Even if you do not play video games, you probably know that the video game industry makes a lot of money. It is quite likely that you also have a sense that the content in video games falls under copyright protection. What you might not realize, however, is that cheating at video games is also a huge business… and its legality is highly questionable.
Businesses that make money creating various kinds of video game cheats have been around for decades. One of the first major ones was the Game Genie, a sort of video game attachment that was released in 1990 and enabled players to use various cheats in their games. The makers of the Game Genie went to court against Nintendo over copyright infringement, and in 1992 it was found that the Game Genie did not infringe on Nintendo copyrights.
However, these kinds of devices and services have always existed in a sort of legal gray area, and in November 2020 Riot Games and Bungie served a cease and desist letter to GatorCheats, one of several cheating ventures allegedly operated by Cameron Santos.
Video Game Makers File Copyright Violation Lawsuit against GatorCheats
Convinced the operation would ignore their letter, Riot Games and Bungie quickly followed it up with an actual lawsuit. They argued copyright infringement and violations of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA, among other things.
Santos filed a response to their complaint on March 24. In that response, he argued a number of things, but the main defense seemed to be that GatorCheats’ actions were protected by the First Amendment and Fair Use.
It appeared that the two sides were digging in for a lengthy battle. However, less than one week later, the parties notified the court that they had agreed on a settlement with a permanent injunction.
GatorCheats would pay Riot Games and Bungie $2 million and essentially agree not to breach the two gamemakers’ intellectual property rights in the future. Additionally, they agreed that any “social media accounts used to promote cheats must be shut down and all related software destroyed.”
Why Did GatorCheats Agree to Such an Unfavorable Settlement Deal?
Hopefully it goes without saying that this is not a good deal for GatorCheats. Which begs the question — why did they agree to it?
As mentioned above, these types of businesses tend to fall into a legal gray area. Was Santos afraid that the court would ultimately side with Riot and Bungie? Or did he simply decide to avoid a prickly legal battle, cut his losses, and move on?
One thing is for certain. The large payout, coupled with the permanent injunction should serve as huge red warning signs for businesses who operate in similar ways. Helping players cheat at video games may be big business, but it can also be incredibly costly.