Blizzard has been in court for about 3 years now over a bot program for World of Warcraft called WoW Glider. The bot essentially auto-played your character for you so you don’t have to be around for all the grinding necessary for level gains.

Blizzard sued the maker for it on 4 grounds:

  • Violated the TOS which stated that players cannot use unsanctioned helper programs.
  • Violated Blizzards Copyright because it had to make a copy of WoW’s code to the RAM in order to function properly.
  • Violated the DMCA as it had to circumvent Blizzard’s ‘Warden’ anti-bot software.
  • WoW Glider caused financial damage in the form of lost subscriptions.  I.E. people either quit or didn’t sign up due to players using the bot.

Blizzard initially won and the maker of Wow Glider was ordered to pay $6.5M in damages.  Today’s decision was from the U.S. Appeals Court of the Ninth Circuit.   They have ruled that Wow Glider did violate the DMCA due to the circumvention of Warden and it did violate the terms of service so Blizzard is in it’s rights to ban the use of WoW glider but that did not constitute a violation of copyright.

From the ruling:

“Were we to hold otherwise, Blizzard – or any software copyright holder – could designate any disfavored conduct during software use as copyright infringement, by purporting to condition the license on the player’s abstention from the disfavored conduct.

The rationale would be that because the conduct occurs while the player’s computer is copying the software code into RAM in order for it to run, the violation is copyright infringement. This would allow software copyright owners far greater rights than Congress has generally conferred on copyright owners.”

Essentially just because Blizzard says it’s illegal in their TOS does not make it so. Appeals from Blizzard are likely.  You can read the full courts judgment here.

And now my take on this:

Banning folks who use WoW Glider I’m OK with. I don’t think it ruins the experience for anyone else but fine, I’m accessing your server and if you don’t want unfamiliar code accessing it I can let that slide. But I have mixed feelings over the way the court ruled on the other matters. I’m not a fan of the DMCA but it is meant to prevent and punish circumventions of COPY PROTECTION.  Warden is not a copy protection mechanism it is an anti-cheating mechanism.  If the WoW Glider did not violate copyright it can not have violated the DMCA.  I’m glad they ruled that making a copy to RAM is not a violation of copyright as it is impossible to run any program without loading to RAM.  If allowed to stand this gives back rights we lost when EULA’s and other shrink-wrap licenses were previously upheld.  While the court did not rule on the loss of revenue, I find it disturbing that one can be sued for loss of potential revenue.  I would be fine with them saying these specific subscribers told us they quit over the use of WoW Glider, so we want compensation.  But to essentially say, “We think we could have made more money if your bot didn’t exist.” is ludicrous.    You could have potentially made more money if Everquest, Lord of the Rings Online, or any of the other thousands of MMO’s didn’t exist.  You are not entitled to anything because people chose not to purchase your product.

Overall it’s a good start and a trend I hope will continue.

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  • Here’s the thing about being able to sue for loss of revenue: while we might not like it in this case, it’s the same concept that lets Louisiana fishermen (and women) recoup some of the money they lost due to the BP oil spill.

    My problem is not with trying to reclaim potential lost revenue, it’s with the AMOUNT of money people can sue for in this country.

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