Can they really hold you to this?

I play a game online called Combat Arms (I’m a dork). One issue with this game is there are many hackers, people who use different programs to try to obtain an edge in the game or just to annoy people.

In the Combat Arms Terms of Service, it says “You agree that if you host or operate a private server of a Nexon game or host or operate a hack site that sells hacks to a Nexon game or if you distribute, disseminate, design, code, moderate and/or provide free or paid access to private forums that sell or distribute hacks, or assist in the design of any private servers or third party programs (such as hacks) that alter the game play of any Nexon game, you will have the unconditional obligation to pay Nexon America Inc. the sum of One Hundred Thousand ($100,000) Dollars for each such program (including patches) and versions thereof as liquidated damages. You also agree that if you use such a program to play any of the Nexon games, or engage in the use of a private server, you will have the unconditional obligation to pay Nexon America Inc. the sum of One Thousand ($1,000) Dollars as liquidated damages for each time you use such a program, which shall be due and payable immediately upon notification to you of said infraction.”

Legally, can they actually hold a person to that? I ask this because 1) a lot of the people who hack are inevitably kids, 2) not everyone has $100,000 laying around and 3) they always just ban people who hack (even high rank players who undoubtedly have used hacks A LOT) - I’ve never heard of them actually going after someone and making them pay.

Side question: I heard from a friend that a court ruled that companies can’t expect users to read and understand terms of uses and privacy policies, meaning that they cannot hold users liable if and when a user performs an infraction per the rules laid out in the terms. Is this true?

Basically, what I’m wondering is, just how legally binding are terms of service?

IANAL… There’s a legal principle that if the terms are so overly broad as to be meaningless, then a contract is unenforceable. After all, a video driver that allows you to change the colours of the game could arguably “alter the game play”. Basically the contract appear to say “if we think it was bad for the game according to our definition, you owe us.” That sounds overly broad.

The definition of “reasonable” versus “unreasonable” has earned lawyers millions over the years. Just because game publishers can’t win, doesn’t mean they can’t file suit and ruin your finances trying. It’s a scare tactic, unless you have no assets to speak of. Those kids you speak of wouldn’t be bothered, they’d just declare bankruptcy if the court rules against them. Would bankruptcy hurt your life or not?

I’m also not a lawyer, but think about it from the game company’s side. Let’s say they threaten a user with a $100,000 penalty and then they say “OK, you’re a kid, and we don’t want to take this to court. How about we reduce it to $2,000?” By setting the original amount ridiculously high, they can come down to anything they want (or anything they think you’ll agree to) and still appear quite generous. The user might settle just because they’re so afraid of the higher penalty.

I’ll leave it to a lawyer to address whether or not it would stick, but I hear there’s a lot of untested ground when it comes to TOS and EUL as contracts.