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.

Filed Under: fan server, licensing, nostalrius, trademark, world of warcraft
Companies: blizzard


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  1. 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.

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