Zynga Threatens Mafia Wars Auto Play Script Over Copyright Violations...

from the but-what-copyright? dept

I have to admit to massive disappointment with Zynga. The company who was founded by and invested in by folks who I tend to think are rather "clueful" has been involved in all sorts of questionable activity, from virtual goods scams to ridiculous trademark lawsuits against competitors. The latest, sent in by reader Eric, is a case where it looks like Zynga is really stretching copyright law as well. Specifically, Zynga has sent a cease & desist to the folks who make an autoplayer script called Mafia Wars Auto Player. MWAP appears to do what you would expect: which is allow a player who has installed it in his or her Firefox browser (it's a Greasemonkey userscript) to "autoplay" the game Mafia Wars based on parameters set in the tool. Seems pretty straightforward.

Now, Mafia Wars bans the use of such scripts in its terms of service, and has apparently been known to ban users caught using such scripts. I don't quite understand why this is a big deal (admittedly, I don't play the game, but I don't see how this is different than if a player sat there and played repetitively themselves), but if Zynga wants to ban players, so be it. But what isn't clear at all is how the makers of this userscript are violating Zynga's copyright. You can look at the full source code of the user script here, and I'm at a loss to see where the copyright violation occurs. I can understand that Zynga doesn't like that this userscript exists, but I'm not clear how "we don't like it" means "it infringes our copyright." Instead, it has the feeling of a (now) big company using the threat of copyright law to try to push a small community to shut down. And, it appears to have worked, as the MWAP people have decided to comply with the C&D rather than fight it.

Filed Under: copyright, mafia wars, threats
Companies: zynga

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  1. identicon
    Dave, 28 Dec 2009 @ 11:20pm

    Semi related, there was a similar case with the program known as Glider which was a tool used for botting in various popular MMOs. Blizzard Entertainment, now Activision Blizzard took them to court over copyright infringement among various other things. They won their case and Glider was court ordered to shut down or be fined. The big obvious difference is that Glider was a for purchase tool.

    Honestly, if you can't see how tools like this ruin the game, then you are incredibly ignorant or don't understand the basis of game design. It is cheating, it's against their Terms of Service and it unbalances the game. It doesn't speed up the game much, as there are various limits in place to exactly how far a dedicated player can go in certain time frames, but it does speed the game up. Farmville has a tool as well, which allows you to grow, plow and pick all of your plants with one mouse click and away your little farmer goes. There isn't much chance that this can be malicious as farmers can't go to war with each other (yet) but it does make for a depressed look at why you are playing the game in the first place. If you have to cheat, then why even play? It's like playing Solitaire and hitting hint every move, yea you'll win, but was it engaging? No! Did you really enjoy it? Probably not! Was it more of a chore than a game? Probably so! Honestly, if you find that you have to play this game and cheat just because you are either too lazy to play it regularly or because of real life, you need to get you priorities straightened out.

    Just because it's a Facebook game, and that you have 29 invites to be someones neighbor, gangster, family member, doesn't mean you are forced at gun point to do it (though if you are, blink twice and we will send in the feds).

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