Superpowers, more ways to play, a longer life: With the help of so-called cheat programs, computer gamers can circumvent the intended restrictions. But is such software even legal?

A dispute about the admissibility of so-called cheat programs for manipulating computer games becomes a case for the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) announced that EU law provisions were affected here, which first had to be interpreted in Luxembourg. Negotiations will then continue in Karlsruhe as soon as the requested ECJ ruling is available. (Az. I ZR 157/21)

“Cheat” is an English verb and means to cheat or cheat. In this specific case, it is about a racing game for a mobile game console (Playstation Portable) that is no longer in production. Thanks to the additional functions provided by the cheat software, it was possible for players to use the “Turbo” without restrictions or to select drivers from the start that should actually only be available from a higher score.

The Playstation manufacturer Sony is demanding damages from the developers and sellers of the cheat software for copyright infringement. The programmer didn’t plan it that way, said the Sony lawyer after the BGH hearing at the end of October. “It is important that the rules are the same for everyone in order to maintain the fun of the game and the comparability of the results.”

Legally, the question is whether the game has been “reworked” – that would be prohibited under copyright law. However, the game idea alone is not protected.

The Hamburg Higher Regional Court had recently dismissed Sony’s lawsuit. The judges there were of the opinion that the software only intervened in the course of the game. The source code and the internal structure remained unchanged. The ECJ should now clarify whether this nevertheless represents an inadmissible “reworking”.