• chevron_right

      Philippines Government & ISPs Reach Agreement to Rapidly Block Pirate Sites

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 14 April, 2021 - 09:25 · 4 minutes

    block Alongside various initiatives to discourage Internet users from visiting pirate sites, including improved legitimate offerings, governments, rights holders and service providers are pressing ahead with their site blocking plans.

    Broadly speaking, site blocking takes place under two regimes – court-ordered injunctions and voluntary arrangements between stakeholders. The former can prove effective but there are considerable costs involved and blocking doesn’t always happen as swiftly as rightsholders would like. Voluntary arrangements, on the other hand, are less formal and have the advantage of being less adversarial, not to mention less expensive.

    Philippines’ Authorities and ISPs Reach Agreement

    In common with most regions of the world, the Philippines has a problem with piracy but a new agreement announced this morning hopes to reduce the number of citizens being able to directly access pirate sites for their fix.

    A joint announcement by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines ( IPOPHL ), the National Telecommunications Commission ( NTC ) and the country’s internet service providers reveals that a voluntary agreement has been reached to block pirate sites in a streamlined and swift manner.

    The proposal was tabled last week by IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba during a focus group discussion attended by around 50 representatives from government agencies and ISPs, including Globe Telecom, Inc., Smart Communications, Inc., PLDT, Inc., Sky Cable Corp., Converge ICT Solutions Inc., and DITO Telecommunity Corp.

    How the System Will Work

    Via a memorandum of understanding, the parties have agreed to form an alliance that will define coordination protocols that will enable pirate sites to be quickly blocked following an official complaint of infringing activity. The system will work as follows:

    In the first instance, rightsholders will present a complaint to IPOPHL which will work to assess the evidence and the need for action.

    “The duration of IPOPHL’s investigations will depend on the merits of the case and evidence submitted, but we always ensure a speedy and thoroughly validated decision,” says IPOPHL’s IP Rights Enforcement Office (IEO) Officer-in-Charge Director Ann N. Edillon.

    Edillon says that the complaints validation process is a “fine-toothed comb” that aims to ensure that all evidence points to infringing activity before a blocking order is handed down. The requirements for blocking are yet to be published so at this stage the relevant thresholds are unclear.

    When IPOPHL is satisfied that blocking is warranted it will hand down an order to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the government body responsible for the supervision and control of all telecoms services, television and radio networks in the country, including ISPs.

    Once received and validated by NTC, the blocking order will be distributed among the participating ISPs listed above, which will then go about the practicalities of blocking. At this point, the ISPs believe that blocking can be put in place within two hours but according to the government, further streamlining is not out of the question.

    Reducing the Steps Before Blocking

    The validation process carried out by NTC after receiving a blocking order from IPOPHL can reportedly take a few days, a delay that rightsholders would like to reduce.

    The government says that some of the ISPs are willing to cut out the ‘middle man’ and take their blocking orders directly from IPOPHL. Others, on the other hand, say that this would require a new law that would formalize IPOPHL’s authority to directly block pirate sites, without the involvement of NTC. Another scenario would see IPOPHL hand down a blocking order to NTC, which would immediately forward it to ISPs.

    IPOPHL Signs MoU With Anti-Piracy Group AVIA

    Earlier this week the IPOPHL announced the signing a memorandum of understanding with the Asia Video Industry Association ( AVIA ), an anti-piracy group responsible for protecting the interests of video and TV rightsholders in the region.

    The MoU envisions cooperation on several fronts including the sharing of information to help prevent and reduce piracy in the Philippines, the development of piracy monitoring and site-blocking processes and their implementation, and assisting local authorities to build their anti-piracy expertise.

    “I eagerly look forward to the work with AVIA in the months ahead,” said IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba during a virtual signing ceremony.

    “Together, may IPOPHL and AVIA successfully stamp out the infringers and enable Filipino film and video producers, artists and contributors to wholly enjoy the rewards they deserve and to continue creating fresh original works for the benefit of society, culture and economy.”

    AVIA CEO Louis Boswell said that piracy is on the increase in the region and since hosts of pirated content are often outside the country, site blocking is the obvious solution.

    “Site blocking is a responsible means of not allowing access to pirated sites. We have experience now in multiple markets all around the region that site blocking, where it is done properly, can be incredibly effective at reducing the levels of piracy in a market,” Boswell said.

    As part of the agreement, the IPOPHL has agreed to take action against pirates based on information provided by AVIA.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      Canada Court Asked to Ban Staples & Best Buy From Selling ‘Pirate’ Boxes

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Wednesday, 3 March, 2021 - 20:48 · 3 minutes

    Streaming Key In September 2019, Super Channel owner Allarco Entertainment filed a lawsuit in Canada’s Federal Court targeting Staples Canada, Best Buy Canada, London Drugs, Canada Computers, several related companies and up to 50,000 ‘John Doe’ customers.

    The controversial legal action saw Allarco accuse the retailers and their staff of promoting, encouraging and instructing in the use of set-top boxes that could enable buyers to access copyright-infringing content.

    The complaint was supported by 100 hours of undercover recordings that purported to show retailers’ staff showing prospective customers how to use software such as Kodi, or offering advice on where to get devices configured for piracy.

    Allarco demanded an injunction to prevent the defendants from “communicating or facilitating the communication” of its works without permission, including by “configuring, advertising, offering for sale or selling Pirate Devices.”

    Allarco Ends Federal Court Lawsuit, Launches Another

    A month after the lawsuit was filed, Canadian lawyer Howard Knopf wrote that in nearly four decades of being an intellectual property lawyer, he had never seen a more unusual Statement of Claim.

    He noted that it claimed copyright infringement in unspecified works, circumvention, making available, unspecified “pirate devices”, trademark infringement, the Criminal Code, through to theft, stealing, interference with the economic and business relations of the Plaintiff, and conspiracy.

    After the retailers fought back, Allarco discontinued its Federal Court lawsuit on January 6, 2020. However, Allarco had already filed another similar lawsuit on December 6, 2019, this time at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta (Alberta’s superior court). The complaint added unknown suppliers of ‘pirate’ devices as defendants and demanded CAD$50m in damages.

    “It’s too early to speculate about what Allarco will attempt to do and what the Court might let it do about the 50,000 John Doe Customers or the now added John Doe Suppliers and how their interests will be represented if things ever get anywhere near that far,” Knopf wrote at the time.

    However, several months later, a new report indicates that matters are now progressing.

    Allarco Demands ‘Pirate’ Set-Top Device Ban

    Doubling down on its allegations of wrongdoing at the retailers, Allarco is now demanding an injunction from the Court that would prevent them from offering the set-top boxes for sale.

    Whether the Court will find such a request reasonable in respect of devices that are used by millions to access entirely legal services such as Netflix is yet to be determined. Allarco, meanwhile, believes that people buy them for only one thing – piracy.

    “The only reason why people buy these boxes is to steal content,” says Allarco president and chief executive officer Donald McDonald, as quoted by Globe and Mail.

    Interestingly, in common with his counterparts right across the streaming industry, McDonald says that the ‘pirate’ devices – which are largely Android-based and imported from China – are often preloaded with malware that targets consumers and puts their security at risk.

    “These devices are dangerous to your home network, dangerous to your personal data and could end up costing you a lot more money in the end,” he says, showing concern for the people his company is hoping to sue.

    Retailers Deny The Allegations

    Ever since the first lawsuit was filed in 2019, Staples Canada, Best Buy Canada, London Drugs, and Canada Computers have vigorously denied the Allarco/Super Channel allegations. All were reportedly sent cease-and-desist notices before the actions were filed but all claim to have acted within the law.

    “We offer technology from reputable manufacturers and leading brands. We take claims of intellectual property infringement seriously, but we believe that Super Channel’s claims are without merit, and intend to defend this action vigorously,” an earlier Best Buy statement reads.

    While Staples and Best Buy are opting not to comment at this stage, London Drugs said it would “never intentionally take or condone” any action that would infringe intellectual property rights.

    “London Drugs has always respected the rights of content creators and holders of copyright in all forms. We sell products and provide services for many parties engaged in content creation and distribution and recognize and fully support their right to fair compensation,” the company says.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      Games Publisher “Cracked & Pirated” ‘The Sinking City’, Developer Alleges

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Tuesday, 2 March, 2021 - 10:54 · 5 minutes

    Over the past few days a drama has been developing around the videogame The Sinking City .

    Created by Ukrainian development team Frogwares, the company made the unusual step of taking to Twitter to warn consumers NOT to buy the version of its game that appeared on Steam.

    In its tweet , Frogwares wrote that it had “not created the version of @thesinkingcity that is today on sale on @Steam. We do not recommend the purchase of this version. More news soon.”

    Background: History of Legal Issues

    After being released in 2019, The Sinking City was pulled from Steam and other platforms in 2020, with Frogwares stating that it had been forced to end its contract with French publisher Nacon. Frogwares cited breaches of its licensing agreement and according to various reports, Nacon was still collecting revenue from sales of The Sinking City, something which prompted Frogware to pull the plug.

    The background is available in an open letter that was published on the Frogwares site in August last year. It stated that in return for a “financial contribution” to the development of the game, publisher Bigben/Nacon were given the rights to commercialize the game on Xbox One, PS4, Steam and Epic Games Store.

    “The intellectual property would still belong to Frogwares, which has always been the only producer and owner of its games, including The Sinking City,” the developer wrote.

    Frogwares launched legal action against Bigben/Nacon during August 2019 but in October 2020, the Paris Court of Appeal ruled that Frogwares should not have pulled The Sinking City from sale, adding that no further action should be taken until the dispute between the parties had been resolved.

    Game Appears on Steam, Disappears, Reappears

    In January 2021, Frogwares released The Sinking City on Steam but it was soon pulled , only to be replaced by Nacon last week. That move was met with disappointment from fans, who complained that the version being offered by Nacon was old and incomplete , with “no DLC, no cloud saves, no achievements.”

    This reappearance prompted Frogwares to deter fans from buying the version of the game uploaded by Nacon to Steam. Then, in an announcement made yesterday, Frogwares put some additional meat on the bones, stating in a blog post that Nacon had “Cracked and Pirated” The Sinking City.

    Frogwares notes that the final decision on whether it is required to deliver a Steam version of The Sinking City is set to be decided by the court “in the next months or even years”. However, it alleges that after giving Frogwares an ultimatum in December to upload a “new Steam master”, Nacon bought a copy of The Sinking City from Gamesplanet and uploaded it to Steam.

    Frogwares says it managed to stop this from being distributed but then last week, Nacon uploaded the game to Steam once again.

    “So on February 26th 2021 to our great surprise, we found a new version of The Sinking City was uploaded to Steam and launched. But Frogwares didn’t deliver such a version,” the company writes.

    “Nacon under the management of its president Alain Falc asked some of their employees, who we even identified, to crack, hack and pirate our game, change its content in order to commercialize it under their own name.”

    Frogwares’ Explanation of How ‘Crack’ Took Place Nacon Hacking

    “In order to make changes Nacon had only one way: to decompile or hack the game using a secret key created by Frogwares since the totality of the game’s content is archived with an Epic Unreal Engine encryption system,” the developer continues.

    “To be clear this is hacking and when hacking has the purpose to steal a product and make money with it, it’s called piracy or counterfeiting. In order to achieve this goal, programmers with serious skills need to be involved. This is not DIY work by inexperienced people, this is done by programmers who know Unreal engine well.”

    Nacon Obtained Encryption Key

    Frogwares says that in order to ‘crack’ its game, Nacon needed to obtain the encryption key. The developer says it knows how that was achieved and will inform the French court dealing with the dispute. Frogwares says it carried out its own checks by downloading the version Nacon uploaded to Steam and testing its own key, which worked.

    “The hackers didn’t even care to use a different encryption key than the one we created when recompiling,” the company says.

    “We therefore opened the packages and we identified immediately in the config files the version that was stolen and hacked: it is a commercial version coming from the site Gamesplanet that was purchased by Nacon like any other player.”

    Using information obtained from Steam, Frogwares argues that the ‘crack’ was carried out by someone at Belgian studio Neopica, which was acquired by Nacon in October 2020.

    “There are long term damages we need to take care of, Nacon unpacked our data, stole our source code and used it. Nacon can create a new version of The Sinking City using our assets; they can resell, reuse, recycle our content and our tools etc,” Frogwares writes.

    “We have to take the measure of what happened now and follow the best path on the legal side to prevent anything like this happening again. The owner of Nacon, Alain Falc will have to face the legal consequences of the decision of pirating and stealing Frogwares property,” the developer concludes.

    In a statement, Nacon said it regrets that Frogwares “persists in disrupting the release of The Sinking City” but puts the blame at the developer’s door.

    “It was Frogwares who came to Nacon to request financing for the development of the game, and to date, more than 10 million euros have been paid to Frogwares by Nacon. It was Frogwares that relied on our marketing and promotion teams, representing thousands of hours of work and several million euros worth of investment,” the statement reads.

    “Now that the game has been fully developed, and published, largely thanks to Nacon’s money and work, Frogwares would like to revise the terms of the contract to their sole advantage. It’s easy to play the victim, but all we seek is that Frogwares respect its commitments both in the contract and as demanded by the courts.”

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      RuTracker Crowdfunding Drive Raises Cash To Seed Old & Rare Files

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Sunday, 28 February, 2021 - 12:06 · 3 minutes

    RuTracker Thousands of torrent sites have come and gone over the years but only a handful of large public sites have stood the test of time.

    The Pirate Bay is an obvious example but in Russia and surrounding countries, RuTracker is king. This massive torrent site and tracker has endured many storms but has still managed to stay afloat for more than 16 years.

    Like all torrent sites, to a great extent, RuTracker relies on its users to seed and share content, whether that’s movies and TV shows or games, music or eBooks. As long as these human parts of the ecosystem play their crucial role in distribution, content should in theory remain available forever. In reality, though, it rarely works that way for long periods of time.

    To the detriment of the sites they frequent and other file-sharers, only a small number of BitTorrent users share significantly more data than they take. Fewer still seed for prolonged periods of time. This means that torrents with initially large seed and leech counts can diminish quickly and when the number of seeders on a torrent reaches zero, people hoping to obtain that content have their options severely restricted.

    To mitigate this type of problem, a group on RuTracker known as ‘The Guardians / The Keepers’ have been storing huge volumes of content and seeding it to the masses, with a reported focus on older and rare content. In a community post late December, a RuTracker admin revealed that the group had been doing its work for more than 10 years, helping to distribute 1.52 million poorly-seeded torrents referencing around 2,470TB of data, to the tune of 100 to 150TB of transfers per day.

    Given that court-ordered blocking is preventing the free flow of regular users into the site to replace those that inevitably leave, RuTracker said that extreme pressure is being placed on The Guardians’ resources, particularly in respect of sheer lack of hard drive space. So, in an effort to boost their output, the site launched a crowdfunding campaign hoping to buy enough new hard drives to store and seed an additional 600 and 800TB of old and rare content.

    “First of all, these are distributions that are in low demand by the general public due to their age, narrow focus or volume, but are still of historical and practical value,” the admin explained .

    “Specialized software, old versions of software, images of games for now redundant consoles, alternative distributions of media files, etc. If you watch movies, listen to music, download games or software that were released more than a year ago, then each of you may be faced with a situation where there is no way to download the desired distribution due to the lack of distributors. This fundraiser is intended to minimize such incidents.”

    After being launched early January, the crowdfunding campaign has now reached its target. According to a report from Meduza , two million rubles (around US$26,870) was raised in just a few weeks, meaning that The Guardians will now get the hard drives they need to ensure that older, rare and historically significant torrents are kept alive.

    While the site and its users will be no doubt pleased that their target has been reached quite quickly, it still took weeks to raise a fairly modest amount, something which reflects the general nature of the BitTorrent ecosystem when sharing quotas aren’t enforced.

    According to SimilarWeb stats, RuTracker.org receives around 40 million visits per month, yet only a relatively small number of visitors in January contributed to the fundraiser. In the same way, millions of people regularly jump on torrents offered by dozens of trackers, yet only a tiny proportion go the extra mile to make sure content remains available.

    BitTorrent is an extremely powerful protocol but without high-levels of human altruism, interventions like this will always be required if niche content isn’t to fall by the wayside.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      RED ou B&You : quel forfait 200 Go à 15 euros choisir ?

      numerama · news.movim.eu / Numerama · Wednesday, 17 February, 2021 - 13:47

    [Le Deal du Jour] Les soldes d’hiver ont relancé la guerre des prix entre les opérateurs français. Ainsi, RED by SFR et Bouygues Telecom ont tous les deux dégainé un forfait 200 Go facturé 15 euros par mois. Mais finalement, lequel est le plus intéressant ? [Lire la suite]

    Voitures, vélos, scooters... : la mobilité de demain se lit sur Vroom ! https://www.numerama.com/vroom/vroom//

    L'article RED ou B&You : quel forfait 200 Go à 15 euros choisir ? est apparu en premier sur Numerama .

    • chevron_right

      Police Around Asia Crack Down on Pirate IPTV With Raids & Arrests

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Saturday, 13 February, 2021 - 11:47 · 3 minutes

    Streaming Key While pirate streaming operations around the United States and Europe attract the most headlines, unlicensed IPTV and similar platforms are now mainstream in most parts of the world.

    Authorities in the West are tackling this problem using quiet ‘behind-the-scenes’ agreements through to civil litigation and criminal enforcement. The situation in Asia is similar and over the past couple of weeks a number of cases have been made public.

    Police in Taiwan Arrest Nine

    As reported by Japan-based anti-piracy group CODA , authorities in Taiwan carried out an operation through the latter part of January and early February targeting what is described as a “criminal organization” involved in the supply of illegal streams. With assistance from the prosecutor’s office, police, and detective agencies, officers arrested nine people.

    Taiwan IPTV Raids

    Taiwan established a dedicated team in early 2020 to tackle the illegal streaming of TV shows to pirate devices and since then 18 locations have been searched, resulting in the seizure of hundreds of set-top devices and computer servers. After analysis, it was found that some of the devices provided illegal access to broadcasts from Taiwan and Japan.

    “It is believed that the criminal organization deciphered the broadcast signals of each major TV station through network servers installed in domestic telecommunications equipment rooms and sent them to infringing set-top devices via the Internet,” CODA reports.

    Thai Police Raid Five Premises Linked to Illegal Streaming

    Over the past several years Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has carried out numerous actions against individuals involved in the supply of pirate IPTV and similar streaming services.

    Two Brits and a local were arrested in 2017 under suspicion of violating the rights of the Premier League and in 2019, DSI shut down the country’s most popular pirate site, Movie2free.com, following a request from the Motion Picture Association.

    Last weekend, the DSI unit was in action again, raiding five premises linked to the illegal movie streaming. According to Pol Lt Col Korawat, among the items seized were 100 receivers, decoders, satellite dishes, computers, notebooks, hard disks and mobile phones. It’s believed that the equipment was used to supply pirated movies and TV content to the website fwiptv.cc. That site is currently down.

    According to the Bangkok Post , the main players behind the streaming operation were not discovered during the raids and the authorities were only able to arrest technicians hired to run the operation.

    Fwiptv.cc was reportedly founded in 2012 and was Thailand’s largest broadcaster of pirated movies and sport, including content owned by the Premier League.

    Prosecution in Malaysia

    Over in Malaysia, a company director behind the operation to supply ‘Long TV’ pirate TV devices to the public pleaded guilty on Monday. According to local reports, the individual was charged with selling the devices and breaching intellectual property rights last September.

    “The company, located at I-City, Persiaran Multimedia, Section 7, Shah Alam, Selangor has violated Section 41(1)(ha) of the Copyright Act 1987 for selling any technology or device for the purpose of bypassing any effective technological measures stated under subsection 36A(3) of the same Act,” a statement from the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs reads.

    According to the Ministry, the yet-to-be-named individual faces a fine of up to RM40,000 (around US$9,900) and a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

    Educational Initiatives in Japan

    Last August, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, a body of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, hired Hello Kitty to become its Copyright Ambassador. Since then, local anti-piracy group CODA has been releasing educational content featuring the famous character in an effort to keep people away from sources of pirated content.

    Masaharu Ina, CODA’s Director of Overseas Copyright Protection, recently sent TorrentFreak a new video to promote compliance with Japan’s brand new anti-piracy law along with a Hello Kitty quiz designed to test people’s knowledge of copyright.

    The video is embedded below and the quiz can be found here .

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      B&You dégaine un forfait 200 Go à 14,99 euros par mois pour les soldes

      numerama · news.movim.eu / Numerama · Friday, 5 February, 2021 - 11:33

    [Le Deal du Jour] B&You tire son épingle du jeu à l’occasion des soldes d’hiver en proposant de nouveau son forfait sans engagement 200 Go à seulement 14,99 euros par mois. Une offre mobile très pratique lorsque l’on souffre d’un ADSL capricieux. [Lire la suite]

    Abonnez-vous à notre chaîne YouTube pour ne manquer aucune vidéo !

    L'article B&You dégaine un forfait 200 Go à 14,99 euros par mois pour les soldes est apparu en premier sur Numerama .

    • chevron_right

      Police Arrest 14 People Behind 8 Million-User Piracy & Subtitle Site

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Thursday, 4 February, 2021 - 08:38 · 2 minutes

    China US Back in 2014, the MPAA made its usual ‘notorious markets’ submission to the USTR and among regular targets such as The Pirate Bay and Popcorn Time, the Hollywood group highlighted the activities of China-based YYeTs.com.

    At the time, the site – which is also known as Renren Yingshi – was described as the most popular dedicated download site for copyrighted content in China, providing links in various formats, including for the popular Xunlei and BitTorrent clients. It rose to fame after being founded in 2004 by a group of Chinese students living in Canada.

    Notably, the site was also called out for offering crowd-sourced Chinese subtitles for Western content, something that helped boost infringement of US-made movies and TV shows. On the other hand, it allowed local users to easily consume otherwise unavailable content, to the disappointment of both Hollywood and the Chinese government, albeit for different reasons.

    Chinese Government Takes Action

    On November 22, 2014, visitors to YYeTs and another subtitle-focused site, Shooters.cn, found the platforms in considerable trouble. With Shooters announcing its immediate closure, YYeTs said that it would be offline for a while, ostensibly to “clean up” its site. State-run news services indicated that the sites had been targeted for infringing the rights of foreign companies.

    YYeTs somehow managed to survive, as it had done previously following similar enforcement action in 2010. This week, however, it became clear that the site is under pressure once again after being targeted by local police.

    According to local media reports, police in Shanghai arrested 14 people under suspicion of being involved in the operations of YYeTs/Renren Yingshi, which was recently reported to have eight million registered users.

    “Investigations showed that the suspects set up several companies engaging in the distribution, operation and maintenance of the ‘Renren Yingshi’ mobile app and a related web portal by setting up or leasing servers in China or overseas since 2018,” the People’s Daily reported Wednesday.

    It’s believed that those arrested in this week’s operation systematically downloaded movies and TV shows from pirate websites located outside China, added subtitles, and distributed the captioned videos from their own servers in breach of copyright.

    Specific dates for the arrests haven’t been circulated in the media. But, in mid-January, there were several reports that China-based pirate sites had closed their doors to new members. It’s likely those precautionary measures were linked to the current arrests.

    A report from SCMP notes that China has hundreds of subtitling sites similar to Renren Yingshi that originally used volunteer translators. Over time, however, site operators have chosen to hire translators to generate Chinese subtitles for foreign movies and TV shows, paying around $60 per video.

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

    • chevron_right

      Valorant & Destiny 2 Cheat Maker Sued For Copyright Violations

      Andy Maxwell · news.movim.eu / TorrentFreak · Tuesday, 12 January, 2021 - 10:44 · 5 minutes

    Destiny 2 While the vast majority of videogames players are happy to enjoy games within the parameters set by their developers, there are millions who prefer to cheat their way to victory.

    As a result, an industry has appeared ready to service people looking to gain an unfair advantage, offering cheating products often at a premium price. This disruption is frowned upon by developers and regular players alike, who argue that when the gaming experience becomes unfair, the fun associated with playing collapses.

    In an effort to reduce the number of players cheating online, various videogame companies have filed lawsuits in the United States. Yesterday another one was added to the growing list when Riot Games and Bungie filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against GatorCheats for offering tools enabling cheating in Valorant, Destiny 2, and other titles.

    “Malicious” Software Products “Destroy” plaintiffs’ Games

    Filed in a California district court, the lawsuit targets Albuquerque, New Mexico resident Cameron Santos (the alleged operator of GatorCheats), plus an additional 10 ‘Doe’ defendants, some of whom (“Hal,” “Matt” and “Megan”) are alleged to provide customer support to cheat users.

    “By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to put a stop to the unlawful, for-profit sale and distribution of malicious software products designed to enable members of the public to gain unfair competitive advantages (i.e., to cheat) in the Games, and, thereby, to impair and destroy Plaintiffs’ Games, Plaintiffs’ overall business, and the experience of Plaintiffs’ player community,” the complaint reads.

    According to Riot and Bungie, Santos owns several online ventures engaged in the development and sale of “malicious cheats” targeting the companies’ games. “Honeyhacks” and “Voidcheaters” get a mention but GatorCheats is the largest, selling a cheat known as “Gatorant” and several tools for Destiny 2.

    “The Cheating Software enables players to manipulate Valorant and Destiny 2 to their personal advantage, such as by automatically aiming weapons, revealing the locations of opponents, and allowing the player to see a vast array of information that otherwise would be obscured,” the companies note.

    Cheat Makers Undermine Business Models

    This undermining of the gaming experience for ordinary players comes at an enormous reputational and financial cost according to the complaint. As gamers leave their respective arenas in the face of cheating opponents, Riot and Bungie are reportedly losing goodwill along with millions of dollars in revenue.

    The key issue is that the popularity of both Valorant and Destiny 2 lies not only in their gaming experiences but also in the business models selected by the plaintiffs. Since both games are available to play for free, the companies rely on gamers staying online for as long as possible while buying virtual goods such as characters, weapons, skins and clothing. When the experience is diminished by cheaters, the whole plan begins to come apart at the seams.

    “If players perceive that others are cheating or have an unfair advantage, they will grow frustrated with the Games and stop playing. That, in turn, could disrupt and/or destroy the Games’ player communities and severely harm Plaintiffs’ ability to generate revenue and to maintain, improve, and expand the Games,” the complaint reads.

    Bungie Issued Cease-and-Desist Notice in 2020

    In an effort to protect their game, in November 2020 legal counsel for Bungie served GatorCheats with a cease-and-desist notice. GatorCheats subsequently informed users that the Destiny 2 cheats would be removed from sale but Santos reportedly assured those who had purchased a lifetime license they would continue to receive customer support.

    However, the plaintiffs aren’t convinced that GatorCheats will discontinue the Destiny 2 cheats, alleging that the cheat maker will probably sell the software to users in a more discreet manner, including via a private section of the GatorCheats site.

    The uncertainty surrounding compliance with the cease-and-desist notice appears to have triggered the lawsuit, which majors on breaches of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions plus violations of contract and unfair competition laws.

    Trafficking in Circumvention Devices

    The plaintiffs state that their games are protected by anti-cheat technologies designed to detect and thwart cheating tools. These technologies must be installed on users’ machines if they want to play the games. This means that if a cheat maker is to have a successful product, it must either conceal its existence from the developers’ anti-cheat technologies or disable them altogether. This is illegal under the DMCA, the plaintiffs claim.

    “The Cheating Software is comprised of or contains technologies, products, services, devices, components, or parts thereof that primarily are designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing technological measures that effectively control access to the Games,” the complaint reads, noting that the cheats have no commercially significant purpose other than to circumvent technological measures.

    “As a result of the foregoing, Defendants are offering to the public, providing, importing, or otherwise trafficking in technology that violates 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2) .”

    As a result of these alleged infringements, the plaintiffs are demanding either the profits attributable to the sales of the cheats or the maximum statutory damages of $2,500 per violation of the DMCA. In respect of the former, the complaint estimates sales in the “tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars” for both sets of cheats. In the case of the latter, both cheats are said to have been downloaded “thousands of times” which easily supports a claim in the millions of dollars.

    Interference With Contractual Relations, Unfair Competition

    In addition to the claims under the DMCA, Riot and Bungie allege that though the provision of the cheats, GatorCheats intentionally encouraged its customers to breach the licensing contracts they had agreed with the companies when they installed the games. As a result, the cheat maker is guilty of “oppression, fraud, or malice” allowing the plaintiffs to recover exemplary and punitive damages.

    In their final claim, Riot and Bungie state that GatorCheats engaged in unfair competition under California law, an act that again requires the cheat maker to pay compensation for damages caused to their businesses.

    In the interim, the plaintiffs request injunctions to prevent GatorCheats from continuing to violate their rights, demanding that the cheat maker shuts down its software and removes it from the Internet. The gaming companies are also seeking access to financial records showing GatorCheats’ sales and how much money was made. That amount could be substantial.

    According to the videogame companies, the Valorant cheat costs users $90 per month, $350 for three months, and $500 for lifetime access. The Destiny 2 cheats are slightly less pricey at $100 per month or $200 for a lifetime license.

    The complaint can be found here (pdf)

    From: TF , for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.