By Joseph Esses
“Destiny 2” developer, Bungie, has filed a lawsuit against VeteranCheats.com, a cheat seller, for creating and disseminating cheat integration capabilities into the game making it unfair for the average player and ultimately harming the game’s integrity. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, seeks $12 million in damages. The use of cheats and hacks in online gaming has become a growing problem in recent years. This is particularly problematic in games like “Destiny 2,” which is built on a cooperative multiplayer experience.
Bungie’s Motion for Default Judgment
Bungie’s lawsuit alleges that VeteranCheats has caused harm to “Destiny 2” by selling cheats that enable players to gain an unfair advantage, such as aimbots, wallhacks, and other tools that allow players to see through walls, automatically aim, and shoot with perfect accuracy. These cheats disrupt the balance of the game and make it difficult for other players to compete on a level playing field.
The complaint also asserts that VeteranCheats has induced and encouraged others to infringe Bungie’s federally registered copyrights in “Destiny 2.” This means that the cheat seller has encouraged others to use the cheats in a way that violates the game’s terms of service and copyright law. To claim copyright infringement, a plaintiff must prove (1) they own the copyright which is an original work of authorship fixed to a tangible medium, and (2) the defendant violated the rights of the plaintiff in said copyright. Video games enjoy copyright protection as audiovisual works so long as the subject matter therein is original. Copyright is violated when a defendant reproduces, prepares derivative works of, and distributes the work without the holder’s consent.
Time and time again, game developers have successfully brought copyright infringement suits against bad actors – Bungie’s claim here is likely no different. It is extremely likely Bungie will succeed based on the limited software license it requires all players to agree to and the fact that the individual behind VeteranCheats.com has failed to respond to the lawsuit. Before anyone plays Destiny 2, the individual must agree to a limited software license. The license lays out Bungie’s intellectual property rights (including its copyright in the game itself) and requires a user to acknowledge its prohibition on cheating. This is common practice among all video game developers.
What is not so common, is the fact that the cheat seller has failed to appear or file an answer to Bungie’s complaint. Bungie’s motion for default judgment will likely be granted as there is no one to defend against. Although a court will construe all factors in favor of the non-moving party in such a motion, Bungie has met its burden of proof in this case as it has provided evidence of the copyright ownership, the acknowledgment of the license, and the misuse of the copyright by the cheat seller. As such, it is likely the default judgment has been approved.
In response to the lawsuit, some gamers have expressed their support for Bungie’s decision to take legal action against cheat sellers. They argue that cheating ruins the game experience for everyone and that the lawsuit is necessary to protect the integrity of the game. On the other hand, some argue that the lawsuit is an overreaction and that the problem of cheating can be better addressed through other means, such as better security measures or stronger in-game penalties.
Game Developers Protect Their Rights Against Cheat Sellers Frequently
It is important to note that this is not the first time that a game developer has taken legal action against cheat sellers. In recent years, several high-profile lawsuits have been filed against cheat sellers, and the outcomes of these cases have varied. Some have resulted in settlements, while others have been dismissed.
Game developer lawsuits against cheat sellers have become a common occurrence in the gaming industry. These lawsuits are aimed at protecting the integrity of online games and the interests of the game’s players. In recent years, several high-profile lawsuits have been filed against cheat sellers, and the outcomes of these cases have varied.
One of the most prominent examples of a such a lawsuit is when Riot Games sued LeageSharp, a company that sold cheats and hacks for League of Legends. Riot claimed that the defendant’s enterprise was dedicated to destroying the player experience, harming the gamer community, and subverting Riot’s game for its own profit. The lawsuit accused LeagueSharp of copyright infringement and sought millions of dollars in damages. The case was ultimately settled out of court, with the defendant agreeing to stop selling cheats for the world’s most-played game.
Another notable case is the lawsuit filed by Activision Blizzard against Bossland, a German company that sold cheats for several popular games, including “World of Warcraft,” “Overwatch,” and “Heroes of the Storm.” In 2016, Activision Blizzard filed lawsuits in both Calfiornia federal court and the UK seeking $8.7 million in damages for copyright infringement, unfair competition, and other claims. The case was later settled out of court, with Bossland agreeing to pay Activision Blizzard an undisclosed sum and to stop selling cheats for their games.
Similarly, in 2018, Tencent Games, the developer of the popular game “PUBG,” filed a lawsuit against multiple cheat sellers in both a United States and German court. The lawsuit sought millions of dollars in damages and an injunction against the sale of cheats for the game. Courts in both countries ordered the hacking group to pay $10 million in damages to Tencent. However, the amount in damages is not the prize – the real prize is the level playing field for their title games and ensuring the competition is fair for their paying customers.
These lawsuits demonstrate the efforts of game developers to protect the interests of everyday video game players and to preserve the integrity of their games. By taking legal action against cheat sellers, game developers aim to prevent the harm caused by cheats and hacks, which can disrupt the balance of online games and make it difficult for real players to compete. When it is more difficult for players to compete, more legitimate customers may not continue supporting the game which greatly impacts the bottom line of these games.
However, these lawsuits are subject to controversy. Some argue that they are an overreaction and that the problem of cheating can be better addressed through other means, such as better security measures or stronger in-game penalties. Others argue that these lawsuits have a chilling effect on innovation in the gaming industry, as companies may be hesitant to create and sell new products for fear of legal action from game developers.
Whatever side of the discussion you are on, the lawsuit filed by Bungie against VeteranCheats highlights the ongoing problem of cheating in online gaming and the harm that it can cause to the gaming experience. The outcome of this case will likely have far-reaching implications for the gaming industry and will be watched closely by other game developers, cheat sellers, and gamers alike. Ultimately, it remains to be seen how the court will balance the interests of all parties involved including Destiny players across the globe.
 Joseph Esses is an Associate Attorney at the Gordon Law Group representing e-sports clients of all shapes and sizes including organizations, players, and sponsors.