In a landmark ruling, a developer and distributor of Grand Theft Auto Online hacks has been ordered to pay the maximum amount of statutory damages, as well as lawyer's fees. The case was first publicized back in December and is only the latest in a long string of similar legal rows.
Jhonny Perez, the Florida based developer and seller of the defunct "Elusive" cheat engine must pay Take-Two Interactive $150,000 in damages as well as an additional $69,686 in fees. In the initial filing, Rockstar estimated the losses caused by Elusive to be $500,000, due to it allowing players to grant their characters unlimited amounts of money, making the use of the game's microtransaction economy unnecessary.
Rockstar Games and Take-Two have taken down several cheat creators, most of whom complied with the company. After Jhonny Perez was contacted by the legal team of the publisher, Elusive ceased all distribution and operation. However, Perez failed to comply further.
In these situations, Rockstar's lawyers request financial records that would indicate how much income a paid hack generated for the developer, and a settlement would be agreed upon based on this data. After Perez did not provide those financial records, or any other response, the case was taken to court.
Perez also didn't show for the hearings, which then led to the Take-Two lawyers filing for default judgment. As the defendant continued to fail to appear in court, the default judgment was ordered and the case was awarded to Take-Two and Rockstar, meaning Perez must pay the full statutory damages and cover legal fees. This is the largest monetary amount in damages ever ordered in a video game hacking case.
The court stated that the Elusive hack caused "irreparable" damage to GTA Online and Rockstar Games. Beyond harming the finances of the company by undermining the microtransaction market, users of the hack were given powers and abilities beyond that offered in regular gameplay, meaning they could spawn props until the clients of other players crashed, could teleport or instantly kill other players. This gave players an unfair advantage in PvP situations and the opportunity to "grief" other players.
Take-Two sought the maximum damages with the intention of this case being a deterrent to other cheat distributors. The thought of having to dish out $150,000 plus fees hanging over their heads might make others think twice about continuing to undercut GTA Online's profits, or to fail to cooperate with Take-Two when their lawyers come knocking.
Rockstar has ramped up its fight against hacking and cheating in GTA Online, to the point where several cases have gone to court and they even gained search warrants for two homes in Australia where hacks were suspected to be developed. This is a win for Rockstar and for legitimate players of GTA Online who want to play without having to worry about hackers.