Creating hacks for online games could now earn you jail time in South Korea

South Korea has taken a big step toward cracking down on cheating in online games by criminalizing the creation and distribution of aimbots, wall hacks, and anything else not allowed by a game's terms of service. According to a PvPLive report, anyone convicted of doing so could face up to five years in prison (!) or $43,000 in fines. 

The law apparently doesn't target esports specifically, although that would seem to be its most obvious target, given how popular (and lucrative) they are, especially in South Korea. And game makers like Valve, Blizzard, and Riot will no doubt welcome the new law as another weapon to use in their fight against cheaters. It's hard to set up a new Overwatch account when you're serving a stretch in the Big House, after all. 

Even so, I don't see how anyone could possibly consider this a good idea. We can't properly judge without a full translation of the law, but criminalizing the creation of cheating software, as opposed to profiting in some specific way through cheating, potentially leads to all sorts of unintended consequences. It also opens up the door to abuse on the developer side of the equation. If anything that contravenes a game's TOS is against the law, aren't developers incentivized to load those terms with restrictive language? Modding of any sort, regardless of intent or result, could suddenly be forbidden, under penalty of law. 

You might argue that no rational law enforcement agency is actually going to pursue most of these cases, but given the way 2016 has played out so far, who can feel confident about any predictions? Taken broadly enough (which is how laws are always taken, sooner or later), this is no less than criminalizing the act of enabling bad behavior on the internet.

Update: The post has been amended to better reflect that the law covers the creation and sharing of cheat software, rather than its use. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.