for suspected violation of Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Law. Reports state that Yamamoto, a Himeji City resident, is believed to have apparently sold a hacked character and overpowered weapons to a 40-year-old man in Saitama Prefecture for 20,000 yen or US$168. This isn’t a first for Yamamoto, who has also been arrested for using cheats in another game.

Look, on the one hand cheaters are beyond annoying. Add to that the emergence of big-time eSports, the tournaments of which often times include large sums of prize money, and I can see why a gaming ecosystem exploding around online gaming means that cheaters are a bigger problem today than they were ten years ago. That said, c’mon, arresting these people and charging them criminally? For gaming? And, in this case, it’s not even the cheater that’s being charged, but a person providing the “tools”, if you will, for the cheaters. That adds a whole new layer to this, because at what point do we want to chill the tinkering and hacking that goes on with the possibility of criminal charges?

Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses for Yamamoto, who might well be the gaming-world’s devil for all I know. But gumming up the legal system with guys who are selling game exploits seems like a massive waste of time and resources.

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Comments on “Meanwhile, In Japan: More Arrests For Cheating At Video Games”

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52 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not really clear from the Kotaku article that is linked but it seems that the Unfair Competition Law they are using refers to unfair competition in the marketplace which is why the cheat sellers are being charged and not the cheaters.

The game companies have spent time, effort, and money building their respective games and Japanese law allows them to press criminal charges against those who would use their trademarks/copyright for profit.

Not saying it’s right, but this is a little different than arresting and charging those who cheat at games. It’s arresting and charging those who sell game cheats for profit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“…Japanese law allows them to press criminal charges against those who would use their trademarks/copyright for profit.”

Car analogy

Someone marketing game cheats for a specific game and using the name of said game in the product description is illegal.

Making custom floor mats for specific make/model of car and using the name of said make/model in the product description is illegal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Car analogy: Making custom floor mats for specific make/model of car and using the name of said make/model in the product description is illegal.”

(Original commenter here.)

This analogy doesn’t quite work. Car mats do not mess with the instruction set on a server run by the (car) company in question.

A better car analogy would be if a programmer came up with a homebrew version of OnStar and sold an installation service that ran on equipment installed by Cadillac. This in itself is no problem. However, the problem occurs when this new version takes data from Cadillac’s servers and provides it to the user — this may open up a whole can of privacy worms as the unofficial version may grab information that would not normally be given to the user. Moreover, this is a misappropriation of Cadillac’s infrastructure and data transmissions for the programmer’s profit.

The article did not make it clear if the cheats were for online games or offline. If the game is online then misuse of the game server for commercial profit might be the reason for the criminal charges. If it’s offline there seems to be no reason for the arrests, other than possibly trademark or copyright. Since the article is skimpy on the details we can only guess as to which of the reasons it is. If anyone speaks Japanese and wants to trawl some Japanese news we might be able to get a better picture.

Of course, the main point of the original comment was to draw attention to the fact that the title to this blog post is a bit misleading as it’s not the cheaters who are being arrested. It is those who are selling the cheats.

That One Other Not So Random Guy says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“This analogy doesn’t quite work. Car mats do not mess with the instruction set on a server run by the (car) company in question.”

Tell that to Hypertech, Bully Dog, or Jet.

“Making custom air/fuel maps for specific make/model of car and using the name of said make/model in the product description is illegal.”

Lurker Keith says:

destroying a potential ally

It’s counterproductive to shutdown a site selling game exploits.

Wouldn’t it be a more permanent fix to use the site to the company’s advantage? It’s a warehouse for game exploits. They could probably leverage their rights to the game to gain access to said warehouse & patch them.

Merely shutting it down means 2 more will appear from the ashes to replace it. & they’ll take time to track down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: destroying a potential ally

It would seem counterintuitive for the exploit profitteer to cooperate since it ruins his fine business. Furthermore, I am not sure it is benefitial to participate in such an arms race for a company without some long term monetisation model.

While there is an “unsatisfied market”-argument here, it is a pretty difficult issue since reputation for a cheat-infested game will suffer.

Richard (profile) says:

World Cup

ON that basis the German Goalkeeper who blatantly scooped the ball up from behind the goal line in the 2010 world cup should have been arrested and should now be in prison.

He definitely cheated, has admitted it and big money was involved.

Now sports stars who “throw” matches when bribed by gamblers are rightly imprisoned but cheating witihin the game is always punished within the game (if at all) unless it is actually physically dangerous.

Anonymous Coward says:

And this is why games need private servers. I dont even remember the last time i played with 12yo l33t h4x0rz…
Good thing they are scaring them

On the other hand, some games have horrible anti-cheat’s built in them. One thing that comes to mind is arma’s battleye, which is basically one german guy banning people randomly while BI demands that you accept a license and let him swoop through your entire hd.
The appeal system is a joke as they never give any info on why were people banned, claiming it would help cheatmakers… Yeah right, like they dont know when their cheats are detectable or not…
Ofcourse, cheaters more than often get away and legit players are forced to make a new steam account AND change their hardware to get a new id and only then they can play. Just check the discussions over there, real nightmare.

Seriously, im more afraid of being banned for no reason than meeting the occassional cheater.

also, daily Kotaku crosspost? Whats next? You start quoting foxnews?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“also, daily Kotaku crosspost? Whats next? You start quoting foxnews?”

Eh, like most of Gawker’s sites, Kotaku has its issues, but they generally do a good job as a starting point. I typically don’t take their posts as gospel and click through for other links. Honestly, when the click throughs are all in Japanese, however….

inteproreal793 says:

Cory Doctorow is never very far from the mark somehow… this type of thing is strongly explored in his novel “For The Win”.

When cheating can become monetized, whether through ads or selling characters, it resembles a black msrket. Interesting to hear about this in real life, I wouldn’t have guessed it would happen this fast!

Anonymous Coward says:

blame it on Japan's (lack of) lawyers

In the United States, anyone running a business selling game exploits can expect to get sued into bankruptcy. But although the litigation industry (as well as the legal field in general) is one of America’s biggest and most lucrative industries, in Japan lawyers are exceedingly rare (and many people there no doubt hope to keep it that way). So like many other non-Western countries, the Japanese have to rely on other methods to settle their disputes. Such as getting the police involved. And in a law-and-order society like Japan’s, it’s not hard to guess which side the police will tend to favor.

Anonymous Coward says:

These third parties are giving players a tough choice. Either buy our cheat suite or get crushed in-game by those who did. It’s almost like they’re trying to set up tollbooths for content they don’t own.

Whether this is or should be legal, I don’t know. I’ll let the people who actually understand laws debate that.

Who me? says:

Do it on a computer.

Patents are new and special for ordinary things done on a computer.

Crime is new and special for anything done on a computer with special new penalties. Hacking and cheating are all the same.

When was the last time police got interested in a $168 fraud? Old things like sales fraud are too dull for words.

not.you says:

Maybe they are just trying to get ready for the inevitable collapse of the war on drugs. Without drug users to go after to justify the bloated justice system and police state they will need some new devils to justify their existence. Maybe this is just some field testing for possible alternatives for the future. I realize this is Japan, but hey, if it works out for them it could become another thing we import from Japan.

Maxpayne2k4 (profile) says:

Rigged competition in pay to win game

I play a free to play game that is advertised on UFC commercials.
Where I found out the current champion gets free top offs and payed to play, roughly $1500 a month to play. His account is worth approximately $50,000 usd. His boss tops off his account for him, which is probably the publishers of the game. I have all this info screenshotted admission by the gamer who owns the account and payed to play. On top of everything he has earns small commission for each top off that he sells for his boss. His boss then logs on your account to top you off. This makes me sure his boss works or owns the online game. Do I have a lawsuit here? Someone who has spent close to $7,000 usd, and I’d like to get my money back.

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