South Korea To Tackle Video Game Cheating By Criminalizing Breaking A Game's ToS

from the municipal-cheat-code dept

I have some admiration for South Korea’s ability to look squarely at the national hostage situation that is its northerly neighbor and spend so much time enjoying video games. That this dedication to my favorite hobby occasionally pulls the country’s government into putting forward dumb laws is an unfortunate by-product, however. It seems the South Korean government is still at it, as it attempts to join Japan in criminalizing cheating in video games.

And it has managed to construct this law to criminalize cheating in what simply has to be the dumbest way possible.

According to PvPLive, a recent amendment passed by the South Korean parliament bans the “manufacturing and distributing programs that are not allowed by the game company and its Terms of Service.” In theory, this makes it easier for the creators of competitive games to crack down on things like hacking programs, aimbots, and other game mods that give players an unfair advantage in online play.

Great theory, but this method for stopping cheaters should be setting off alarm bells all over the place. Criminalizing the violation of a ToS is a really, really bad idea. Our own CFAA legislation should serve as a wondeful primer on how broadly criminalizing violating terms of service can result in gross overreach by prosecutors who will use the law as a tool to jail people nobody thinks should be imprisoned. There’s a reason why these attempts to use ToS to thwart cheating, or modding, are widely considered creative end-arounds to the actual law: because they’re basically bullshit. Codifying into law the criminalization of the violation of a software ToS that nobody reads is casting quite a wide net to combat an otherwise small problem.

It’s also well worth noting that most of the benign modding community regularly violates game ToS as they do their work.

But while this could deter would-be hackers from creating programs explicitly for cheating, the somewhat ambiguous act of outlawing any program that violates the Terms of Service has some League of Legendsand Overwatch players worried that non-malicious mods could be caught in the crossfire.

Look, eSports is becoming a significant enough industry that I understand the effort to combat cheating within it. And the online portion of the gaming experience is so center stage at this point that it would have been surprising if governments weren’t starting to look at how to protect the industry from a saturation of cheaters who break the game for other gamers. But broadly worded legislative nukes aren’t the way to combat a cheating insurgency.

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Comments on “South Korea To Tackle Video Game Cheating By Criminalizing Breaking A Game's ToS”

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20 Comments
BeyondDumb says:

Handing legislative function to corporations

Lazy legislators, in the U.S. there’s ALEC that writes the laws for corporation, in South Korea I guess they gave up on third parties and hope to hand over legislating directly to corporations.

Problem with this approach can be seen pretty much anywhere there’s a corporation involved. Arbitration clauses, lack of standing, terms that favor the corporation over any entity or living being, et.

This is exactly what the world doesn’t need.

Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

I am sure their are copyright holders that are pushing South Korea towards making this criminal when it is no where near it IMHO.

We are seeing copyright holder and their associations like the MPAA RIAA, BRIEN etc etc trying to get harsher punishment and turn what should be civil cases into criminal ones, and this is repeating itself all over.

Britian is a primary example of taking turning a civil matter now into a criminal one with penalties of up to 10 years for copyright Infringement. You can seriously assault someone causing bodily harm and get off easier

In the US copyright groups have turned the US DOJ and its Law Enforcement agencies into their private prosecution arm to achieve results that they never could via a civil case. The dotcom case and the one kick ass torrents case with the Ukrainian citizen in a polish jail. Copyright groups have taken and twisted copyright infringement and somehow have managed to convince the USDOJ that all these criminal elements to justify charges have arisen out of the copyright act.

Russia to has now gotten into this act as has Australia and these is all do to copyright holder rights groups throwing money all over and basically getting government officials to push the changes they want to the various countries copyright laws to make it all criminal.

Did these rights groups ever think that maybe there business models are causing a large part of the problem when it comes to protectionism and licensing. We have seen DRM that has cause all sorts of issues from locking people out of games that they legally bought to making them malfunction to DRM causing play-ability issues and on and on.

Once again leave it for rights holders and their trade groups to go totally overboard and piss the public off even more

Bilateralrope says:

Re: Re:

And look at how successful cycling, and Olympic sports to name two, have been at eliminating drug cheats.

Last I heard, eSports had problem with drug cheats. With the added compication of the drugs being perscription medication.

The worst ‘hacking’ I’ve heard of in eSports is someone having the livestream of the match on a seperate computer. A delay on the stream deals with that problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Violation of ToS"

Codifying into law the criminalization of the violation of a software ToS

The law goes well beyond that. It also criminalizes things that would be violations of the ToS if a person had agreed to the ToS. In other words, it’s illegal for anyone to create software if any game’s ToS forbids such software. So if the ToS forbids people to make a competing game, nobody can create a competing game.

Doug says:

Anything can be criminalized

This is such an idiotic idea. Companies can put whatever they want in their terms of service. They’ll be lucky if its flagrantly abused enough that the law is repealed. ("User agrees to tip us a minimum of $5 every month." "User agrees to let our CEO borrow their car whenever he’s in town.")

If companies are at all savvy, they’ll just start down a slippery slope towards achieving all their copyright and IP dreams in the form of cleverly worded and benign seeming restrictions. ("User agrees not to create derivative works for a period of two years after receiving their last software update." "User agrees that breaking DRM does irreparable harm to the company and agrees that treble damages, as calculated by us, are an adequate remedy.")

Yikes!

Ninja (profile) says:

Because everybody reads all several-pages-long ToS around the world, right? My general selection criteria hovers around the single idea: “Will I care enough if I get banned because of violating ToS terms I’ve never read?”. If the answer is yes then I read it, if not I couldn’t care less. So far the number of Tos I’ve read amounts to zero.

But the point is: if you are going to criminalize based on any ToS then include STANDARDIZATION in the law. It doesn’t make the law much less terrible but it prevents abuse from the companies and shields users from random clauses. I wonder if South Korea is becoming jealous of the weird things their northern sibling criminalize and are upping the game?

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

This is such an idiotic idea. Companies can put whatever they want in their terms of service. They’ll be lucky if its flagrantly abused enough that the law is repealed. ("User agrees to tip us a minimum of $5 every month." "User agrees to let our CEO borrow their car whenever he’s in town.")

Oh, so you’re saying as the CEO of TotallyMadeUpSite.Com with millions of users I’ll never have to buy or rent a car if I simply change my TOS thanks to CFAA?

Genius! I’ll have my engineers locate a nearby user of our site with a Lexus!

And if they try to fight back I’ll allege all their wealth are ill gotten gain due to violating my TOS, which will allow the police to use civil forfeiture on their property, and I’m sure they’ll give me a nice chunk of the stuff they take!

Groaker (profile) says:

Perhaps the solution is to make the outcome the outcome of a gladatorial contest between the chairman of the board and the reputed infringers. The title legally required to be assumed by every surviving officer in the line of hierarchy. Said officers never having been permitted to be athletes of any kind as a part of their contractual TOSs.

This would serve two purposes. First it would reduce the number of such cases, and secondly reduce the salary contests for corporate officers. /s

Makes no less sense than making copying a game a felony, and would do great collateral good.

Anonymous Coward says:

Section 22,465,101: It is against TOS to cancel your subscription for any reason whatsoever. Including and not limited to, if we close down the servers and there’s no physical way to log in to the game.

In such an instance, the price of the game will be tripled every 3 months until you are forced into prostitution and/or cannibalism. At which point your children become our property.

Jingseng says:

A TOS is a contract

Technically speaking, this already true anywhere a TOS is employed. Because a TOS is a contract that the player agrees to abide by, in exchange for (whatever gameplay). A breach of the TOS is a breach of contract, with subsequent penalties.

This is largely what allows companies to permanently ban users, go after RMT, etc.

I will note however, that breach of contract is civil, and not criminal. The penalties are different – generally speaking, monetary versus incarceration (although there may be fines, etc.). The biggest differences however, may be the most telling:

For criminal law, government generally has standing to bring an enforcement case, and government takes any fines levied. Not the corporation.

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