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The Lawbringer: They stole my guild charter!

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.

In an oddly unorthodox manner, I'm going to begin this week's Lawbringer with a teaser for next week's edition. Bobby Kotick recently called out Electronic Arts and BioWare for the potential profitability problems that a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic presents when looking at the licensing requirements for such a franchise product. As someone who very much enjoys talking about licensing and the fun details that go along with it, I wanted to save that topic for its own article, which I think you will all get a kick out of.

Kotick's comments got me thinking about licenses and branding and other related topics. Original properties that don't require a license fee to use, like World of Warcraft in relation to what Blizzard spends to use its own intellectual property, is a huge gain as well as a potential backfire.

Many readers have also emailed in questions about the WoW Law Enforcement Guide that AntiSec released detailing how Blizzard interacts with law enforcement agencies and the information they possess. It's a very interesting read, and I've wanted to take the time to put my thoughts together before I responded through an article on The Lawbringer. So don't worry, intrepid link-senders, your cries are not falling on deaf ears. I'm just taking my time.

For now, we place those thoughts on the backburner. Today we have some interesting emails to get through. If you've got a question for The Lawbringer, please send a message with Lawbringer somewhere in the subject to mat@wowinsider.com with your question. I will hopefully be able to help you out with an answer, if not in the column than an email response. Send in those questions!

Why no yearly subscription?

Morimoto had a question about my reasoning for understanding why WoW does not have a yearly subscription option available.

Morimoto asked:
"I understand the reasoning for six months as the max, though."

I don't. I'm dense. What is it, if you don't mind?
Szaboa in the comments hit the nail pretty firmly on the head. It feels like an administrative move and people's general dislike and distrust of the yearly commitment. The six-month package for WoW costs $77.94, discounted to $12.99 a month. If you bumped it up to a 12-month commitment, let's say at $11.99 a month, that's still $143.88 up front for World of Warcraft. Six months just seems like a much more manageable number than a recurring yearly billing.

At some point, business development team members draw a line in the sand about what to charge for what and the process by which it happens. One would think that with the advent of the WoW Annual Pass, Blizzard would have opened up a "just pay for it now" type of system. For the most part, that makes a great deal of sense. There are enough people out there with the disposable income necessary to facilitate that transaction. These are the same people who spent a great deal of money constantly tweaking their characters, changing their race, or shipping them off server for better opportunities. The money is there, but the viability is another thing entirely.

Who knows why there isn't a "pay a year up front" subscription? Maybe there is a logistical roadblock in the way of such a thing. Maybe Blizzard feels the one-, three-, and six-month packages are the ideal in terms of number of options in relation to the ease of picking up and playing the game. Maybe having four options doesn't make sense in terms of amount of subscriptions achieved by each model. Many players like to stay at the one-month-recurring level, if only because it gives them an out just in case.

Whatever the case, I can still sort of understand the limiting of options, because once you hit a threshold of how much someone wants to spend for access, you start finding niche areas where people just don't flock to the specific price point. If you've got the disposable, up-front income for a year, why not just use the six-month option and let the card charge like that? See what I mean?

An angry boomkin

A very upset boomkin emailed me with this story of woe: A splinter guild advertising with a copy-and-pasted charter and more stolen text. What's the story, boomkin?
Hi Mat,

I'll make this short and to the point, because I'm honestly at the end of my rope with just how disrespectful, inconsiderate, and shady some folks who play this game are.

Without going into too much detail, we removed some folks from our guild a few weeks ago; they tried to poach our members and couldn't, so they ended up stealing our charter instead.

I found out because I noticed them advertising in trade chat, so I scoped their website out. Lo and behold, there were MY words I worked so dutifully on, for many hours, over the course of a few weeks, with my co-GM and other officers. This charter was the result of almost a year's worth of questions, concerns, comments, and experiences we all have shared since forming our guild, and to see another guild just blatantly rip it off was infuriating.

I've since taken screenshots and written an explanatory post on my guild's website, and we've started some back and forth on the realm forums too. It is there I found out that yet ANOTHER guild, this time from our old server, has ALSO blatantly copied our work!!! If I was irate before, I am absolutely livid now.

I know there likely isn't anything regarding copyright infringement I could really get them on, but all the same, it doesn't quite feel like enough to just "call them out on it."

I have already filed for official copyright with the US Copyright Office, and have sent a DMCA Takedown Notice to their domain registrar and hosting provider.

Any other suggestions?

Cheers,
PO'ed Boomkin
Thanks for the email, POed Boomkin. I can express sympathy with you on seeing your work stolen and put up as their own. In fact, it happens every day with WoW Insider. Tons of websites out there skim our articles, copy and paste the text, and put it up on other sites that are mostly ad farms to pull in page views. We get lots of emails from people pointing out these sites to us, but the truth is that there really isn't too much that can be done. Sure, we can issue the take-down notices and all that, but at the end of the day, what do these link and ad farms have to lose?

Here's the problem with suing someone over stealing your work: The biggest issue is the money involved. Are these people making money off of the work you created? If so, you've got a better chance at having them take it all down. Are they just using it as a guild recruiting tool and not actually benefiting from it in any monetary way? And is there any confusion between your guild and the guild that stole your charter now that multiple guilds are using it? Guilds don't usually have too much in the way of income, especially off of their charters. By all means, ask them to take it down and move through those channels, but don't rest your expectations too high.

What I'm trying to say is that if there is no money involved, just let it go. It sucks to see your work used in that way, but lawsuits are expensive and some fights just aren't worth tackling. If anything, ignore the slimeballs who stole your work, make a note of it, and do your best to just be better at what you do. A stolen charter's getting taken down or not taken down won't make your guild better or worse. At this point it's about principle, obviously, but not about winning or losing. It's just something that happens, especially on the internet. It's awful, but it happens.

Congratulations, Frank Pearce

I don't exactly know if The Lawbringer is the perfect place for this tidbit, but as a huge fan of Frank Pearce and the company he cofounded, I am sort of invested. Congratulations are in order for Frank Pearce, now part of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences board of directors. There are a lot of forward-thinkers at Blizzard, and it's nice to see one of them get put on this board.

See you guys next week.

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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