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Breakfast Topic: Memorial Day

This weekend is very special to many Americans as we celebrate Memorial Day. Originally a holiday to honor those killed during the American Civil War (aka War Between the States, War of Northern Aggression, The Freedom War or simply "The War"), it has become the day to decorate the tombstones of our loved ones, especially those who have lost their lives in battle. If going out to the local cemetery isn't really your thing though, you can celebrate this holiday in Azeroth.

Below is a list of the various quests that have you visit the graves of the notable and lesser known heroes:

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Filed under: Breakfast Topics

The Lawbringer: Purchase vs. License cage match

Welcome to The Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly tour of the intersection between law and the World of Warcraft. I am a new law school grad, acting as your crossing guard.

Ladies and gentlemen, gnomes of all ages, welcome to THE CAGE! In our first corner, we have the provider of countless yachts to copyright lawyers, with the power of the contract, the big bad himself, the License! And in our second corner, it's the plucky defender of consumers' property rights, the champion of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the curse of the big bads everywhere -- let's give a big welcome to the Purchase! Now let's go to Bob for tonight's rules.

The rules of tonight's fight are simple, Jim. These two contenders are fighting over who best describes World of Warcraft players' relationship to Blizzard. There will be three rounds, during which each fighter will present a case to persuade our judges. After three rounds of presentations, our judges will decide who really embodies the relationship between Blizzard and its customers.

Why is this so important, Bob?

Well, Jim, a license can contain pretty much any rights, but the EULA for a piece of entertainment software with a subscription like World of Warcraft is going to only give the bare minimum of what Blizzard is willing to allow. They can't be too stingy, or they'll go down like Linden Labs to an unconscionability claim, but they're much more worried about protecting their interests than allowing the customers to get all licentious.

Licentious, Bob?

Read a book, Jim. Anyway, if plucky little Purchase wins, then players get to be subject to the firmly defined laws instead of a mushy, Blizzard-defined license. The law regarding copyrighted copies allows them to make backup copies, get first sale doctrine protection and not be subject to copyright law for breaking the rules defined in the EULA.

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Scope of copyrights


Welcome to the Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly look at the intersection of law and the World of Warcraft. I'm a newly minted J.D. acting as your crossing guard.

Greetings from the other side of graduation! The sun is shining, tons of Cataclysm spoilers await and now I don't have to arrange my WoW-ing and writing around my study schedule. Given that, it's time to get back into our examination of copyright law.

Two weeks ago, we looked at what can get a copyright, namely: literary works; musical works and accompanying words; dramatic works and accompanying music; pantomimes and choreography; pictorial, graphical and sculptural works; motion pictures and other audiovisual works; sound recordings; and architectural works. But knowing what can be covered by a copyright doesn't explain what a copyright gives an author.

A copyright is actually a bundle of separate rights:
  1. right to make copies
  2. right to distribute copies
  3. right to create derivative works
  4. right to perform or display
  5. right to anticircumvention of the measures taken to prevent copying
  6. moral rights, including rights of attribution and the right to avoid mutilation

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Copyrights and WoW

Welcome to The Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly tour of the intersection of law and the World of Warcraft. I am a third-year law student acting as your tour guide (and trying not to get run over, myself).

Greetings! After an unintended hiatus (pesky finals to study for), I'm back and ready to start a new theme here at The Lawbringer. For the last couple months, we've been examining issues of contract law as it relates to the End User License Agreement and Terms of Use to which we as players agree. For the next few months, we'll be examining issues of copyright law as they relate to our favorite world ... of Warcraft.

Before we delve too far, though, I want to note that copyright law is a complex field of law with antecedents dating back 400 years. Add in national constitutions, international treaties and the paradigm shifts in technology in the last 50 years, and you end up with a subject that cannot be compressed into a 1,200-word column or three. If I appear to be skipping over your favorite bit, rest assured, I will probably address it at some point. Join me after the break, where we'll examine the nature of copyright and how it covers our favorite game.

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

More Cataclysm Changes for mages

Blizzard finally announced the mage changes coming with Cataclysm last night, and this afternoon Ghostcrawler released answers to the questions we've all been asking. Highlights include:
  • The two new spells Flame Orb and Wall of Fog are not channeled,
  • Food and water creation are being removed from the early game as part of a "spend less time eating and drinking" philosophy
  • The philosophies behind the three deep Mastery bonuses
  • An explanation of the removal of four utility spells.
Check out the blue post after the break!

(And my fire gnome can't wait to add Flame Orb to her list of "Ways to Blow Stuff Up.")

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Filed under: Mage, Cataclysm

The Lawbringer: Gold sellers are criminals!


Welcome to The Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly tour of the intersection between law and the World of Warcraft. I'm a third-year law student acting as your crossing guard, trying desperately to avoid getting run over myself.

All our discussions about contract law and the EULA have been dealing with civil law (civil law as in the opposite of criminal law, not the opposite of common law). As has been pointed out before, selling gold is a violation of the Terms of Use and End User License Agreement. What can American courts do to someone who breaches a contract? For that answer, we have to look at the history of merry olde England. Fire up the DeLorean, Marty!

Medieval England (the time period from which law is still recovering) had a bifurcated justice system. If someone had violated a contract, the aggrieved party could sue in a court of law for damages. These damages could be the amount of money necessary to put the victim in the position in which they were before the contract was made. (Example: I promise to mow your lawn, and you pay me $20 ahead of time. I don't mow your lawn; you can sue me for the $20.) Depending on the case, the victim might receive the amount of money necessary to put him in the position in which he would have been had the contract been followed. (Example: same scenario, except not only do I have to pay you back the $20, I have to pay $20 to get someone else to mow the yard.) This is just fine when a problem can be resolved with money.

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Kids and Contracts

Welcome to The Lawbringer, WoW.com's weekly visit to the intersection of law and the World of Warcraft. I am a third year law student acting as your crossing guard and trying not to get run over myself.

For this week, we'll turn to my mailbag:
I've turned 18 and am on an account my father WAS paying for. Is there any way without having the Ban Hammer brought down on me for me to have exclusive rights to the account? Because I'm pretty sure my father does not play and never really has. Thanks- Tom
Tom's situation is not that unusual, but before we get into his question, I feel the need to reiterate something: I am not a lawyer. While I do appreciate the fact that I'm likely the closest thing to a lawyer that many of y'all feel comfortable contacting, I can't help you with real legal problems. That's a little no-no known as practicing law without a license; doing so could make me ineligible for the bar exam. And let me tell you, I do not want to end up with a loan bill bigger than my parents' mortgage without the piece of paper necessary to pay that debt off. I can tell you what the EULA and TOU says, what the current law is, what policies Blizzard has in place, but I can't tell you what you should do.

(I also feel compelled to note that I am female. For those wishing to accuse me of blind loyalty to Blizzard: if I were a fanboy, the byline would read Gregory Rummel.)

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The Lawbringer: Interfering with gold farmers


Welcome to the Lawbringer, your weekly tour of the intersection between law and Warcraft. I am a third year law student specializing in intellectual property law acting as your crossing guard, trying desperately not to get run over myself.

So last week we engaged in some speculation about how WoW might change if Blizzard permitted gold sales. Personally, I think that the damage to the game economy and culture would be far more damaging than any legal issues that might develop, but it's worth noting that legal issues could easily develop. As for the here and now, certain facts about gold selling remain:
  • Gold selling is against the terms of both the North American and European EULA and TOU.
  • Gold selling is performed by a number of companies, many of them located outside the Unites States.
  • Gold sellers acquire their gold through obnoxious farming behaviors and account hacking.
  • Gold sellers exist because of gold buyers.
Given all this, what can we as players do to stop these locusts? The biggest thing is obviously to NOT buy gold. I really don't think this point can be emphasized enough. Beyond that though, we may be able to take advantage of a legal theory known as tortious interference in contract.

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Filed under: The Lawbringer

The Lawbringer: Legal gold sales? Not a Blizzard's chance in Hell

Welcome to The Lawbringer, wow.com's weekly feature on the intersection between World of Warcraft and the Law. I am a third year law student acting as your crossing guard and trying not to get run over myself.

As an introduction to our promised discussion on gold farming, I wanted to address an idea that's been circulating in the WoW blogosphere. There has been some talk that Blizzard could solve the problem of gold farming and hacked accounts in one fell swoop by simply selling the gold themselves. It's an attractive idea on its face, as some feel as though Blizzard's current ban on Real Money Transaction for gold ("RMT") is nothing but an ill advised Prohibition. Permit people to buy gold through Blizzard, the argument goes, and the keyloggers, site spoofers, hackers, and spammers will go back to the rock from under which they came, just like the Mafia disappeared after alcohol sales were permitted in 1933. Oh wait...

The obvious problems have been pointed out before, including: rich brats will have more advantages over folks with jobs and bills; inflation will cause Azeroth to resemble Zimbabwe, the Weimar Republic, or -- God forbid -- Norrath; players will be forced to pay up to stay competitive; WoW-clone MMOs will follow Blizzard's lead, leaving players with few refuges from RMT markets; Blizzard devs will be "encouraged" to design the game around acquiring and spending more gold; players who can't remember website names will still think "www.l3g!t-w0rlduvw0wcr@ft-g0ld.c0m" is Blizzard's website and download keyloggers, etc. Some don't believe this parade of horribles is enough to discourage Blizzard from creating this quixotic market. To the doubters, let me add some legal issues that would affect Blizzard and players, namely: property rights, taxation, and investment advice.

Any of that sound like improvements to you?

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Filed under: The Lawbringer