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The Courts Government Role Playing (Games) News Entertainment Games

Blizzard Wins Major Lawsuit Against Bot Developers 838

Captain Kirk writes "World of Warcraft owners Blizzard have won their case against the programmer who wrote Glider, Michael Donnelly. (We discussed the case here when it was filed.) Blizzard won on two arguments: first, that if a game is loaded into RAM, that can be considered an unauthorized copy of the game and as such a breach of copyright; second, that selling Glider was interfering with Blizzard's contractual relationship with its customers. The net effect? If you buy a game, you transfer rights to the game developer that they can sue you for."
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Blizzard Wins Major Lawsuit Against Bot Developers

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  • by HybridJeff ( 717521 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:10PM (#24189583) Homepage
    If anyone is interested, you can find a copy of the actual decision via the glider forums ---> link (27 page PDF) [].
  • by Dash Hash ( 955484 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:22PM (#24189721)

    A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, another major gaming corporation lost a lawsuit against a not-so-similar game "enhancing" device.

    Nintendo was attempting to stop the creators of Game Genie from releasing their product via a lawsuit, but the creators of Game Genie were found to be within their rights to permit such altered play.

    I fully realize that Nintendo/Game Genie are a very different beast compared to World of Warcraft/Bots, but at the same time, they are still relatively similar.

    I don't have much else to say on this subject, even though I feel bots in online games cross the line, but it does make me wonder if any other gaming companies will attempt to revisit the old issue with cheat devises (such as Game Shark).

    Anyway, here's a link to a bit more info about the Nintendo vs. Game Genie bit. Sorry it's from Wikipedia, but it is a semi-decent summary (emphasis on summary) that is readily accessible: [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:30PM (#24189791)

    so you're saying that all software violates the EULA because loading it into RAM is copyright infringement because it's an unauthorized copy?

    Read carefully:

    that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner

    (emphasis added)

    Loading into RAM for the purposes of playback seems to me to be an essential step; the external loading for other purposes would fall under "another manner".

  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:30PM (#24189793) Homepage

    Even more strange, how is making a copy of something illegal? I thought only distributing copies was illegal. Personal copies should be legal.

    No, lots of things are illegal. The main exclusive rights that comprise copyright are at 17 USC 106. Not all are applicable to every kind of work, but basically they are: reproduction (i.e. making a copy), preparing derivatives, distribution, public performance, public display. The reproduction right has always been part of copyright.

    As for personal copies, there's not an exception that applies to all personal copies, all the time, in every situation. Sometimes they're allowed, but usually not.

  • by Lane.exe ( 672783 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:41PM (#24189885) Homepage
    OK, let me break this down for everyone (I am a law student).

    What the decision is saying is that, under 9th Circuit law, it is "copying" to move a program from storage to RAM. So, any time you load a game, you are copying it. If you do this in violation of the EULA and TOU, which in this case prohibit you from loading the game in to RAM at the same time as running the Glider software, you are not authorized to copy the game. This is a copyright infringement. The reason Blizzard chose this method was to have some cause of action directly against MDY, because otherwise it would be a breach of contract suit against the users (who are judgment-proof) for breach of contract damages alone, which are so small as to be non-existent.

    The decision is relevant in the 9th Cir. only, but the reasoning appears substantially correct. The rule that copying in to RAM is copying under the terms of the Copyright Act is not unique to this case: it is in fact cited under previous authority. This case rather simply applies this standard and says that it is a violation of the EULA to use a bot like Glider, and that copying in violation of the EULA/TOU is sufficient to constitute a copyright infringement.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:50PM (#24189949)

    Remember the bot provider did this for profit. Most of the users involved with the RIAA and the MPAA are strictly non-profit. Unfortunately in the long term, this precedence will put more heat on industry more than anything.

  • by Simply Curious ( 1002051 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:58PM (#24190029)
    It seems more that he's saying the reverse. Because the user violated the EULA, the copy is no longer authorized. Because the copy is no longer authorized, copy infringement has occurred.

    Either way, it's a BS argument in my opinion, but you almost have to admire the sick and twisted way that the EULA is given the force of law.
  • Lawsuit not over yet (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:59PM (#24190045)

    The headline here is misleading. Blizzard has won summary judgment on a portion of their lawsuit during pre-trial motions, and MDY won summary judgment on a couple of the counts of Blizzard's suit against them (though Blizzard's victories here are hugely more devastating to MDY than the parts that MDY has prevailed on). The trial on the rest of the suit is still pending, and only after that comes the calculation and awarding of damages.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:2, Informative)

    by ravenshrike ( 808508 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:02PM (#24190065)
    Of course, given that this is a 9th circuit case, it has the highest probability possible of being overturned.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:07PM (#24190113)

    Oh, grow up and go read TFA.

    You are allowed by the license to use one copy at a time.

    The infringing software allows you to load multiple copies in such a way as to eliminate the copy protection and violate the license.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:15PM (#24190189) Homepage

    Most overturned by number of cases, or by percent of cases? If by number of cases, please consider that the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over a far larger population than any other court of appeals in the United States. In fact, it covers over 19 percent of the U.S. population.

    It's by number of cases. The overall percentage is completely within the norm; this is the old "Oh the 9th Circuit is a bunch of liberal activist crazies that the high court always overturns because they're crazy" bullshit turned into "common knowledge" for the sake of wishful thinking. In reality, they just see a much larger number of cases, and most cases that reach SCOTUS are overturned, from any circuit.

    I once saw a very thorough breakdown over a number of years showing the data, and the 9th was by far the most active, and it's reversal rate was not out of line, it was more that other courts had such low number of cases the difference was immaterial. Can't find it now; a few seconds of googling showed a blogger who -- of course taking the "9th is doing a bad job" angle -- said the 9th was reversed 19/22 times last year, and that the next busiest circuit, the 5th, was reversed 4/5 times. Frankly I'd like to see more than 5 cases with one upheld before I start saying the 5th is doing any "better" than the 9th.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:16PM (#24190205)

    How does this ruling and the previous ruling account for this section of copyright law [] which says that it is not an infringement for you to make a copy of a legally acquired program provided "that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program

    Because you are authorized to play ONE COPY of the game . You are not authorized to simultaneously run bots.

    The law student failed to mention that the principal (only) use of Glider is to allow you to run a bot at the same time as you run the game.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Torvaun ( 1040898 ) on Monday July 14, 2008 @09:20PM (#24190239)

    Except that it specified unauthorized copy. It can be assumed that any chunks of code that the program causes to enter RAM are authorized, by dint of the programmer doing it.

  • And here we are back to the "I purchased a license to use" argument again. Fine. I purchased a license to use the software, so if my disk goes tits up, then I should be able to get a replacement for no cost to me, since I did purchase a license, not the physical medium.

    Download links for the entire game can be found on your Account Settings page.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Atlantis-Rising ( 857278 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:00AM (#24191517) Homepage

    No. It doesn't. The 9th Circuit cases are indeed the most likely to be overturned, (not the same thing), but that is because there are more of them than any other circuit (the 9th Circuit covers about 20% of the US population).

    Proportionately speaking, the 9th Circuit is about average for the chances of any individual case being overturned.

  • Re:Two wrongs (Score:4, Informative)

    by Kalriath ( 849904 ) * on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:10AM (#24191601)

    If you purchase something, you own it and as an owner you can do what you like with it. This is a natural freedom that exists so long as property and ownership have meaning. When someone purchases a copy of software, they may not have the legal right to redistribute it in any form, but if they purchase property, they own property. Services are not the same thing, and the right to use a service in a way that is not agreed upon is an abuse against the person providing the service.

    You're quite right. It should also be noted that "World of Warcraft" is, in fact, a service.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:35AM (#24191793) Journal

    the point was, this 'cheat' was running warden(the name of WoW's anti-cheat run time) in a sandbox that couldn't 'detect' the cheat, because it was loaded into a sandbox where it could only see what the cheat programmer allowed it to see.

  • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mopomi ( 696055 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @12:35AM (#24191799)
    If the court had found that, you might be right.

    However, a reading of what the court actually found is much less worrisome.

    The Court reaches the following conclusions on the basis of undisputed facts, construction of the EULA and TOU, and controlling Ninth Circuit law: Blizzard owns a valid copyright in the game client software, Blizzard has granted a limited license for WoW players to use the software, use of the software with Glider falls outside the scope of the license established in section 4 of the TOU, use of Glider includes copying to RAM within the meaning of section 106 of the Copyright Act, users of WoW and Glider are not entitled to a section 117 defense, and Glider users therefore infringe Blizzardâ(TM)s copyright. MDY does not dispute that the other requirements for contributory and vicarious copyright infringement are met, nor has MDY established a misuse defense. The Court accordingly will grant summary judgment in favor of Blizzard with respect to liability on the contributory and vicarious copyright infringement claims in Counts II and III.

    Basically, because the users of Glider are violating the terms of the contract with Blizzard, their copying of the software (to RAM or not to RAM) is not covered under US Title 17, Section 117 (regardless of what the sibling post states).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:58AM (#24192283)

    that such a new copy or adaptation is created as an essential step in the utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine and that it is used in no other manner

    The plain meaning of this text is that you're allowed to copy it into RAM if that copying act is an essential step in the "utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine", with the exception that this rule does NOT give you permission to copy it if you are also using the copy for something other than "utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine".

    Now playing World of Warcraft, with or without Glider, and with or without obeying the terms of Blizzard's EULA/ToS, is still "utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine". People running Glider are not doing some magical-fairy-dust thing to their WoW program; they are simply running it on their computer like everyone else. Which requires copying it to RAM, which according to the text of 117(a) is not an infringing act.

    For example, if you decided to print out a hex dump of the whole program on paper, that would be something other than "utilization of the computer program in conjunction with a machine", and that action would not be protected by 117(a)(1).

    This decision is wrong because the judge interpreted 117(a) incorrectly (as did the Ninth circuit court that he's following). As a result, a software developer who sells a product which happens to help people play World of Warcraft, is now guilty of *infringing Blizzard's copyright on the software program World of Warcraft* even though he didn't copy World of Warcraft himself, and didn't induce any other parties to copy it either. Simply because Blizzard includes a unilateral contract in the box with the software they sell, this other guy (who they haven't sold it to) is now guilty of copyright infringement. Wonderful.

    It's a very dangerous precedent, and hopefully those decisions will both be overturned before they cause too much trouble.

  • by Lane.exe ( 672783 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @04:26AM (#24192973) Homepage
    I don't think I was clear enough: it is not the copy-vis-a-vis-duplicate in RAM that is the problem, but rather the fact that you are "copying" data from storage to the RAM while at the same time violating the EULA that brings it within the purview of the statute.
  • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bugeaterr ( 836984 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @08:37AM (#24194261)

    Proportionately speaking, the 9th Circuit is about average for the chances of any individual case being overturned.

    Incorrect, I smelled poo when you didn't back up your assertion with incontrovertible internet links. ;)

    From the LA Times:

    In other words, although the 9th Circuit decided only one-third more appeals on the merits than the 5th Circuit, it was reversed nearly five times more often. []

    Too bad the author of this article didn't bother to cite where HIS statistics comes from either, but he's a "journalist" so I guess I'll defer to him. ;)

  • by Lane.exe ( 672783 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2008 @01:15PM (#24199003) Homepage
    They didn't go after end users because you can't win anything from them. Believe it or not, unless you're one of the wealthiest people in the world, you're virtually judgment proof. Courts just can't get at the assets of the majority of people, so they're suing someone with money. And because there isn't a contract between MDY and Blizzard, they couldn't use a contract theory -- so they used contract law. And, for the record, there is such a thing as tortious interference with a contract, though I don't think that's present here. It also wasn't the judge that got anything wrong here: the cases construing the statute say that copying into RAM is "copying" for the purposes of the statute.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"