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