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Blizzard/Vivendi Files Suit Against Bnetd Project 593

Posted by michael
from the no-good-deed-unpunished dept.
Blizzard's crack legal team, who has earlier tried to rush Bnetd's base, is now busy raining down ice shards on it. Blizzard has filed a lawsuit against Bnetd, listing a variety of causes of action, but read on because the important thing here is that Blizzard is not alleging a DMCA violation, only "traditional" copyright and trademark law violations.

Brief history: Blizzard makes a DMCA complaint against Bnetd, resulting in the temporary downing of the Bnetd website and the Bnetd server code no longer being available for download. EFF decides to represent Bnetd, and they exchange a few letters back and forth. On Friday, Blizzard files suit.

The most interesting thing about the legal claim is that they make no claims under the DMCA. You should recall the distinction between regular copyright law (which prohibits making copies of original works of authorship) and the DMCA (which prohibits making, using or distributing devices intended to circumvent anti-copying protection measures on copyrighted works). Even though Blizzard claimed in their letters that the fact that the Bnetd server doesn't implement CD-checking (which is impossible for them, since it's a secret algorithm known only to Blizzard) makes it a DMCA-violating circumvention device, they didn't raise the claim in the complaint they filed with the court.

Blizzard claims:

  • that Bnetd copied code from Blizzard and incorporated it into Bnetd (how this was accomplished isn't stated; since Blizzard does not make their source code available, presumably the Bnetd people would have to break into Blizzard headquarters).
  • that Bnetd posted screenshots of Blizzard games to their website (this should be deemed fair use by the courts).
  • that Bnetd is engaging in an unauthorized "public performance" of Blizzard's copyrighted material by running a Bnetd server. At least, that's how I parse paragraph 28. Perhaps they're instead making a claim about something that was posted on the Bnetd website, but paras. 28 and 30 read together imply that Blizzard is arguing that anyone who makes software to interoperate with other software over the internet is making a public performance. This would allow Microsoft to shut down anyone who made .NET software, for example, because it will invariably involve a lot of transmission of information that Microsoft can claim is copyrighted.
  • that Bnetd infringes on Blizzard's trademark (an identifier for goods or services that are sold) for "BATTLE.NET" by calling their software "Bnetd", because, after all, "Bnetd" is essentially identical to "BATTLE.NET" (coming next: the makers of the elm email client sue the makers of pine, emacs sues eine [who sues zwei], Unix sues GNU... chaos). That is, people who use Bnetd may be confused because the name is so similar to Battle.net that they think they are actually using a Blizzard product.

People who are offended at Blizzard attacking its fans and customers may want to consider Warlords Battlecry 1 and 2 instead of Warcraft 3. The original Battlecry is selling for $10 these days and is quite good.

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Blizzard/Vivendi Files Suit Against Bnetd Project

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  • Well. . . . (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Com2Kid (142006) <com2kidSPAMLESS@gmail.com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:27AM (#3303178) Homepage Journal
    BNETD would likely not have come under fire

    IF A LOT OF KIDDIES DID NOT USE IT TO PLAY THEIR PIRATED VERSIONS OF BLIZZARD GAMES

    Especially true now days with the Warcraft 3 beta (which blizzard is trying VERY hard to keep limited. Not succeeding very well, but they are TRYING hard.)

    Blizzard allows A LOT of stuff to go on with their games, but. . . .

    I think that the solution to this BEFORE HAND was that the computer community, huhrump, should have policed their own.

    Though granted early court rulings in hacking cases kind of makes vigilantism hard to pull off. :(
  • uh huh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bpb213 (561569) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {enrybpb}> on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:28AM (#3303186)
    after all, "Bnetd" is essentially identical to "BATTLE.NET"
    Oh yes, i can clearly see the similarities - they both use B right?

    that Bnetd posted screenshots of Blizzard games to their website (this should be deemed fair use by the courts).
    End all the game reviews - no more posting beta screenshots to get the masses excited.

    This would allow Microsoft to shut down anyone who made .NET software
    well, i guess that excludes most of us, doesnt it?
  • DMCA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PlaysWithMatches (531546) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:29AM (#3303202) Homepage

    the important thing here is that Blizzard is not alleging a DMCA violation, only "traditional" copyright and trademark law violations.

    Of course this is a "traditional" suit. They're not going to blow a shot at a good DMCA precedent on such a weak-as-water case as this. They're going to call upon the DMCA when they're sure they can win.

  • by sterno (16320) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:34AM (#3303237) Homepage
    Seems like Vivendi's lawyers are really screwing up here. The evidence of a direct violation of copyright is non-existant. The only possible violation from their list that might stand up in court would be if bnetd included battle.net code, and I seriously doubt that this is the case.

    My guess is that Vivendi's lawyers thought that if they fired off a real lawsuit, even if totally unsubstantiated, the bnetd people would back down. We'll see what happens, but since the EFF is already involved I get the sense that the bnetd folks are intending to fight this. So Vivendi is actually risking legitimizing bnetd in the courts.

  • by cholokoy (265199) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:39AM (#3303271)
    I am a fan of warcraft and owned WC2 and look forward to playing wc3 but with this, I think i'm going to have to pass this time and instead try out other similar games.

    Blizzard/vivendi have all the rights to sue entities who they see as encroaching on their rights but this somehow is counterproductive as these are some of their customers and do not even gain monetarily from their endeavors but promote the use of the game.
  • by llamalicious (448215) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:40AM (#3303277) Journal
    you are correct.
    but I hit the cap long ago, so I only whore because it makes me happy.

    Besides, I like to rag on /. when it's not just 2 or 3 conflicting articles, but whole flocks of them. Now run along.
  • by Kintanon (65528) on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:42AM (#3303293) Homepage Journal
    The thing is, there is an almost garauntee that some block of code within Bnetd will resemble some block of code in Blizzards server software in some significant manner, simply because the two programs do the exact same thing. So Blizzard can point to that and say 'See! This whole thing was obviously ripped off from us via illegal hacker tactics and stuff!' and the judge, not knowing any better, is likely to look at the two pieces of paper and agree. The Bnetd lawyers would do well to find an expert witness, preferablly a CS professor from a decent university, who can tesitfy that the two programs have similar code because they perform similar tasks and that doesn't mean one borrowed code from the other.

    Kintanon
  • Re:Well. . . . (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2002 @10:56AM (#3303378)
    So what your saying is that Microsoft can ALSO be sued.. because their software is used to play pirated games?
  • Re:Well. . . . (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lonath (249354) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:00AM (#3303412)
    Pockets in clothing would likely not have come under fire

    IF A LOT OF KIDDIES DID NOT USE THEM TO STEAL CANDY BARS FROM STORES

    Especially true now days with the new GoopyGoop bar (which Hershey's is trying VERY hard to keep limited. Not succeeding very well, but they are TRYING hard.)

    Hershey's allows A LOT of to happen to their candy bars but. . . .

    I think that the solution to this BEFORE HAND was that the parental community, huhrump, should have policed their own.

    I totally agree with you on this. That's why I support the Consumer Banning Pockets and Defeating Thieves Act (CBPDTA) which will outlaw purchase-circumvention devices like pockets.

    Once this law is passed pockets in clothing will be made illegal because it's clear (even though I know nothing about clothing) that their main purpose is to help people steal things and these pockets really have no legitimate purpose besides that that I can see.

    It will be illegal to take new clothing without pockets and sew pockets onto it (even if you think that the clothing industry is selling "crippled" wares and you want to "fix" it to do the things you can do today with clothing), and doing this will be punishable by up to 10 years in prison and 1 million dollars in fines.

    It will also be illegal to tell people how to make pockets, as this would be trafficking in Purchase Circumvention Devices.

    Also, it will be illegal to wear clothing with pockets in public after a certain grace period where grandfathered clothing with pockets is allowed out while the pockets are removed from everything.

    Regardless of whether or not you have become used to pockets in your clothing, you won't have them in the future. The courts and Congress have spoken, and this legal issue is settled: There Will Be No More Pockets In Clothing. Get Over It.

    All of this whining about "fair use" and the "right to carry things around without using my hands" is just the bleating of a few leftie college professors and this entire generation of thieves that have grown up thinking that they don't have to pay for anything. Fortunately, it ends here, and you agitators and terrorists who want to keep your little bombs and guns and candy bars in your pockets will just have to move along with the rest of us, or get trampled in the stampede to the future.

    Of course, you thieves don't think about more than your own little petty desires and needs. Consumers will benefit because clothing will be cheaper since the manufacturers won't have to put those difficult-to-make pockets on their clothes. Consumers will also benefit more because stores will sell more things since they won't have to worry about shoplifting as much.

    The clothing industry will be whining about how the loss of pockets will cause people to start buying their clothing from overseas sweatshops where 8 year-olds work for 3 cents a day instead of buying domestically made clothing with no pockets, but they will just have to adjust to the new legal climate.

  • by TheMonkeyDepartment (413269) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:11AM (#3303466)
    If Blizzard can prove the first count, I'd be on their side. Companies should make open source software by choice, NOT by force. Ripping off someone's code and reusing it in your own is a violation of almost every software license, open or otherwise.

    But I wonder what really happened? What code is Blizzard claiming was snagged?
  • Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grakwell (571986) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:15AM (#3303481)
    On Item 24:
    The existence of a unique bug that mirrors battle.net in bnetd's client-side login indicating that the source code was blatantly copied:

    During reverse-engineering, if you observe something happening with the program on every login, would you not implement it? How would the bnetd coders know it was a bug? How does this prove the *code* was copied, not the functionality?

    on 38, and 39:
    bnetd has been around for years. Isn't a provision for keeping a trademark timely defense of the trademark?How can Blizzard claim they were unaware of bnetd's infringing name when they sent the original developer a cease-and-desist notice that they never backed up? They have been aware of bnetd for the past 5+ years. The fact that they have not defended their trademark for this long (and if this is a trademark issue), they should lose the trademark.

    on 45:
    bnetd only devalues the battle.net trademark because it is a superior product to battle.net. Blizzard's servers are unstable cheater-havens. bnetd is used, in my experience, mostly by tight-knit groups of friends that choose to play without the lag and without the disrespectful people that are so common on battle.net.

    As for copyright infringement, I don't think Blizzard is going after them for screenshots. What they are claiming is that bnetd allows gamers to access the copyrighted content in battle.net games, that they couldn't otherwise access.

    Didn't Sony lose to Connectix, trying the same thing?

    And, isn't it fallacious, considering that these same users *can* access the copyrighted content without bnetd, through use of the games' touted single player aspects?
  • Boycott Blizzard (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drivers (45076) on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:32AM (#3303575)
    This is why I am asking everyone to Boycott Blizzard.
    http://boycottblizzard.org/ [boycottblizzard.org]
  • Re:Screw you all (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 08, 2002 @11:38AM (#3303617)
    "I'm the one who started the whole haiku trend!"

    Then you should sue everybody stealing your idea, because obviously, the thousands of years worth of prior art from the Japanese means absolutely nothing...
  • This isn't really about WarcraftIII or Battle.net as it currently exists at all... it's about Blizzard's future revenue model. they're trying to set a presedent for when they release World of Warcraft. They need to be the only place to play their games online so that they can push their pay-for-play MMORP sucessfully. If anyone can put up a server to play Blizzard games on, what is the incentive to pay Blizzard to play the game?
  • by terrymr (316118) <terrymr @ g m a i l.com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @12:33PM (#3303919)
    This seems to be a matter of extraordinary bad faith by VUG - if I followed this correctly :

    VUG : You are in violation of the DMCA take down your site.

    BNETD : Ok - the site is down - we have checked our compliance with the DMCA and will reinstate the site in 10 days unless you sue under the DMCA to prevent that.

    VUG Files lawsuit claiming violation of some other part of the copyright code.
  • by Hrothgar The Great (36761) on Monday April 08, 2002 @01:05PM (#3304135) Journal
    Don't bet on the license violations being important. There is no court precedent (yet) for upholding a EULA.
  • by Second_Derivative (257815) on Monday April 08, 2002 @01:28PM (#3304288)
    This suit's so ridiculous it would actually have a chance of defeating the DMCA and we wouldn't want that would we?
  • Re:DMCA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Monday April 08, 2002 @01:58PM (#3304499)


    While the EFF would love to have a precedent striking down the DMCA, I doubt Vivendo is seriously concerned about upholding it.


    That was my origional reaction too. But think about it a sec. Vivendi. Sony Interactive. There's a heck of a lot more IP under those names than Warcraft/Blizzard alone.


    With this in mind, the DMCA is a very important tool. A company legal team would be foolish to squander it on a single case if they believed it could put this tool at risk.

  • Re:Well. . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EllisDees (268037) on Monday April 08, 2002 @02:11PM (#3304560)
    The sale of various theft equipment in real life is quite illegal.

    This depends on what state you are in, and what the tools are. That's completely beside the point.

    Imagine were the STOLEN vehicles would be serviced at? That is right, the unauthorized service centers. Sure some (or even quite a lot) of people with LEGAL vehicles might go to the unauthorized service centers, hell maybe at times it is just more convenient, but the BEST way for Ford to (help) stop the theft of vehicles is to shutdown the unauthorized service centers.

    The point you are missing is that Ford has exactly zero legal right to shut down those service centers. Zilch. I am allowed to operate my competing service regardless of what kind of cars happen to drive in and Ford can whine about it all they like - at the end of the day, my shop hasn't broken a single law. Even if my shop were providing the keys to start those stolen cars, I have not stolen a single car or encouraged anyone else to do so.

    This program does nothing to help spread pirate copies of games around. All it does is implement some of the same protocols as Blizzard's proprietary server.
  • by Eric Green (627) on Monday April 08, 2002 @02:13PM (#3304568) Homepage
    But the point is that unless there's evidence of a "firewall" between the reverse engineering team and the implementation team, the courts tend to give the copyright holder the benefit of the doubt here. If there is a bug in the copyright holder's product that also occurs in the reverse engineered product, it is pretty much assumed de' facto that unless proven otherwise, you lifted code from the copyright holder's product.

    The rest of the arguments in the complaint are just so much drivel, probably there to keep the other side's lawyers busy. This one (the duplicated bug) is the one that's going to be VERY hard to get around.

    There's reasons why engineers (real engineers) carry around those numbered/dated notebooks and log everything they do every day in them (and get them notarized from time to time), and there's a reason why commercial reverse engineering projects use the "two-box" paradigm along with those numbered/dated notebooks, and you just found out what that reason is. Welcome to the real world, where legal CYA is as important as code.

    -E

  • Re:Issues (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Puk (80503) on Monday April 08, 2002 @02:34PM (#3304741)
    You've hit the nail on the head. It may not be observable -- you have to see the source code.

    Blizzard has their Battle.net source. Blizzard has the bnetd (open) source. If they want to prove this, they don't need to resort to "duplicated bugs", they can just compare the two.

    I am making no assertions as to whether their claim is true -- I have not seen the Battle.net source and don't know what the bug itself is. But the fact that they have to go about making their claim in this manner makes me think it's either baseless, or they're overly paranoid of having to show their code in court.

    In fact, due to the openness of bnetd, I would think it would be tougher for Blizzard to authenticate their code than it would be for bnetd. How does the court know that Blizzard didn't just rip off bnetd's code in order to make them the same? Again, I'm not saying they didn't, I'm just saying they would probably have to prove that is was already there (which is reasonably possible, if you make the assumption they won't go to ridiculous lengths to fake it).

    -Puk
  • Re:Well. . . . (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lonath (249354) on Monday April 08, 2002 @03:07PM (#3305000)
    The problem is that there's no way to separate stopping thieves from stopping me from programming. In truth, all I want is computers so I can sit there and program things that amuse me. Not things that steal things from other people. Not things that hurt other people, and it won't be possible to separate these two things. So, they will be taking away pockets when all I want is something to carry around my change in.

  • by Wordplay (54438) <geo@snarksoft.com> on Monday April 08, 2002 @07:03PM (#3306621)
    Reverse engineering isn't illegal, but code copying is. The whole reason you do a heavily documented double-blind is so that chunks of code will -inevitably- appear the same. With documentation, you can claim coincidence, or that it was a necessity of the algorithm.

    If the bnetd guys didn't keep docs (or if they reverse-engineered from a disassembly...that isn't legal, btw, since object code is as protected as source...their credibility is going to be severely impacted. If they did duplicate a bug that's not immediately reflected in the packet handling, I'd say they're pretty well screwed.
  • by barawn (25691) on Monday April 08, 2002 @07:03PM (#3306622) Homepage
    OK, here's the best that can be gleaned from the actual document:

    The "bug" they're talking about is a bug in the login procedure - the "cd key checking" bit doesn't make any sense, as the server doesn't do any checking. So the only thing that makes sense is they're talking about the procedure that the game uses to login to other games (remember battle.net is a passing server, that is, it doesn't actually 'serve' the games) - apparently the games screw up some portion of the login logic, and bnetd copies that as well.

    Unless we're talking about a completely internal bug (which I don't see in the source...) it's gotta be a protocol bug, which would OF COURSE be copied in a clean-room reimplementation of the Battle.net protocol. In fact, if they had done a disassembly of the source, they probably would have recognized the bug and FIXED it.

    Look, I tend to believe bnetd in this case - especially because, remember, innocent before proven guilty - and they say that it was done as a cleanroom implementation. Given that Blizzard has already misinterpreted legal statutes, I find it more likely that Blizzard doesn't understand what reverse engineering is. (It obviously doesn't know what "trademarks" are, or it never would've complained about the screenshots, or the 'bnetd' name!)

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