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Reselling unauthorized game keys now illegal in Japan

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After a revision of Japan’s Unfair Competition Prevention Act a number of new amendments which are directly related to the video games industry have been introduced. Some of these amendments directly impact the modding scene and have subsequently led to the outlawing of the resale of unauthorized digital game keys.

Currently the amendments are only available in Japanese, as is most of the information surrounding them. It’s been confirmed that these amendments have been made to directly combat the sale of serial codes through illegitimate online auctions. Officials have said that the sale of serial codes via these auctions is becoming increasingly common, and therefore needs to be dealt with accordingly.

The banned acts, according to the translations, are:
• The distribution of tools and programs for the altering of saved data
• The reselling of software product keys online without the permission of the creator
• The offering of services that will modify saved data on a customer’s behalf

The reason these laws target data is that the Unfair Competition Prevention Act now recognizes data, (defined as information in electromagnetic record), as a target that deserves the protection of the law.

Initially it seemed as though this amendment was going to impact all game code resale websites. However, a clarification of the translations has confirmed that only illegitimate code resale websites will be punished under these amendments.

The punishment someone can expect to receive for breaking these laws ranges from a fine of ¥5 million to up to five years in jail. In some cases these sentences may be combined.

Cyber Save Editor, a product for PlayStation 4 which allows users to enable cheat codes or patch games in particular ways, has been discontinued in Japan as a result of these amendments.

Those reselling keys have always been under scrutiny from the wider games market, but for the law it’s been a grey area for some time. Now however, there is actual legislation that protects creators from their game keys being resold for profit illegitimately.

In the Court of Justice of the European Union it was ruled in 2012 that the reselling of downloaded games is completely legal. However, in cases similar to the ones the Unfair Competition Prevention Act has been amended to combat, it seems likely that the court would not deliver a similar ruling to the one they did in 2012.

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