It’s come to everyone’s attention that Blizzard have revamped their User Generated Content policy just in time to launch Warcraft 3: Reforged, and claim ownership of all maps made in its editor. The new legalese, while definitely overbearing and disappointing, shouldn’t be a surprise: they started tightening legal claims years ago with StarCraft II.
Over on Blizzard’s forums, user ThunderPope has been sounding the alarm about Blizzard’s changes to their “Custom Games Acceptable Use Policy.” Most folks seem quite fixated on Blizzard’s ownership of custom games created by players in the map editor. The ownership clause of Blizzard’s current custom game acceptable use policy says:
“Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title, and interest in and to all Custom Games, including but not limited to any copyrights in the content of any Custom Games.“
So far as I—a non-lawyer—can tell, their latest ownership clause is much longer but not all that much different to the policy they’ve had with StarCraft II custom games for years. Even in March 2010, before SC2 launched, they insisted that all maps and things created in the editor “are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard.” This latest policy covering all Blizzard games is based heavily on StarCraft II’s policy, which as of June 2019 said:
“Custom Games are and shall remain the sole and exclusive property of Blizzard. Without limiting the foregoing, you hereby assign to Blizzard all of your rights, title and interest in and to all Custom Games, and agree that should Blizzard decide that it is necessary, you agree to execute future assignments promptly upon receiving such a request from Blizzard.”
While Blizzard’s new blanket policy is much wordier in general, the explicit mention of claiming copyright on everything in creations too stands out as a new grab. You won’t be running off to create a standalone game based on a Reforged game mode, at least not without Blizzard’s suits knocking on your digital doorstep. Warcraft 3 originally played more fast and loose with ownership and Blizzard clearly feel they paid for that oversight.
The original Warcraft 3 was a garden of custom games created by players, and gave birth to what would eventually become Dota and League Of Legends. Blizzard must be loathe to let the next hit built in their game slip through their fingers again after their legal fight with Valve over Dota.
ThunderPope also called out the sections preventing users from creating custom games with copyrighted material from third parties and Blizzard’s ability to remove anything they find “objectionable or inappropriate” (or unlawful, abusive, racist, etc). Likewise, the SC2 policy always forbade anything infringing copyright. ThunderPope says this will mark the end of popular fan-made maps like “Anime Fight” and “DBZ Tribute.”
Blizzard’s new ownership claims are authoritarian, to put it kindly, but they aren’t that shocking. However, they are yet another disappointment for veteran players who are now forced to play by Reforged’s rules.
The original Warcraft III has been updated to run through the same client as Reforged, which is missing vintage WC3 features including custom campaigns, clans, and automated tournaments. If people want to keep playing online, they need to update to a version that’s inferior in numerous ways. Blizzard clamping down on fan-made maps and modes is the kicker.