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.