Blizzard Squishes ‘World of StarCraft’ Mod

By Alec Meer on January 19th, 2011 at 12:15 pm.

So apparently it’s not cool to make StarCraft mods with the StarCraft modkit – or at least not if you call them ‘World of StarCraft.’ That name was just begging for trouble, let’s be honest. Duly, trouble happened, it happened fast and it happened hard. After becoming a brief internet sensation, the creator of the StarCraft 2 MMO mod we posted about yesterday woke up to a clutch of copyright infringement notices from Activision-Blizzard, via YouTube. Ouch.

So far, this means his work-in-progress videos have been pulled, and that’s all. The project hasn’t been forcibly shut down and its forum is still active, but it’s unclear for now if development will continue.

It’s incredibly important to note that, at this stage, we don’t know exactly why this has happened. Obviously people are going to want to leap to certain dramatic conclusions (i.e. ‘OMG they’re making their own World of StarCraft!’), but I’d be very, very wary of making such presumptions until we hear more. I’d be much more willing to bet this is a precautionary measure rather than some great revelation – after all, letting anything bear that name means Blizzard essentially couldn’t ever use it themselves, whether or not they have current plans to. It’s never nice to see megacorps wielding this kind of muscle instead of allowing fans to celebrate and promote their products, but it’s hardly unprecedented.

I’ve asked Blizzard for details. We’ll see what happens.

Here’s what lead modder Ryan got from YouTube a few hours ago:

ATTENTION
We have received copyright complaint(s) regarding material you posted, as follows:

from Activision Games Inc about World of Starcraft Pre-Alpha Trailer – CreationArtist25
Video ID: RU1dSXU_Bk0
from Activision Games Inc about World of Starcraft Character Selection Screen – CreationArtist25
Video ID: 37dp_5E5NvQ
from Activision Games Inc about Starcraft 2 ATB Battle System MOD – ‘POWER OVERWHELMING’ – CreationArtist25
Video ID: BTl7YWYFnP8
Please note: Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos you have uploaded. Please delete any videos for which you do not own the necessary rights, and refrain from uploading infringing videos.

Intellectual property law: not a lot of fun. I can’t find a specific World of StarCraft trademark filing from Blizzard, but their general StarCraft one seems pretty all-encompassing.

Again, I’m not surprised: using ‘World of StarCraft’ as a title was brave, to say the very least. However you may personally feel about copyright law (and there is an awful lot to hate about it), it is law. I’m guessing – and guessing only – that this is about the name and logo and whatnot rather than the project’s actual existence: ‘World of StarCraft’ is a phrase Blizzard will want to protect, whether because of something of they’re working on or just in case they ever do want to work on it. It’s understandable, to a point.

What I don’t like one bit is that the modders were informed in this rather brutal way. I’m sure a polite email from Blizzard asking if they could please change this and this and this would likely have achieved the same thing without freaking some poor bloke out.

So there’s also Ryan’s lengthy response over on his forum, a few extracts of which I’ll quote below. Not convinced he’s totally aware of why this has happened, but who knows.

You created a tool that allowed us to do anything with your assets. You encouraged us to use your assets and were eager to see what we might come up with. You had to have seen this coming?

I know it’s hard to trust someone you’ve never met to piggyback on your own legacy. The brilliance of StarCraft combined with the multiplayer focus of World of Warcraft. You might be a little worried about your lore being butchered… or even more-so worried about a guy with no supervision tainting the name of your company with poor product.

Let me assure you that I am in no way shape or form going to deliver anything less than complete perfection. I’ve been following your work since Warcraft. I’ve worked with every editor you’ve put out since I was 13 years old.

If you have a problem with what I am doing… or would like to talk about it. I’m all ears. But please don’t send me some messenger with a cease and desist letter.

In a separate post, he sets out his current thinking on the mod’s future:

“If Blizzard/Activision doesn’t want this to happen then it won’t. This game HAS to be pumped through the veins of battle.net to work. I hope and pray that we can come to an understanding here. If they want the name changed then I’ll change it.”

Yes, well.

Again, we’ve asked Blizzard for a statement. More soon, maybe.

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186 Comments »

  1. MadTinkerer says:

    Once upon a time the Black Mesa: Source makers were given a cease and desist by Valve, because of the use of the word “Source”. Black Mesa is still in production, minus the word “Source”. Ultimately, everything worked out fine without much complaining by anyone.

    But because Blizzard also wants to protect their IP, everyone’s bitching about it. How dare they tell modders not to give a mod a title that’s a portmanteau of two existing Blizzard games, and one which Blizzard may want to make in the future. Seriously: It’s not even an RPG at all. There’s only one but ten.

  2. gwathdring says:

    I’m utterly befuddled as to how one makes a mod a mod of a game without using the game’s assets. I suppose mixing assets across two games is the real issue, but bloody hell–it’s legally crystal clear that they own the engine, the brand, and all non-original material from the mod. This is more of that legal preemptive strike bullshit, isn’t it? If we don’t at least make a show of attacking everything that moves we look weak and might face legal complications and market competition, sort of thing? Badly done indeed. But so far harmless. More reasons to be annoyed with the legal limbo IP law is in and the corporate culture surrounding IP law, but not not a particularly big deal otherwise.

  3. nuh uh no way says:

    Look, “World of StarCraft” would make a terrible name for that MMO. It doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily and it just doesn’t make sense: StarCraft… *shudder* lore isn’t confined to one single planet. If they wanted to keep consistency in their MMO name template, they’d pick some sort of much-larger-scope word that begins with S, am I wrong?

  4. ScubaMonster says:

    I’ll say it again, this wouldn’t be a MMO game anyway. I don’t care if the creator calls it a MMO, it can’t be. It has to run through battle.net and battle.net only allows 8 people in a single Starcraft game. The only way to get around that would be to hack the game and run it on a private server or something. Just because the gameplay would be similar to WoW, that doesn’t make it a MMO.

  5. rawtheory says:

    Awesome commentary Mr. fanciest_of_pants!

  6. en_zedd says:

    Valve >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Activision/Blizzard

  7. HeroJez says:

    Archimedes could have called this one. Unfortunately all the wrong people are getting upset. Actiblzzzzz is just too big to deal with this sort of thing delicately so, regardless of how big-fish-small-pond the creator is they get the same treatment as everyone else.

    Still, given a short amount of time, a name change and a to-and-fro of emails, let’s hope they can kiss and make up. :)

  8. Sarlix says:

    Well I don’t know about anyone else, but I think a World of Richard Scarry MMO could be fun.

  9. Sardaukar says:

    Everyone makes a point of how Blizzard provided the tools, so Blizzard is in the wrong for saying no to something made with them.

    Uh, guys? Reread the first part of that. If Blizzard giveth, Blizzard can taketh.

  10. FRIENDLYUNIT says:

    *sigh* So not the mod then – the brand. Should be easily fixed by the guy once he wises up.

  11. nhat says:

    The mod is definitely impressive. As with the mod itself. But the modders have more talent than to make spin off from one of blizzards games. Make something original. For example, why you think leagues of legends and counter striker were so popular?

  12. spindaden says:

    TBH, this looks to me like whichever legal bod in Activision (note that the complaint came from Activision, not Blizzard and not even Activision Blizzard) saw these didn’t even know they were from a sc2 mod, just saw the title and maybe the static image and clicked his ‘complain to youtube’ macro.

  13. Jerkface says:

    This is obviously about the name. In particular the words “World of”, not Starcraft or Warcraft. The solution is very simple. Take parts of each of the two names and put them together in a brand new way. Thusly:

    Starwars.

    Problem solved, and you’re welcome.

  14. DOLBYdigital says:

    I’m confused, why don’t the modders just change the name and keep on working? I mean were they really all that attached to the ‘name’. Its just some words so let it go and keep on working. If they continue to stop your efforts, that’s when I would make a big stink out of the issue….. Hopefully the modders can get back to what they love doing and can put this behind them. For the record, Blizzard can suck it and I’m glad I’ve never supported them once (mainly because I don’t like their style of games).

  15. 1stGear says:

    This is your occasional reminder that Activision-Blizzard has not actually delivered a C&D to this guy, despite what his own holier-than-thou open letter and Wulf would have you believe. The only thing that has been removed is his YouTube videos and likely, eventually, the mod’s name.

  16. Phandaal says:

    This was completely set-up from the get-go.

    The modder wanted nothing more than world-wide notriety and the possibility of a job from Blizzard at the end, or at least to get on their radar enough to make his job application stand out. The scope of the project was ridiculously too vast for any one person to continue on with in any reasonable amount of time.

    All that was ever going to be created of this “mod” was the proof-of-concept stuff we have seen in the video.

    Blizzard’s legal reaction was both predicted and desired by the creator.

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