(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
copyright, mafia wars, threats


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.

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  1. identicon
    chad, 2 Jan 2010 @ 5:12am

    boomer, i would have gladly donated to fight zynga. i feel the app is worth paying something, as anything that saves me time is. i know alot of people arent like me and dont have cash to throw around or wouldnt donate for the actual script, but alot would for the principle. i think someone should have contacted the EFF before they made such a drastic decision. at least take donations for the filing of an llc and let them file their lawsuits.

    i can think of many projects, such as bnetd, that the EFF took up representing in court. in the end bnetd devs didnt spend a dime, on legal fees or the judgement against them in the court case they eventually lost.

    im not sure what they were citing in the cease and desist order. im not sure how its copyright infringement, reverse engineering or anything that could be covered by the dmca. that along with the negative reputation that zynga has im sure the EFF would have left zynga with their foot in their mouth.

    the last script i have is of course still running fine. there were a few features i wanted such as boss fights that i can live without. however, the principle of this whole matter infuriates me. please contact the EFF, it wont cost you anything. its not a matter of saving a bot or as some on here call it, "a cheating script". its a matter of making sure people like zynga cant misuse laws and fear to bully people.

    thanks for the work you did. i wish you much success in life. please keep up the fight.

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