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The Lawbringer: Glider's story ends

Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps. How about you hang out with us as we discuss some of the more esoteric aspects of the games we love to play?

Deathwing isn't the only great beast to be impaled to death in an End Time this year, it seems. The tale of Glider, one of the biggest and most famous automation bot software packages for World of Warcraft, is effectively over. Based on reading various blog links (sent by a reader, thank you much) and a hefty amount of Internet Wayback Machine research, it appears that the lawsuit was settled and Glider is no more. What were the terms of the settlement, and why did Glider settle after the news back in 2010?

When I last updated you all about the Glider case back in December 2010, the courts reversed much of the decision in regards to the EULA copyright infringement claims but not with respect to violations of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, as Glider circumvented the Warden software to essentially hack Blizzard's software. MDY Glider was not victorious per se, but it was definitely in a better position than it would have been had the copyright infringement stuff stood.

It wasn't enough to get Glideroff the hook. The settlement finally went through, and Blizzard now owns all of the trademarks associated with the Glider name and its logo. Check out these links to the Trademark Applications and Registrations Retrieval website, as part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
Each of these links has an automatic update of assignment of ownership entry in the prosecution history for Sept. 21, 2011, that changed the ownership of these specific trademarks to Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., and its associated corporate address. Blizzard now owns all of Glider's trademarks and name, putting Glider out of business for good. Sure, Glider was off the market for years while the court case was going on, but this is really the legal stamp of approval for Glider's End Time.

One of the developers of Glider who goes by the internet handle Mercury and was the interviewee in one of the most interesting articles about Glider from 2005 posted this final message to all Glider customers and fans a few months back:
We've settled the lawsuit with Blizzard, so things are going to happen fairly quickly around here. I can't go into a ton of detail, but I can say I'm glad to be able to close the book on that particular ugliness and move on with a relatively regular life, even if it means no Glider. I can also divulge that my proposed title for the next WoW expansion, "WoW: Mercury Is A Cool Guy And Needs A Nice Girl Who Also Doesn't Mind Cooking" didn't make it very far.

For Glider customers, this means not much change from where we are now. There was simply no way we could get by Judge Campbell to get Glider back on the market, although we came pretty close. Regardless, there is no point in running forums with no future for Glider.

On Monday, August 22nd, we will be taking down the site and forums. I imagine I'll be around here quite a bit more until then, at least once I get back to Phoenix later today.

Most of the people who have helped out through the years will not see this, but I imagine some folks will cross-post this message on other forums. You have my most sincere appreciation; everyone from OMW to Ocktra and all the others. The community is what made Glider into a true force and I never would have made it this far without you. Losing that through the injunction has been the worst part for me.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing next, but I'm quite certain it won't involve anything to do with Blizzard. Maybe some kind of regular job that doesn't involve a constant barrage of legal and technical attacks. Imagine that.

And, no, I'm not interested in automating Rift unless your job offer includes a hefty starting bonus. Think Ferrari 458-sized.

So long, and thanks for all the cookies.
The Glider fight was long and drawn out, as most court cases are. In the end, Blizzard walked away with a few losses in terms of copyright infringement claims and the strength of its EULA but with the court's assurance that the DMCA applies to the Warden (Blizzard's own software that monitors programs running alongside World of Warcraft to prevent hacking, memory snooping, and unauthorized communication with the Blizzard servers). Circumventing digital protection is one of those areas of computer and tech law that is still very murky, as the DMCA is litigated over and over, and will be forever.

So why settle?

Here's the super-secret fact about court cases -- most of them settle. What's settling? Everyone goes to court to get the decision they want, obviously, but during the proceedings, the two parties are perfectly welcome to come to terms at any point. Usually this happens with the assistance of a judge who wants to help in the settling procedure, but lawyers for both sides can just get in a room together and hash out a deal. Settling also occurs when one side hits somewhat of a financial wall and cannot continue to pay for the ongoing litigation, and ongoing litigation is not a cheap affair.

What most likely happened with Glider was the money ran out. The goal was to get Glider back on the market and have the court case win to back that up. Glider was never going to get back into the public sphere, and after awhile, the money spent to get Glider back and the impending damages that were going to have to be paid out to Blizzard potentially over the DMCA violation would have not been enough to offset the cost. The lawsuit eventually because too costly, and Glider settled.

Terms of the settlement

We do not know the terms of the settlement between Blizzard and MDY. We probably never will. However, we do know that part of the settlement included the transferring of all Glider trademarks to Blizzard so that it has total control over the Glider product, for what it's worth. Blizzard now gets to control the message that years of Glider use have built up. Now that Blizzard owns it, its legal team can, essentially, tear it all down.

I know that we sometimes forget that there are people behind these stories and that people deserve more of the benefit of the doubt with regards to what they do to make money. The Glider case had people behind it, real people, who had jobs and lives. I am not saying that what MDY did was acceptable, by any means, but there is a bit of compassion when I realize that this stage of their lives, whatever stage that consists of in terms of success or failure, has some finality. No more Glider. No more court documents. No more shallow hopes that the software will make it back to the market. Everyone involved gets to move on. And that, my dear friends and readers, is invaluable to both sides.

As for the WoW players bemoaning the loss of Glider, I don't have that much sympathy for you. I guess I'm sorry you lost your cheating program? Play the game like the rest of us.

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact a lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at mat@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

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