Blizzard Wants Copyright Laws Changed

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.

  • ntrceptr
    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
  • ntrceptr
    If Blizzard does win, then isn't it breaking the law everytime windows swaps part of the program to the windows swap file :)
  • slyck
    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.
  • DryvBy
    Whoa, are we not communist now or what? Comrads?
  • 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).
  • vherub
    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.
  • roadrunner197069
    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.
  • jhansonxi
    Actually it also is copied into the drive and CPU cache so there are multiple violations at the same time.

    bnetd lives on:
  • coth
    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.
  • grieve
    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!!