As reported by TorrentFreak (opens in new tab), Destiny 2 developer Bungie has scored a major win in its campaign against cheat developers, with the unfortunately named Canadian companies Elite Boss Tech and 11020781 Canada agreeing to a $13.5 million settlement and permanent injunction on their Destiny 2 cheat programs.
Cheat makers always seem to find a way to bypass new anti-cheat software, but in recent years, Bungie has spearheaded an effort to bring them to court, taking a software arms race into a realm where a big company and its lawyers have a clear advantage. Alongside Ubisoft and Riot, Bungie has successfully forced several cheat manufacturers, such as Ring-1 and PerfectAim, to close their doors with the threat of financially devastating legal proceedings and decisions.
Last month, AimJunkies scored a rare legal victory for the cheaters, with a Seattle judge rejecting the copyright infringement portion of Bungie’s case against it. Much of these proceedings rest on the legal logic that the developers’ copyright is somehow undermined or infringed upon by the development and sale of cheat tools, and AimJunkies was able to semi-successfully argue that its cheat tools were entirely of its own creation, using no code or assets created by Bungie, and thus did not infringe on the company’s copyright.
No such luck for Elite Boss Tech and 11020781 Canada (a struggle to type on a keyboard without a numpad), however. The companies seemed prepared to argue a similar case to AimJunkies’, but were unable to get a favorable pretrial ruling. The companies agreed to a settlement with Bungie recognizing their product as something that builds on and alters Bungie’s work, infringing on the dev’s copyright.
The agreement quantifies the financial damage of an individual Destiny 2 cheater: $2,000. I remain haunted by some ludicrous snipers from my time in Destiny’s more competitive Survival queue, but that still feels like a hefty damage estimate. Nevertheless, Elite Boss and OneOneZeroTwoZeroSevenEightOne Canada agreed to that assessment, and the companies’ software was purchased 6,765 times, bringing the total owed to Bungie to $13.5 million.
It’s an eye-watering sum in terms of normal people money—if I had $13.5 mil I’d probably have grabbed a few more $2 RPGs from 1998 in the GOG summer sale—but the real value for Bungie and other developers is the example being set: It’s just not worth it to try and sell cheats for an online FPS if a company can rain legal hell on you.
This strategy of setting a legal example against third-party developers is similar to the playbook of notoriously litigious publisher Nintendo, although cheat makers are a much less sympathetic figure than fan game devs. Recently, mod chip seller Gary Bowser was sentenced to three years (opens in new tab) in prison for being part of a team that sold tools for pirating Nintendo games, and the details of his imprisonment (opens in new tab) are stomach-churning. I don’t like to see anyone bludgeoned by the full weight of the American legal system in general, never mind over videogames.
That’s the grimmer undercurrent I see to this otherwise-welcome culling of cheat manufacturers: potential future consequences for people who are more sympathetic than incorporated cheat-making businesses. As with Bungie’s copyright strike fiasco (opens in new tab), I am reminded of the absolute power copyright holders and platform owners have over the communities of fan creators who make their livings in parallel to games, and who rely on those companies’ good graces to continue.