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I sell game hacks for a living, but wanted to learn more about the laws regarding what I do.

Most of you probably haven't heard of this, but there are people like me who reverse engineer games, and make software that exploit the games code and memory in order to gain an advantage.

Basically, we have to reverse games to know where the game stores different information, like your players health, position, and weapon. Reverse engineering involves taking an executable you get when you buy the game, and seeing where the code stores information.

Based on this information, you can make a program to access the information you found while reversing, and modify it to give you an advantage.

I've only read some stuff on the DMCA, but I am unsure if this qualifies for it. Most games have an "anti-cheat" which try to detect people who use cheats and ban them from the game. As a cheat developer, you have to bypass these counter measures, and sometimes these counter measures are present in the executable in the form of packing / obfuscation which just makes it harder to analyze.

If I take information from an executable given to me since I bought a game, and make a game cheat based on the information then sell, is this illegal?

If you have any questions, let me know. I live in the United States.

  • There may be several layers to this. The question of it being legal in the eyes of the law. The question of it being in compliance with the terms of the EULA. The question of it being legal in the eyes of the law to sell code to others with the intent that they violate their EULA. This is further compounded by the complexities introduced if the game is online and multiplayer and might be used in eSports, particularly if it drags in any form of betting. Or if the game has any form of in game commerce. – Jason Aller Feb 4 '18 at 22:09
  • @JasonAller Personally, I'm a minor so it doesn't really apply to me, usually they just say it's not allowed and they reserve the right to suspend your account if they detect you cheating. For the purposes of this question, lets keep it at general multiplayer online gameplay. No money involved. The game is a paid game which may have an in-game skin system. – Bill Richard Feb 5 '18 at 0:24
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Yes

The relevant legal concepts are copyright, contract law and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. You are liable to be sued by the people affected for damages and/or be prosecuted by the government for the felony under either or both laws.

Let's start here: "I bought a game". No, you didn't; you bought a licence to use the software in accordance with the terms of service (licence) that you freely agreed to. All modern ToS will not allow you to reverse engineer the software.

If you breach those terms of service then you have broken a contract - that is what allows them to sue you. They will no doubt argue that the prevalence of cheat routines developed by people like you reduce the number of people willing to play the game - say 100,000 users x $10/month * 12 months = $12,000,000. They will also ask the court to impose punitive damages to discourage this sort of thing.

Which brings us to the copyright violation. You are allowed to copy their software provided you comply with the ToS. But you didn't. Therefore you are in breach of the Copyright Act and subject to additional civil and criminal sanctions.

Finally, your "cheats" access their servers in a way that the ToS doesn't authorize. This puts you in breach of the CFFA - breaking this carries serious jail time penalties. Not to mention that in the US, a criminal conviction will preclude you from many jobs, including, naturally, any with access to company computer systems.

Putting aside the illegalities, cheats are unethical and ruin the game experience for hundreds of thousands of people who don't use cheats.

You are a criminal - stop being one!

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Dale M Sep 9 at 0:51
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This appears to be criminal infringement. I'm going to try to point to the places in the law that make this illegal, step by step.

17 U.S. Code § 106 - Exclusive rights in copyrighted works says:

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;

The definition of a derivative work is here:

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.

This seems to apply to what you're doing - you're modifying the original work to create a new one.

According to 17 U.S. Code § 501:

Anyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by sections 106 through 122... is an infringer of the copyright

Since you don't have permission to create a derivative work (and don't seem to qualify for an exception like fair use), you're infringing the owner's exclusive right to do this. You are therefore officially infringing.

Not all infringement is criminal - but it appears yours is. 17 U.S. Code § 506 - Criminal offenses says:

In general.—Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed—
(A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;

You say you're selling it, so almost certainly it's for private financial gain, and I can't describe your infringement as anything but willful. So you appear to qualify for criminal charges, if the federal government felt like prosecuting you.

If you look at 18 U.S. Code § 2319, you can see the penalty is as follows:

Any person who commits an offense under section 506(a)(1)(A) of title 17—
(1) shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies..., of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $2,500;
(2) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense is a felony and is a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a); and
(3) shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, in any other case

So, on a first offense, it's up to 5 years in federal prison assuming you're doing at least 10 copies and $2500 worth of infringing software per 180 days, and up to 1 year in federal prison if you're doing less business than that.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Dale M Sep 9 at 0:52
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To be clear - they are selling a software. They are not 'reselling' a modified version of the game. Which is why anti-cheat measures are in place. They are selling their own product which is capable of modifying a game while playing it. Selling a cheat isn't illegal. You are not breaking the ToS if your not the one using it. The EULA is by definition END USER license agreement. The consumer purchases the cheat they are breaking their own EULA. If I am to take a game and resell it for my own personal financial gain than yes thats copyright. But if I am selling my own software that just so happens to be able to incorporate itself into their software. Thats a simple ToS breach by the END USER.

  • Not only does this ignore actual law, it's demonstrably wrong, as the other answers show. – Nij Apr 17 '18 at 22:52

protected by Community Nov 9 '18 at 2:11

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