In reponse to rampant cheating in Call of Duty games, earlier this month Activision filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against cheat maker EngineOwning UG and CMN Holdings S.A.
The complaint also named six individuals (Valentin Rick, Leonard Bugla, Leon Frisch, Ignacio Gayduchenko, Marc-Alexander Richts, Alexander Kleeman) and added 50 ‘Doe’ defendants.
Activision explained that to combat cheating it had previously deployed its RICHOCET Anti-Cheat system and since EngineOwning tools bypass that, these defendants are in breach of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.
Activision Investigation Has Been Running Since 2017
According to new filings with the court, Activision’s investigation into EngineOwning has been live since 2017. Carried out with the assistance of a cybercrime investigative service (Activision declines to name it on security grounds), Activision managed to identify a small number of defendants. In 2017 and 2018, its lawyers wrote to them several times, demanding that they cease and desist.
That reportedly had no effect and it’s alleged that EngineOwning’s response was to broaden its operations by rolling out updated products to counter Activision’s anti-cheat systems while expanding its reseller network and staff. And that wasn’t all.
EngineOwning Mocked Activision, ‘Trolled’ Lawyers
“Defendants (or other anonymous individuals employed by EngineOwning) also began actively mocking Activision, such as by heavily promoting its Call of Duty Cheats and ‘trolling’ me and my firm with fake online groups and user profiles,” Activision lawyer Marc Meyer writes in a declaration to the court.
The screenshot below shows a Steam community that associates Meyer’s law firm with the word ‘crime’.
Meyer, a partner at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP (MSK), says his company still needs to identify at least 15 individuals, currently known only by their online aliases – Bonsai, Agriolo, Chronos, Deutschlander, Enceladus, Homie, Jeuwifghue, LogicX, LuoZheng, mortyy, NOL3X, SlapstiK, Croatle, Speedi13, and Requi.
“[T]he Doe Defendants certainly are aware of this lawsuit. In fact, we are aware that at least one of the Doe defendants posted a message online bragging about being named as a Doe Defendant and claiming that Activision will never find him,” Meyer informed the court.
Since Activision says it has exhausted all reasonable efforts to put real names to aliases, assistance is now needed from the court. The details of the discovery request filed in recent days suggest that Activision will leave no stone unturned in naming the defendants, including the person who believes that he or she won’t be caught.
In order to function, EngineOwning uses a number of services including internet service providers, payment providers and social media websites. Activision says that by compelling these services to hand over the details they hold on the defendants, the company will move closer to identifying them. Without a doubt, the list of companies is extremely broad.
For example, it’s believed that Google-owned YouTube holds information on the operators of several channels that are used for marketing and advertising EngineOwning products. Twitter is believed to hold information on at least 11 of the 15 ‘doe’ defendants while Tucows and Namecheap hold information on the people who registered the deactivision.com, dn-spoofer.com, keller-elite.com and garnatz.bz domains.
On the payment processing front, PayPal, Stripe, Amazon and Coinbase are all said to have done business with EngineOwning and could hold valuable information on the defendants. Drilling down into social media, several defendants including Bonsai, LogicX, and Speedi13 reportedly operate Reddit accounts while EngineOwning has at least three accounts on Instagram – Activision wants whatever data the services hold on the defendants.
Whoever created the ‘MSKCrime’ community on Steam could also be identified via a subpoena to Valve, in particular the person who created a user account in Activision’s lawyer’s name. Rounding off the list Activision also seeks cooperation from Discord to identify a number of defendants who hold accounts there, Cloudflare which provided services to the EngineOwning website, and even Trustpilot.
The subpoenas have been authorized by the court but whether they will lead to anything concrete remains a question. Nevertheless, Activision appears determined to unmask its adversaries.