Bungie Loses On Copyright Claims Against Cheat Seller

from the it's-got-'copy'-right-there-in-the-word dept

Nearly the entire online-game-playing world hates the fact that cheating in online games exist. The cheaters don’t, obviously. Nor do those that make money by selling cheats and hacks for online games. Given the majority/minority situation here, it’s perhaps not terribly surprising that efforts to combat online cheating very often go way, way too far. There are countries out there that have actually criminalized the practice of cheating in online games. More common in America, another tactic has been the publishers and developers of these games arguing in court that using or selling these cheats and hacks constitutes one form of intellectual property infringement or another. Epic infamously targeted minors in lawsuits over their use of cheating tools. Riot Games and Blizzard also participated in this bastardization of copyright law, arguing that cheating breaks the game’s EULA, and that therefore meant playing the game in an unauthorized state, therefore copyright infringement. It’s a really dumb legal theory that unfortunately hasn’t received nearly the pushback it deserves.

Until now, perhaps. See, Bungie also participated in this madness, having taken a site called AimJunkies to court over Destiny 2 cheats it sold. In addition to claims that the site infringed Bungie’s trademarks, a dubious claim at best, Bungie also tried the copyright angle. Unfortunately, this particular court managed sanity for once and saw through the copyright claims.

A federal court in Seattle has dismissed Bungie’s copyright infringement claims against cheat seller AimJunkies.com. While it’s not disputed that ‘Destiny 2 Hacks’ were offered for sale, the court is not convinced that these are copyright infringing. The trademark claims are intact, however, so the case is far from resolved.

The background on this is that AimJunkies had already removed the offending content from its site and entered into arbitration with Bungie. Forced arbitration is very specifically laid out in Bungie’s own licensing agreement. Despite being in arbitration, Bungie moved for summary judgement on the case, pissing off its arbitration interlocutor. Because of that, AimJunkies moved to have the case dismissed entirely. As AimJunkies indicated: no actual copying of Bungie’s IP occurred from a copyright perspective and every other claim ought to be settled via arbitration.

On the copyright side of things, at least, the court agrees.

After reviewing the positions from both sides, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Zilly has now ruled on the matter. Judge Zilly dismisses the copyright claims as Bungie failed to show that AimJunkies copied its work.

“Notably, Bungie has not pleaded any facts explaining how the cheat software constitutes an unauthorized copy of any of the copyrighted works identified in the complaint. Bungie’s complaint must contain more than a ‘formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action’,” Judge Zilly writes.

Judge Zilly also agrees to refer the non-copyright and trademark-related claims to arbitration, as AimJunkies requested. This is in line with Bungie’s own license agreement and both parties are encouraged to resolve these issues outside of court.

Now, this isn’t necessarily all the way over. Bungie has room to refile the copyright claims with additional — to be read as “any” — evidence of actual copyright taking place. It also appears that the trademark claims were sufficient to go to trial, so that part continues. Though, as I hinted above, how Bungie is going to demonstrate that the public was in any way confused into thinking these cheats or AimJunkies were part of Bungie is beyond me.

Regardless, it’s nice to see a court finally ask the relevant question when it comes to online cheating and copyright: is there any actual copying occurring? If no, then this should be the result each and every time.

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Companies: bungie

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Comments on “Bungie Loses On Copyright Claims Against Cheat Seller”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Copyright law is viewed as this universal catch-all for every other offense, it seems. And I can’t say I’m surprised, when the trend for how copyright suits work has always been giving the plaintiff every benefit of the doubt and the kitchen sink. If a lawyer could charge a murderer on the copyright infringement of the victim’s life because the penalties would be harsher and the case would go quicker in their favor, they would.

Realistically, if you have to go the copyright angle despite the case having nothing to do with copyright, it shows that you don’t think your case has a leg to stand on that you have to dissuade undesirable behavior with a “Hail Mary” move.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Online games send a lot of information to the player’s PC that the game client uses, but that is not visible to the player. Generally, mods that are allowed will take this information and present it to the player in a different way, but one that does not really alter gameplay (for example, a mod that notifies the player when a boss is about to use a powerful attack).

Cheating mods tend to take the client-side data and manipulate it in some way. For example, an aimbot could fool the game client into thinking shots fired all hit the target, and the game client would then tell the server “all these shots hit,” and then the server would tell the other player’s client “all these shots hit you. You’re dead.” The server technically isn’t improperly accessed.

Right now, unfortunately, I think the only avenue to go after cheaters is a ToS/Rules of Conduct violation leading to a ban.

Naughty Autie says:

Re: Re: Re:2

Right now, unfortunately, I think the only avenue to go after cheaters is a ToS/Rules of Conduct violation leading to a ban.

Or a ToS/Rules of Conduct violation leading to a kind of shadowban that makes the game really hard to play for the cheater.

“You’re level 99 after playing for just one day? Good luck beating this level 198 boss!”

Naughty Autie says:

This is a really good decision. Although cheating in multi-player games, online or offline, shouldn’t exist, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it in purely single-player games, and it can actually help someone struggling in a game with a steep learning curve to actually finish. With this decision, developers and publishers are forced to come up with more creative methods of preventing cheating in games like Destiny 2, and players of Resident Evil Village can have their invincibility without it impacting anyone else.

Jeeves-2 (profile) says:

while claiming copyright infringement to sue cheat makers is ridiculous, wouldn’t making cheats for a online game involve reverse engineering or de compiling the game, including the parts that aren’t distributed to users, like the servers run by Bungie? it seems like that would be more likely to be illegal, although i know there are cases like the super mario 64 decompilation where its fully legal under fair use. I do play destiny 2 a lot, so i am pretty biased towards wanting these cheat makers to be put out of business.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Intellectual Property" is dumb and a menace

Modifying the computer game in order to cheat online or offline is not copyright monoploy infringement no more than modifying a computer game to not need the CD or DVD in the computer in order to play the game. Don’t call it copyright infringement because it’s no infringement on their copyright monopoly or a violation of the copy restrictions. Are we still not in an Orwellian world?

Years ago, I was actually accused of copyright monoploy infringement by Telus (Canadian Internet Service Provider) and Telus threatened to cut my internet service It was acting on a complaint by a third party. The crime? I had downloaded a hack to play an old computer game I had bought to play in order to play without the Digital Restriction Measure imposed hassle of putting the CD in the computer every time I wanted to play. It was legal in Canada then. But it was called “copyright infringement” which violated Telus policy. So I changed internet provider and did not have to suffer the morons again.

A game company claiming fraudulently copyright monoploy infringement on the software code they don’t own, the hack to circumvent DRM that modify the game they do own, is plainly wrong. No copying was involved. The hack is not their “intellectual property” but someone’s else. Same thing with hacks that people use to add cheats to the game. But some people just stop “seeing” things as wrong when their profits depends on it.

Speaking of Orwellian language, “Intellectual Property” is an oxymoron itself . Nothing is intelligent about it and it is anti-property that it impose restrictions on it, and it has no relation to actual property.
“Intellectual Property” referring to copyrights is just a made up term to make their Imagined Property aka copyright monopoly sounds good. Why should we use the copyright cultists’ language or the language the government adopt from them? It’s a dumb legal construct used to justify things anathema to free society. Calling enforcement of copy restrictions aka copyright as “protecting intellectual property” may sounds appealing to the unthinking people, but really what do that mean? When the copyright cultists use the term, its like about preserving or increasing their control over their government-enforced monoploy (often for making more money from exploiting more their captive market). Said plainly, that don’t sound good so that why they make up terms to make their ideology sounds better, that is their self-serving anti-free market socialism of the worst kind that purport to promote the welfare of society through promoting innovation and the arts but often work against it.

Morally, no one should “own ideas”. Or at least like the copyright cultists want. “Owning ideas” is to the human culture is like owning the air and water humans breathe and drink. It is one thing to allow people to “own ideas” if it is for 14 years to purport to encourage innovation which was the original length, but fricking 100 years plus after death of creator? That is definitely another thing. Other was maybe borderline ridiculous, but this is insanely ridiculous. And how can ideas be fittingly called property if you can only “own” it for 14 years or 70 or 100 years? It’s more like leasing from the government who grant the “property” for free. And where the government get the “property” from? From the population they are robbing in name of corporate profits.

How more will the copyright cultists and their government enablers bleed our culture in name of corporate profits anyways? This culture is the same culture that they depend on to build on. Nothing is new under the sun for the creations are variations or regurgitation of ideas someone else before them thought up, ideas which they “stole” to use their term if said idea was not from the public domain which the bloodsucking parasites also actively undermine besides our culture? And they are attacking libraries too in name of their ideology and profits as well? Well, that just add insult to the injury they do to society? And this is in name of welfare for the society that all this is purport to be about? When will enough be enough? What joke this “Intellectual Property” thing is. how longer more will we be mocked by it?

One would think the Founders as fools, the ones who established the Copyright Clause, but it was meant for printed materials not for the digital world but this exemption from free speech got hijacked by the copyright cultists to morph into this ugly ever-growing beast it is now.

What’s next? unapproved software code to add unapproved features to a computer game beside DRM circumvention or cheating, like game mods become/or deemed “copyright infringement”? On that note what about gameplay videos? remixes? Home-made videos that happen to record copyrighted music in the background? Fan fiction? Fan computer games Etc. Will they also try to take those from us? And how more of our liberties as creators or innovators or culture sharers will the ever-smothering and encroaching copyright cultists try to take from us? What lines they will not try to cross in their worship of the ugly beast that is IP?

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