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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Korean Gaming Firm Sues Cheating Hackers

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Korean distributor of the online role-playing game MapleStory is trying to stop hackers from selling cheats to players through two websites.

Nexon Korea Corp. and Nexon America sued the creators and operators of the GamerSoul and Riu Kazaki websites, where MapleStory players can buy the infringing cheats and hacks.

The companies want to shut down the websites under the Copyright Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

"Nexon Korea Corporation and Nexon America, Inc. (collectively, 'Nexon') bring this lawsuit to put an immediate stop to, and seek redress for, defendants' insidious and harmful practice of developing, distributing, and selling, for a profit, software products (sometimes referred to as 'hacks' or 'cheats') that modify or alter the online component of MapleStory in a manner that destroys the online experience of this game. Defendants' conduct causes serious and irreparable harm to Nexon," the federal complaint states.

Defendants include Ryan Michael Cornwell aka Riu Kuzaki, Chinese defendant Yang Yu Zhou, Ryan Griffin-Crane, Vincent Hai, Gamersoul.com, Doe 1 aka "Alphamar," and Doe 2 aka "Bizarro" and "Andrew."

Cornwell, of Waco, Texas, is "the driving force" behind the Riu Kuzaki website and was "actively involved in the creation" of GamerSoul, according to the complaint.

"Nexon is informed and believes that Cornwall has distributed thousands or hundreds of thousands of the Riu Kuzaki hacks from the Riu Kuzaki website, and that Cornwall has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from his sale of the Riu Kuzaki hacks and from third-party advertising on his website," according to the complaint.

Nexon calls MapleStory "an immensely popular online game," in which players interact in an "evolving, dynamic virtual game world."

Players can register and download software to play the game for free. They also may buy "virtual goods" with virtual currency, bought with real dollars.

"A significant portion of Nexon's revenue is derived from the sale of such virtual goods. It is these sales that enable Nexon to make its games free to play, while many other online games charge a monthly subscription fee or require purchase of game software," the lawsuit states.

Nexon says Cornwall and the other defendants have created hacks and cheats that work around the game's anti-hacking and anti-cheating technology, security measures and encryption technology.

It claims that the software products at defendants' websites, riukuzaki.com and gamersoul.com, allow "players to alter, modify, and in some cases disrupt or destroy the online game, including by instructing MapleStory's computer servers to act in ways not intended by Nexon."

Nexon claims that Cornwall's hacks allow a player "to advance unfairly through the game and amass game assets without actually playing the game."

"Defendants create and sell their unlawful software products with the knowledge that they are facilitating and promoting users to infringe Nexon's copyrights, trafficking in unlawful circumvention devices, and inducing users to breach their contracts with Nexon. Defendants' actions have unjustly profited defendants while causing significant damage to Nexon," the complaint states.

Nexon says Cornwall and the other defendants "have caused and continue to cause serious harm to the value of Nexon's games and to its online community."

"First, defendants irreparably harm the ability of Nexon's legitimate customers to enjoy and participate in the competitive online experience. That, in turn, causes users to grow dissatisfied with the game, lose interest in the game, and stop playing. Any decrease in the online community for Nexon's games results in lost revenue for Nexon. Indeed, since Nexon's entire business relies on its customers' purchase of virtual goods and related products, defendants' disruption to Nexon's online community threatens Nexon's entire business and its 'free-to-play' business model.

"Second, defendants' conduct has forced Nexon to spend enormous sums of money (and vast amounts of time) attempting to remediate the damage caused by the hacks. This includes creating and releasing new versions of the MapleStory client (or 'patches' to the MapleStory client) that prevent use of the hacks and employing personnel to police the game to detect the use of hacks and 'ban' (i.e., delete the accounts of) users who are using hacks," the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)

Several makers and distributors of massive multiple role-playing computer games have filed similar lawsuits against hackers who invent systems for cheaters to rack up points without actually playing. And according to The New Yorker magazine, Chinese businesses employ teams of real players who play around the clock to win virtual goods and currency, which are then sold for real money in the real world.

Nexon seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement, inducement to infringe copyright, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, trafficking in circumvention devices, unlawful circumvention, breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and unfair competition.

Nexon is represented by Marc Mayer with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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