Blizzard Pretends IP Made It Kill Fan Server

from the stop-lying dept

Blizzard, maker of World of Warcraft, has a long and dubious history when it comes to trying to twist intellectual property laws and requirements to be whatever they want it to be at the time. These instances have mostly revolved around using copyright in an attempt to stop people who use cheat-bots to play the company's games, as well as those who make the bots. The actual tactics Blizzard uses in those cases, which chiefly revolve around twisting copyright into knots as never intended, can get lost because of the hatred most players have for those who game the gaming system.

But it's a different story when it comes to Nostalrius, which was the name for fan-servers offering up a "vanilla" version of World of Warcraft to gamers who wanted to play the game without any of the expansion packs that Blizzard has released. Serving thousands of individual gamers, Blizzard decided the fan-server was a threat to its business and used trademark law to threaten those running it into shutting the whole thing down. Smart or not, Blizzard was within its rights to do this. Its explanation as to why, however, is absolutely dripping with bullshit and needs to be called out.

We'll start with the now common refrain the company offered as to why it shut down the server, responding to public backlash for having done so.

Why not just let Nostalrius continue the way it was? The honest answer is, failure to protect against intellectual property infringement would damage Blizzard’s rights. This applies to anything that uses WoW’s IP, including unofficial servers. And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server.
It's difficult to see how this could possibly be true. Policing the trademark is indeed a requirement within trademark laws generally, but policing doesn't offer a dichotomy between choosing to give up the mark or shutting the fan server down. There are other avenues that could have been explored, such as granting an inexpensive license to Nostalrius, which would allow them to continue as an official arm of Blizzard's IP. That satisfies the requirement and doesn't result in pissing off thousands of Blizzard fans. Keep in mind that Blizzard itself does not offer a similar vanilla version of WoW such as this. Working with the folks behind Nostalrius, it could have claimed to have done so through a third party. Problem solved. Why is it that those that use intellectual property so heavily, assets which are often designed to spur creativity, are the least creative when it comes to how to enforce that intellectual property?

As for why Blizzard doesn't just offer up a similar service for gamers? Well:
We explored options for developing classic servers and none could be executed without great difficulty. If we could push a button and all of this would be created, we would. However, there are tremendous operational challenges to integrating classic servers, not to mention the ongoing support of multiple live versions for every aspect of WoW.
So, Blizzard, a rather large company, couldn't figure out how to accomplish what a single fan server did? Please. And even if that were indeed true, why again not simply utilize what Nostalrius had already built and license it so that it was kosher? Why instead bring the legal hammer down and force the whole thing into shutdowns-ville?

Blizzard says they're in talks with the folks behind the fan server now that it's been shut down, but there was no reason to shut it down in the first place, aside from the misguided belief that pissing of your fans will get them to give you more money.


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  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 3:51am

    You're welcome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 3:59am

    Bullies will be bullies.

    They do it just for the fun of it.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 4:21am

    Does a license make precedence or is a license post-perpetration seen as a de facto legalization of past actions? That seems to be the only situations where the IP would be "damaged" by licensing.

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 4:35am

    The threat was, many of the streamers in Twitch and other places started going to that server making it so less of the current content that Blizzard is spending their money on, less popular. Blizzard doesn't see that the old content is actually new at this point as MANY of the players from Vanilla no longer play.

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

  • identicon
    Darkhog, 28 Apr 2016 @ 5:48am

    Blizzard is also full of shit for another reason. They claim it would be impossible for them to make vanilla/classic server. This is as much true as it is that they've taken Nostalrius for IP reasons. Somehow Jagex doesn't have any issues running "classic" Runescape servers alongside modern ones. If much smaller company can do it, so can Blizz.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 5:53am

    "And while we’ve looked into the possibility – there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server. "

    Bullshit. Any good lawyer, hell, I'm not a lawyer and I could do it, could write up a simple "yes, you can run old-school WoW on your server" piece of paper.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 5:57am

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

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

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      Right? This might be the worst post Mike Masnick has ever written. If he would just pay as much attention to detail as you do, friend, this blog would be a much better place. Instead, we get articles like this, which Mike Masnick wrote.

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

    • identicon
      Anony Mouse Hero, 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:17am

      Re:

      I think his thoughts are more that Blizzard could have just worked with them to make it into a sound business model (read $$) rather than going thermonuclear.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:30am

      Re:

      Maybe but there was no copyright violation in this case.

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

  • identicon
    DividingByZero, 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:22am

    Ego

    The reason they did it is ego and is why they continue to fight against Legacy (Vanilla) servers. If they allow or provide these types of server environments, they are admitting that their current version of the game isn't good or that they have gone astray.

    They can grant anyone a license to use their IP. That reasoning was the most terrible bit of PR bullshit lies ever spewed. They control their IP, they can tell people they can use it and it doesn't damage their control at all. They even have the paperwork to allow Chinese companies run the game, I am sure some simple modifications would have been enough to make it work for the Nostalrius team.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:44am

      Re: Ego

      Honestly it depends on the person. I personally think vanilla wow required too much goddamn time. I personally liked Cataclysm as it allowed me to somewhat balance my spare time and the game. And I would probably play more of it today trying to actually do the raids and all the objectives. But things went on and there's no way to play older versions of wow.

      I would also try the Lich King expansion if I could but again, no official servers. It doesn't mean they screwed up (I think they did with Pandaria and I left at that expansion) but there are probably those that disagree with me too.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Apr 2016 @ 8:41am

        Re: Re: Ego

        You might check out Warmane. Private server that's been up a long time, survived through various threats, and is hosted outside the legal jurisdiction of Blizzard's reach. They have Cataclysm, Wrath, and stupid Pandas. The Wrath Realm, just checked a moment ago, has 12,000 accounts actively online.

        http://www.warmane.com/

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

  • identicon
    Tom, 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:27am

    "why again not simply utilize what Nostalrius had already built and license it" Nost DID NOT make/code the emulation servers they only fixed bugs ect as needed. The Core was developed by MaNGOS dev team and is under GNU licence, Blizz legally cant take that and licence it as their own.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:41am

    nothing but pure greed and jealousy! a giant game company cant do the thing that a single ordinary individual did? as stated, total BULLSHIT! but then Bizzard and others under the same banner are so pathetic in the way they act that there must be a very large element of fear as well!

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

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:58am

    Hmmmm... stopping PPL from running their own server... if only there was a shining example of letting fans make their own mods and run their own servers... surely such a game would be the best selling game of all time. Ok second best.

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

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:28am

    Money

    Does this fan server make it easier for people to play WoW without buying a bunch of DLC? If so, that would completely explain Blizzard's action.

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:30am

    Whiners

    ...doesn't result in pissing off thousands of Blizzard fans.


    Blizzard has millions of fans. Why would we worry about a few thousand whiners?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 8:27am

      Re: Whiners

      blizzard used to have 12 million active players, now they are down to about 3-4 million.

      Amazing how pissing off your players by constantly telling them they are too stupid to know what they find fun and that only blizzard knows what is fun, ends up with most of those players leaving and stopping the giving of revenue to blizzard

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

      • identicon
        Michael Whitetail, 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:21am

        Re: Re: Whiners

        Do not forget that Nostalrius had more than 800,000 unique accounts and something like an average online server population of 5k at any one time.

        That's huge and a direct threat to Blizzard, or so the lawyers state...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 May 2016 @ 4:14am

      Re: Whiners

      Try 800.000 users. A VERY large playerbase.

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

  • identicon
    Lord Binky, 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:35am

    Hey! You got your Activision on my Blizzard!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:40am

    Just part of the 1% that are fucking the little guy, Way to go Blizzard, your one of us now.

    One of us
    One of us

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 7:43am

    It's been done

    "there is not a clear legal path to protect Blizzard’s IP and grant an operating license to a pirate server."

    And yet Daybreak Games (formerly Sony Online Entertainment) managed to find a way to do so.

    https://www.everquest.com/news/project-1999-daybreak

    "We have recently entered into a written agreement with Daybreak Game Company LLC that formally recognizes Project 1999 as a fan based, not-for-profit, classic EverQuest emulation project. The agreement establishes the guidelines that we as a project must follow, but it will allow to us continue to update the game without risk of legal repercussions."

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

    • identicon
      Darkhog, 28 Apr 2016 @ 5:28pm

      Re: It's been done

      Wanted to mention it in my original post here, but couldn't remember project or game/company name. Thanks.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 8:16am

    In the words of Jim Henson...

    'What exactly have you sworn?' she asked him.

    'I have sworn with my life blood,' Sir Didymus replied, bowing
    deeply, 'that no one shall pass this way without my permission.'

    'Well then,' Sarah said politely, holding her nose, 'may we have your
    permission?'

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

  • identicon
    P T, 28 Apr 2016 @ 9:00am

    in other words...

    So Blizzard is not competent any longer.
    They cannot even compete against the little guy.
    Little guy is stealing their thought-matter, says Blizz. Lol.
    Now, squashing little guys is keeping Blizz afloat.
    Nothing creative about that.
    Blizz, how long have you been squashing little people?
    Competition and competence share the same root.
    Blizzard prefers incompetence.
    Screw Blizzard then.

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

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 9:38am

    This Happens From Time to Time

    I've played WoW pservers. And every so often Blizzard shuts them down. The pserver operators will take a few months of needed vacation and once things cool down they'll just put them back up.

    The pserver players will have to live without their WoW fix, but I think they'll survive. (Though some just wander around in a daze.)

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:45am

    The more things change...

    In the past it was 'The devil made me do it', these days it's 'IP made me do it', and the excuse is just as valid now as it was then.

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

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 28 Apr 2016 @ 4:07pm

    Anything that takes the Dollar Almighty (praise the Dollar) away is evil.

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

  • identicon
    ben_marko, 28 Apr 2016 @ 9:32pm

    Sort of right

    I am very much in favor of classic servers - I myself would gladly pay for a TBC server if it were made available. But it is asinine to assume that any company (even a large one such as Blizzard) would be "okay" with licensing out their game when they have little or no control over its administration. That would expose them to a degree of liability that their lawyers would never allow.

    It would be within their own best interests to simply build up classic servers on their end, there is obviously the market for it. Right on in saying that it would be comparatively easy to do so. They have the money and the manpower to make it happen.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 29 Apr 2016 @ 6:50am

      Re: Sort of right

      But it is asinine to assume that any company (even a large one such as Blizzard) would be "okay" with licensing out their game when they have little or no control over its administration. That would expose them to a degree of liability that their lawyers would never allow.

      First, that's what limitation of liability agreements are for. Second, lawyers have to do what their clients tell them, not the other way around.

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


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