IN A NUTSHELL:
- A revision of the Unfair Competition Prevention Act was passed in Japan;
- The regulations prohibit the sale of unauthorized game keys;
- The amendments also prohibit the distribution of tools, programs and offering services for altering save data.
A law has just been passed in Japan to combat unfair competition. The new law prohibits the sale of unauthorized serial numbers and product keys. The text of the act leaves no room for a different interpretation - "The sale of serial numbers or product keys that are not authorized by the software manufacturer at online auctions" will now be illegal.
Initially, due to a translation error (the original text of the Act is available only in Japanese), some websites reported that Japan has prohibited the resale of all game keys. In fact, the regulations are less restrictive and apply only to the sale of unauthorized products. However, this does not change the fact that the new law will have a significant impact on the Japanese gaming market, hitting the activities of many entities operating in the grey zone.
The new Act also bans the distribution of tools and offering services for altering save game data - products such as Cybersave Editor for PlayStation 4. In theory, the law may also affect the modding scene by prohibiting, for example, modifications that make it possible to change the hero's statis (the so-called "respec mods").
For breaking the law there are high penalties - such as a fine of up to 5 million yen (around $46,000) or up to 5 years in prison (or both). Criminals must also take into account the need to pay compensation to the victims, i.e. entities whose keys they sold and companies offering similar products as part of legal distribution.
The sale of keys is an extremely popular practice around the world. It is handled by numerous companies offering games on well-known auction websites – sometimes the products are coming from legal distribution, and sometimes not. In some cases (especially when the subject of the auction is an entire account that was created by somebody else) this type of activity does not differ much from piracy.