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Role Playing (Games) Government The Courts News

Blizzard Sues Creator of WoW Bot 701

Posted by Zonk
from the kind-of-defeating-the-point-of-an-mmo dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, are suing Michael Donnelly, the creator of the MMO Glider program, which performs key tasks in the game automatically. Blizzard says the software bot infringes the company's copyright and potentially damages the game. 'Blizzard's designs expectations are frustrated, and resources are allocated unevenly, when bots are introduced into the WoW universe, because bots spend far more time in-game than an ordinary player would and consume resources the entire time,' Blizzard wrote in its legal submission to the court. More than 100,000 copies of the tool have been sold while more than 10 million people around the world play Warcraft. Donnelly says his tool does not infringe Blizzard's copyright because no 'copy' of the Warcraft game client software is ever made. The two parties are now awaiting a summary judgment in the case."
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Blizzard Sues Creator of WoW Bot

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  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:49PM (#22875280)
    If you're creating some legitimate program that requires WoW, you think you should have to request Blizzard's permission just to say on the packaging that you require World of Warcraft? Definitely not.
  • by clampolo (1159617) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @06:50PM (#22875290)

    How? Unless he stole source code and used it in his program, I don't see how.

    They are claiming that the tool makes a copy of the game and stores it to ram to avoid their anti-cheating checks. Interesting to see if it is illegal to make a temporary copy (for your own personal use) of a program you legally purchased.

  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:01PM (#22875428) Journal

    Agreed. From the sounds of it, this bot tool may impair the game, and they may have some moral or legal cause to try and stop it, but copyright and trademark infringment it is not.I think they need to find some other charge.
  • by Sciros (986030) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:03PM (#22875460) Journal
    In Guild Wars (another MMORPG), those using bots are discouraged from doing so by a method different from suing those that write the macros -- ArenaNet (the devs) simply sniff out (using various AI mechanics) those that use bots and ban them from the game. This action is covered by the EULA that users accept before playing.

    Whether EULAs hold up in court, etc. is another issue entirely, but in cases such as banning for using bots I'm fairly certain ArenaNet wouldn't have problems defending themselves.

    People don't want to use bots in GW because they'll get banned. It takes tweaking the AI bot-sniffing to keep up with macros, but the system works well enough that high-profile lawsuits are unnecessary.
  • glider (Score:4, Informative)

    by ZenDragon (1205104) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:05PM (#22875484)
    The program does not make a copy of any of the game files, it simply reads the memory space that wow.exe loads into and responds to certain procedure calls and what not in the memory. For example, a monster is on the map and the client loads it in memory to prepare it for rendering. Even if the player cant see it, the program can because wow.exe loaded it into memory. The program can see and interact with the wow.exe executable by reading what wow puts in the memory.
  • In that case. (Score:2, Informative)

    by plasmacutter (901737) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:09PM (#22875536)
    microsoft, apple, canonical LTD, transgaming technologies, etc are all guilty of copyright infringement because they make a copy of the game and store it to ram.
  • Re:Thank God (Score:4, Informative)

    by Trolan (42526) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:09PM (#22875554) Homepage
    It's much less fun when the bots are on your team.

    Gold farming and grinding are much less needed these days in WoW with the daily quests giving out 8-12g a pop, and being able to do 25 of those a day. Most taking 10mins to complete.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:14PM (#22875608) Homepage
    How on earth do you load the program into memory (and once again into CPU cache) to run it if you can't???

    Copies performed as an "essential step" of using the program are exempted as not infringing on copyright. So copying the program from disk into memory in order to run it is not infringement, however creating a second copy of the game in-memory to get around the anti-cheating code may not be.

    Personally, I've also argued that this clause means that you are not legally required to accept EULAs, or at least that you aren't violating copyright by refusing to accept them since you don't need a copyright license to make the necessary copies to install and run the program.

    Here's a link to the relevant section of the law: TITLE 17 - CHAPTER 1 - 117 [cornell.edu]
  • Sue sue (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sosarian (39969) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:15PM (#22875622) Homepage
    Wow, this reminds me of 2006.

    http://www.joystiq.com/2006/11/20/blizzard-sued-by-wow-glider-creator/ [joystiq.com]

    Except in 2006, he was suing them.
  • Already done (Score:1, Informative)

    by fathed (32870) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:39PM (#22875898)
    This is old news, the case is done, you can read the judgment, Blizzard lost, as it should have.
  • by VGPowerlord (621254) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:39PM (#22875902)

    The pro-EULA faction's argument works like this:

    Under copyright law alone, you don't have the right to make the copy(*). You don't have the right to run the software that they sell you.

    IANAL, but.... if we're talking about a pro-EULA group in the US, they need to read Title 17 Section 117 [copyright.gov]. You know, the one that grants the end user the explicit right to make a copy of a computer program if it's required in order to run the program. Such as loading it into RAM. Or for that matter, copying it to the computer if it's not designed to run directly from its install media.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:41PM (#22875918)
    Blizzard is in over its head if they lose the suit; their employees admitted in sworn statements that Glider cannot be detected by any anti-cheat methods they use. There's a lot of little easter eggs hidden away in the legal filings, for example:
    • Donnelly made more than $2.8 million in revenue from Glider
    • Blizzard spends $970K fighting bots each year
    • Blizzard claims Glider costs them $18 million in lost revenue per year
    Some of the legal filings have been uploaded here, they make for an interesting read: http://gameactivist.blogspot.com/2008/03/update-blizzard-vs-mdy.html [blogspot.com]
  • by Ron Bennett (14590) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @07:42PM (#22875934) Homepage
    Is your credit card a U.S. issued card? ... if so, you have a lot longer than 30 days. You have at least 60 days from the statement date, and potentially even longer for unauthorized purchases, to dispute them.

    Chargebacks, for on-line purchases, even many months later are common - call your credit card issuer again and press the matter.

    Ron
  • by Daengbo (523424) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:02PM (#22876138) Homepage Journal
    "For once?" "For once?" You've got to be kidding. Blizzard litigates all the time. They successfully used the DMCA to stop bnetd [wikipedia.org], a reverse engineering of the protocol. This was the first real test of the DMCA in court on many of the provisions and gave the law so many real teeth that it became the terror it is today. There was even a huge boycott of Blizzard for a short while.

    Sheez! Young'uns.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:05PM (#22876156)
    Trial accounts cannot trade with any other players in any way, shape or form. That includes the mailbox, the player-to-player trade window, and the auction house. Furthermore, Blizzard have implemented filtering of auction house transactions to catch gold farmers using precisely that method to transfer large sums of money.
  • by dAzED1 (33635) <brianlamere@NOspam.yahoo.com> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:14PM (#22876232) Homepage Journal
    "Hey, enjoying the game? Could you just confirm your not a bot by answering this question, please..."

    Nope. The biggest bot problem is in battlegrounds, and those that are actually there, at their keyboards, fighting - the real, non-bot players - don't have the time to respond to a message. hell, they probably won't even *see* the message; lots of folks I know direct all chat text to its own dialog box, then hide that box :)

    To explain - while what you're saying could potentially work in PvE play (player versus environment), where a player can just press a few buttons now and then and the fight goes on, the real problem is in PvP play (player versus player) in what are called "battlegrounds" - a large group of horde players versus a large group of alliance players. So what the bots do is have a character run around in stupid ways, dying, casting spells at random, whatever - but if their team (alliance/horde) wins, they get a tremendous amount of benefit from that. So the active, real players end up carrying the extra load of those that are afk or bots.

    The 2.4 patch (which went live yesterday) seems to have improved this some though - I actually saw bots getting booted in battlegrounds.

    Right now in battlegrounds, there is an option for reporting someone as afk. There should also be an option for reporting someone as potentially a bot, so that GMs could check those particular characters with more diligence for suspicious activity, if they are flagged often enough.
  • by SL Baur (19540) <steve@xemacs.org> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:19PM (#22876274) Homepage Journal

    Presumably WoW has some sort of chat channel that the admins could use to communicate with players?
    They use the same /whisper "channel" that players use to chat privately. Presumably they can break DnD, I've never set that and certainly not when I've made a request for administrative assistance.

    If they roughly identify bots through their behaviour - e.g. the number of hours played, confinement to one location, repetitive actions or whatever gives the game away, could they not quickly confirm it by sending a message saying "Hey, enjoying the game? Could you just confirm your not a bot by answering this question, please..."
    The Blizzard gods make a more flowery appearance than that (and it's *always* "May I have a moment of your time?"), but that sounds similar to Capcha. That would raise the bar, but isn't Capcha being slowly broken?

    They could turn off all access to scripting (which is a major nice feature of the game - I use an addon that stores statistics keeping track of which monsters drop which items by percentage), but even that wouldn't be 100% effective. The techniques used by Rogomatic (which is implemented in Expect[1]) could be used bypassing WoW LUA scripting entirely.

    Since they already limit certain access to their scripting API, I'm sure they've already explored the option of restricting the specific calls this Glide bot is using and found it undesirable.

    [1] Besides providing scripted access to programs which expect to be run interactively, Expect contains logic to simulate the uncertainty of actual typed human input.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:27PM (#22876340)
    Actually no with glider you cannot, this is the problem.

    This bot will respond with a couple somewhat random and pre-programmed options of responses, that buy you (the cheater/bot runner) critical time to get your ass back to the keyboard.

    Seee glider isn't a bot you run while your not at home, you run it while your say..oh I dunno playing wow on your other account!, or playing another game, or watching TV, or eating dinner etc... and see as glider detecs that you are being detected (like someone following you, or watching your actions, msg'g you, training mobs to you etc). it will stop what it was doing and do something different, AND ALERT YOU!.

    So if your running it correctly, and setup the stuff properly out of the 10M people playing and the 50k bots or so on at any time, its going to be very hard to spot these bots.

    Its runs around in a general area, moving to engage into combat and otherwise inteligently casting the same spells and looting the same way you would if you were just grinding at the keyboard.

    Running around in a small area for 4 hours at a time unfortunatly (sigh old recovering wow addict) is actually something I used to do with my characters fairly often in order to 'farm'...

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:57PM (#22876586)

    They successfully used the DMCA to stop bnetd, a reverse engineering of the protocol. This was the first real test of the DMCA in court on many of the provisions and gave the law so many real teeth that it became the terror it is today. There was even a huge boycott of Blizzard for a short while.
    In all fairness, that lawsuit came about because BNETD's servers didn't discriminate over CD-KEYs, thus nullifying Blizzard's copy protection. It's fun to villify Blizzard over their use of the DMCA, but why anybody expected them to do anything but protect the IP of their cashcows (like Starcraft, for example) is a mystery. No other company would have acted differently. Frankly, the group behind BNETD had no reason to even act surprised about it. They picked that battle and they lost. Stupid.

  • by Parafilmus (107866) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @08:57PM (#22876590) Homepage
    Thankfully, that premise is false. Humans are better at many games.

    A well-known example is Go [wikipedia.org].

    As a rule, humans are better at more complex games. At simple games like checkers and chess, the computer wins by predicting several moves in advance. Such prediction isn't possible for more complex games, which humans tend to win.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:10PM (#22876704)
    WoWGlider (Now MMOGlider) emulates a keyboard & mouse and uses these devices to interact. No api calls in wow needed, it only uses windows functions to pretend to be your keyboard. Glider does not use their scripting API.
    Glider also contains an auto-responder, and there are plugins to give it some basic AI.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:32PM (#22876874)

    In all fairness, that lawsuit came about because BNETD's servers didn't discriminate over CD-KEYs, thus nullifying Blizzard's copy protection.

    In all non-fairness, blizzard made it impossible for BNETD servers to discriminate over CD-KEYs, by utilizing encryption to prevent it.

    I.E. blizzard made it impossible for a third-party server interoperable with the battle net client to _not_ circumvent their protections.

  • by rossz (67331) <ogre&geekbiker,net> on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:33PM (#22876890) Homepage Journal
    I still won't buy a Blizzard product. We ran a bnetd server because we got sick of the cheating on their servers. Every single person who was allowed on our server was legitimate because we verified them by going onto the blizzard servers. A quick chat to make sure the person logged in and all was cool. The bnetd people would have liked to have verified CD keys, but Blizzard refused to cooperate.

    We weren't hurting anyone. We weren't stealing from Blizzard. In fact, we _reduced_ blizzard's costs because they had a lower load on their servers. They are just assholes. I chatted with one of the VPs at blizzard, and the way he spoke at me and my friends verified he was a complete and total asshole.

    I was a big buyer of Blizzard products up to that point. I haven't bought a single thing from them since.
  • by schon (31600) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:53PM (#22877078)

    that lawsuit came about because BNETD's servers didn't discriminate over CD-KEYs
    Pure, unmitigated bullshit.

    The bnetd authors fell over themselves trying to compromise with Blizzard, up to and including publically saying that they would incorporate key checking if they could.

    Blizzard refused, and proceeded with the most trumped-up lawsuit they could.

    If the GP thinks *THIS* is bad, what about claiming copyright infringements of Battle.net server code, based soley on "well, it has a similar bug", instead of just looking at the bnetd code (that's the beauty of open source - you can see the code.)
  • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @09:59PM (#22877116)
    Since when is reverse engineering code illegal? Reverse engineering is specifically protected by the DMCA, as long as you're not breaking encryption.
  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:03PM (#22877156)

    BUT, WoW Glider definitely wouldn't work without WoW. Seems pretty derivative to me.

    Based on this logic all commercial software makers would have to write their own OS, switch to BSD, or license the right to make a derivative work of their OS, to avoid infringing.

    WoW definitely won't work without MS Windows.

    Based on this logic, WoW would be a derivative work of Windows.

    Just because software X depends on Y does not mean software X is derived from software Y.

    OpenOffice depends on the presence of a printer driver to be able to print, and a Video driver to be able to render things on a display -- but this alone does not open them to risk of being sued by Video Driver maker and Printer driver maker for creating a "derivative work".

    Just like this "bot" depends on the presence of a suitable game for it to interact with.

    Now it _might_ be an issue if the "bot" directly loads the game binary into memory and makes unauthorized modifications to the game code.

    The _patched_ game code could then be an unauthorized derivative work of the official authorized game code.

    On the other hand, just because a derivative work's unauthorized doesn't necessarily mean it's infringing. The _distribution_ of unauthorized derivative works infringes, but there might be no distribution.

    Consider binary patch files which do not contain any part of an original work, but only contain possible modifications. In this case one might distribute just the patch (not a derivative).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:23PM (#22877306)
    The difference is this... When you purchase a copy of the game, you are in fact, paying for the physical copy there in the box. However, when you play, you're paying for a service. You don't "own" the game. You're paying Blizzard to play their game on their servers. In fact, any character you create is their virtual property.

    When a player "bots", they create a negative impact on the game's in-game economy. Blizzard doesn't like that, as they feel it takes away from the spirit of the game. Since botters are in essence "vandalizing" their property, they feel that a lawsuit is acceptable in this scenario.

    I'm no legal expert, but that's my take on it, anyhow.
  • by Cecil (37810) on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @10:27PM (#22877326) Homepage
    Actually, bnetd tried to discuss the issue with blizzard so they could authenticate against their CD-key servers. It's not like the effort wasn't made. Blizzard refused, because they would much rather sue them out of existence. And that's exactly what they did.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 26, 2008 @11:26PM (#22877866)
    It seems many folks have misconceptions about the case.

    The lawsuit is not disputing whether Blizzard has the right to take action against botters. They do. Blizzard will continue to ban botters regardless of the outcome of this case. Even if Blizzard loses, players already banned will not get their accounts back.

    The judge's decision will only answer the question is it illegal for third parties to provide players with the means to violate the End User License Agreement and the Terms of Use?
  • by mysidia (191772) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:50AM (#22878744)

    *yawn*

    Application behavior is most often more characteristic of OS than anything else. Published APIs are just incidental, mere conveniences for letting applications indirectly depend on the OS. The use of an API does not in itself stop an app from being dependent on an OS.

    OSes have subroutines and function calls you can hook into and call, so what? All programs do, too. Just because an API is explicitly documented or not, and exports its symbols in a convenient fashion to make procedure calls (or not) does not make the user app suddenly a derivative work or not.

    Whether it is intended or not is an entirely different matter.

    Application software under certain OSes hooks into undocumented OS functionality all the time, depends on undocumented bugs, unique characteristics that no other OS has, etc.

  • Re:Thank God (Score:3, Informative)

    by blankinthefill (665181) <blachanc@gmaiEULERl.com minus math_god> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @04:14AM (#22879272) Journal

    If a game forces you to spend hours doing tasks a bot CAN do, then it's crap
    Do you have any idea how sophisticated these bots can be? WoW is not a simple game, and there are a HUGE number of situations that can arise. These bots can handle 99% of them, from simple grinds to pvp to complex simulations of human behavior to make it appear that you are NOT botting. According to you, every game ever created is crap, because the level of sophistication of these bots is such that they can do anything that we can do. I mean, come on, its a bloody AI, its DESIGNED to emulate us in undetectable ways, OF COURSE IT CAN DO WHAT WE CAN DO IN THE GAME. Thats what it was MADE for! Also, I don't understand how you would create a game with no grind. Every game is a grind of SOME sort, even your general FPS... you go for hours, and go through the same set of motions in order to achieve, in the end, a pointless goal. Thats no different than, say, rolling a toon on an MMO, and running around repeating basically the same moves in order to level it? I argue that, in the end, there is none. What makes a good game is the balance of the grind with the reward gained. This is where the MMO grind differs from other types of games, since there is much more time invested, the reward has to be that much larger. This usually comes in the form of bettering your character; for the many people that like MMOs this is generally a good reward, but for some people its just not the right reward. Does this make the game crap? Not at all. It just means that some people won't enjoy it, as the reward is not to their liking, while some people will love it, because they are satisfied with the reward. Anyways, what I'm saying is two fold: The bots are designed mimic human behavior, the fact that they can complete this behavior is a retarded argument AGAINST a game, and just because you think a grind is crappy doesn't mean that everyone else does... I mean, 10 million people like the reward at the end enough that they are willing to play through the grind... and many of them enjoy it, some of them even play BECAUSE of the grind.
  • by Nullav (1053766) <(Nullav.gmail) (ta) (com)> on Thursday March 27, 2008 @04:44AM (#22879384)

    It's a bit like all the ISPs crying foul over P2P users using "too much" data on their "unlimited" plans.
    Really? Comcast and the like are all quite vague about their caps. This on the other hand...

    Limitations on Your Use of the Service.
          2. You agree that you will not (i) modify or cause to be modified any files that are a part of the Program or the Service; (ii) create or use cheats, bots, "mods", and/or hacks, or any other third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience; or (iii) use any third-party software that intercepts, "mines", or otherwise collects information from or through the Program or the Service. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may update the Program with authorized patches and updates distributed by Blizzard, and Blizzard may, at its sole and absolute discretion, allow the use of certain third party user interfaces.
          3. You may not disrupt or assist in the disruption of (i) any computer used to support the Service (each a "Server"); or (ii) any other player's Game experience. ANY ATTEMPT BY YOU TO DISRUPT THE SERVICE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THE PROGRAM MAY BE A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. You agree that you will not violate any applicable law or regulation in connection with your use of the Program or the Service.
    ...not so much.
    Considering I would see this flashed in my face during signup, during the first run of the client, and after every single patch when I played, I'd say they do a lot to point this out. I highlighted that bit in section 3 because these bots can run 24/7. That would quickly become a problem if they were only provisioned to handle people who slept every now and then, which is usually a reasonable assumption. Also, sleeping while a bot takes you to 70, then flooding the Auction house with shit really would disrupt the game experience of other players if a fair amount of others joined in.
  • Terms of Service (Score:2, Informative)

    by Benjamin_Wright (1168679) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @09:58AM (#22881204) Homepage
    Some precedence supports the proposition that an information service can post terms of use that forbid or regulate bots [blogspot.com].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:15PM (#22882888)
    "Instead of the developers out-thinking the power gamers, they are taking the easy way out"

    Well there's a problem... 200 developers (or however many blizzard employs) vs... 10m and counting players. How is this any different than Virus makers vs Anti Virus makers? DRM vs DRM Crackers?

    You can put all the effort you have against the problem - But ultimately - there is a geek, in a basement somewhere, who WILL create a way to break your software schema.

    "I'm interested, and kind of hoping, that all these millions of WoW players will get to the point where I am (Sick of grind MMOs) and start buying games that actually innovate and create entertainment."

    That's the thing... these millions of WoW players ARE entertained. But because YOU aren't - That somehow invalidates the game they enjoy? Other posts have said as much but there are MANY failed companies that have tried different approaches. Yet Blizzard remains on top.

    I think The Matrix had it right. There is a part of the human experience that don't feel 'complete' without pain. Sure, we could live in a paradise where you log in with everything given to you. But there is no 'Look at what *I* earned' feeling.

    Go to MangosProject.com... Build your own World of Warcraft server. Give yourself everything. Exhalted rep with everything. Level 70 in 10 seconds (or level 255 if you wanna be like that). Every epic in the game. Slay bosses with your right hand while feeling up blood elf chics with your left. Tell me you won't be done with the game in 2 days with that kind of 'freedom'.

    "It's about money."

    There you go. End of discussion really. Blizzard is a company, not a government program designed to give handouts and make you feel better. They are here to make lots and lots of money. They aren't raking money in hand over fist because they have it wrong. They are winning because they are doing something right. Is there a grind? of course... Apparently that's what people want.

    Wheres the game that doesn't require a grind with 10m active subscribers? Even single player RPGs require a grind. Ever hear of FF3? FFVII? etc... you don't get level 99 from the start in those games...

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