In a previous blog post, we looked at Bungie’s successful legal battles against a few profitable cheat software developers.
Since then, Bungie has continued to see success on additional legal fronts, all resulting in payment by the cheat developers. In this article, we provide updates as to Bungie’s prior and ongoing lawsuits against cheatmakers and review the claims made against these companies:
- Bungie v. VeteranCheats
- Legal Claims: Copyright infringement, circumvention of technological measures, trafficking in circumvention technology, breach of contract, tortious interference with contractual relations, violation of consumer protection laws
- Status: In April 2023, a U.S. court ordered a default judgment against the defendant cheat software operator, based in Romania, in the amount of $12 million.
- Take-Away: Foreign defendants who do not respond to anti-cheating lawsuits may receive a default judgment against them. Further, this case displays how studios can subpoena important personal and transactional data from third-party websites (here, Stripe), thereby implicating the individuals who buy and use the cheats in-game.
- Bungie v. Aimjunkies.com
- Legal Claims: Copyright infringement, trademark infringement, designation of false origin
- Status: On June 13, 2023, the court ruled that the defendants had to pay over 4.3 million from arbitration, to which the co-defendants filed notice that they were appealing the case to the federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. On August 10, 2023, the court approved co-defendants’, Aimjunkies and Phoenix Digital, motion to substitute an expert witness. By October 2023, the defendants hope to convince the court (through an expert witness) that Bungie acted improperly by reverse-engineering the cheat loader that the defendants made for cheaters.
- Take-Away: Even though a judge agreed with Bungie and confirmed the arbitration decision in their favor, cheat maker defendants can file appeals to prolong the legal dispute until it is ultimately resolved by the highest court in that state.
- Bungie v. Lavicheats
- Legal Claims: Copyright infringement, trademark infringement
- Status: On May 8, 2023, Bungie secured a default judgment against Lavicheats, in the amount of $6.7 million.
- Take-Away: This case shows the difficulty of bringing these lawsuits; even after spending over two years in court and over $2 million in anti-cheat measures, the studio may not actually recover a cent from an absentee cheat maker. This is especially true for cheat website operators that are based outside of the United States.
- Bungie v. L.L.
- Legal Claims: Breach of contract, copyright infringement, fraud in the inducement, circumvention of technological measures, and violation of consumer protection laws
- Status: Bungie filed suit against the teenaged defendant in July 2022, who had repeatedly (1) streamed himself using cheats on Twitch; (2) harassed Bungie employees on social media; and (3) made continuous threats against the Bungie headquarters and staff members over social media. In September 2023, the court ordered payment of $500,000 by the defandant for the use of in-game cheats, as well as circumventing Destiny’s anti-cheat measures.
- Take-Away: Even minors may be subject to these harsh court orders against cheaters; this greatly expands the scope of people liable for the use of cheats in online games in addition to the cheat manufacturers themselves. In addition, this aggressive strategy against a studio’s harasser was also leveraged successfully in July 2023, when Bungie won a lawsuit against an online troll who levied a hateful, persistent attack on community manager of the studio.
- Bungie v. Ring-1 Defendants
- Legal Claims: Copyright infringement, trademark infringement, trafficking in circumvention devices, violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, racketeering, breach of contract, and intentional interferfence with contractual relations
- Status: Ring-1 is a popular cheat manufacturer and distributor. Bungie and Ubisoft initially brought a lawsuit against the individuals in charge of Ring-1 in 2021, for creating and selling cheats for use in Destiny and Rainbow Six Siege. Bungie failed to settle the case for $2.2 million against a U.K.-based defendant in February 2023 since the studio could not identify which specific illegal acts the British citizen directed at the U.S. As of August 2023, Bungie has expanded its lawsuit against Ring-1 to include additional legal claims for continuing to operate the cheat software marketplace, despite settling lawsuits against the website in 2021.
- Take-Away: Even though some courts may rule in default against foreign defendants (see above), other courts within the same state may not issue such a harsh decision without more evidence. This means that no matter in which state a studio brings an anticheating lawsuit, a foreign-based defendant may avoid payment or punishment from the U.S. court. This case also marks two distinctive evolutions in Bungie’s legal strategy against cheaters: (1) naming unknown/unidentified defendants who use, market, or develop the ullegal software, with the hope that they will learn the identifies of these people through discovery; and (2) the inclusion of a civil racketeering claim against the cheat website for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and organized copyright infringement.
These successes make it clear that if a studio believes a cheat software manufacturer is harming their game, settling the matter in court could be an option. Bungie’s legal team has paved the way for studios to streamline anti-cheating lawsuits and hopefully will dissuade commercial cheat makers from continuing to develop such software. As a game developer, always remember to consult a lawyer who specializes in the gaming industry to assess which method of enforcement is best for your studio.
Author: Matthew Vernace