Courts Should Reject Blizzard's Assault on the First Sale Doctrine
from the contract-or-copyright? dept
We’ve written before about the ongoing fight over the legal status of end-user license agreements. Many software companies have tried to claim that breaking an EULA is copyright infringement, which often carries harsher penalties and stronger remedies than mere breaches of contract. The courts have generally resisted these arguments, holding that a copyright holder cannot expand the scope of copyright simply by attaching a “license” to its products. The Electronic Frontier Foundation points to the latest skirmish in this debate: Blizzard has taken the position that using a piece of software called Glider to cheat in World of Warcraft is not only contrary to the game’s license agreement but is copyright infringement as well. Indeed, on Blizzard’s theory, any violation of the license agreement would constitute copyright infringement.
Public Knowledge has submitted a brief in the case pointing out the real problems the courts would cause if they accepted Blizzard’s argument. For example, among the terms of the World of Warcraft license are rules about what you can name your in-game characters. Blizzard’s theory would mean that if you choose a name that violates those rules (such as naming your character after a “popular culture figure, celebrity, or media personality”), you would not only get kicked out of the game, but you would be liable for copyright infringement too! This is plainly not how copyright is supposed to work, and PK rightly urges the court to reject Blizzard’s over-reaching argument. Perhaps most troubling, accepting Blizzard’s argument would mean that software vendors would have the power to dictate who may make software that interoperates with their products. Outside of the much-reviled DMCA, copyright law has never given software vendors this kind of control, and there’s no good reason to start now.