Riot Games Joins Blizzard In Misusing Copyright To Go After Video Game Cheaters

from the you're-not-helping dept

Readers here likely have begun to associate the attempted twisting of copyright law to go after video game cheaters with Blizzard. After all, between its StarCraft and Overwatch properties, the gamemaker has made something of a name for itself by attempting to assert a combination of “you only bought a license” and “breaking the EULA creates a copyright violation” theories into a “we can sue you for hacking our games” legal sandwich. It’s a terribly frustrating thing to watch Blizzard do, as it tries to pretzel copyright law in a way never intended, and typically to achieve little if any legal success by doing so.

Well, everyone knew that Blizzard wouldn’t be pulling this act solo forever, and now we know who the next game company to take up this loser of a strategy will be: Riot Games. Yes, the maker of the popular League of Legends is asserting copyright violations to go after those who create and use cheats and hacks. The complaint specifically targets a cheat called “LeagueSharp,” which apparently allows players to automate aspects of gameplay, including targeting other players and seeing game objects that should be hidden.

“Among other things, L# enables its users to abuse LoL by allowing them to, for example, see hidden information; ‘automate’ gameplay to perform in the game with enhanced or inhuman accuracy; and accumulate levels, experience, and items at a rate that is not possible for a normal human player.”

While this sounds very similar to many of the cheats and hacks that Blizzard has complained about, part of the impetus for this legal action is the popularity surrounding League of Legends eSport tournaments. eSports is becoming quite a thing these days, with viewership numbers that are comparable to viewership of traditional athletic competitions. As we’ve said in the past, cheating in online multiplayer games is at best annoying and at worst truly disruptive to the gaming experience. The stakes only rise when we begin talking about the eSports world, with competitive professionals competing. One can see how analagous to steroids in sports hacks might be in the eSports world. Still, the theories Riot Games trots out to back its copyright claims are nearly identical to Blizzard’s, and those claims don’t become stronger just because eSports is a thing.

It won’t help the makers of the hacks that they appear to have acted in ways that will put them in a negative light.

“Defendants or those working in concert with them disseminated personal and non-public information about a Riot employee, threatened that employee, and posted offensive comments on the employee’s social media. Additionally, knowing that this lawsuit was imminent, Defendants have been quickly and carefully destroying or concealing evidence such as their most incriminating online posts and purporting to hide behind a Peruvian shell corporation created solely for the purpose of evading liability.”

Which may indeed make them assholes, but it does not make them guilty of copyright infringement. The claims by Riot Games still come down to the claim that a violation of a Terms of Use agreement renders a license for the game invalid, meaning copyright infringement, along with a claim that creating a hack for a video game violates the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA. For that last claim to work, Riot Games would need to demonstrate that these specific cheats are lessening the value of the game in general.

Given the insane success that is League of Legends, that might be a tough claim to make. Regardless, this isn’t how copyright was meant to be used and stretching it in this way serves nobody at all.

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Companies: blizzard, riot games

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Comments on “Riot Games Joins Blizzard In Misusing Copyright To Go After Video Game Cheaters”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: sadly mike i dont care

Well, if you’re referring to League of Legends, its a completely free game (you can spend money if you wish), and for Blizzard’s games, like all games, cheating is against the Terms of Service and Usage. If you’re caught cheating, it violates the terms you agreed to in order to use the software, and you are no longer allowed to use said software. No one is changing anything after the fact.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: sadly mike i dont care

“No one is changing anything after the fact.”

Ever get one of those “Your privacy is important to us” letters? How about when they change the EULA without notice, because you read the original EULA where it said they can change it at any time without notice or compensation.

It all good, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sadly mike i dont care

League of Legends is a free to play game btw, not that this mitigates the cheating, but at least its not something you paid real money for that is being ruined. It still sucks though.

My bigger issue with this is:
I find it quite comical that the LoL folks are trying to use copyright to go after others when their entire game is a blatant rip-off of DotA, Aeon of Strife, and the work of other people.

For anyone who cares…
When Pendragon_ split off from Icefrog and went to make LoL, he shut down the DotA forums and then he and their team blatantly stole hero, item, and ability ideas from the same forums for their game. And didn’t even bother with a “thank you”.
I contacted them about it, as Teemo & Rammus were both hero suggestions I had posted to the DotA forums, and was basically told “go pound sand”

Summation of post:
Devs who built game by stealing other peoples IP are now trying to go litigate people for stealing their IP.
Stay Classy, LoL.

Anonymous Coward says:

It seems farcical that this is even a software matter, let alone a copyright matter.
Just create these options in the game itself, mark the use of these options as “assisted” play, and throw all the users into an “assisted play” dungeon.
This satisfies your casual “cheating” customers and your non-cheating customers alike and massively cuts down the appeal of the cheating software, wrecking its profitability.
What’s left is the hardcore cheating market, which you simply solve via the EULA and ban them from the game.

Much like every other system, anyone working around your self-imposed boundaries is simply an underserved customer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: esports

You can call those players whatever you want but they do make quite a bit of money.

Back in the day when LoL was new I was in team, not really professional just some friends playing together, and we made $250 per game ($50 each). With at least 3 games a week we didnt get rich but $600+ a month was nice because you don’t make much money at the university in 1rst, 2nd semester.

I had to give it up because university became more stressful in 3rd semester but I assume players will probably earn more now than they did back then.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: I suspect it's going to be very similar.

I remember reading an article that observed Wrigley Field used to have a short right field which contributed to Babe Ruth’s amazing home-run records, and that while we should stay vigilant about curbing cheating and exploits, because the game continues to change in a myriad of ways, we shouldn’t say a given cheat (or its respective fix) invalidates the game, because the clime is always changing.

The same should apply to eSports, especially since there are always going to be cheats and exploits (not just bugs, but often game imbalances), some of which are disregarded as problematic by the overseeing adjudicators who can be really quite arbitrary when it comes to deciding what is or isn’t fair play.

As for the cheaters themselves, admonishing them with litigation (let alone litigation based on copyright) isn’t going to change anything, but sacrifice some players and make the company look disinterested in maintaining the game. A better response would be to fix the game so that the cheat or exploit no longer works.

They actually have the power to do that.

Ninja (profile) says:

I was thinking about it these days when Niantic was dealing with the cheating in Pokemon Go. These cheats can be detected otherwise they would not be suing. So if it can be detected why not automatically isolate the cheaters in a special server? Ie: on Pokemon go, there’s clearly a limit to how much a human being can walk around, catch pokemon and so on. Get the ones that go far beyond that average limit and put them in an special server so they can be all cheate-y among themselves. Once they realize they’ll be isolated from the rest no matter how many accounts they make they will either stop cheating or love it and keep cheating because sometimes it is fun (invulnerability in GTA while you just hack around the military is always fun for instance).

I wonder if anybody tried it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You and many others seem to be unaware of some things.
Especially in free to play games, bans and isolation have little effect. If you ban them, they sign up for a new account. If you try to ban them based on IP, they change their IP. If you isolate them, they make a new account and try again. And every time they try again, they often try again with a different cheat program or using it differently. It’s a constant game between the company who makes the game and the people who make the cheats, with the game makers trying to detect cheaters and the cheat makers trying to make undetectable cheats.

Even for games that are not free to play, there are often many cheaters. Some of them are regular players for whom banning them is sort of effective, but many of them will just buy another account and try to be more careful with their cheating next time. But the more difficult problem to deal with is all the botters who only bot with stolen accounts and use the resources they gather with the stolen account to sell back to players for real money. The company can detect them and/or get the account back in the hands of the original player, but there’s not that much they can do to keep people from getting their accounts stolen.

This is not to say that I think these companies should be able to use copyright law to shut down the makers of cheats. If they should be able to sue for anything it should be for facilitating the disruption of service to their real clients. Cheaters are hated most for their disruption and ruining of the game for all the non-cheaters out there.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you ban them, they sign up for a new account.

First it is not a ban. And it will happen again with the new account. So the person can make as many accounts as he/she wants, the end result will be the same. You don’t ban them, you just give them their own world.

But the more difficult problem to deal with is all the botters who only bot with stolen accounts and use the resources they gather with the stolen account to sell back to players for real money.

Move both the bots and the accounts benefited from the bot activity to the server mentioned above. As for account hacking this is another issue that can be dealt with by helping people get better with security (ie: multi-factor authentication) and timely responses to hacking events. And moving the accounts that benefit from the hacked ones to said cheat server.

If they should be able to sue for anything it should be for facilitating the disruption of service to their real clients

I don’t think this is either a crime or a civil matter that can be taken to the courts. Maybe abusing the CFAA?

I do agree that cheaters are annoying but banning them won’t solve. In this case and on Pokémon Go you can compare accuracy and evolution with an average and simply move the cheaters to another realm. It’s simple math. I’m not saying it’s a piece of cake to implement but it’s surely better than twisting copyright laws to deal with the problem.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Among other things, L# enables its users to abuse LoL by allowing them to, for example, see hidden information

There’s your trouble right there.

The #1 rule of any public-facing client/server system: never trust the user! If the client has information that the player should not be able to see, you’re doing it wrong, so don’t complain when they make use of the information you gave them. It’s your own fault.

Skeeter says:

Funny Story

I find this article hilarious, as the original writer is obviously playing sides here.

Where’s his outrage at Windows selling Licenses? Obviously, his focus is on Blizzard, not Microsoft. Clearly, it’s ok to sell business software licenses but not so ok to sell gamer licenses that you can be sued over.

Think on this for a minute, and consider this: Isn’t ‘buying a short-term license the same as leasing? If it is leasing, then isn’t it tax deductible? There’s a reason it isn’t called a ‘lease’ but ‘buying software’. In reality, it’s a tax loophole to the favor of the government, plain and simple.

Berenerd (profile) says:

I have an issue with this, don’t get me wrong, I hate cheaters. I hate playing a game where a skill shot hits your even though there is no way for that person to do it. It is annoying.
LoL Esports are played where both teams are in the same arena. The systems they play on are identical minus the mouse and keyboard which is like someone bringing their own gold clubs to a gold tournament. These computers have identical hardware and software. No way to install these cheats (This is assuming it is a sanctioned event) You bring Twitch and streaming into it for people who make a living showing others their mad skills, its easily deduced when they are cheating and they usually get called out and loose watchers and supporters. That leaves the few idiots who spend their time just to piss others off. I don’t see this being a big issue.
In other things, like Starcraft, the majority of the time they are worlds apart using their own machines. I can see cheating being more of an issue in the matches where cash is the prize, however, even with that, you have spectators who are usually broadcasting the matches and they can often spot cheaters there as well.

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