I've had a customer sign up last week and is running a PHPBB forum about the game RuneScape which is run by a UK company Jagex. This forum publishes various ways to cheat in this game, and also has a section in it for trading player accounts. I received an email from Jagex last night asking us to remove the site since it is a violation of their terms and conditions regarding their game (cheating and trading accounts and items from the game).
Although I don't really condone cheating and violating someones terms and conditions, is this grounds for removing this site? I can see that they are obviously violating the game's terms, but is there any obvious violation of law here that I am missing?
They mentioned the following when I asked for a bit more clarification as to how this violated US law:
Player accounts, as well as everything in RuneScape, are the
intellectual property of Jagex Ltd, and by trading game accounts is in
violation of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).
If macros are used in our game, this also infringes the DMCA, as it is
abusing our intellectual property, by going against the rules we have
set for our game.
I'm curious as to any feedback you can contribute.
I would comply, if you fail to comply they will contact your provider who will force you to take it down.
How are they exactly cheating and are they providing software? I'm not familiar with the game, but if they are posting code, "macros" or anything else that Jagex LTD claims they own... I would ask them (forum owners) to remove ALL of the offending material and if that means their forum is now useless, then so be it...
It appears that they are providing "codes" that you use with another program that is made for manipulating the game and cheating. Also, they are providing links to off-site downloads of cheating programs. I am not very familiar with this game either.
In order to maintain the safe harbor protections provided by the DMCA you have to comply, as long as their complaint is legal. It is up to the web site owner to contest the complaint if they wish. If you do not already, you should consider adopting a formal DMCA policy and also registering with the US Copyright Office.
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I would definitely notify the client that he or she has x number of days (best to make it three to five - something short) to move off of your service before getting his or her account terminated. State the reason why this is being done, and then also BCC the message to Jagex. Because Jagex has now alerted you to the problem, if you choose to do nothing, you can be held legally liable for aiding and abetting a violator of the DMCA. For some reason, this law is one of the most strongly upheld here in the U.S. You do not want to be on the receiving end of a DMCA-related lawsuit, trust me!
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It is a bit difficult to say without knowing exactly what they provide on their forum, however I would investigate into this before overreacting and suspending a paid service because some third party stated some unfounded threats.
What they are offering is probably against the TOS of the game, but probably not against the law. Hence nobody should be able to force you to take some actions. The company can say everything, but it doesnt need to be true and so far they couldnt back up their statements.
Whether player accounts are their intellectual property cant be easily said (especially if the users have to pay), but I wouldnt assume that exchanging user logins (thats what I understand as trading) is a violation in the stated context. The same should apply to cheats.
Again, without knowing the exact services which are offered it is a bit difficult to say, but as I said I wouldnt get in panic. Also I am not sure whether a UK based company can claim the DMCA for itself at all.
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Personally, I have a problem with a lot of the DMCA complaints being sketchy, at best. Quite a few of them that I have seen are baseless.
That said, as a business owner, its not my job to decide the legalities of such claims. We notify our client, if a DMCA complaint is lodged, and tell them to take care of it. If any of our providers have a problem with the complaint, we take action immediately. We can't risk the accounts of other clients over fighting a battle like that...even if the client is right.
Its unfortunate, but that's the way it is.
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