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Posts with tag copyright

The possible outcomes of Blizzard's Glider lawsuit

Terra Nova put a quick post up about putting the Blizzard vs. WoW Glider case (and the Public Knowledge amicus brief) in the larger context of whether or not End User License Agreements are "good" or "bad," but even better than the post is the comments section. Lots of MMO heavies, including Richard Bartle, show up to break down just what Blizzard is trying to do with their claim against the botting software, and what they might end up doing to the industry at large.

No one is against Blizzard's goal of trying to stop cheaters. But the way Blizzard is going about it puts their stance in jeopardy -- they're saying that cheating in their MMO is a violation of copyright, and that is a completely different issue. Even Bartle himsef says this is an "ends justify the means" argument -- Blizzard is just using the copyright issue to get the judge to say that cheating is bad. As we posted the other day, Public Knowledge believes that any decision that says "yes, Glider breaks copyright law," could then be used as a precedent for calling any EULA violation a copyright violation.

Adam Hyland, in the Terra Nova thread, has the breakdown of outcomes: either a judge rules completely in favor of MDY/Glider (thus leaving every software maker open to EULA violations -- very unlikely), or a judge rules either narrowly in favor of Blizzard (saying that yes, cheating is wrong, but it's not a copyright issue), or wholly in favor of Blizzard (which Public Knowledge fears the most -- if breaking the EULA is a copyright violation, everyone who names their character XXNoobz0rXX is breaking copyright law). We'll have to see what comes out of this case, and hope that it's for the best for both Blizzard and their players.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard

Interest group speaks up against Blizzard on Glider case

Blizzard's lawsuit against the Glider folks (who were trying to sell a bot that was used to play the game while /afk), has a new wrinkle in it. According to PC Gamer, an interest group called Public Knowledge (they're funded by a variety of creative arts foundations) has filed a brief in the case accusing Blizzard of overstepping their rights under copyright law. In the brief, and an accompanying blog post, they say that while what Glider is doing in-game may be wrong, it isn't actually copyright infringement, because the Glider software doesn't actually infringe on any copyrights that Blizzard holds. And they're worried that if Blizzard wins this case, it could set a precedent strongly in favor of copyright holders, to the point where any misuse of the software at all, from using bots to using the wrong name, would be interpreted instead as copyright infringement.

They kind of have a point here -- Blizzard just used all the tools they had in this case to try and send a clear message to anyone out there trying to sell automation software that what they were doing would get them in trouble, and they may have thrown copyright infringement on the menu when it didn't really belong. For Blizzard's part, they claim that making a copy in RAM of the game's information constitutes copyright infringement, but again, that's only because Glider is misusing those RAM files -- every user everywhere needs to copy parts of the game into RAM in order to run it.

At any rate, Public Knowledge has filed their brief and had their voices heard. It's up to the judges in this case to decide what comes out of it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Patchwork enforcement on the naming policy

Pepe has done an informal but (as he says) "real FREAKIN interesting" little study of supposedly inappropriate names via the Armory. Blizzard's naming policy, as you'll know if you've ever run afoul of it, is pretty stringent-- you're not allowed to create obscene names at all (obviously), names based on real-life or well-known sources (so no trademarks or references to celebrities or Blizzard employees-- Legolas is completely out), harassing words or phrases, or "partial or complete sentences."

Now, you can't really argue with most of that. The obscene stuff is a given, of course, though where Blizzard gets their criteria for obscene is anyone's guess-- one of my guildies had an undead warrior named "Skinflayer" that Blizz forced him to rename (he renamed it to Tenderheart, actually). And the copyright and famous names seems a little silly, but it's most likely just Blizzard covering their backside-- you never know what copyright holders will do when it comes to user-created content. But harassing phrases? No l33tsp33k? How can Blizzard possibly track this stuff?

The fact is, as Pepe points out very effectively, that they can't (except on Blizzard employees, strangely enough). Reported names, of course, will probably get a message that they must be changed, but there's no way that Blizzard actually examines the rolls name by name to figure out which are compliant with the ToS and which aren't. The problem, then, becomes who gets punished and who doesn't, and what whims that comes by. While I'm with Blizzard on the player bans, I'm not with them on this one-- either they need to stick to their naming policy or change it. As Pepe shows, just a few minutes of Armory browsing yields hundreds of "violations." I've included all of Pepe's links after the break-- be warned that some of the names are in fact obscene according to Blizzard's policy, and thus might be offensive to some of our readers.

Read more →

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Virtual selves, Blizzard

UK Court: videogame ideas can be copied

The terrific Tobold points us to this article about a ruling in the UK's Court of Appeal that has ramifications for our whole industry. The judge there says that ideas behind computer games can be freely copied-- it's only the source code and the graphics that cannot. Tobold ties this directly into connections players have been making between Lord of the Rings Online and WoW-- the two systems have lots of similarities (the UI layout is almost exactly the same at first glance)-- and says that Blizzard, for example, would never be able to sue Turbine, maker of LotRO.

Of course IANAL, but I'm pretty sure this isn't a groundbreaking ruling. While graphics and the code are undoubtedly covered by copyright (because you can clearly look at them to tell whether they're identical or not), it doesn't seem like gameplay ideas would be-- game designers have always borrowed popular ideas from each other, going all the way back to the idea of experience points and hit points. Even something like Madden's "Playmaker" feature can be copied-- while other companies can't call their feature "Playmaker," they can definitely use the analog stick to direct plays.

Besides, if you ask me, Blizzard has nothing to worry about, especially from LotRO (I hear Turbine couldn't get the rights to the movies, so while you may see the Treants or visit Lothlorien, it won't be anything you recognize from the films). The magic of Blizzard's game is in the design and the polish of how it's put together. Even they borrowed familiar MMO ideas to try and improve on them, and I'm sure they have no problem with Turbine doing the same thing.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Blizzard, News items

Blizzard 1, BC rumor sites 0

The pluralization is a bit pre-emptive here, as only one site I know of has had its contents pulled offline due to Blizzard's requests. That site, the Caverns of Time, was a great compilation of rumors and occasionally legitimate information about the upcoming expansion (the screenshot above, pulled from the site, was obviously not an accurate representation of the druid changes). They've received notice from Blizzard giving them 48 hours to remove contents of the site or else face "formal action," and they seem to have complied. You can check the site, still, for a copy of what I assume is Blizzard's complaint. Ah well -- I'm sure three sites will spring up tomorrow to replace it, thus providing us a steady stream of interesting Burning Crusade gossip!

Filed under: Blizzard, Expansions

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