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A lot of people have been asking me if there are any legal issues when it comes to using cheats, bots, hacks or exploits (and other forms of cheating) in online games, such as MMOs, Shooters or MMORPGs. Here is the short Answer:

Cheating (using hacks, bots, exploits ect) in online and offline games is 100% legal as long as it is NOT done to earn money (selling currency, selling accounts ect) and not done on a huge scale (bot armies ect).

The EulA or Terms of Service is a contract with the developer/publisher of the game and is not law. You cannot be persecuted for breaking this contract, but your service can be canceled. – This is a piece of misinformation that a lot of people are throwing around out there.

 

 


Important Note: There is no actual “International Law”, so everything I am going to say in this article is based on the general common laws that developed countries in the west usually have. These statements will apply to EU and NA and are very likely to apply to most developed countries with a free market and some kind of democratic features. Also I am no lawyer, though I do know some law students, and everything I am relating here is what I have learned by just being close to the industry.

 

Casual Online Game Cheating and the Law
(You are cheating casually / for fun and make no profits from it.)
Most people reading this are most likely just common online game player that want to make sure that their actions are not against any laws and are afraid of getting sued or similar. You don’t need to be afraid at all. As long as you are cheating just for fun and are not making money off of your cheating activities, you are completely save legally speaking. However, you are breaking the Terms of Service of the game and therefore you may lose the right to play the game you bought. With other words: The worst case is that you get banned from the game. The terms of service of a game are not law, but part of the buying contract that you have with a game provider: So if you don’t uphold your part of the contract, then don’t have to keep theirs. There is absolutely no chance that anyone will ever get sued over casually cheating in an online game. On top of that, most people do not even read the ToS, so the case is inexistent.

 

cheating legal

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Gray Zone: Systematically Cheating in Online Games for Profit
(You are cheating in an Online Game and profiting from it, BUT do not hurt the Games Profits.)
Most western countries do have laws and regulations that limit how companies are allowed to compete with each other. These laws include IP law, patents, copyright, anti-cartel legislation and a lot more. Now if you are cheating in a game, making profit, but not hurting the games profit that is kind of a gray zone legally speaking. It is not unfair competition, since you are not profiting at the cost of the game service provider, but you are profiting from breaking their ToS. This is the case if you are for example running a YouTube channel where you play games using hacks and running ads on these videos. You are technically making money b breaking their ToS, but the game itself remains unharmed or even profits from the exposure. In this case it is very, very hard to build a convincing case against you which is why I do consider it a gay zone. If you are in this gray zone and want to be completely safe from legal attacks, then you need to turn your activity into an educational effort. (In this case: Only do tutorial content and provide information.) While it is almost impossible to build a convincing case even without this counter-measure, working under fair use law will give you even more security. Developers and publishers know that cheaters are a growing demographic and a market: They know that cheaters make up a good part of their income, especially with the rise of free to play. Who is it that will spend money on cheats? – The people that also are invested enough to spend money on in game items and boosts. The game providers know that more and more the cheaters are becoming part of the hand that feeds them and that is why it is extremely hard to argue unfair competition in this case.

 

cheating law


Unfair Competition and the Legal Side of Systematically Cheating in Online Games for Profit
(You are cheating in an Online Game, making profit and directly or indirectly harming the game.)
Please read the previous paragraph before you read this, since it kind of builds on the information related there. Whereas in the last case your cheating activity did not harm the game, this time it does. Now to find out if you are hurting the game with your cheating and money making activities, then you need to use common sense: Explain the situation to a person that you consider capable of applying common sense and ask them if you are hurting the game and it’s developers. If that person says yes, then your average judge will probably rule in the same way. For example if you are running 100 bots in a game and are farming the PvP of an online game using hacks, then you are negatively impacting the other players game experience and therefore haring the game providers and losing them money. – In this case you are out of the gray zone and in a position where big companies with lots of money can easily harass and attack you legally and potentially even shut you down. Unfair Competition is the general term used for your action. Your competition is unfair in the sense that you are systematically breaking the games ToS and profiting from it. If a game provider wants to sure you for this, they can do it more or less successfully in most western countries. Generally speaking your chances are better, the further away you are from the US, since the US is very strict when it comes to unfair competition. In the EU you stand a fighting chance if you can afford good lawyers. However, your chances are best if you are outside of the influence of the US or EU. – Here you will generally get a fair trial.

There have been a number of unfair competition cases fought around shooter hacks and mmo bots: In the US the hack/bot providers generally lost. In the EU (mostly Germany) the bot providers were either scared out of business or fought long legal battles and had to find legal ways to circumvent more legal issues. Generally the biggest of all the big game providers will consider legal battles on an international level, so be careful if you are dealing with a multi-billion dollar company.

The legal issues are very complicated in this kind of “unfair cheater competition”, especially on an international level. It’s essentially all up to the judge. The judge has to interpret what is a very vague law that basically says: “If you hurt someone else’s profits by competing in an unfair way, you get punished.” Do you even hurt their profits? What does “unfair” mean? Are you even competition? How much can you even be fined for this? – It’s all up to the judge. The law is just that vague and has not yet caught up to the internet and probably won’t for another few decades. Generally, again, use common sense, because that’s what the judge will do as well. If it’s not a clear case, the wont try to attack or it will be a battle that will be fought for a long, long time (many years).

 

Conclusion
If you are cheating casually, all you can lose if your account. If you want to make money from cheating in online games, then either do educational or informational work or stay out of it completely in order to avoid legal attacks. If you want to make big cash from selling hacks, bots or other cheats or similar projects, then get ready to defend yourself, keep your lawyers close or relocate into the far East, Asia or Russia.

 

P.S.
I am no lawyer. This is all based on experience and hear-say alone and serves simply to give you an idea of the general situation. If you are having actual legal issues, please speak to an actual professional.

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