Ruling In WoW Bot Case At Odds With Intention Of Copyright Law

from the very-troubling dept

When a judge ruled last summer that a World of Warcraft bot violated Blizzard's copyright, the ruling was already quite problematic in that it vastly expanded the scope of copyright law in terms of the power of an EULA to limit the activities of legitimate purchasers by use of copyright law. However, an additional ruling dealing with some of the other aspects in the case may be even worse. Tim Lee's writeup explains all the gory details, but just to highlight the key point: this ruling clearly goes well beyond the intention of copyright law and the DMCA specifically, in allowing a software company not to just limit the sale or copying of its program, but to limit how a legitimate copy is used outside of additional copying or selling.

Of course, as we saw when the original ruling was made, there are some in the tech community who are willing to ignore the implications of this just because they don't like what the bot software did (i.e., helping people effectively cheat in the game). However, you need to look beyond what the software did to what these rulings actually mean, and it's quite problematic, and could represent a significant expansion of how copyright law can be used to remove all sorts of rights from individuals. The fact that this particular piece of software was used for questionable purposes is not the issue. The issue is that it was a twisted reading of copyright law that was used to stop it. Blizzard had a variety of options -- mainly technological -- to combat such a bot. To use copyright law is a problem we should all be concerned about.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    :Lobo Santo, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Rights

    The only "rights" you really have are those which are purchased with blood. Those who are unwilling to fight for their rights are losing them.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:46pm

    Re: Rights

    Your "deep" statement is not only pointless, but also incorrect. Veterans and those soldiers currently fighting for our rights are still losing them.

     

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

  3.  
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    tack, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 2:58pm

    little off

    Its a bit different than explained. The software in question is a gateway to a service effecting other users, not just a stand alone piece of software someone downloaded off cnet. Blizzard has every right to fight against companies trying to do harm to their service. Its the same reason mod chips, black boxes, cell phone phreaks are illegal.

     

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

  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Re: little off

    except modchips have legal uses and are not all illegal.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Xiera, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    Blizzard has the right to freeze any accounts they deem violate their Terms of Use or License Agreement. This should be enough to combat any inappropriate use of third-party software in conjunction with WoW. Additionally, they have the opportunity to change their ToU and EULA every time they release a major patch. I hate bots as much as the next person, but that doesn't mean the courts are the answer.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Re: Rights

    Veterans and those soldiers currently fighting for our rights are still losing them.

    Remind me again, which of my rights are U.S. soldiers fighting for in Iraq?

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:31pm

    Re:

    I agree completely, ban people for breaching the ToS, don't fine them or lock them up. Especially with how they can (and do) regularly change it and the person is coerced into accepting the ToS (they don't know what they are till they buy, and then if they don't accept they can't get their money back)

     

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  8.  
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    kirillian (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 3:47pm

    I wholeheartedly agree

    As much as I love Blizzard for their committment to providing good games and service, I have to admit that this is a VERY dangerous precedent that CANNOT be tolerated. Hegemon13 and :Lobo Santo are 100% correct when they speak of the fact that rights are being slowly taken away because we aren't willing to fight for them. I understand the sentiment that we feel like we should fight such things as cheating, but NEVER at the cost of rights that can come back to bite EVERYONE in the butt.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Slackr, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 4:22pm

    With the enormous amounts of money being made by Blizzard, surely they can find a technological solution to this problem rather than having to go to court. Making it 'more' illegal won't stop the problem, it will simply morph into a new form. When there is real money to be made off of virtual worlds, real people will try and take advantage of that.

    I do have to say that Blizzard have taken multiple steps to combat this problem over the years - mass account banning, increased daily quests, alternative epic loot sources, streamlining early content etc. Fact is there are both greedy people who want to cash in on Blizzard's success and lazy people with disposable incomes that can help make that possible.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Daniel, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 4:45pm

    Maybe this shouldn't of been done through copyright law, but couldn't this be compared to a hacking attempt on a website? Someone (the botter) is repeatedly accessing Blizzard's networks and causing problems within them. They aren't stealing information or changing files, but in this case they are spamming and botting. Both affect the end user's experience and both violate the EULA/ToS. Sure Blizzard has the technology to block these "botters", but then there is few cases where innocent accounts get blocked causing more problems. They can constantly update how they detect bots, and the bot application writers will constantly update their software to fight it... This becomes an endless cycle and why would they want to devote so much time and resources to fighting botters/spammers/gold sellers when they could take legal action against them and use those resources for other things such as bug fixes and new content?

    Blizzard's lawyers were probably looking for a legal way to stop this and since there is no specific law against it they had to use a "grey area" to take care of it.

    " in allowing a software company not to just limit the sale or copying of its program, but to limit how a legitimate copy is used outside of additional copying or selling. "

    Speaking of which, this happens all the time. When you go buy a DVD from the store you are not allowed to show it to a group of people (like a classroom for example) without permission. Only in this case they have no way of tracking it, this has been happening for a while and is nothing new.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 5:18pm

    Re: “Hacking” Blizzard’s Website?

    Daniel suggested:

    ...couldn't this be compared to a hacking attempt on a website? Someone (the botter) is repeatedly accessing Blizzard's networks and causing problems within them.

    The only people accessing Blizzard’s servers are their customers who legitimately purchased their product.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Gozza, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 5:20pm

    They did WHAT?!?
    Oh dear.. Blizzard is sliding down the scales of respect to EA level.. Since Bliz is being run by corporate lacky's nowadays this shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.. still makes me cry though..

     

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

  13.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 5:35pm

    Re: little off

    Its a bit different than explained. The software in question is a gateway to a service effecting other users, not just a stand alone piece of software someone downloaded off cnet. Blizzard has every right to fight against companies trying to do harm to their service.

    Yes, but that doesn't mean they get to abuse copyright law to do so.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Karl, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 6:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rights

    The right to cheap oil

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 6:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    The right to not be killed by a bunch of retards that have been brainwashed from birth by a book of hate to believe, that the only good non muslim is a dead muslim. To think it was about cheap oil is almost as stupid as people that think that they when they die 72 virgins are waiting for them if they killed a christian to get there.

     

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

  16.  
    identicon
    Daniel, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 6:55pm

    "The only people accessing Blizzard’s servers are their customers who legitimately purchased their product."

    That may be the case with this particular application, however there are many cases where people have written viruses that target WoW to get people's account information. They then take these accounts and place bots or chineese farmers on them which then leads to spam, botting, gold buying, etc.. So no, thats not exactly true.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 9:55pm

    Re: �Hacking� Blizzard�s Website?

    Daniel wrote:

    That may be the case with this particular application...

    This particular application is the case we’re talking about.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 10:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Rights

    "Remind me again, which of my rights are U.S. soldiers fighting for in Iraq?"

    The right to speak American (in other words, ENGLISH). If it were for all the troops in Iraq we'd all be speaking IRAQI right now! You must be some kind of Obama loving liber-crat if you have to be told that.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 10:47pm

    Re:

    So no, thats not exactly true.

    Yes, in this case it is exactly true. You, on the other hand...

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Feb 2nd, 2009 @ 11:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    Sigh... well, as much I hate to bring irrelevant politics into this: which terrorists from Iraq have attacked you, again? The 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, one of which you still haven't "defended" yourself against yet. Iraq had nothing to do with terrorists till *after* you invaded them...

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 5:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    It's actually 72 Virginians...

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 6:46am

    Re: Re: Re: Rights

    Funny, I never mentioned Iraq.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 7:30am

    72 Virgins

    Nobody said the virgins were female...

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    um, you have no idea what you are talking about. To compare all muslims to the extremists that actually harm people is like comparing all of Christianity to the parts the believe in self flagellation and other archaic beliefs.

    Please educate yourself before you start spouting racist bullshit.

     

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

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    Funny, I never mentioned Iraq.

    Funny that you wouldn't that U.S. forces are currently fighting in Iraq.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    Oops left out a word. Make that "...wouldn't know that..."

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Valkor, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    " in allowing a software company not to just limit the sale or copying of its program, but to limit how a legitimate copy is used outside of additional copying or selling. "
    Speaking of which, this happens all the time. When you go buy a DVD from the store you are not allowed to show it to a group of people (like a classroom for example) without permission.


    Welcome to Techdirt. This must be your first time here. I will invite you to search around on this site for posts related to the "First Sale Doctrine" as well as "Fair Use". Then, compare them to the entertainment industry's *opinions* on the subject.

    It does so happen that you have every right to do exactly what you believe you can't do, and for a couple of reasons. You can most certainly show your own personal copy of a DVD to a "group of people", especially in a classroom.

    It is true that companies try to create limits "all the time", but they are not enforcable. I can create a license on a piece of software that you have to click through to use, or I can put a sticker on the outside of a DVD with terms and conditions, but that is not any sort of legal or moral contract in any sense of the word. It doesn't matter if I sell you a CD and say you can only listen to it on Tuesdays, or if Thomas Edison puts a EULA on his wax phonograph cylinders stipulating the minimum sale price (true fact), it doesn't mean you can't do it!

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Xiera, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 4:50pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    I remember seeing a joke on TV (don't remember what program, unfortunately) where it suggested "who said anything about them [the virgins] being female?".

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Doc, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 7:15pm

    Off-Topic

    Ok, everyone is getting off topic. First off, Iraqi war was a family vendetta lead by father Bush. End of Discussion.


    Second. Blizzard has no right to exploit the copyright laws and sue a company that helps a lot of people break away from such an addicting game. Sounds like everyone that plays World of Warcraft needs to get together and sue the F**K out of blizzard for selling an overly addictive game. How many people that play wow religiously have a life? Do they even take showers, have sex, go on dates, see a movie, talk on the phone, turn in homework, go to school, go to work or just be a productive human?

    I am a Telecommunications Service Technician. That means I repair and troubleshoot internet connections for a rather large cable isp company in Texas. I go to these peoples houses when their internet is down. When I do run into a person that plays World of Warcraft they have very messy houses with cokes and dishes piled up around their computers and they are just drooling over your F*n shoulder until I fix their problem and no sooner is the internet up they are logging into their account(as a test) This is HORRIBLE! Their kids could be running around the house with a chainsaw and they would know no difference. No Warcraft doesn't necessarily make crappy parents, but it sure as hell contributes to that fact!

    With that said, I am a PROUD botter and I hold no shame in saying so. Would you pass up a robot to do your real life job for you if it meant you got to spend more time with your wife/ or g/f, kids, family, friends, clean yo crib, or just to watch TV if you still got paid the same to do so?

    This is excactly what the bot does for us honest people. It FREEs us from a labor intensive game, that requires countless hours of doing the same boring things over and over just to get to the fun of the end game?

    Blizzard needs to take a hard look at their claim and /facepalm.



    ;

    //endrant

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anon, Feb 3rd, 2009 @ 11:06pm

    This case isn't about Iraq, viruses, Chinese farmers, or even botters. This case is about cheating at a game and a misunderstanding of copyright law. Basically Blizzard has intellectual protection from people stealing the game, changing it a little and calling it World of Borecraft. It however does not protect them from another program reading information and using that to automate a process. If this case is over without appeal, it will give Blizzard and any other company the ability to dictate what you put on your computer. In the ruling of this particular case the judge said that this company "Forced people to break Blizzard's TOS and EULA." Obviously this case is about stripping the consumer's rights away. If you side with Blizzard then just give your computer away now, it will be much easier than when they make it happen.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    iidxnewb, Feb 13th, 2009 @ 11:21pm

    re: botting

    imagine years from now getting 250,000$ fines because you used lynux on a dell computer because it breaks their agreements.

    thats where this is headed :P

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 12th, 2009 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    "Sigh... well, as much I hate to bring irrelevant politics into this: which terrorists from Iraq have attacked you, again? The 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, one of which you still haven't "defended" yourself against yet. Iraq had nothing to do with terrorists till *after* you invaded them..."

    Agreed. Please if you are going to say something RESEARCH IT, before you reply.

    But anyway why are we talking about this when the article is about BLizzard and WoW....

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonumous, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 5:01pm

    Re: Re:

    That is not true. Their entire EULA and their entire ToS is on their website (Possibly in multiple languages), and it is free to read, although I doubt many people do it :)

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    No One Is Above The Law, Mar 13th, 2009 @ 11:27pm

    Oceanic Server Disputes

    To the last message, I am conducting a legal analysis project on the illegalities of the Blizzard EULA and ToS legitimacy in its Oceanic Regions, in particular focus there misleading and deceptive conduct both externally in regards to Our Trade Practice Laws and internally in defective excution of services that impinge on an area of law called Estoppel effecting areas of contract, neligence in Torts for external effects and advertising breeches in Australia.

    I would thoughly welcome any comments in regards to your thoughts or alternatively areas of concern towards the company.

    Regards
    Mark

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    spider, Apr 15th, 2009 @ 2:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    i am white, and an ex soldier, and your comment about a book of hate is BS, the koran preaches tolerance not hate.

    FYI, i am also athiest...

    as they say dont judge a book by its cover.. :)

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    Theoryman, May 4th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    Wow Botting

    I bot. I only play wow nowadays because I don’t have to grind. If I had to keep on grinding lvls away I would never play. I KNOW there are a lot of people who feel the same way because I’m in a successful botting guild. If there are people who do not like botting, why doesn’t Blizzard just make a botting only server or something so we don’t have to mix botters and non-botters? Just like in hand to hand combat you have to take the force of the opponent and use it against them, so allow us to bot, but govern the botting. Tax it, something. Because grinding is lame. No fun is to be had by anyone by grinding for a month to get to end-game.
    I am a soldier also.. any of you talking about the war who are not in the war or have not been to war.... go enlist, deploy, then come back and read what you wrote. You are all ignorant donkeys. Chop yourself in the neck.

     

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

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 2nd, 2009 @ 10:04pm

    blizzard wasnt losing any money because of bots, blizzard has millions of subscribers, besides if someone was botting and it affected someone else or someone else saw them then they would be reported and banned, most botters (like me) only use it to level up characters so we can play with friends

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    MountBob (profile), Jul 10th, 2009 @ 8:42am

    So what are the good ones

    I would like to try a good 'current' BOT any sugestions?

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    efraim, Sep 20th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Blizzard are hiding something very well. They ban players with bots, thinking it is about copyrights. But they don't do anything at all about ad-makers that using corpses to write adresses on the ground offending all players in capital-citys.

    They have had about a year in time to come up with a solution, but nothing. Ad-makers are much more annying and violating than bots, and bots that is uman-like was not annoying at all by the way, becouse they were not noticed ingame. Only the robot-like bots were annoying.

    What I dont understand is why Blizzard is letting these ad-makers compromise the copyright of the ingame-environment in front of the paying players as they do (= much worse issue than bots), as if Blizzard wants to drag down their own company-name by terrorists and then demonstrate it to the players while not doing anything about it, nor writing about the problem or wanting to solve it so the players can read it. No respect to the paying players what so ever.

    (Sorry for my bad English, I'm a Wow-player from a non-englishspeaking country).

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Wow Bot, Jan 19th, 2010 @ 12:15pm

    Wow blizzard really went after them

    Blizzard must be doing something right if they managed to win this lawsuit.. this is a huge benchmark in the terms of intellectual property

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    WOW, Jun 4th, 2010 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Rights

    dumbess comment ever. why not kill everyone race and religion that makes you uncomfortable. Biggot.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 18th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: I wholeheartedly agree

    If you don't like the terms and conditions Blizzard creates, then don't play thier game. Its thier intellectual property, you pay to rent or lease it, not to own it.

    And to say that "rights" are only gained by "Bleeding" or "fighting" for them ignores 8 years of George Bush's presidency. 2 wars justified as "fighting for our rights" while he, Rove, and Cheney effectively worked to erode real constitutional rights via the Patriot Act, suspension of Habeas Corpus, etc. Come on guys. Its a fucking game. Don't play it if you can't be bothered to adhere to the rules Blizzard created for the use of its property.

     

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


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