Blizzard vs Glider: The Result

By Alec Meer on July 16th, 2008 at 11:54 pm.

You may remember that, some months ago, there was a legal barney between the WoW creators and the bloke behind Glider, a bot application he sold for a few quid to people who couldn’t be arsed to grind/gold farmers/no-handed folk/delete as applicable. We did a silly little vote on the thing, but clearly the real decision was in the hands of some judge who doesn’t play MMOs. Short answer: Blizzard wins round one.

It’s late, I’m exhausted and am looking at a string of missed deadlines so can’t go into this much right now, but in a nutshell: it’s not looking good for Glider. The moral argument surrounding bots as a valid way to play the game is somewhat incidental, from what I can gather – rather, one of the two winning arguments was that, according to Blizzard, WoW players at large didn’t enjoy finding someone called sdjdlkjdsew67ys farming quiet corners of the server or hogging all the Hellboars. It’s a matter of – and I love this phrase – ‘tortious interference’. Interfering with Blizzard’s customers’ experience, basically. Which seems fair enough, issues of Big Corp vs Little Man aside. Stumbling across a bot does rather spoil the mood.

Some parties are claiming the other element of Blizzard’s win is not fair enough. Glider works by copying elements of the game into RAM and then doing… something with it that keeps it beneath WoW’s anti-cheat radar. According to this ruling, that act of temporary copying, even of just a portion of the code, constitutes a breach of copyright. Which, as so many matters of electronic copyright tend to be, may be a bit of a fearsome precedent. What can you and can’t you safely copy? What constitutes a copy? And isn’t every game loaded into RAM? Aargh. Any lawyers out there?

Here’s the ruling:

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 Blizzard’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.

Debate is raging over on Slashdot about what this actually means for future cases – anything from ‘it follows the letter of the law exactly and changes nothing’ to ‘isn’t that like suing someone for looking at you?’ Bless Slashdot. Unfortunately, my legal knowledge begins and ends at knowing that you can’t print a picture of a celebrity with a penis photoshopped into his mouth in your magazine, so I can only make my Serious Face about this and hope I look clever enough.

While Blizzard wins on the matters of’ contributory and vicarious copyright infringement’ and the aforementioned tortious interference, it’s not over yet. There’ll be a fate-deciding trial in September unless there’s an out of court settlement before then.

Jeepers. This really wasn’t a post I should have tried to tackle at half-midnight. Hurts.

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25 Comments »

  1. Noc says:

    I think, if I’m reading this right, that it doesn’t have anything to do with someone going in and modding the client. Or making a copy of the client. I think that this means that they aren’t allowed to have another program watch what the WoW client is doing while it’s working. Or what’s going on in the connection between the WoW client and the server.

    I think you guys had a Sunday Papers link a while back about “How to Hack MMOs” or something that talks about this sort of thing, even if it doesn’t mention WoW or Glider specifically. I’m too lazy at the moment to track it down and link, though.

    And they ALSO won on the “Torsional Interference” thing, which seems to translate to “Glider’s disrupting gameplay and making an ass out of itself.” So this whole thing isn’t entirely based on the peeping-at-WoW’s-code bit.

  2. James G says:

    The BBC News article claims that the court dismissed Blizzard’s claim of a DMCA violation, yet ruled that the program was in violation of the TOS. Which initially made me somewhat happier with the verdict, although looking at the story you linked it suggests that the BBC article was slightly misleading, and that there are other issues at play.

    I’m assuming that this ruling has potential impact on any ‘trainer’ program released, although I’m having a bit of trouble navigating the legal jargon.

    Also, did RPS pick up on the lawsuit Topware Interactive is bringing against people who have fileshared Dream Pinball 3D? I didn’t see it mentioned, but the site has been busy recently with E3 news so I may have missed it.

  3. MetalCircus says:

    “isn’t that like suing someone for looking at you?”

    Sort of. More like a super-market suing you for having a cheeky little taste of the grapes as you pass them in the aisle, except this is even less naughty. Oh well.

  4. Indagator says:

    And isn’t every game loaded into RAM?

    That’s true, but the section 117 defense mentioned in the ruling specifically allows for software to be loaded into RAM without violating copyright, as long as such loading is necessary for the legitimate use of the software. What happened here, though, is that the counsel for the Glider author conceded that the TOS was the only thing which allows a person to execute the program. Thus, once using
    Glider was shown to violate the TOS, any loading of WoW would be illegitimate and ineligible for the protections of section 117.

    Of course, how that would differ from a malware author writing up a TOS that prohibits anti-virus software from running at the same time it is escapes me.

  5. Devan says:

    That ‘tortious interference’ charge should not be grounds for suing Glider. It should be grounds for banning accounts that are botting, just like all the other bannable offenses.
    If I sell a car with a really powerful stereo, I shouldn’t be getting sued if one of my customers puts it at max and annoys other drivers on the road. If someone is hogging Hellboars or farming gold then they should be dealt with whether they’re botting or not.

    Also, violating the TOS should not be a legal matter, and again it should involve the individual players not the toolmakers.
    Copyright law keeps getting worse and worse for consumers. It’s going to be a big problem soon, for more than just botters.

  6. Noc says:

    Indagator: What would they do, though, file a class-action lawsuit against their customers?

    And Devan, I don’t agree. The issue isn’t just that the players are violating the TOS, it’s that a company is making money off of providing tools specifically designed to help them violate the TOS. It’s like goldfarmers: there’s nothing wrong or illegal about standing around farming until you’re superrich, but it IS illegal to sell it to players. Once you start dealing with real money, it stops being just a game thing and steps into the realm of actual, real-life laws.

  7. Dogun says:

    I’ve given this a little thought.
    If Glider is acting in the manner of a debugger, and using memory mapping APIs on the WoW process, then there is in fact no real copying of WoW memory occuring, beyond scanning the process topology, possibly not even in Blizzard owned code (i.e. OS libraries.) In any case, they claim to make no mods to the WoW process, so it sounds like they use messaging APIs to drive the input, and either scan the process’s virtual address space topology to find the values they care about (in which case, these values are being copied into registers, and many of them are things like IDs, and locations, and are certainly not subject to copyright.)

    If it works in the manner of a screen scraper, I think you would be very hard pressed to say that Glider copies WoW copyrighted code.

    If Glider can be executed after the WoW process has started and works fine, the argument Glider roads WoW’s memory contents into RAM by ‘running it in a malicious way’ is even more bogus.

    If we look at the ‘arms race’ aspect, both WoW and Glider could have EULAs that prohibit scanning for memory contents, and both would be violating them – Glider with its scripting facilities, WoW with it’s Warden/Watcher/Whatever program. Why should Wow automatically win this suit?

    Does anyone know the precise argument that was made in this case?

  8. cliffski says:

    is not the real story here that vast portions of this *game* are so boring that people are prepared to PAY MONEY to avoid playing them?

  9. AbyssUK says:

    amen to cliffski

  10. Lorc says:

    The idea that internal computer operations are subject to copyright is a terrifying idea. Almost everything a computer does is copying of one sort or another. I may be a UKer, but the ungodly influence of America over computer/internet standards means that I’ll be feeling any fallout from this too.

    Blizzard probably should have had some kind of case against Wowglider – harassment? Interference with business operations? Whatever. – but not this. This is bullshit, and so sweeping in its implications that Blizzard are either insane or actively trying to be evil to have gone along with it.

    I can only hope that what the judgment represents gets swept under the rug and ignored. More plausibly, I suspect it’ll be used as a legal lever by big money to bully anyone doing anything they don’t like with, at or around their software.

    I’m going to go buy lots of canned food and fill my bathtub with water now.

  11. The Sombrero Kid says:

    if they edited Blizzard copyrighted code or copied it without authorisation they breach terms of the contract and infringe copywrite, copying the game to the ram to run the game is a licensed copying process, copying it to amend besides being illegal is also not covered by you’re copywrite license. however if it’s true that glider only amends data in ram not code then they aren’t breaching one aspect of copywrite law, although a president on this hasn’t been set to my knowledge but they are still breaching the terms of their contract and making an unlicensed copy of the game.

    p.s. i find it extremely unlikely that they are circumventing blizzards anti cheat code without editing it, it’s either that or installing a rootkit on your system, which surely people wouldn’t be dumb enough to do.

  12. gaijin says:

    “you can’t print a picture of a celebrity with a penis photoshopped into his mouth in your magazine”
    wow, you *did* that? neat.

  13. Arnulf says:

    This is really bad. Blizzard won for a right cause (cheating is wrong after all!) with all the wrong arguments!

    All arguments aside about the grind, MDY was trying to cash in off someone’s else work with minimalist effort. They’re free-riding, nothing more, nothing less. That should have been the angle to win this.

    But not this copyright bullshit! I somehow feared this day would come. So I’m not entitled to watch what mine own machine does when I’m running software not produced by me on it? Harsh. Really harsh.

  14. Dan Milburn says:

    is not the real story here that vast portions of this *game* are so boring that people are prepared to PAY MONEY to avoid playing them?

    If by ‘story’ you mean something that everyone’s known for at least the last 3 years and hasn’t hindered the game’s popularity in the slightest. In any case, people being prepared to pay money to cheat at games is not a phenomenon that originated with WoW.

  15. Michael says:

    I am very satisfied with the court’s decision.

  16. Chris Keegan says:

    An interesting argument to use from the Judges point of view could be this…

    You have designed a virtual world for people to inhabit, why do you then not allow them to police it? Third parties have found ways of exploiting the game dynamics but you have shackled the players by not letting them control blatant gold selling etc.

    Its the responsibility of the developer to input protection for its players not the laws?

    Its impossible to expect game devs to police everything, they cannot be everywhere at every-time, but players can, so give them the powers to police this sort of thing.

    Now get out of my court!

  17. Michael says:

    Out of idle curiosity, Chris, how do you imagine this? In real life those who get offered a job in the police have to first undergo an in-depth screening process. Yet, as we all know, the police has more than its fair share of lowlifes and scumbags.

    How will this work with an MMO? How will you screen the applicants? Allow any account with no recorded violations? Well new accounts are cheap and easy to create. Allow anyone who’s maximum level? Same problem persists. And who’s to say that the violators themselves will not take over the police activities?

    Perhaps allow the kind of kick-voting that takes place in some Unreal Tournament mods? But that’s mob rule and all that will do is allow people to bully someone they don’t like, not necessarily someone who is violating the rules.

    Also please note that most of the gold-selling and power-leveling services exist because people are willing to pay for them. Would you trust the same hoi polloi who created these problems to put an end to them? I don’t think so.

    Personally I think that the current model works fine. There is already a paid, on-staff police – the GMs. There are not too many of them, but I have much higher trust in these employees than in Axecutioner-the-retarded-hunter. And where the GMs fail, the company backs them up with real life actions such as lawsuits.

    Assuming perfection is unattainable, this is probably as good as it gets.

  18. KindredPhantom says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find Blizzard buy out the glider software and the proceed to sell it to it’s own players.

  19. Chris Keegan says:

    I really dont see it happening in Wow anytime soon at all.
    The principal being that a small number of police could and do keep the rule of law in the real world. So how do we expect many thousands of players to behave in a Virtual world which has some form of currency without a third party coming in and corrupting it in someway over time.

    To answer your question a bit i would say give the responsibility to players that have a reputation to lose such as representatives from high end raiding guilds, in wow’s case.

    Wow i would heavily guess will never have any form of local government introduced into it. But future games that do could in theory cut out a lot of time with law suits to botting problems that players come across very easily but Devs find hard to solve.

  20. Heartless_ says:

    The real thing to take away is that they took EIGHT pages to explain the situation legally, so it is very unlikely that any other case can easily reference this ruling to help their own case. That is the fear so many people have.

    This does not set a “dangerous precedent”, like so many people are throwing around. It is a specifically worded ruling for the case against MDY and most of it stems from MDY’s inability to provide a plausible defense.

  21. GeorgeR says:

    Yeah, there have been worse cases for digital infrigment, and other countries have put higher value on the consumer rights (China and Korea namely.) so this is a little bit of overacting. This isn’t going to destroy consumer rights.

    I mean, that’s been done for a long time now.

  22. SuperNashwan says:

    A similar decision already exists in the UK thanks to Sony suing a mod chip seller. Computer code is classed as a “literary work” under UK law so any unauthorised copying, no matter how temporary or incidental, puts you outside the law.

  23. EyeMessiah says:

    @Sombrero Kid

    As I understand it Glider does indeed use some kind of custom-rootkit to avoid detection. Botters, though fanatically paranoid when it comes to Blizzard, are remarkably trusting when it comes to MDY.
    .
    .
    BANWAVE MAY 08 FOREVER

  24. Aikes says:

    Who wants to spend endless hours grinding xp, grinding for currency, or grinding anything? Most people want to get to a competitive level as fast as possible so they can then spend more time with their fellow guild mates in either PvE or PvP.

    I understand that there are also a lot of role players out there, but there is something inherently wrong with them to just want to sit at a PC and pretend to be be anything.

    Competition, skill at a class, those I understand. Taking enjoyment in the grind I do not.

    http://www.thenoobcomic.com/index.php?pos=1

  25. Nelsonsb says:

    This make bo sence, If nothing else, glider help the gain money, even though someone was buying a bot to play wow for them, they still had to pay for wow.