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The Lawbringer: WoW and the magic circle

Welcome to Lawbringer! Each week we'll dive into the intricacies of law and the World of Warcraft. In the column's introductory edition we look at the magic circle, which isn't just something you summon demons and teleport around in...

Law and Warcraft -- sounds like a crazy mashup. Does this mean I can sue that bear and tree combo that chain pulled HoS to Krystallus then dropped group mid fight to wipe the DPS that had the temerity to suggest maybe the tank shouldn't kite the Maiden through the hallway? (You know who you are.) Get a court order to silence those Anal [Skills to Pay the Bills] spamming pricks in trade chat? Help Marshall Dougan string up those goblin ganking Bloodsail Buccaneer rep grinders for piracy? Get rogues thrown in the Stormwind Stockades for picking Hogger's pocket? Sadly, the answer is no.

Law and Warcraft intersect in far less entertaining and yet much more important ways. Contract law is obviously important with the End User License Agreement and Terms of Use defining our relationship with Blizzard. Copyright concerns come up quite a bit, as after all, the story, code, sights, and sounds of the World of Warcraft are protected by copyright. Computer fraud, regular fraud, and taxation are issues that arise with gold farming/trading (and occasionally gold digging, but that's not so much a problem in WoW.) We've seen recently with several WoW.com articles that Blizzard has been cooperating with local law enforcement to bring criminals to justice or help resolve the mystery of a runaway teen; privacy law is a huge concern for both players and Blizzard. Conflict resolution is how some of these legal questions are resolved, but that may involve arbitration, lawsuits, a crash course of the American civil justice system, and people like me.

That's right, I'm one of those horrible nasty lawyer types. Well, not quite – I'm in my third and last year of law school, specializing in intellectual property law. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are what I've studied, and I have a job drafting and prosecuting patents since after all, student loans don't get paid off by playing WoW. If you really want proof of my bona fide law cred, you can read my thirty two page dissertation on gold farming.

But how does one distinguish between a problem that is resolvable with law, such as a privacy concern, and one that is just something we have to live with, like moronic tanks and DPS in the Random Dungeon Finder? Academics, needing to justify their cushy tenure positions, have come up with a concept known as "The Magic Circle."

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, The Lawbringer

Worlds.com aims to sue over the virtual world of Warcraft


Business Insider (no relation) is reporting that Worlds.com CEO Thom Kidrin is intending to sue anyone who will not license their virtual worlds product through him, and since Kidrin claims they hold the patent to virtual worlds, everyone has to get a license. Since this is a legal issue I'll lay this out in a few easy to read steps:
    1. Thom calls up Blizzard, Linden Lab, etc...
    2. Thom says "Hey, I invented virtual worlds! Pay me money since you're making money off the concept."
    3. Blizzard and Linden Lab laugh and hang up, assuming it's a prank call.
    4. Thom goes to court.
That's the gist of it. Kidrin plans on going after a few other companies before knocking on Blizzard's door: notably, Worlds.com has already filed suit against NCsoft, which publishes City of Heroes and Guild Wars.

How did Worlds.com wind up with the patent to the idea of a scalable virtual world with thousands of users? Kidrin has said that they invented the virtual worlds with a product for sick kids called Starbright World back in 1997. (Though apparently the concept was thought up back in 1995.)

However, let's take a look at the definition of Cyberspace. It was first used in William Gibson's 1982 story "Burning Chrome" and again used in a few of his books, with "Neuromancer" being the most popular. Gibson's definition for Cyberspace reads:

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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items

Oxhorn scores WeGame machinima job

Having been a full-time machinimator in Second Life for about 1.5 years now, I can definitely appreciate the plight of the WoW machinimator. They produce work that is easily 10 times the quality of what comes out of SL, yet have a hard time making any money off of it. However, it looks like Oxhorn has found a way.

Oxhorn has landed a gig with WeGame, a video sharing site with a twist. WeGame not only allows you to upload your machinima, it also provides you with a free desktop client for filming. If you can't afford to pay for Fraps or any of the other options, WeGame is your best bet.

Read on for more about Oxhorn's new job and WeGame ...

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Filed under: Machinima

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