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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 4:16am

    "Unfair Competition Prevention Law"

    The very existence of such a law says all that needs to be said about the state of free enterprise in Japan, doesn't it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 4:18am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 5:37am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 9:34am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 9:42am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "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."

          Yes, that's a little misleading, but the difference isn't important in my opinion. Subjecting either group of people to arrest seems ridiculous to me.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Richard (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 1:22pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Subjecting either group of people to arrest seems ridiculous to me.

            Because it is ridiculous.
            It doesn't happen in traditional sports/games - even when big money is involved. Things that happen within the game stay within the game - and the manufacturers of equipment that enables cheating are not prosecuted.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 10:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The game mentioned was "Alliance of Valiant Arms". Which at a cursory check is a "free to play" multiplayer game. I assume like most free to play games, it has an in game cash store.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          That One Other Not So Random Guy, 26 May 2015 @ 12:05pm

          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."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 3:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Orange analogy:

        Apple

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lurker Keith, 26 May 2015 @ 4:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:36am

      Re: destroying a potential ally

      Not all exploits are fixable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JCHP, 26 May 2015 @ 8:27am

        Re: Re: destroying a potential ally

        Incorrect. All exploits can be fixed, the question is if its feasible to do it in a timely manner, leveraging the difficulty in finding the cause of the exploit in the code and patching it against the time it takes to do so.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 8:34am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 4:34am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me, 26 May 2015 @ 4:43am

    It's a video game

    Who bloody cares?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JamesF (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 5:01am

      Re: It's a video game

      I care. I like video games. Lots of people also care. I think what you mean is that YOU don't care because you are not interested in video games. Which is fine, but why are you commenting here?

      The presence of a cheater can and often does totally spoil the game for the other players. Now, if you take the view that "It’s only a game" then you might say it doesn’t matter, but I don't accept that view point. I don't watch the American football, but I'm guessing if I found a way to prevent you from enjoying the superbowl, you wouldn't accept "It’s only a game".

      Bottom line? These people 'hurt' others for their own gain. On balance, I think a legal response may actually be justifiable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Just Another Anonymous Troll, 26 May 2015 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re: It's a video game

        These people 'hurt' others for their own gain.
        Except there's actually no damage done except for a possible waste of time/causing frustration. If that's the basis to jail people, then we can lock every single telemarketer in the clink, followed by Comcast's customer service department...
        Hey, maybe it's not so bad after all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:51am

        Re: Re: It's a video game

        I love video games and hate cheaters but I do not agree about jail time. At most, maybe a fine if in a tournament and caught cheating.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:57am

        Re: Re: It's a video game

        Yes, you care. A lot of people don't. Once the police are involved, who do you think is paying for this enforcement? The police cost money. The courts cost money. You want a lot of people who really don't care to carry the cost of protecting your precious feelings. A cheat spoils your entertainment. So does a cable outage. Do you want the police to arrest cable executives whenever there's an avoidable glitch in the system? Do you want workmen arrested if they make a mistake and dig in the wrong place?

        I agree that there is a suitable legal solution to this issue. Make access to the game members-only (which commercial games already are, in essence) and require a contract with a "no cheating" clause with stated remedies (which can include expulsion and/or financial payments). Now if someone cheats or facilitates cheating, sue them. Normally you can't sue a third party in a contract dispute, but this changes when said third party knowingly and wilfully facilitates the break of contract.

        There's no need for police here and with this approach, I don't have to pay to support your silly games (any more than you have to pay ro support my silly netflix).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 8:16am

        Re: Re: It's a video game

        "The presence of a cheater can and often does totally spoil the game for the other players."

        Absolutely. Cheaters are one of the main reasons why I stopped playing MMORPGs. But arreesting them is simply insane. I would love to hear the argument for why it's not.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 8:36am

          Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

          What? A lot of genres have issue with cheating but MMOs?

          Usually they have the most active support staff and it's difficult for a cheater to benefit from an exploit. It doesn't impact anyone else other than those in his group (who chose that).

          Cheating is worse competitive games like FPS or RTS where maphacks and lag switches actually harms other players experince.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 8:38am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

            "Cheating is worse competitive games like FPS or RTS where maphacks and lag switches actually harms other players experince."


            Yes, I misspoke. In my (incorrect) mind, these count as MMORPGs.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Almost Anonymous (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 9:07am

          Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

          I won't make the complete argument for it, but I'll put out the preface: When money becomes involved, things change. And like it or not, money is now involved with some games.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 9:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

            The involvement of money with videogames isn't a new phenomenon at all. The two have been intertwined from the beginning. But what does the involvement of money have to do with whether or not cheaters should be arrested?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 9:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

              Because it pretty much amounts to fraud. The cheaters are receiving money that is supposed to go to the most skillful players.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Just Another Anonymous Troll, 26 May 2015 @ 10:32am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

                You do realize that we're arresting cheat sellers, right? Besides, if you're playing in a tournament, chances are at least one person will spot you hacking. I'm not entirely sure how a cheat seller will steal money from skilled players.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 12:01pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

                  You do realize that we're arresting cheat sellers, right?


                  If by "we" you mean "Japan", sure.

                  I'm not entirely sure how a cheat seller will steal money from skilled players.


                  The cheaters pay money for the cheat, right? The seller is facilitating the fraud and profiting from it. A co-conspirator, in cases where they know their cheat is likely to be used this way.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  • icon
                    John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 1:09pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a video game

                    "The cheaters pay money for the cheat, right? The seller is facilitating the fraud and profiting from it. A co-conspirator, in cases where they know their cheat is likely to be used this way."

                    This veers off into Japanese legal doctrine, of which I know nothing. But I do know what would make sense to me. The fraud argument seems weak, but in certain cases (such as trying to cheat a contest out of the winnings) it could be supportable. It doesn't seem supportable that sellers of the cheat should be on the hook, though, unless they were actively taking part in the specific case of fraud.

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 6:15am

      Re: It's a video game

      It's not that it's a video game. It's that somebody got charged with a crime over a video game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Agonistes (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 4:44am

    Typical Yamamoto behavior, just look at that WWII Admiral...or maybe Hiro Yamamoto...?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 4:57am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 5:23am

      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....

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 5:15am

    Nothing like morality laws that change on the whims of whoever is running the show.

    Maybe they can start arresting people that eat red meat next.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    inteproreal793, 26 May 2015 @ 5:19am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 26 May 2015 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      "I wouldn't have guessed it would happen this fast!"

      Fast? The "black market" for cheats has existed for nearly as long as video games have existed. (Scare quotes because the market is not actually very black).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 5:57am

    Ooooook! oooh so funny, but also so very very wrong

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, 26 May 2015 @ 6:03am

    Was wondering when this was going to happen...

    ... with games that allow for 'real world purchases' for in game content. If the business model for the gaming company is 'pay to play', the last thing a developer wants to see is 'cheat codes' - much like gambling houses do not want to see card counters at their BlackJack tables.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 6:42am

    How is this any different then counting cards in Las Vegas?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      For one thing, video games are theoretically not gambling. For another, a hack character isn't comparable to counting cards, it's more like having a few extra cards up your sleeve.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 8:44am

      Re:

      ...How is this any different then counting cards in Las Vegas?...

      Most card counters are asked to leave the casino and may be banned by the casino. Only in rare cases such as collusion and multiple players conspiring do the casinos file a criminal complaint.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 6:55am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:11am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2015 @ 7:28am

    now at long last i understand why japan doesn't play college football, american style.

    an ex-coach's wife (not in football) once explained to me that if i'm not willing to cheat, i don't really want to win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Who me?, 26 May 2015 @ 9:45am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    not.you, 26 May 2015 @ 9:52am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hiro Takahashi, 26 May 2015 @ 9:55am

    Throw them in jail

    Throw those cheaters in jail where they belong! FTW!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2015 @ 6:40am

    there are honest chinese (slaves)
    working 24/7 (in chinese prisons)
    to create and equip characters to sell in ebay.

    and these trrrist hackers are cutting into their business!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Apr 2016 @ 8:21am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 11 Apr 2016 @ 8:40am

      Re: Rigged competition in pay to win game

      Do I have a lawsuit here?

      Ask a lawyer. That is the only way to ever get a meaningful answer to that question.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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