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Is it illegal to sell an aimbot?

Selling aimbot and other game cheating software is illegal in most cases according to video game companies‘ terms of service and copyright laws. Game publishers can take legal action against aimbot sellers, including lawsuits, criminal charges, and demands to cease operations.

As an avid gamer and streaming enthusiast, I‘ve researched this issue in depth. While some argue game cheats shouldn‘t be illegal if they only affect virtual worlds, the reality is they damage communities, undermine fair play, and reduce enjoyment for legitimate players.

In this guide, I‘ll provide an in-depth look at the legal issues around selling aimbots, the justifications sellers use, and why game publishers go to such efforts to deter cheating. My goal is to help fellow gamers understand all sides of this issue.

What is an aimbot and how does it work?

For those unfamiliar, an aimbot is a type of cheating software that automatically aims and shoots for you in online multiplayer games like Call of Duty or Apex Legends. Aimbots give huge advantages by eliminating the need for skill or precision.

Here‘s a quick overview of aimbot technology:

  • Uses computer vision techniques to identify opponent locations on screen
  • Calculates perfect aim trajectory based on opponent movement predictions
  • Manipulates mouse input to snap crosshairs to targets
  • Can shoot automatically or require user to pull trigger
  • Often includes "triggerbot" to fire instantly when aiming at target

Advanced aimbots may also compensate for bullet drop, recoil, and target distance to ensure hits. This makes a mediocre player suddenly lethal in games like PUBG or Rainbow Six Siege.

How game publishers are cracking down on aimbots

Game publishers absolutely despise aimbots for undermining competitive integrity and frustrating legitimate players. Over the years, they‘ve taken increasingly aggressive steps to deter cheating:

  • Sophisticated anti-cheat scanning looks for aimbot software running alongside games.
  • Statistical analysis on servers flags improbable accuracy for manual review.
  • Some games like Valorant run invasive anti-cheat drivers at computer kernel level.
  • BattlEye and Easy AntiCheat are 3rd party anti-cheat services used by many publishers.
  • Machine learning systems train on player behavior to identify cheating patterns.

When cheaters are detected, publishers hand out permanent account bans, stripping access to purchased games and items. For example, Activision banned over 60,000 Call of Duty: Warzone accounts in a single ban wave in 2021.

Despite these countermeasures, aimbots remain widely available if you know where to look. Cheat developers are constantly working to bypass the latest anti-cheat defenses. This leads to an ongoing cat-and-mouse game between cheat creators and security teams.

Are aimbots actually illegal to use?

For individual gamers, using an aimbot violates the publisher‘s terms of service, resulting in account bans. But violating a TOS agreement alone does not constitute a crime.

However, in some rare cases, prosecutors have charged cheat users with offences like unauthorized access or computer misuse under broader cybercrime laws. For example, a teen in Australia faced criminal charges in 2020 for selling Fortnite cheats.

The legal risks get significantly higher for people developing and selling cheat software for profit, as I‘ll explore next.

Copyright law and terms of service make selling aimbots risky

Game publishers leverage copyright law and binding terms of service to deter aimbot selling operations. By selling software that tampers with their games, cheat coders and sellers become prime targets for civil litigation and criminal charges.

Here are some of the legal avenues game companies use against aimbot sellers:

  • Copyright infringement – Publishers own exclusive rights to copy/modify their games.
  • Breaching terms of service – Game TOS prohibit all cheating utilities.
  • Trafficking unauthorized access devices – Potential felony under CFAA.
  • Contributory copyright infringement – Enabling others to infringe.
  • Circumventing anti-cheat technologies – Violates DMCA‘s anti-circumvention rules.

Big publishers like Epic Games (Fortnite) and Riot Games (Valorant) have deep pockets to pursue cheat distributors with costly lawsuits. Even sending cease and desist letters can cripple small cheat sellers operating on the fringes.

But consumers‘ appetite for aimbots keeps supply going. Just last year, Activision Blizzard sued EngineOwning, a prolific cheat seller, for $200,000 in damages. However, these types of lawsuits are more about sending a message than recouping losses.

Do game publishers ever pursue criminal charges?

Civil suits for copyright infringement and contract violations are much more common legal avenues. But criminal charges are possible depending on jurisdiction and how brazen the cheating operation is.

For example, Jeff Simon of GatorCheats was sentenced to 5 months of jail time in 2013 and ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution to Riot Games for breaching League of Legends‘ terms of service.

More recently, in 2018 federal prosecutors charged two men behind Wallhax.com for trafficking hardware and software hacks for various games. The case ended in a guilty plea with probation and restitution sentences.

While rare, these criminal cases underscore that the Department of Justice is willing to pursue felony charges against commercial cheat distributors under computer crime and copyright laws in egregious cases.

The cat-and-mouse game continues

This ongoing battle between game publishers and cheat sellers is akin to playing whack-a-mole. Distributors that get sued or criminally charged will often just resurface under new names.

And the demand for aimbots remains strong despite the risks involved. This speaks to the highly competitive nature of esports and multiplayer gaming communities nowadays.

Some players feel that cheating is justified if it helps them keep up with opponents who might be cheating already. But this mentality ultimately leads to a race to the bottom in terms of fair play and fun.

As machine learning and server analytics improve cheat detection, perhaps game publishers will be able to rein in this ecosystem of unfair play. But for now, the use of aimbots remains an enduring scourge that distorts multiplayer experiences for honest gamers.