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.

Filed Under: copyright, eula, first sale, world of warcraft
Companies: blizzard, eff


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  1. identicon
    Trerro, 6 May 2008 @ 3:24pm

    If Blizzard can't police their own game, it's not our problem

    If someone cheats, disable their CD key, so they can't play on your servers. With an MMORPG, this pretty bans their copy of the game from use (sure, there's private servers, but most of them suck, and only a very small percentage of players use them.)

    If your game is pulling in ~$100 mil/month, and you can't afford to have a team of decent GMs patrolling the world - or failing that, at least checking out reported botters/crackers/whatever, then something is VERY wrong with the management of your gaming company!

    The only think cheating does is violate your contract with the company - you agree to pay a fee and play by the rules in exchange for access to their servers. If you break the contract, you lose your access. That's it. That's the only penalty that makes any sense. Anything further is abuse of copyright law.

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