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Blizzard Wants Copyright Laws Changed

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 42 comments

Cheating is bad, but does cheating infringe on a video game publisher’s copyright? World of Warcraft-maker Blizzard, a subsidiary of Vivendi, is trying to argue in court that it does. If this argument succeeds, it could change the way all software copyrights operate in the eyes of the law.

Blizzard is currently wrangling in court with MDY, a small company that makes a software bot called Glider that helps WoW players with tedious aspects of character leveling. While it is pretty clear that the MDY software helps users cheat, and even violates the contract Blizzard makes players accept before playing (known as the End User License Agreement), Blizzard goes a step further and says that violating the agreement violates the WoW copyright since players, after accepting the EULA, automatically create a copy of the game in their computer RAM. If the courts agree, and MDY and its customers are found guilty of copyright infringement, Blizzard could reap statutory damages at the rate of $750 per infringement. The company says about 25,000 copies of MDY’s Glider software have been sold.

A variety of organizations are chiming in with briefs to convince the courts that if they accept Blizzard’s argument, it will imply that all media companies with End User License Agreements (software companies, music labels, and movie studios) can prevent the existence of all interoperable software in court. One of these groups, called Public Knowledge, writes that if Blizzard’s argument wins in court, it would prevent any company from selling used media, such as CDs and video game discs.

Blizzard is focused on winning its case against MDY and stopping the WoW cheaters, but it is unclear if the company has fully evaluated the way its argument could change the law for all copyright-holders. The argument hinges on some unusual legal logic: Blizzard’s EULA allows users who accept the agreement to make a copy of the game in their RAM, but people who accept but violate the agreement and still make a copy of the game in their RAM are copyright infringers.

However, all software when run copy and utilize data in system memory, and buyers of any kind of software already have the implicit right to make a copy of the software in their RAM. This is an issue of a copyrights and owner’s rights. Blizzard doesn’t want to treat Wow players are game-owners, but rather as license-holders. Blizzard might have trouble in court with this part, since in past legal issues with video games, courts have treated players as owners.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge imply that rather than pursuing the argument that these cheaters are copyright infringers, they should stick to a simple contract violation suit. However, contract violations don’t come with built in statutory damages, and would win less money from Blizzard.

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  • 1 Hide
    ntrceptr , May 7, 2008 8:02 PM
    You can't call a copy of a software within RAM copyright infringement because that is how an operating system works it must copy the program from disc to ram so that it can execute. The cheating does violate the EULA because it modifies the original software within RAM. You can fine individual cheaters for that and/or the company that makes the cheat software but not both. (that would be charging 2 people for the same crime) But it is not copyright infrindgement it is a EULA violation
  • 1 Hide
    ntrceptr , May 7, 2008 8:04 PM
    If Blizzard does win, then isn't it breaking the law everytime windows swaps part of the program to the windows swap file :) 
  • 1 Hide
    slyck , May 7, 2008 8:20 PM
    To hell with Blizzard. Ever since they became successful they are so full of themselves. Remember when they got bnetd shut down? They make good games, but lie about game requirements(56K or better internet connection for World of Warcraft what a lie.) Hope they lose.
  • 0 Hide
    DryvBy , May 7, 2008 8:39 PM
    Whoa, are we not communist now or what? Comrads?
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , May 7, 2008 8:48 PM
    Well.. I say blizzard made a smart move. By suing the company, blizzard is making a statement that they will not tolerate cheaters in their games, and those who profit by cheating will not go unnoticed. (I really doubt blizzard is going to win the trial) Whether they win or not, people probably won't want to mess with blizzards game and profit from it to avoid lawsuit (notice blizzard is now a giant company with lots of dough).
  • 0 Hide
    vherub , May 7, 2008 8:49 PM
    Isn't there a different approach to stop cheating? With many of these online worlds functioning as their own economic systems, cheating takes on a different form that should still be addressed.
  • 0 Hide
    roadrunner197069 , May 7, 2008 8:50 PM
    Well they way I see it, the botters pay Blizzard $15.00 a month, while they bot, and if they win the bottors will simply quit the game and Blizzard will lose money.

    I think users should sue Blizzard for ruining their life with the addiction that the game causes.

    Botting doesnt hurt no one IMHO. The ones abusing it are the ones raking in Blizzard all of its money. Some nerd running 5 bots at a time is a nice chunk of change.

    If Blizzard is that concerned they should detect the software and ban people doing it. But they would have to ban 1000s of people. Either way banning or getting rid of botters, they are still gonna loose thousands of players if they dont leave well enough alone.
  • 0 Hide
    jhansonxi , May 7, 2008 8:52 PM
    Actually it also is copied into the drive and CPU cache so there are multiple violations at the same time.

    bnetd lives on: http://pvpgn.berlios.de
  • 0 Hide
    coth , May 7, 2008 9:26 PM
    Anyone that bought Glider needs their head examined in my opinion. too many people want an easy way to get what they want these days. Leveling to 70 is fun when you finally get there and gives a feeling of accomplishment. "Gliders" only hurt themselves.
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , May 7, 2008 9:37 PM
    It is actually an interesting Law suit. The company is one person who developed the software. His software doesn’t break any laws… the people who use it to bot in WOW break the rules.

    The only thing blizzard is upset about is the fact that this guy sold 250,000 copies of glider and they didn’t make a sent from it.

    Buy the way… Glider is amazing, I don’t know if I would risk running it now, but back in the day I used to run a toon from 1-60 in 14 days, needless to say I HAD 5 maxed toons.
    One day I got banned at which time Blizzard kindly threatened me with lawyers as I objected. They could not have obtained the information they were claiming without breeching my privacy. Yes I know we agree to allowing “warden” to run on our machines however I had all processes hidden, “Warden” could not have seen what I was actually doing, unless it infringed upon my privacy and went beyond what they claim Warden does. (I did deserve to be banned, I just hate the way they did it)

    Free Michael Donnelly!!
  • 0 Hide
    Hellbound , May 7, 2008 9:55 PM
    I dont like this at all. Sure, cheaters should be banned. But being able to sue them is sending the wrong message. This could mean that all cheaters can be sued.... Because of this, I have canceled my WoW account and will never play it again.
  • 0 Hide
    mf_fm , May 7, 2008 10:05 PM
    LOL, blizzard.

    gamers/parents should sue your company for releasing an addictive product, just wait and see.

    however, i never played wow, not even once, it just does not interests me, doesn't make any sense pay to play, endless leveling, endless patches, endless monthly fee, pointless game play~!! getting 0 out of it.

    every time i tell my friends about that, they all went flame-on, and burn me. They changed, after this many years, they realized that i was right!

    blizzard, cry more, noobs. at this point, who's gonna be a tard play wow w/o botting from level 1????
  • 0 Hide
    Mr_Man , May 7, 2008 10:08 PM
    Blizzard can detect if someone is using a Logitech keyboard which allows one key to serve the function of several keystrokes. If they can detect that, surely they can detect people using ANY kind of bot. Just ban them, don't try to jerk $750 out of them.
  • 0 Hide
    BeAuMaN , May 7, 2008 11:44 PM
    I believe Blizzard has been trying to go this way for a long time. They're also good at picking courts (As with BnetD)... Anyone know if this has gone to a Supreme Court? and if so, which district? Last time I heard they went outside of California (which oft not rules in favor of users).

    I still think it's rediculous. If we -were- buying a license, then we should sue them for false advertising as we also thought we were buying the game. I mean, hey, kudos for Blizzard for trying to stop cheating, but hell, they could go about it a different way, and it's not like they really need that much money.
  • 1 Hide
    Christopher1 , May 8, 2008 12:06 AM
    Personally, I don't think that 'cheating' is bad. The only reason that Blizzard is cracking down on this, both in the game and in the courts, is because if someone 'cheats' and finishes the game faster than Blizzard wants them to..... they will no longer bother buying a monthly access to World of Warcraft.
    That is the bottom line here, this is not about the players, this is about Blizzard's bottom line.

    Oh, and to Mr_Man.... they should not be able to detect a Logitech keyboard in a game. If they truly have put the programs necessary into the game to detect that...... why bother with a lawsuit, as you said.
  • 0 Hide
    MMC65 , May 8, 2008 12:08 AM
    There have been cheaters since adam and eve and always will be some have skills and other need to cheat. Be it games/love/life/work. blizzard don't sue your customers. make better anti-cheat patches in your software. Just like anti-virus software checks to malware and exploits check for these exploits when the user is trying connect to the server then lock game and dont allow a second copy in ram to connect.
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    Alternator , May 8, 2008 12:22 AM
    I'm all for them trying to keep the cheaters at bay, that is a service to the game player base. After all if they didn't do something about this you would have people doing all manner of things ultimately wrecking the experience for everyone (sure some will say there is already cheating, but it could be a lot worse!)

    But the way they are trying to do it is daft, and could have far reaching implications. They should stick to the contract violation angle or not open this can of worms!

    Hyperbole (although I wonder)
    Next we will need to take short-term memory suppressing drugs while we play a game, listen to music, or watch a movie in case we remember something about it and store those memories in our head!
    /Hyperbole
  • 0 Hide
    roadrunner197069 , May 8, 2008 3:17 AM
    If you only get a license, everyone is copyright infringing by copying the game from CD to HDD to play.
  • 0 Hide
    royalcrown , May 8, 2008 4:44 AM
    I guess you get bored raking in 160 mil a MONTH and now it's time to buy you some govt.
  • 1 Hide
    Zorg , May 8, 2008 4:53 AM
    Hey guys, I don’t mean to bytch, but does anyone even read these things before they are posted. Come on, it's only six really short paragraphs. Take the three minutes and proof read the damn thing. There are two errors, one simple grammar and one really bad. We can all figure it out, but you embarrass yourself. Don’t you guys have any self esteem?

    1. “Blizzard doesn’t want to treat Wow players are game-owners.” It’s as game owners not are game owners. It’s grammar we’ll let you slide. A quick read would have exposed this.

    2. “However, contract violations don’t come with built in statutory damages, and would win less money from Blizzard.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you mean for Blizzard since they are the ones that are doing the suing? Of course you do. This is a pretty substantial change that would have also been exposed with a three minute read.

    I wouldn’t say anything, except it appears that this sloppy work has become rampant. I assume you guys are college graduates so please act like it.
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