Over the past several years, major videogame companies have taken cheat developers, sellers, and resellers to court in the United States.
Bungie’s legal campaign is beginning to pay off. Last summer, the case against Elite Tech Boss resulted in a consent judgment where a key defendant agreed to pay $13.5 million in damages. This was followed by a $12 Million default judgment last month against Veterancheats.
The case against cheat reseller LaviCheats reached its conclusion at a Washington federal court this week. Like the cases against the other cheat operations, this lawsuit wasn’t fully litigated.
Lavicheats Doesn’t Show Up in Court
Earlier this year, Bungie filed a motion for default judgment against LaviCheats. The game company asked the court to rule on the matter without hearing the defendant, as they apparently have no interest in making a court appearance.
Bungie believes that the cheat seller is operated by India-resident Kunal Bansal, AKA “Lavi”. No known address exists for this person so to alert Bansal to the legal proceeding, Bungie sent an email and posted a message in the LaviCheats forums.
These unusual serving options were authorized by the court and achieved the desired result. Although there was no response from the defendant in court, Destiny 2 cheats were removed from the LaviCheats website.
$6.7 Million Default Judgment
In the absence of a proper defense, United States District Judge Tana Lin assumed that Bungie’s copyright infringement claims were true. The same also applies to the financial damages reported by the video game company.
This week, Judge Lin ruled on the motion for default. After concluding that the court has jurisdiction over the foreign defendant and that a default judgment is appropriate, she awarded more than $6.7 million in compensation.
The bulk of the award is made up of statutory damages for ‘willful’ violations of the DMCA. This applies to the cheat’s circumvention of Bungie’s technological protection measures.
With 2,790 downloads of “Bansal Cheats” and $2,000 in statutory damages per download, this amounts to over $5.5 million. This is a reasonable figure, according to the court, which notes that the maximum damages per download would be higher.
“Based on the allegations in the Complaint and the evidence provided, the Court is satisfied that Bansal’s violations of the DMCA were willful and that an award of up to $2,500 per download of the Bansal Cheats is ‘just’.
“Bungie has asked for only $2,000 for each of the 2,790 downloads of the Bansal Cheats and the Court finds that this amount is appropriate,” Judge Lin adds.
Copyright and Trademark Infringement
Bungie allegations also included copyright infringement claims. These damages are not determined by the number of downloads of the cheat software, but by the number of copyrights at stake – two in this case – for which the court granted the $150,000 statutory maximum per infringement.
“Given the adequate allegations of Bansal’s willful copyright infringement, the Court finds that the maximum statutory award is appropriate and awards $300,000 in statutory damages,” Judge Lin writes.
For the trademark violations, Bungie requested damages based on the defendant’s actual profits – between $45,987.58 and $579,270 according to estimates, with the court opting for the higher number.
“The Court accepts as true that Bansal earned the higher amount—given that the allegations in the complaint are accepted as true—and the Court awards $579,270 in damages for the Trademark claims.”
There’s no denying that the outcome of this case is a clear win for the Bungie. In addition to the damages awards and additional fees, the order also comes with an injunction requiring Bansal and LaviCheats to stop offering Bungie cheats.
As mentioned earlier, the service has already stopped selling Destiny 2 cheats, so that’s another clearly positive result.
Whether Bungie will be able to recoup any of the damages awarded is questionable, however. The whereabouts of LaviCheats’ operator is unknown and, given his lack of response in the lawsuit, the Indian defendant is unlikely to pay up without external pressure.
A copy of the default judgment issued by United States District Judge Tana Lin is available here (pdf)