Police have announced charges of criminal copyright infringement against the admin and players of an unauthorised Aion: The Tower of Eternity server, marking Japan’s first ever prosecution of an emulated MMORPG server.
Kanagawa police say they intend to prosecute an Osaka man in his twenties for criminal copyright infringement, after complaints from Korean MMORPG developer NCsoft that he was running a “pirate server” for Aion: The Tower of Eternity (“The Tower of AION” in Japan), and disgracefully allowing people to play for free.
NCsoft and the police also intend to prosecute anyone who played on the server. Both prosecuting an unauthorised server and going so far as to charge its users are firsts for Japan.
Though he is accused of running a “pirate server” using the game and illegally inducing others to play on it, it is not clear whether he somehow obtained a copy of the server code (the freely available client would not be sufficient), or instead operated an emulated server, as has long been common practice in the world of MMORPGs.
He and his users admit using the server, though it is not clear whether they intend to contest the validity of this unconventional interpretation of the scope of NCsoft’s copyright.
The impetus behind the prosecution appears to be NCsoft’s concerns that his free server was depriving them of precious lucre.
Online there is the usual suspicion that Japan’s copyright laws are more than a little one-sided:
“But there were loads of free shards back in the days of UO? Although if he did get hold of the server executables, it seems fair game to arrest him.”
“Lineage II had them too.”
“Surely this is legal? The client is freely distributed, and he must have cooked up the server side himself.”
“Just because it is free doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like with it. And just because he made it himself doesn’t mean it isn’t plagiarism.”
“If the server was based on a stolen program and the users knew, they can expect to be arrested.”
“You people don’t even realise what a serious crime this is!”
“Remember, he’s not been arrested – they just intend to file charges.”
“Who cares, only scum play play online games!”
“At least it’s cheaper than pachinko.”
“Is anyone still playing this old Korean garbage?”
“It is probably against the TOS to connect to or run an unauthorised server.”
“If you’re going to play on an emulated server you may as well just play SP.”
“After they got downloading criminalised all the different jurisdictions are just going to use this minor stuff they would normally have ignored to pad out their arrest figures. I bet that’s why the cops were so keen on this law.”
“How the hell can they prosecute him for copyright infringement if all the data is on the client and the packets coming off the server are only emulated, not copied?”
“If they can interpret copyright laws this broadly they can arrest you for practically anything. It’s worse than ACTA, they have a totally free hand to make anything into criminal infringement.”
“This is like arresting visitors to a site for copyright infringement because the site was made with pirated software.”
“Arresting the users too? I don’t like the direction things are going on the net these days…”