Once Again Real World Laws Enter Virtual Worlds: Warcraft Bot Maker Sued

from the bots-have-rights-too... dept

This isn't the first time we've seen stories like this, but Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft are suing the maker of a Warcraft "bot" that allowed players to automate certain activities. If this sounds familiar, you might recall people freaking out over bots in Second Life as well. It all goes back to the same point that it's dangerous to move real-world laws into virtual worlds. Those real world laws are designed to matter due to scarcity and the physical constraints of the real world. However, the whole point of a virtual world is that you're not limited by those constraints -- and you are only limited by the constraints programmed into the world. If the creators of the world don't program in certain constraints, it makes little sense to force them on the world through a real-world legal process. Why not just program in those constraints? So, if such a bot is really a problem, program a way to stop it from working and kick the user out for violating terms of service. But to bring a real lawsuit (using copyright, no less) makes little sense here.


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  1.  
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    Dave, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:27pm

    Different Resources

    I'm thinking the constraints they are talking here aren't in the virtual world but the real one. Bandwidth, memory, processing. Normal server constraints not virtual goods. If they determine that real people can or do play a certain amount of time a day, then they are able to load across the servers properly. Adding in bots changes that, increasing real costs on their side.

    At least thats -my- understanding of the BBC article.

     

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  2.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:33pm

    The copyright claim is silly, too..

    Blizzard is apparently claiming this guy's bot tool is infringing because it copies the game into ram. By that very definition, Blizzard needs to be suing anyone who views thier website: http://www.blizzard.com/us/

    See!...


    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN">
    <font face="arial,helvetica" size=1><small><a class="tiny" href="/us/privacy.html">Online Privacy Policy</a></small></font><BR>
    <font face="arial,helvetica" size=1><small><a class="tiny" href="/us/legalfaq.html">©2008 Blizzard Entertainment. All rights reserved.</a></small></font>

     

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  3.  
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    Paul`, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:33pm

    TOS

    I'm fairly sure bots are prohibited in the Terms of Servise and other just no one reads when they install games.

    I don't see how they can use copyright laws to sue for using one though, I'd have thought they'd just ban the account and be done.

     

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  4.  
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    Robert, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:38pm

    Agree but disagree

    I do agree with your comment, however in the situation with Blizzard it is different. I personally play World of Warcraft and they take many measures to attempt to keep people from using bots including banning people for using them as it is a violation of their terms of service. However, the bots that are being made are becoming advanced to the point that they cannot always keep up with them. They are made only for this purpose. I personally support Blizzard in this situation.

    A good example may be someone making a product made specifically to damage online resources such as databases and vital website. Just because the product is online doesn't make it any more legal.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:48pm

    Come on, you guys are griping about this?!

    This is like setting up a burger stand inside of a Burger King and selling whoppers. This joker who made this bot is selling it to work within Blizzard's online world.

    He is making money off of Blizzard's idea, creation, and investment and it is basically cheating.

    And lastly, why the hell do people spend a monthly fee, and then buy software that will play the game for them? That is like buying a 12 pack of beer, and giving it to a neighbor to get drunk for you. Stupidity. And why are people still playing this game?!

     

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  6.  
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    JPong, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    Just a couple of comments

    Blizzard already has programmed in a way to try and prevent botting, this guy is just 1 step ahead of Blizzard, which happens. Blizzard is constantly having to devote real world time and money to develop ways to stop them from being able to use these applications.

    Currently, the fans of World of Warcraft do not really want to see another D2 happen where you have to bot, nor does Blizzard want people to do that as has already been stated, it takes up a fair amount of resources.

    Botting overall hurts games. It ruins any economy the game may of had and makes it impossibly hard for new players to get in. I am not saying these are reasons to get the lawyers going.

    Blizzard just wants to appear tough for the players to keep them happy (remember we are talking about subscription based games here) because the majority of players hate botters, and they dont really want to spend the time and money on constantly releasing new patches just to wipe out the botters for a couple days.

     

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  7.  
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    Hellsvilla, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 7:27pm

    Re:

    And lastly, why the hell do people spend a monthly fee, and then buy software that will play the game for them? That is like buying a 12 pack of beer, and giving it to a neighbor to get drunk for you. Stupidity. And why are people still playing this game?!

    Huh? The software is free. If you buy the retail pack, you get lots of retail pack goodies PLUS a voucher for the first month free. If you don't want the goodies, just borrow someone else's cd (there is no copy protection and after the install, you'll never need the cds again) and pay for your first month up front. You'll save 15$ by downloading/borowing cds. whoopity doo!

     

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  8.  
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    Hellsvilla, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 7:28pm

    Re: Re:

    no, wait. I lose for failing to read what you wrote and replying to the wrong argument. Sorry.

     

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  9.  
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    DanC, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 7:39pm

    Re: Agree but disagree

    I do agree with your comment, however in the situation with Blizzard it is different.

    How exactly is the situation different? The same thing happened when CounterStrike became popular - the developers have to play catch-up in blocking cheats and bot programs. There's nothing illegal about it...but it is a violation of the terms of service.

    A good example may be someone making a product made specifically to damage online resources

    The bot in question automates actions already present in the game. The only thing it really attacks is the game's integrity, since it provides an unfair advantage to some players. Your example would apply if players were actually hacking Blizzard's servers, but that isn't what's happening.

    Just because the product is online doesn't make it any more legal.

    Just because the Blizzard is having a few problems keeping up with blocking bot programs doesn't make them illegal. The solution is the same as it's always been: figure out a way to detect it and ban the accounts of people using it.

     

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  10.  
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    Danny, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 7:46pm

    Here's an idea

    If this programmer is such a problem and is making it really difficult (as in she/he is constantly making bots that evade Blizzard's anti-bot methods) to get rid of, offer her/him a job in the security section of Blizzard.

    And aren't bots a violation of the TOS? If they are just ban him/her and be done.

     

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  11.  
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    Me, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 8:14pm

    whats the difference

    The bot I am thinking of reads the memory of the game, and it hooks into the keyboard and mouse drivers and "presses" buttons and "moves" the mouse. How is this any different from a human playing. The exact same actions will be occurring. It is one thing if it hacks into the game or gets data not available to the normal user, but it doesn't. From blizzards end, there is no difference from a bot to a regular player.

     

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  12.  
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    Buzz, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 9:01pm

    Hmmm

    Yes, I understand Blizzard's intent to keep the game "pure" and free of players attempting to have an edge over players who play the game "the normal way". However, the game clearly needs rethinking if the tasks are so repetitive and mundane that players can easily automate the process by means of bots.

    I remember testing out the game Eternal Lands for the first time. The first task you learn is harvesting flowers. Naturally, the task was so boring, the first thing I wanted was a bot to take over for me until I came back tomorrow. C'mon, guys! Keep mindless farming out of these potentially great RPGs!

     

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  13.  
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    Michael, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 9:20pm

    I don't think "you are only limited by the constraints programmed into the world" is a valid statement. It's technically true, but then, a similar statement can be said of reality. However, we still have laws in the real world that prevent several possible, but unacceptable behaviors. The virtual world also restricts possible, but unacceptable behaviors via an EULA. I haven't read the WoW EULA, but most others I've read explicity forbit automation.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2008 @ 9:22pm

    Re: Hmmm

    And there it is. Botting in WoW is different than getting an aimbot in Counter Strike.

    Both give an "unfair" advantage unless everyone is doing it. The difference is this: In Counter Strike an aimbot ruins the point of the game and makes it *impossible* to do well against the aimbotter or even have fun.

    In WoW, the bot takes over *repetative* and *mindless* tasks. All it is doing is saving someone the agony of spending eight months "grinding" so they can get some gear, and then find it worthless in the next patch.

    For the majority of players (eg non fanboys/fangirls) the business model for Blizzard's WoW is just retarded. They don't mind paying to play, but it takes TOO LONG and is TOO BORING at the same time.

    But they pay to play anyways, usually because "everyone I know plays it" or some other reason.


    I can see why Blizzard is worried about botting, it cuts into their bottom line. But it does NOT give an unfair advantage. More often than not it LEVELS THE PLAYING FIELD.

    The game is ENTIRELY gear based. If you don't have good gear, you can't go into most dungeons or have fun in PvP. Getting gear takes a whole lot of time and energy, and most of it is just stupid mindless crap where you can "fail" at a task and still be working towards getting it (Battlegrounds I'm looking at you).

    I left the game because of just how flat out dumb it is. Others decide to stick it out and bot. Still others actually enjoy doing it, or don't mind wasting time to get gear that they are going to replace shortly.

    Anyone who thinks a bot in WoW gives an unfair advantage needs to grow up. If you want to duel, it's all gear unless you have the same "tier" of gear. Then it is player skill.

     

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  15.  
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    Mike (profile), Mar 26th, 2008 @ 9:48pm

    Re:

    The virtual world also restricts possible, but unacceptable behaviors via an EULA. I haven't read the WoW EULA, but most others I've read explicity forbit automation.

    Indeed. Then take care of it via the EULA and kick the guy out. The terms of service represent the laws of the virtual world. There's no need to bring the outside world's laws into the virtual world. When you do that, you're only asking for trouble.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 12:33am

    blizzard get their monthly fee's regardless if the end user is a bot or a human.

    WOW is a game: if people are using software to play certein parts or activities for them, it means they don't like that portion of the game: in the case of WOW grinding and gold farming.

    if you screw up parts of a movie people might just not watch those parts in their second view. if its music people might learn when to turn the volume down. if you wrote some really bad characters in a book, people might skip the chapters focusing on those characters. and due to interactivity - if people don't like parts of your game, they might use bots to get to the portions they do like.

    we don't have here an ethical legitimacy issue, it is generaly legal for people to not expirience your 'grand masterpiece' to it's fullest if they choose not to do so. we just have here an 'artist' that won't accept that parts of his masterpiece are extremely unapriciated... which is odd, since they where extremely unapriciated features in the game WOW originally copied those features from (EQ).

    and last but not least: if they wanted part of the game to be played strictly by humans and not bots, they should have made gameplay that requires something humans have and not bots: wether it's ingenuity, resourcefulness, creativity, involvement in stories to know whats the next step, or any sort or form of player skill...

     

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  17.  
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    David McMillan, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    The only involvement with the real world that is n

    It suck if you opponent is using a bots, but if you think it's an issue for the law to step in then I'll say it again you really need to turn off your computer and go out side.

    Better yet, go take your fat diabetic ass out to get laid if parts still work.

     

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  18.  
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    David McMillan, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 6:39am

    The only involvement with the real world that is n

    It suck if you opponent is using a bots, but if you think it's an issue for the law to step in then I'll say it again you really need to turn off your computer and go out side.

    Better yet, go take your fat diabetic ass out to get laid if parts still work.

     

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  19.  
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    Jim (profile), Mar 27th, 2008 @ 7:37am

    -25 to your nerd score

    Wow Mike, you are losing a lot of nerd points here.

    Reading the two opposing requests for summary judgment will give a overview of where the two parties are coming from. The Botter is really just pissed that Blizzard showed up at his house and told him that he was going to be giving them all his money.

    This case will go to trail and it will revolve around the issue of whether the coder is liable for the actions of people that use his program to violate the terms of use of WoW. And then how much money he should have to pay to Blizzard based on how much Blizzard was harmed and how much he made.

    [mmoglider.com/legal/PlaintiffSOF_2008_03_21.pdf]
    [mmoglider.com/legal/DefendantsMSJ_2008_03_21 .pdf]

     

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  20.  
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    Betaflame, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 8:05am

    Re: TOS

    The problem is they can't detect exactly who is using the bots. By copying the game into ram it prevents the blizzard anti-cheat software from determining exactly if you're using a bot or not.

     

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  21.  
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    Betaflame, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 8:08am

    Re: Re:

    Mike,
    The specific bot is not detectable via blizzard software. They can't kick the people using it because they don't know who is using it. Copying the entire game to ram is how this specific bot gets around the anti-cheating measure Blizzard has in place.

     

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  22.  
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    DanC, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The specific bot is not detectable via blizzard software.

    The bot is not currently detectable by Blizzard's software. The solution, therefore, is to figure out a way to detect it and terminate the accounts of those using it.

     

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  23.  
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    Betaflame, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I disagree, If they know the person who is specifically breaking the EULA on purpose then they should go after him.
    Its a case of a real person breaking real world rules.
    He figured out a way to break the current system and not get automatically caught, then said "check this, u can break the rules too!"

     

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  24.  
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    Bored, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 10:13am

    I'm shocked at what i'm reading

    The only problem i see here is with the Gent charging for his BOT. That's the sticky issue seeing how he's using Blizzards IP (Intellectual Property) and not paying for it. If it was free then blizzard wouldn't have a leg to stand on with their suit. As for using bots, well the way i look for it, I've payed for the game and unlimited game time each month. If i want to use a bot while I'm sleeping to get that good stuff that's so hard to find then that's my business. They sold you unlimited usage each month not 8 hours max a day. Blizzard just upset he's making money that's all. It's always about the bottom line.

     

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  25.  
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    DanC, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    If they know the person who is specifically breaking the EULA on purpose then they should go after him.

    Not every provision of a EULA is enforceable. For instance, until recently, Apple's EULA for the Safari browser expressly forbid users to run it on Windows, even though it was Safari for Windows.

    If we take your logic to the ridiculous extreme, anyone that installed Safari for Windows prior to the license change has willfully violated the EULA, and Apple would be within their rights to prosecute them. Obviously that isn't the case, but it does show that treating a EULA as a completely legally binding contract is unrealistic.

    In any case, Blizzard is approaching this from the copyright side of things, which isn't really the way to handle it. Licensed users of WoW have game client code copied into memory during the normal course of play. Since users of the bot would, by necessity, have a license for the game client, it isn't really clear how the infringement would occur.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 12:12pm

    i'm the only one here who thinks the fact bot are used to play a game for you is a tastimony for it not being such a particulary good game?

    think about paying someone to watch a movie for you...

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 1:00pm

    I remember reporting people botting using the in game tools and the same player was still there botting 2 weeks later, so apparently they don't care too much about botting, they just want to make a good show of it. I have a friend who has been botting the battlegrounds for months upon months now, and he's still playing just fine. Their in game tools even basically flagged him as a bot but they didn't bother to do anything about it. I think they're just trying to scare people into not botting without actually canceling subscriptions and costing themselves money.

     

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  28.  
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    Betaflame, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 2:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The license becomes invalid once you violate the EULA.
    So further use of the complete code for one's own gain would seem to fall under copyright.

     

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  29.  
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    Clueby4, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 5:09pm

    Projecting your insecurities.

    I don't think they have a case. Especially given there is no need to copy any WoW code to have the bot function.

    The real issue is Blizzard can't easily detect the bots, their Warden(?) spyware solution is pointless, since all a dev needs to do is use root-kit methods to avoid detection.

    WoW players whining about it are just avoiding the fact that bot's existence illustrates. Which is "You are playing and paying for something a frelling bot can do, loser."

    MMO are reaping what the sow, make a game that is essentially a grindfest then it makes it any easy target for bots. So instead of attacking the cause of the issue, they instead go after the symptoms. A strategy doomed to fail.

     

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  30.  
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    DanC, Mar 27th, 2008 @ 6:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The license becomes invalid once you violate the EULA.

    As I stated earlier, a violation of the EULA does not necessarily invalidate the license itself. That being said, the only portion of the EULA that could possible be interpreted as being violated by the bot would be:

    "use of a utility program or any other techniques now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose, including without limitation unauthorized network play over the Internet,"

    Unauthorized network play is fairly vague, and in the context of the EULA seems directed more towards playing the game on an emulated or other unauthorized server.

     

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  31.  
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    Willton, Mar 28th, 2008 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As I stated earlier, a violation of the EULA does not necessarily invalidate the license itself. That being said, the only portion of the EULA that could possible be interpreted as being violated by the bot would be:

    "use of a utility program or any other techniques now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose, including without limitation unauthorized network play over the Internet,"

    Unauthorized network play is fairly vague, and in the context of the EULA seems directed more towards playing the game on an emulated or other unauthorized server.


    1. You're wrong: a violation of the EULA does necessarily invalidate the license. A license is a contract or an agreement between two parties, allowing one to use a thing for consideration. In this case, the thing is the service of online game software, and the consideration is the monthly fee. The EULA represents the contract between the service provider and the user. Hence, when one violates the terms of the contract, or the EULA, one breaches the contract and renders the license voidable.

    2. Read the contract. The portion of the EULA you highlighted says "for any purpose," which is not limited to the "unauthorized network play."

     

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  32.  
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    Clueby4, Mar 28th, 2008 @ 4:16pm

    Not all contracts are VALID, same goes for EULAs

    Even some signed contract are deemed unconscionable or unenforceable. So to obtusely claim the ALL EULAs are vaild contracts is disingenuous at best.

    If all EULA are valid contracts, non-apple machine users that installed Safari before Apple CHANGED the EULA, or "contract" for the unreasonable, their license would be voided, in limbo, or up to them to interpret?

    The common claim in EULAs, that one party, EULA's author of course, has the dubiously claimed right to change terms after the agreement has been made is one of the reasons EULA aren't commonly considered "contracts". Yes, there have been lawyers that tricked some courts, however most reasonable people can grok how such a contract is unreasonable at best and more likely unconscionable.

     

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  33.  
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    DanC, Mar 29th, 2008 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The portion of the EULA you highlighted says "for any purpose," which is not limited to the "unauthorized network play."

    Exactly my point. The passage is incredibly vague, and thus it is difficult to know when one may or may not be violating the EULA. It allows for an "after the fact" violation of the EULA, as the terms are not adequately specified.

    Hence, when one violates the terms of the contract, or the EULA, one breaches the contract and renders the license voidable.

    If the terms of the EULA are determined to be unenforceable, that isn't the case, as seen by Apple's Safari for Windows. Granted, a court would need to decide this, but I would hope a court ruling forces Blizzard to be more explicit concerning what is and what is not allowed on their network.

     

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  34.  
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    Brock Lesner, May 16th, 2009 @ 3:15pm

    great

    hello buddy in read your comment i like it i learn alot of things from your comment i hope everyone likes your post dear thanx for this information Anybody know where the World of Warcraft European servers are located? Someone said they are all in Britain but I am not sure. Would they have some in Germany, some in Finland etc? I am trying to do a business plan for my own massive multiplayer game and was wonder how they spread out the resources. ==================== Brock Lesner =================== WoW Europe Gold-WoW Europe Gold

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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