The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

January 25, 2010 -

Attorney Mona Ibrahim has published an analysis of the legal implications involved in reverse-engineering games.

The article follows a hypothetical game developer who is frustrated that her favorite game has poor server support, so she reverse-engineers the network protocols to create a private, lag-free server.  The concept isn't so far-fetched: guides on how to create a private World of Warcraft server abound and some reverse-engineered games, like SWGEmu have gained quite a bit of attention.

Ibrahim's article outlines the various laws and doctrines that come into play with reverse-engineering, from the Copyright Act to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and provides practical examples of where enterprising coders can go wrong.

For instance, regarding the DMCA, Ibrahim notes:

If Mallory's new server doesn't provide the same safeguards that control access to the original game servers (like a CD key or a version verification protocol), then her own server is circumventing access controls to the online component of the game. Therefore, by distributing the program, means (such as DIY instructions), or code to access servers that don't use the game's original access controls, she would be violating the anti-circumvention provision.

The article concludes that while reverse engineering itself is not illegal, it does run a gauntlet of legal issues and that "[t]his isn't the type of project you want to pursue if you're risk averse".


Dan Rosenthal is a legal analyst for the games industry.


Comments

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

While I appreciate the write up, I am not a Gamasutra columnist. I would be a horrible columnist. I don't have that kind of time. But again, thanks for the nod.

 

 

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

The DMCA(Draconian malice copyright act) goes to far to try and marginalize something legal. IMO things that bypass copy protection both hardware and software based need to follow only acouple rules to be legal and untouchable, It must prove that they do more than allow unprotected "retail" item's to be used on or "only unlock" the device or piece of software in question. IE for it to be fair use it has to offer more features to a device or allow you full access to the software you have purchased and that the mods/cracks,ect can not have unlicensed patent,code or copy right within it.



So for a device a mod/hack,ect HAS to use more media and file types than the current up to date device to become fair use.


Software can be unlocked if you own it or if it adds more things beyond the current up to date device use more media and file types or decode its files for moddfcaction  or add a configuration utility that adds more features to a games basic menus of control,graphics,audio,ect.


You must build the mod/crack/hack with 100% paid licensed or public domain patent,code or copy right.



This about competition and openness and allowing for us to mod when we see a problem with X or Y no one outside the community of bored geeks is willing to fix or address, if business will not do it we will and this is how America became better by people adding on to current ideas and making things better(not putting out a death grip over every little thing and suing people into he dark ages if they dare think.....)!


Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! CP/IP laws should not effect the daily life of common people! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

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Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

Would you believe I was, just moments before clicking on my GP feed, pondering this very issue?  Thanks for the link -- this is the kind of thing I think about.

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

Well if they're modding Star Wars Galaxy to the days before it got raped into a fail WoW clone then im all for it.

http://www.magicinkgaming.com/

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

It's first form was pretty fail even without remaking it into it's final version.

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

I helped stress test that emu, it wasn't bad. Ran pretty well actually, even in pre-beta phase.

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

Regarding private servers on WoW, I have heard that whiel Blizzartd doesn't like it, they hardly do much to stop it.

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

I haven't kept up on Blizzard's current policy on third-party servers, but I know they successfully sued over bnetd, a third-party alternative to battle.net.

Re: The Legalities of Reverse-Engineering Games

not entirely correct. Having played on privates for years, and even run my own a couple times, they're not as apathetic as you'd think.

When they take down a server, it goes so quickly that the comunity usually doesn't know why it's gone, and the other servers don't want to talk about it, for fear of attracting attention. Seen it happen.

I miss my wow server, just ran out of time to run it properly :(

 
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Sora-ChanTestTube did a video on the Trans-Pascific Partnership https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W4Zc55pCtY04/01/2015 - 4:06pm
ZippyDSMleepicking up The Feminist Wire , Mary Sue and Feminist frequency , a shame FF had to close down comments, I tend to drop anyhting that dose not allow comments these days but as seeing how much spam and trolling they get I will it slide.04/01/2015 - 4:03pm
ZippyDSMleeOkay now that I can understand, I was focusing on total outcome not just reinforcement.So its about reinforcement of poor feelings/behavior than anything else..now I get it....uhg forest for the trees.....04/01/2015 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenBut again, to be clear, that does not mean consuming violent media will make you violent.04/01/2015 - 3:46pm
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ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen Okay so would that be like violence something that has a loose tie to the real world, or would that be an oversimplification?04/01/2015 - 3:43pm
Andrew EisenThe Mary Sue reports on all kinds of fun, geeky stuff from news to movies, video games, comics, science and more.04/01/2015 - 3:42pm
ZippyDSMleeAnyone know of any fun/comedic feminist blogs that keep up with news?04/01/2015 - 3:42pm
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ZippyDSMleeThe trouble wiht twitter and FB is they give inconstant updates to those you follow and RSS feeds never worked well for me, guess I will put in my news stuff and skim it like the rest when I have time..04/01/2015 - 3:38pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen:So a wide use of generic tropes about male leads makes it easier for males to dominate females, and females feel lesser beings in real life?04/01/2015 - 3:36pm
E. Zachary KnightZippy, they have an RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. All links are in the side bar of their site: http://www.feministfrequency.com/04/01/2015 - 3:35pm
Andrew EisenZippy - It has an RSS and a presence on Twitter and Facebook.04/01/2015 - 3:33pm
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ZippyDSMleeanyone know if feministfrequency has a newsletter or update notification via the blog system they use?04/01/2015 - 3:31pm
Andrew EisenIf you're referring to the ending of Sarkeesian's latest video, no. What she said was the idea that men's experiences are universal is reinforced when the overwhelming majority of archetypal fantasy heroes are male.04/01/2015 - 3:30pm
ZippyDSMleeas it requires a lot of effort to go beyond ones experience. Hell I have like 10 crutches or so LOL, failures aside the more I am learning the more I am confused =0_o=04/01/2015 - 3:27pm
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