Use a cheat, go to jail

It has been widely reported that Gabe Newell has posted to the Half-Life 2 Fallout forums:

We’ve started taking legal action against cheating (cheat-sites, cheat creators,…) both in the US and abroad. This is in addition to the on-going investments in anti-cheating technology. You’ll see reports of this percolating up as various actions happens.

The reaction to this announcement at places like this games.slashdot thread have been mostly supportive of such announcements. However, you can’t have it both ways people. Everyone complains and complains about how evil the RIAA is for using people who download music. Why are we happy when Valve threatens legal action against people who have paid for the product?
I’m curious as to what grounds they are intending to pursue legal action. The DMCA? Copyrights? EULA’s? I thought we hated all those things too? When I heard that Valve was going to pursue legal action (and it isn’t entirely clear what that means, suing them for damages or attempting to prosecutes them for breaking a law), I was disturbed. I know cheating sucks, but legal action isn’t going to prevent cheating any more than suing people who download music without paying for it. Valve already pissed off enough people complaining about Steam (which I’ve never had a problem with) and with having Steam download Counter-Strike: Condition Zero in the background (even though the first time you started Steam after they added Condition Zero it DID tell you in the fine print that it was doing that) and I thought that more would be pissed off about litigation to solve their problems. Admittedly, some were, but the majority of comments seemed to be positive.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, I mean people always want things that are good for them and don’t want things that are bad for them. However, from an ethnographic point of view, it is good to remind ourselves that as humans, our ways aren’t always consistent. I know I’m not and I guess I shouldn’t expect anyone else to be either.

2 Comments Showing 50 most recent
  1. Walter

    Well, I don’t see that this is inconsistent with supporting filesharing at all (although the RIAA suing individuals is another matter, one whose appropriateness I’m undecided on, although I still don’t think there’s a necessary inconsistency if you think that’s evil or not).

    The argument that these people have paid for their product and so are entitled to do with it what they will is rather dubious when changes to that product cannot be kept strictly within the personal sphere. Multiplayer Counterstrike is a public good, and cheaters diminish the value of that good for all non-cheaters who have purchased the product to gain access to it. This is rather unlike, say, downloading music you didn’t pay for: at least the folks who did pay for their music aren’t getting deteriorated audio quality as a result.

  2. Mia

    I think one of the central reasons for the difference in reaction to the RIAA versus Valve is that the RIAA claims to speak for all musicians, and most music listeners suspect that the musicians are getting very little of the money from sales of their CDs anyway, so its not *really* hurting them– just a faceless organization like EMI. With Valve, there is something of a face to the name, kind of like when my students say they would not download (for free) the music of a small artist. Right now, apparently, Valve fits that category. Of course, I wonder if someone like EA would get the same consideration.

    And as Walter said, cheaters will spoil MY experience, not just their own.

    Thanks for the update- I’d missed this story!