Esport officials crackdown on cheats

Author: Thomas Edwards

The High Court recently handed down a summary judgment confirming in no uncertain terms that cheats never prosper. The action was brought by Take-Two Interactive, the publishers and developers of GTA V, against five defendants who had developed cheat software for GTA V named ‘Epsilon’ (not to be confused with the in-game ‘program’ (or cult) of the same name). The Epsilon software is a mod-menu software, allowing players to install specific files to spawn copies of objects they would otherwise not have had access to, or to generate in-game currency. The defendants admitted that they had developed the Epsilon software.

The claim was brought on a number of grounds, namely that the defendants had:

  1. breached the terms of the end user licence agreement (EULA), GTA V terms of service and code of conduct by cheating, and by providing means and instructions for other players of GTA V to cheat;
  2. induced other players of GTA V to breach their EULA by marketing and supplying the Epsilon software to other players for the purpose of cheating; and
  3. copied extensive parts of the GTA V program in writing the Epsilon software by introducing transient copies of the underlying GTA V code which would allow players to access weapons or objects which they would only otherwise be able to access by paying real money, or playing the game for a long amount of time (as well as circumventing anti-tampering measures).

The above actions constituted actions for both breach of contract and for copyright infringement.

The judgment handed down by the High Court was condemning of the defendants, awarding summary judgment to the claimants. In short, the court found the defendants had no real prospect of success (in running their defence) and that there was no other compelling reason for the matter to proceed to trial. The defendants were found to be in breach of contract and to have breached the copyright in GTA V (although one interesting point to note for developers to consider going forwards is that one defendant was too young to be in breach of contract as they did not have sufficient age, and therefore legal capacity, to have entered into the contract).

In the past many games have come up with novel ways of punishing gamers for cheating (with GTA V itself even applying ‘dunce’ hats to those who committed relatively minor infractions) but this judgment clearly shows that developers are taking a tougher stance against cheats aiming to either ruin the online multiplayer community, or circumventing the requirement to pay real currency for in-game items.

(Take-Two Interactive Software Inc v Nathan James [2020] EWHC 179 (Pat)).

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