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Japan student held for making Puzzle and Dragons hack (tokyoreporter.com)
83 points by rtpg on June 16, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments

After a bit of poking around it looks like the tool was called "padBinEditor" - files and instructions can be found on various English game cheat sites.

As near as I can tell, all it does is let you edit locally stored game data files - to lower a boss's stats and so on. Why this is illegal, I have no idea. JP news reports all mention "bypassing data protection", so I guess that means the data files were encrypted (for some value of "encrypted"). But according to the app's instructions it works on non-jailbroken iOS, so it's not like it's defeating OS protections - it's just getting files from storage and overwriting them. I don't grasp all the details but it seems pretty chilling.

If you were to share a bunch of copyrighted material in the States, the MPAA/RIAA et. al. would come and threaten you with a law suit (and you'd settle out of court). In Japan, if you do the exact same thing, you will be arrested [1]. It's a difference in "what is normal".

[1] http://aramajapan.com/news/music/40-people-arrested-for-ille...

Unless it has changed recently (which is very possible) I believe Japan still only has criminal charges for "commercial" copyright infringement. In other words you need to make money off if it. I'm not familiar with the incident you linked to, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

Edit: I am indeed wrong. The criminal penalties are spelled out here: http://www.cric.or.jp/english/csj/csj5.html

I don't have time to see when it changed, but this is a pretty big modification from the last time I looked. Sigh...

I definitely recall 3 people being arrested back in 2012'ish for sharing a very large number of Nintendo 3DS ROMs on one of the Winny/Share/Perfect Dark platforms, so the change must have preceded this.

Yeah. Now that I think about it, I probably haven't paid attention to this since about 2007-2008. I'm getting old... I was thinking it was just the other day ;-)

It's not clear to me what copyright is being violated here.

Is there copyrighted content that is being distributed without license?

Japanese law is pretty different from the US on this stuff. In chatting with people about this case I learned about something called the "right to preservation of identity" for copyright works - particularly works that are deemed to be "movie-like", under which games apparently qualify.

I don't follow the details but the famous test case was apparently in the late 90s when Konami successfully sued companies for selling memory cards pre-loaded with save data for a particularly hard game.

If someone did this in the US, can they get in trouble?

When exactly does "hacking" a game become illegal? What about people doing it for research like the machine learning mario guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qv6UVOQ0F44. Or tool-assisted speedruns? Or the starcraft broodwar ai?

Is it only when you breach the TOS or copyrights? Just curious since it never even occurred to me that such things are punishable.

There are multiple cases in the United States regarding game hacks.

Some of the more famous involve Blizzard, with the biggest example being a suit against the creators of WowGlider, a bot for World of Warcraft (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDY_Industries,_LLC_v._Blizzar...)

Fascinating: The Court of Appeals ruled that for a software licensee's violation of a contract to constitute copyright infringement, there must be a nexus between the license condition and the licensor’s exclusive rights of copyright. However ... that a finding of circumvention under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not require a nexus between circumvention and actual copyright infringement.

The DMCA's anti-circumvention section appears to be the only thing that preserved parts of the original finding. Perhaps the next time this law is up for review, some less onerous terms can be placed for reverse engineering for the purpose of interoperability.

At least in the US, I don't believe there is any precedent that establishes it is illegal to alter a product.

There is always push back by companies, but it seems that the general trend is always in favor of the consumer (see, rooting your phone is found legal, this video concerning the legality of modifying cars and tractors https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nps24EqiZjY )

It might fall under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act? The DMCA criminalises the act of circumventing an access control mechanism.

> If someone did this in the US, can they get in trouble?

No, not really.*

> What about people doing it for research

§ 1201 has lots of exceptions including "Nonprofit library, archive and educational institution exception (section 1201(d))."

* Yes, technically the laws here in the US are broad enough that if you did something that the US DOJ or local LE became very concerned about, they could at the very least arrest, detain, and charge you with a crime if not convict you of it.

Slight NSFW warning on the ads, despite using adBlock.

It's due to d1rk0nonkgiwed.cloudfront.net

This will boot up the number of curious minds.

How on earth is this a criminal offense? Copyright law should never, ever be that powerful.

In japan they are. People have gone to jail for double digit years and have been ordered to pay millions of yens in damages for file sharing. From wikipedia straight:

>Unlike most other countries, filesharing copyrighted content is not just a civil offense, but a criminal one, with penalties of up to ten years for uploading and penalties of up to two years for downloading.

I've done my fair share of trying to get vintage animation via Winny some 10-12 years ago. At one time a Galaxy Express 999 uploader just disappeared. Later on there were reports of his trial, sentenced to jail for uploading videos of cartoons that aired between 1978-81. That is, 25 years ago at the time of the events.

Also see Nintendo's case against M2 and R3 card manufacturers that are now basically illegal in the country. You could be stopped by police on the street and retained if they saw you with a Nintendo DS and a non-standard game cartridge.

How long has it been crazy like this?

About 20 years, as far as I can tell. There is also a high level of Internet service provider cooperation. http://www.zdnet.com/article/japans-isps-agree-to-ban-p2p-pi...

Japanese copyright laws are backwards, even more so than in the US.

Things are far too out of hand, my friend.

For those wondering what the offense is, the news reports specifically indicate public distribution of a program to circumvent copyright protection. Japanese copyright law does make circumvention itself illegal, but in general you won't be bothered until you try to make your tools widely available.

How is this defined as breaking copyright law? Did the cheat contain code from the original game?

Speculatively, I think the reasons here are threefold:

1. Japan has the world's oldest population, which means there's a pretty high level of unfamiliarity with and suspicion of many modern technologies. Fax machines remain more popular than email, for example.

2. Video games are a much larger and more mainstream part of Japanese culture than they are in America, and consequently they're seen as "serious business" to a much greater degree than they are here. It could be that hacking a game in order to cheat is viewed similarly to how we'd view cheating at gambling or professional sports. (Especially if the game is played competitively, and/or the cheat is intended to get around in-app purchases).

3. Very, very strong cultural emphasis on honesty and following the rules. Japan is consistently, by a wide margin, the world's most honest and law-abiding country, and those who aren't are viewed quite harshly. Like all things, this can be taken to extremes.

>the world's most honest and law-abiding country

Based on the experience of female friends: don't believe everything you hear about Japan. If you are a gaijin being mugged or harrassed by Japanese men, even police will question your word when describing the villain. They will honestly ask if you have "not just seen him wrong, because Japanese people don't do such things. Must have been a foreigner."

Also, witnesses reject to help, look away and mind their own business. Sometimes not even moving away on a train, just sitting there while a woman gets harrassed, mugged or raped. These women do not always report such crimes due to the shame of something like this happening to them, and other people not even helping. The logic goes so that they themselves must have deserved it, since noone came to their aid. For more, see schoolgirl gangs beating and raping single bullied targets in public places like restaurants. People just sit and look away. Some take videos and pictures to post online.

In court, the judges do not question the legitimacy of police findings and accusations, so if the police presents evidence that would accuse of you wrongly but which is half-assed or plain wrong, judges take those evidences at face value. The onus is on you to prove thee two biased parties wrong.

Don't believe Japanese stereotypes without a couple years spent in a big city there.

Yes, there's also a lot of xenophobia, but that's not relevant to this case.

I get triggered whenever Japan is mentioned as an honest and law abiding country with zen buddhist tradition. Makes people think the fence is made of sausages yonder. The reality of the social situation is far worse than what Westerners perceive.

The ideal of being honest and law-abiding fits with your story. There is pressure for them to be perceived this way, whether or not it is true.

> Fax machines remain more popular than email, for example.

This is a huge overstatement. Fax use is still common, but in no way is it more "popular" than email.

It probably has something to do with the tampering of copy protection, which companies would very much like to be illegal. An arrest does not equate to a conviction; there's a chance the charges may not stick, but I don't know Japanese law.

While an arrest doesn't equate to prosecution, in Japan, prosecution almost equates conviction (somewhere around 99.9%).

Well, closer to 99.7%[1]. But many less charges are filed, per capita, than the United States. This is partially due to things like honor and culture, but more to do with the fact that Japanese prosecutors have double the caseload of their American counterparts. And perhaps even more to do with the use of judges to decide verdicts.

It's also a false contrast. 97% of prosecutions in the US are resolved by plea bargain.

DA's have a reputation to keep.

District Attorneys?

IANAL, but I wonder if there is a case to be made that the cheat is a derivative work of the game.

Its hard to say, but I would imagine that you agree to a license to play the game, and that license would disallow derivative works.

I remember when I thought crime was about bad guys actually hurting people. The more frivolous the world and its economy gets, the more frivolous the reasons for taking away somebody's freedom.

Is this a single-player game, or multiplayer?

(Also, I was sure I remembered a game by the same name from the '90s, which I thought was a trivia quiz game with a D&D-ish theme. A brief search hasn't turned up any evidence, though. Anyone else remember that?)

Until about a year ago it was single-player with a tacked-on social component, but there's now co-op and a competitive ranking mode with prizes for the top 1% of players (and mostly irrelevant prizes for lower buckets).

If you stay out of the ranking dungeons it's hard to argue that a hack negatively impacts other players, but making the game easier does means you're less likely to pay them money to progress faster.

Imo this is what they should have expected by having game state on the client side.

Single player, although it probably leaderboards. More importantly it has pay-to-progress options, which these cheats would make redundant (which is probably what the company is angry about).

The 90's game was Quiz and Dragons by Capcom and it was arcade only.

That's what I was thinking of. Thanks!

Puzzles and Dragons makes money from monster eggs and other power ups. If you can supe up your monsters, you have no need to pay them.

It's copyright because they see the ability to update monster stats as proprietary technology. Only they can do that and users of this software are stealing from the developers and ruining the game for themselves.

At least, that seems to be what's going on.

Anyone should be able to code any piece of software, any time, and offer it free for download, without it being illegal.

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