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The Lawbringer: A rookie's guide to the EULA


Welcome to the Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly exploration of the intersection of the World of Warcraft and the law. Acting as your tour guide is Amy Schley, just returned from Hell the bar exam.

Hello again! To kick off the return of the Lawbringer, we're going to move into rookie guide territory. Now, I know, I know -- your rogue "High Warlord Pwnyoo" is ready and willing to gank my mains, my alts and even my husband's toons for calling you a rookie. But by a show of hands, how many of you have actually read the EULA instead of just scrolling down to the bottom to click "Accept"?

Given the paucity of hands raised out there, I figure it's time for a rookie's guide to the End User License Agreement.

As we've covered in previous Lawbringers, the EULA is a legally binding contract, and getting the terms altered is rather difficult. So for better or worse, we as players are pretty much stuck with the terms of the contract, the most important of which is at the top of the page in all caps.
THIS SOFTWARE IS LICENSED, NOT SOLD. BY INSTALLING, COPYING OR OTHERWISE USING THE GAME (DEFINED BELOW), YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT, YOU ARE NOT PERMITTED TO INSTALL, COPY OR USE THE GAME. IF YOU REJECT THE TERMS OF THIS AGREEMENT WITHIN THIRTY (30) DAYS AFTER YOUR PURCHASE, YOU MAY CALL (800)757-7707 TO REQUEST A FULL REFUND OF THE PURCHASE PRICE.
Yes, there is currently debate on whether this provision is OK, and we won't know the answer for months, if not years, if the Supreme Court gets involved. For now, the safe assumption is to treat the provision as binding. (If it's not, then it's a pleasant surprise for you.) This means that you should think of your copy of WoW as a leased apartment -- if you skip the rent, start remodeling, harass your neighbors, set up a business or just irritate the landlord too much, out you go. Or in WoW terms, if you set up a private server, hack the code, harass fellow players, start selling gold for money or just annoy the GMs too much, no WoW for you!

After the all-caps headline comes a notice that everything Blizzard gives you -- the program, patches, manuals, etc. -- are protected by copyright and that to play the game, you must go through the Blizzard servers.

License limitations

Having stated that this document is a license, the first numbered provision explains in general terms what you can do after agreeing to the EULA. You can install the game for the purposes of using the online service to play the game, you can install it on multiple computers provided you own or control them, and you can use the program with the online service for your entertainment (non-commercial) use.

But that's not specific enough. What, after all, does "non-commercial entertainment use" mean? For that, we look to section two, "Additional License Limitations." This list is mostly in plain English, so I highly recommend reading it for yourself, but here's the "too long; didn't read" version. You may not:
  • copy or use technology to essentially copy the game, though you can make one backup copy
  • use cheats, bot or hacks to change the way the game plays
  • make money off the game, including selling gold
  • use programs to get information from the game
  • modify any game files
  • mess with the way that the game communicates with the servers
  • establish private servers
  • sell or rent copies of the game to other people
Everybody got that? Now note: Blizzard calls these license limitations. Blizzard may be wrong in calling them that -- that's what the MDY v. Blizzard case is all about. It is, though, a settled point of law that violations of license limitations in a license for copyrighted materials is not just a mere contract breach, but a copyright violation. This means that if you violate these terms, Blizzard is reserving the right to not just sue you for contract breach and interference in contract, but also to sue you for copyright infringement and get you to pay the statutory damages. Statutory damages start at $200 if you didn't know you were infringing, start at $750 if you did know, and can run as high as $150,000. Suffice it to say, violating these terms (at least so obviously that Blizzard notices and decides to do something about it) is probably not worth the price.

Terms of use

Following the license limitations is the terms of use provision. Merely agreeing to Blizzard's terms about how to treat the game program is not enough; you must also agree to abide by a code of behavior. We'll cover these terms in a later rookie guide, but you should be aware that the two documents are a packaged set -- you can't agree to one and not the other.

Ownership

Next comes a provision on ownership. Just in case you missed it up top, the game belongs to Blizzard. The
titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialog, catch phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, character inventories, structural or landscape designs, animations, sounds, musical compositions and recordings, audio-visual effects, storylines, character likenesses, methods of operation, moral rights, and any related documentation
and anything else the lawyers forgot to add all belong to Blizzard. (Lawyerspeak translation: "including without limitation" means "we can't think of anything else, but we claim everything anyway.") Now, you might be thinking, "If Blizzard owns everything, can I even give my copy to a friend since I'm done with this time sink?" The answer is yes. As part of this provision, Blizzard allows you give or sell your copy provided you give/sell everything, delete what's on your computer and that the recipient agrees to the same terms.

Pre-loaded software

After that comes a little provision I seriously doubt you know about. On your installation disks comes pre-loaded software that is installed on your computer as part of installing the game. It may be on your computer, but section five is clear: You aren't allowed to use or in any way mess with that software unless Blizzard has given you a key. That software comes with its own EULA that isn't available to the public. Your guess is a good as mine what that program is.

Warden

Section six is in all caps so you don't miss it. Blizzard is monitoring your computer while you are playing, looking for bots, cheats and hacking programs. As we found out in the first round of MDY v. Blizzard, this program is called Warden. Warden can send your name and the instance of cheating or go one step further and prevent you from logging on at all or disconnect you while you're playing.
Termination

Now, let's say you're now horrified by all the ways Blizzard has the upper hand in this agreement. How do you get out of this? Say hello to section seven, Termination. You can get out of the EULA in three easy steps.
  1. Destroy your copy of the game.
  2. Delete the copy on your computer
  3. Notify Blizzard of your intent to terminate the agreement.
Blizzard can terminate the agreement from its end at any time for any reason or no reason. If Blizzard wanted to, they could simple cancel the accounts of everyone who has ever asked Ghostcrawler for a pony (or a moose, or sea horse, etc.) Now, it's not going to do that, because it's damn stupid, but it has the power.

I'm going to leave section eight for next week, but I want to hit sections nine and ten. Both are short and sweet; section nine says that Blizzard will patch the game and you have download all patches. Also, Blizzard may patch the game without asking for your permission. Section ten is even simpler -- the game is online and Blizzard may shut down the servers at any time. Yes, in 2024, when the last World of Warcraft server is shut down, you can't sue Blizzard.

Next week, we'll go into back half of the EULA, examining the warranties and dispute resolution process.


This column is for your entertainment and enlightenment only. If you have a personal legal question, contact a lawyer. For comments or general questions about law, law school or anything else, contact me amy@wow.com, @wowlawbringer on Twitter, or whisper Patent in <It Came From the Blog> on Zangarmarsh (US-H).

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