Is this morally ok?

Before I ask my question let me clarify...I'm looking to see if this is ok from a moral/Catholic standpoint. I don't want to be rude but I'm not asking if you personally like that I do this or not. :-)

I run two web sites and with each I have a question. I won't post the URLs to ensure everyone knows I'm not just advertising. :-)

Website #1: Two "partners" and I write "cheat" programs for online games and sell them to people online. The cheat programs simply automate different parts of games that many people do not enjoy. For example, if you have heard of "farmville", I have a program that will automatically plant your crops, harvest them and plow your fields (and it does several other things). This in no way hurts the other players of the game, it just does the parts of the game that some people (like myself) don't enjoy for you so you can focus only on the parts of the game you like. Is this morally ok? In my opinion the only real questionable part is that using programs such as these is against the games "terms of service", but the program is written in a way that it is simply automating the process just as if a real person were doing it. What do you all think?

Website #2: This one is a site where we find ways to get free stuff off the internet. Many of the ways we do this are by writing automated programs to do things which get us prizes or sign up for multiple orders of free samples of things or whatever. The things we do are not malicious or anything but they do get us "prizes" a lot faster than would normally be possible and with out requiring the users to spend hours on the computer. For example. I could run one of the programs in the back ground of my computer for a week and then redeem the points I "earned" for a free Blu Ray movie.

What do you think? I have been doing this for about two years and it is quite successful. I've always considered it kind of a grey area and have recently been really trying to focus my life on being a good Catholic so I thought I should ask for some other opinions.

Mostly I'm interested in if you feel running these sites is a sin in the eyes of God/the Church.

Thank You!

Website 1: I'd read the terms of service of Farmville or whatever. If it says that you aren't allowed to tamper with it via automation, then to do so would probably violate their intellectual property. If they don't say anything, then I'd assume it would be fine.

Website 2: I guess it depends. Are these bots you're using providing genuine information about your self/organization? If so, then I wouldn't see a moral problem with it.

The questions I tend to ask regarding these things is: Am I violating the terms of agreement? Am I stealing/lying? Would I be comfortable telling the owners what I'm doing to their face? If I can answer no, no, and yes, then I'd generally say it's morally acceptable from a Catholic standpoint.

If you are tampering with intellectual property that isn't yours by violating the terms of service, then I believe you would be violating the command on theft. If website two involves providing inaccurate information or multiple accounts or something, then that would probably fall under the theft/lying/coveting category.

On it's face though, I don't sense anything inherently bad with these sites.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:1, topic:200985"]
Before I ask my question let me clarify...I'm looking to see if this is ok from a moral/Catholic standpoint. I don't want to be rude but I'm not asking if you personally like that I do this or not. :-)

I run two web sites and with each I have a question. I won't post the URLs to ensure everyone knows I'm not just advertising. :-)

Website #1: Two "partners" and I write "cheat" programs for online games and sell them to people online. The cheat programs simply automate different parts of games that many people do not enjoy. For example, if you have heard of "farmville", I have a program that will automatically plant your crops, harvest them and plow your fields (and it does several other things). This in no way hurts the other players of the game, it just does the parts of the game that some people (like myself) don't enjoy for you so you can focus only on the parts of the game you like. Is this morally ok? In my opinion the only real questionable part is that using programs such as these is against the games "terms of service", but the program is written in a way that it is simply automating the process just as if a real person were doing it. What do you all think?

Website #2: This one is a site where we find ways to get free stuff off the internet. Many of the ways we do this are by writing automated programs to do things which get us prizes or sign up for multiple orders of free samples of things or whatever. The things we do are not malicious or anything but they do get us "prizes" a lot faster than would normally be possible and with out requiring the users to spend hours on the computer. For example. I could run one of the programs in the back ground of my computer for a week and then redeem the points I "earned" for a free Blu Ray movie.

What do you think? I have been doing this for about two years and it is quite successful. I've always considered it kind of a grey area and have recently been really trying to focus my life on being a good Catholic so I thought I should ask for some other opinions.

Mostly I'm interested in if you feel running these sites is a sin in the eyes of God/the Church.

Thank You!

[/quote]

Totally immoral, you are hacking my friend.

Game is created for banner impressions or click throughs to pay the developers and hosting, you circumvented that, game is also created so players have personal bragging rights, you have done away with that as well. Other hack, again, human involvement is what pays the same, and you have circumvented that. Think about it, if everybody had those hacks, what incentive is there to keep them online in the first place?

Whoa, calm down Prodigalson. The OP has only posted twice on these boards, and we know nothing about him/her. The rules behind these kinds of things can be pretty confusing sometimes. And even if they were not, and even if he is a "baby Catholic" as you say, should the OP not be commended for trying to find the truth rather than be condemned for not figuring it out on his/her own? As I understand it, that's one of the reasons this board exists.
We exist in community to help and support each other in our strengths and weaknesses, not to attack and condemn.

You may be right about the morality of the OP's actions, I don't know. However, I would ask that you post to fellow board members with a little more charity.

Welcome to CAF! :wave: I'm sorry that after being here for only a few days someone has already questioned your "catholic-ness". :( Try not to take it personally. I'm sure prodigalson means well. ;)

There is nothing in Church teaching that would indicate that computer hacking is always and everywhere immoral. To reduce it to such is a profound over-simplification. There is nothing about writing a work-around computer program that is inherently immoral.

What it basically comes down to is the legality of it. If these computer programs you write are not illegal, then I would be hardpressed to find a reason that they are immoral. If they are illegal, then that's another story. We ought to obey the just laws of our secular governments. Perhaps you might come up with a reason why the laws are not "just", but that's a whole other topic. In general, though, one should obey those laws unless there is a compelling reason not to. Avoiding tedious "farm" work and scoring free movies would not be a compelling reason, IMO.

I don't pretend to understand the various ins-and-outs of copyright law, so I really can't advise you as to whether or not these programs are illegal. You'd have to consult a lawyer on that one.

Just to let you know my opinion (for all that it's worth) in regard to your first website, I would say that writing programs that allow you to skip the boring stuff could be a good thing if it helps people not to waste so much of their time. However, it also seems it could be on more tenuous ground in regards to ToS type issues.

In regards to your second website, I'd say it seems pretty sketchy to take advantage of these point systems for freebies as that is not what they were designed for. However, if the company makes no stipulation that you cannot earn points in this way, then I'm not sure that you could call it immoral per se.

My advice is to ask a priest and talk to a lawyer to make sure you have all your ducks in a row. :)

[quote="prodigalson12, post:3, topic:200985"]
you are not at all Catholic in any sense outside of perhaps being a total, complete baby in it's context, surely you are older then a 4 year old arent' you? This is embarrassing to call yourself Catholic,

[/quote]

:eek:
Apparently spoken as a mature full Catholic. :shrug:

The problem here is, it's not at all hard to determin if you are doing something wrong like this, and the person is obviously smart enough to code like this, they should be smart enough for some basic, fundamental discernment. Seriously, we are not about following just some set of rules, and things that are not specifically addressed word for word somewhere, falls outside of the scope of things. In this case, they knew the reason for the game play to be this way in the first place, it's totally obvious, and I feel the question was not based upon personal morality, but to see if they can get one over on other believers that use their programs. I get my feathers ruffled as a person that is behind the scenes, working hard on these programs, only to find people circumvent the system, exploiting my hard work and invested capitol, just because they decide to steal rather then attain things honestly.

In other words, it's a pretty basic, and grave sin when it comes down to it: Thou shalt not steal...so how ever you guys want to take it, doesn't really matter, it's one thing to correct someone with one mistake, quite another to help them along their journey with the bigger picture. I'll use an example with a friend of mine, well, he's not much of a friend, and as time goes on, it's heading to be soon not getting in touch with him any more. He tells me about doing this or that, I explain to him this or that is a sin, he then moves onto other things, similar to it, and I have to again correct him on each point, as this person further backslides, I realize it's not enough to babysit him, I have to flat out tell him to get to church, get back into reading scripture on a regular basis, change his life for the good and stop playing around with the world, If he does the latter, the former no longer are issues, it's not about the sin, it's about the sinful nature, that's the thing I'm addressing with him and with the original poster.

[quote="prodigalson12, post:3, topic:200985"]
Totally immoral, you are hacking my friend.

Game is created for banner impressions or click throughs to pay the developers and hosting, you circumvented that, game is also created so players have personal bragging rights, you have done away with that as well. Other hack, again, human involvement is what pays the same, and you have circumvented that. Think about it, if everybody had those hacks, what incentive is there to keep them online in the first place?

Simply having to ask this here shows me clearly, you are not at all Catholic in any sense outside of perhaps being a total, complete baby in it's context, surely you are older then a 4 year old arent' you? This is embarrassing to call yourself Catholic, then have to ask if this is ok, you know darn well it is not, you were smart enough to develop the hack, you should be smart enough for basic discernment.

[/quote]

First off, the programs I write do not circumvent the banner ads that the developers want/need. I write the programs in such a way as to simulate in every way a human player. If any party is losing out it is the the advertiser that buys the ad space though in my experience even this is not the case because people are much more willing to play many of these games when they can avoid the tedious parts which are not fun for them. While they are playing the fun parts of the game they do see the ads.

While I was born and raised a Catholic I would have to agree with you that I am a "baby catholic" in many ways (aren't we all?). I just recently began to really learn about what it means to be a Catholic and am trying to learn all I can and actually follow the teachings of the Church.

[quote="Joe_5859, post:5, topic:200985"]
I'm sorry that after being here for only a few days someone has already questioned your "catholic-ness". :( Try not to take it personally. I'm sure prodigalson means well. ;)

There is nothing in Church teaching that would indicate that computer hacking is always and everywhere immoral. To reduce it to such is a profound over-simplification. There is nothing about writing a work-around computer program that is inherently immoral.

What it basically comes down to is the legality of it. If these computer programs you write are not illegal, then I would be hardpressed to find a reason that they are immoral. If they are illegal, then that's another story. Avoiding tedious "farm" work and scoring free movies would not be a compelling reason, IMO.

I don't pretend to understand the various ins-and-outs of copyright law, so I really can't advise you as to whether or not these programs are illegal. You'd have to consult a lawyer on that one.

[/quote]

What I do is completely legal so no issues there. I agree, the question is really in if breaking a ToS is a sin or not...I've always thought of it similar to using cheat codes for old Nintendo games or even using any item in a way that it was not intended.

[quote="prodigalson12, post:7, topic:200985"]
The problem here is, it's not at all hard to determin if you are doing something wrong like this, and the person is obviously smart enough to code like this, they should be smart enough for some basic, fundamental discernment. Seriously, we are not about following just some set of rules, and things that are not specifically addressed word for word somewhere, falls outside of the scope of things. In this case, they knew the reason for the game play to be this way in the first place, it's totally obvious, and I feel the question was not based upon personal morality, but to see if they can get one over on other believers that use their programs. I get my feathers ruffled as a person that is behind the scenes, working hard on these programs, only to find people circumvent the system, exploiting my hard work and invested capitol, just because they decide to steal rather then attain things honestly.

In other words, it's a pretty basic, and grave sin when it comes down to it: Thou shalt not steal...so how ever you guys want to take it, doesn't really matter, it's one thing to correct someone with one mistake, quite another to help them along their journey with the bigger picture.

[/quote]

Based on other people's responses I'm not the only one that is not sure about the morality of this so are you questioning the religious maturity of everyone that is not sure?

It seems like you are objecting to my actions because of your personal opinion since you work "behind the scenes" on these type of games. I specifically asked in my first post that I am only requesting answers related to how the Church would look at this because I know that lots of people don't like it on a personal level.

Also I'm not really sure what you mean by saying that I'm trying to "get one over" on other believers that use my program. I don't plan on putting a "Approved by the Catholic Church" stamp on my web sites.

I am sure you have the best of intentions and I do appreciate your honest feed back. Fortunately I'm pretty thick skinned but I'd like to caution you that responses like yours could turn someone off to these forums (or, God forbid, the Catholic Church) if they were more sensitive then I am.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:8, topic:200985"]
First off, the programs I write do not circumvent the banner ads that the developers want/need. I write the programs in such a way as to simulate in every way a human player. If any party is losing out it is the the advertiser that buys the ad space though in my experience even this is not the case because people are much more willing to play many of these games when they can avoid the tedious parts which are not fun for them. While they are playing the fun parts of the game they do see the ads.

[/quote]

The boring areas, people are much more likely to wander onto an ad and click through, their attention is not as focused on the game. The advertisers are paying to have their ads placed in front a human being, not a bot. The people that earned their position honestly will become disheartened seeing new people sign up and exceed everything they did, because they cheated, rather kills the incentive to continue on within the confines of the rules and how it's set up, thus they lose valuable players. Also, who are you to dictate how to run their program? Honestly, you are only one person, surely you cannot say you know ever iota of detail as to what's going on behind the scenes, the process they took to achieve maximum efficiency? You are meddling in someone else s business purely for personal gain. What you are trying to do now is justify your actions, and this is common, we all do that, be be honest with yourself here, you'll see I'm not far off in what I say.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:8, topic:200985"]

While I was born and raised a Catholic I would have to agree with you that I am a "baby catholic" in many ways (aren't we all?). I just recently began to really learn about what it means to be a Catholic and am trying to learn all I can and actually follow the teachings of the Church.

[/quote]

Good, then start with the meanings rather then just the letter, we can have every single letter of the law written on our hands, yet completely miss the point of it since it's not in the heart. Don't worry about achieving perfection, it requires Christ to perfect us, but be honest with yourself or he can't do much with you. This is why I point out, it's the sinful nature, not the sin that matters more.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:8, topic:200985"]

What I do is completely legal so no issues there. I agree, the question is really in if breaking a ToS is a sin or not...I've always thought of it similar to using cheat codes for old Nintendo games or even using any item in a way that it was not intended.

[/quote]

And again, trying to justify your actions, aborting a child has no legal issues as well, but we know it's wrong. Nintendo cheat codes are also another matter, it's a static game, you paid for the software, doesn't matter if you turn the thing into a nintendo sandwich, that's an entirely different animal all together, not even related to what you are doing.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:8, topic:200985"]

Based on other people's responses I'm not the only one that is not sure about the morality of this so are you questioning the religious maturity of everyone that is not sure?

[/quote]

They don't know the software business, I do, so it's understandable they arent' sure, you should know this already.

[quote="limabeanerson, post:8, topic:200985"]

It seems like you are objecting to my actions because of your personal opinion since you work "behind the scenes" on these type of games. I specifically asked in my first post that I am only requesting answers related to how the Church would look at this because I know that lots of people don't like it on a personal level.

Also I'm not really sure what you mean by saying that I'm trying to "get one over" on other believers that use my program. I don't plan on putting a "Approved by the Catholic Church" stamp on my web sites.

I am sure you have the best of intentions and I do appreciate your honest feed back. Fortunately I'm pretty thick skinned but I'd like to caution you that responses like yours could turn someone off to these forums (or, God forbid, the Catholic Church) if they were more sensitive then I am.

[/quote]

You are trying to justify your actions, and trying to get endorsment from other believers in the process. The church it not just some set of rules you follow, it's not a list of do's and don't's, that's a horrible misconception people all too often think of, It's actually a pretty miserable approach to it, going just by the letter, more like bondage there, it is in reality just the opposite, and instead of being afraid to breath, you move forward in your life freely, not the other way around. We can never follow it all exactly as outlined and defined, we can strive to, but as stated earlier, the nature, not the sin, is how this works. Remember when Christ was dealing with the pharisees and scribes? They sure were going through all of the motions just fine, but still he condemned them.

This is NOT about opinion, it's about fact, and the fact is, it's wrong to be doing what you are doing, the only exception being, if the original software makers gave you direct approval to do so, and if they did, what ever mess you make of it is their own fault.

I don't like to candy coat things, I've seen people show up on these boards, expecting sympathy because they are having problems due to some sin they refused to let go, and expect us all to pat them on the back and tell them it's ok, go on keep sinning, don't have a desire to change, it's ok if your 12th marriage isn't working out and your boyfriend/girlfriend on the side is having an issue with it, it's Ok if you own beverly hills, drive a mercedies, and are forced to buy regular gas while your relatives live in desolation, etc. etc. etc. I see this happen so very often, on these boards and in our churches alike.

I am done with this thread, cannot make it any more plain for you guys to understand, good luck, just remember you have been given proper direction on the matter.

Wow - you'd think a person with the name of prodigal son would be a bit more humble and a bit less judgmental.

Nope.... There's nothing wrong with that besides is just video games, if what you doing was wrong then how do we explain " the game genie" that was made for the diferent game counsils in the 80s and 90s, somebody made money off of that and it was fun to use on games and free stuff that companies gave away for free anyway... is great

Here's a brief email discussion I had with Zynga, the company that owns Farmville.

To whom it may concern,

Is the use of programs to automate some player actions, such as "Farming Extreme Manager," prohibited by the Farmville Terms of Service?

I understand that you concerned about third party programs. There are many groups on Facebook™ that claim to offer FarmVille™ gifts, items, FarmVille™ neighbors, Farm Cash, etc. These groups are NOT authorized by Zynga™ and are not associated with FarmVille™. Not only can use of third party programs do irrecoverable damage to your account, it is also a VIOLATION of the Zynga™ Terms of Service (zynga.com/legal/terms_of_service.php)) and grounds for SUSPENSION.

Previous to this discussion I had searched the TOS for a few keywords relating to automation, and found nothing, so I concluded that it was fine. However, if the company itself says that 3rd party automation programs violate the TOS, I don't think it's ethical to distribute them.

I think that there is probably a difference between these farmville apps and the game genie. I believe that the Game Genie was a copyrighted piece of software/hardware that Nintendo controlled. I imagine that the companies that made the games had to concede to allowing such codes at some point. The Farmville apps, however, do not seem to enjoy such approval, so they could be in a different legal category.

As a gamer myself I would have to judge the action mostly on how it affects other players. I do not personally play Farmville myself, but I do play World of Warcraft which has a similar problem caused by some players using bots (probably the most acurate term to define your program as; even if means are different, the end is the same). The biggest concern is unfairness among players. If Person A uses a bot to collect gold (the game's currency) and person B makes his gold honestly, what incentive does player B to play nicely if player B does more work to get his money.

Economy in game is a huge deal when it comes to game balance and fairness among players. If the economy is wreaked and no longer balanced, how is the game fun anymore?

Secondly, unrelated to World of Warcraft but I think fits better with Farmville, is that you can actually BUY some of the in-game currency with real cash. So essentially the person using the bot to get the in-game currency is denying the game creators a source of income and unbalances the game's economy, which also makes actually buying the currency worthless to players.

All this together would make you culpable by enabling players to cheat or disrupt the game's economy. This is different than Game Genie (something I played with as a child) because when using Game Genie you are not affecting other people. :twocents:

[quote="swisscakerolls, post:13, topic:200985"]
I think that there is probably a difference between these farmville apps and the game genie. I believe that the Game Genie was a copyrighted piece of software/hardware that Nintendo controlled. I imagine that the companies that made the games had to concede to allowing such codes at some point. The Farmville apps, however, do not seem to enjoy such approval, so they could be in a different legal category.

[/quote]

Actually, the Game Genie was not made by nor distributed by Nintendo (it was made by Galoob). Galoob did not have Nintendo's approval. In fact, Nintendo sued them claiming copyright violation and Nintendo lost the law suit. Then, Galoob asked for the Game Genie to become an officially licensed product, but Nintendo rejected the idea.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_Genie#Legal_issues

It just goes to show you that these copyright issues are not so cut-and-dry.

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