Is Modding A Game Legal?

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Modifying video games (‘modding’) has been a thing ever since video games existed. Many of us have no doubt played modded games before, or seen videos of them on YouTube. There is a whole community around modding, and various websites dedicated to downloading mods. But is modding actually legal? Well, it depends…

Laws vary around the world

Most countries – including the US and the UK – permit modding to an extent. A renowned exception is Japan, whose Unfair Competition Prevention Law disallows game save editors and console modding services. This pretty much rules out all modding. There have even been cases of Japanese people going to jail for selling Nintendo Switch mods. So if you live in Japan, game mods are best avoided.

Some mods can class as copyright infringement

In countries where modding is legal, there are still limitations. Some mods can potentially count as copyright infringement. An example is putting a character in a game who belongs to a different game or fictional universe without permission from the copyright holder. Copying levels from another game could also constitute copyright law – the most famous case being the ‘Microstar vs Formgen Inc’ case, in which developer Microstar created a game called Nuke It using levels directly taken from Formgen’s Duke Nukem. 

There’s a fine line between modding and hacking

Many game mods are fun and harmless. They include creating exciting new maps or adding new enemies to games. Other mods like Call Of Duty MW3 boosting can help give players a headstart and may be seen by some players as ‘cheating’, but are still not doing anyone any harm. The likes of aimbots may get you banned from events or games, but are still not something you can go to court for. So when does modding become hacking? When it starts to have a malicious purpose (such as extorting money from players) or when it disrupts a game to the point that it becomes unplayable for other players. This is when you could start to see harsher penalties. 

Some mods are officially approved

There are many game developers that have embraced modding and even helped nurture communities around it. Examples include Bethesda (The Elder Scrolls Games), Mojang Studios (Minecraft) and Valve (many of their hit games including Counter Strike, Garry’s Mod and Dota 2 started as mods of other games). Modding is perfectly legal if it is approved by the game developer, but you may still need to consider national laws, copyright law and hacking laws. 


Many forms of game modding are legal. It’s important to consider your purpose before modding a game/downloading a mod and to do a bit of research to better understand your rights as a consumer/creator so that you don’t get in trouble. Generally speaking, if there’s a large open community around a certain type of modding, it is likely to be considered legal. Just remember that modding may have other implications such as getting banned or corrupting your game if you don’t use a trusted mod source or take modding too far. 

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Chicano | Fighting/Writing for Diversity | DM since 08 | Anime Lover | Site: | | |

Chicano | Fighting/Writing for Diversity | DM since 08 | Anime Lover | Site: | | |

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