In Grand Theft Auto V video game, players steal cars and rob fun. In the real world, its owners break into players who hack the game itself.
For a man in Melbourne, it has led to a surprise hit on the door.
On the morning of September 25, Christopher Anderson, who is also known by numerous online pseudonyms, searched at home and some of his confiscated computers.
The action was taken by lawyers acting for Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of Grand Theft Auto V Rockstar Games.
Mr Anderson's goods were frozen by a decision of the Federal Court, except for legal and reasonable living expenses – leaving him, he said, to survive especially on the Aussielent meal replacement supplements.
He has also been detained from the further development or distribution of cheating software allegedly known as "Infamous".
One case among many
Speaking to Mr. Anderson, who is in the early '40s, he feels a bit like surfing the internet.
Each question is addressed as an online search query; he provides many possible answers along with occasional quotes from the Fahrenheit 451 book or Ronald Reagan.
In the face of the copyright infringement case introduced by Take-Two, he hits an exasperated tone.
Mr Anderson is currently without a lawyer and still does not have to file a defense.
He is also not alone.
In 2018, Take-Two undertook legal action against alleged software modifiers or "modem menus" in the United States, Germany, the UK and Australia, and sent cessation and scrap notifications to others.
This includes at least five people whom the company says are associated with "Infamous", plus others related to modem menus such as "Elusive" and "Absolute".
In a statement, Take-Two confirmed that he had taken action against the people selling the multiplayer cheat software.
"Cheating software not only gives individuals an unfair advantage but also allows interference with other users' gameplay," a spokesman said.
You pay for superpowers
Even among gamers, fashion menus are controversial. In turn, Mr. Anderson said Infamous helped protect players against more malware, a bit like anti-virus software.
There is a certain "modding" culture around Grand Theft Auto, according to Alex Walker, editor of the Kotaku Australia game site.
Players may change the way the game looks with colorful additions like Marvel comics.
But in the online multiplayer version of the game, Mr. Walker explained, the drop menus can exploit the game code to favor a player to the detriment of others.
According to Mr. Anderson, a "menu menu run" can effectively give superpower to the player who uses it.
"You can, to some extent, manipulate the game environment and, depending on the sophistication of the model, you can create the virtual currency."
Using Infamous, players could be given money in the game that would otherwise have to be won by completing missions or bought from the developer.
And these advantages did not come for free. Sometimes players have purchased Infamous for up to $ 40 ($ 55).
For producers who offer their own purchases in the game, such unofficial projects are in a hurry.
In his financial report of 2018, Take-Two wrote that "deception" programs could have a negative impact on the volume of microtransactions or downloads of downloadable content.
The report added that game spending in its titles is now about 42% of net income.
"They use in-game purchases as part of their business model," said Mitch Stoltz, senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco.
A clash of cultures
The challenge of whether gambling companies should protect their intellectual property against modification – and how to do so – is not unique to Take-Two.
Blizzard, the manufacturer of World of Warcraft, sued the authors of the violation of his user license agreement.
The owner of the popular title Fortnite also goes after cheat, a move that has caused consternation after taking legal action against a 14-year-old boy from North Carolina.
Some commentators dispute the fact that copyright law is the best way to control cheaters, and sometimes Rockstar has approached changes with a tougher touch – especially single-player modes that do not affect other competitors.
After a letter of cessation was sent to the creator of a popular modeling tool in 2017, the company wrote that he believed in "reasonable fan creativity" and would not take legal action against non-commercial projects.
There is also uncertainty as to where the consumer protection is stopped and the start of the rights of copyright owners.
Nicolas Suzor, law scientist and digital media at Queensland University of Technology, said that major publishers often use copyright law and contract law to prevent cheating developers, but their claims are seldom tested in court.
In September, for example, Take-Two solved a case against an Australian man who allegedly infringed the company's copyright and violated the license agreement by building other Grand Theft Auto V mod.
Do not take prisoners
The use of search and confiscation orders in copyright cases is not unusual, Dr. Suzor added. But, in his opinion, obtaining them in a closed court hearing, without being accused, is,
"There is a disturbing trend with respect to copyright disputes, according to which copyright owners exercise rather difficult discovery techniques before attempting to take advantage of assets," he said.
Grant McAvaney, Executive Director of the Australian Copyright Council, agreed search orders were a difficult approach, but suggested courts are usually reluctant to do so, unless there is a risk of destroying evidence among other concerns.
"It's pretty tough, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"There is also a suggestion that these ways have been sold to the public, so the court will be less sympathetic to the people in such situations."
Together with Mr Anderson, the search orders were also used against a man in Glasgow, Scotland, in September. The computing equipment was confiscated in connection with his alleged contribution to a way called "Absolute".
The 21-year-old, who did not want to be named, said in an e-mail that the raid was "quite useless."
As more cases reach the courts, Mr Stoltz of the EFF said that the high arguments could impose the limits of the law.
"A cheap code does not change the game in a permanent sense."
Take-Two's remake on the fashion menus comes as the release of the latest blockbuster Red Dead Redemption 2, which made $ 725 million in the first three days.
Grand Theft Auto V, considered the most profitable video game of all time, made over $ 1 billion in retail sales in the first three days of sale in 2013.
But once these games are in the world, players take over. And for the moment, "mods" follow.
Anderson's case continues.
This article was produced in collaboration with the New York Times & Australia.