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.