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The Almighty Buck The Courts Games

Blizzard Sues Private Server Company, Awarded $88M 356

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-such-a-good-business-model dept.
Cali Thalen writes "A private server company, Scapegaming (aka Alyson Reeves), was ordered to pay Blizzard Entertainment over $88 million in damages after losing a lawsuit that was concluded last week. Scapegaming was operating unauthorized World of Warcraft servers and using a micropayment system to collect money from the servers' user base, which according to the lawsuit amounted to just over $3 million. $85 million of that settlement was for statutory damages, and surprisingly only $63,000 in attorney's fees."
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Blizzard Sues Private Server Company, Awarded $88M

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  • They should be suing Bobafett (resident of rwanda), i.e. John Doe.
    QQ Alyson Reeves?
    • by Volante3192 (953645) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:54AM (#33255262)

      Somewhere along the chain, you have to pay for the hosting. Plus if you're getting money, there's another paper trail.

  • Does anyone know what that private server was giving when you paid them?

    I can understand playing on private servers if it's free, but if you're going to pay money to play on a private server, why not just pay Blizzard and play on official servers? Usually the private servers are a little behind on content anyway.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kenja (541830)
      Often they include things like +10,000 strength items and the like. Its the same reason people cheat at any game.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ZDRuX (1010435) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:59AM (#33255284)
    I don't think there's really a way to turn it around and make excuses for the hosting company. I'm generally in favor of the small guys doing their own thing, even using someone's code - but in this case, it was purley for profit and not for fun any sort of personal enjoyment.

    I do have a problem with the damages awarded though... I mean - How in the world did they come up with this figure?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Volante3192 (953645)

      Get the outlandish number out during trial, reduced on appeal. It'll probably go down to $30 mil, losses + statuatory damages. (With corporations, at least , the magic multiplyer is 9 I think. So if they cause $10 mil in damages, the most the statuatory can be is $90.)

      Still, there's documentation that this person's on the hook for an absolute bare minimum of $3+ mil... Consider the rest of it an idiot tax. Seriously, you're charging for a server running a Blizzard game? And you don't expect to get cau

      • by Cylix (55374) *

        If I were going to do something like this I would assume I would get caught.

        Now, if I managed to bring it to a rather fruitful set of earnings I might do one of two things. Attempt to work within the structure of the law to minimize damages to myself or blatantly work outside the law and optimize for monetary gain. Perhaps, there was yet a third view point in that the scenario ended with a friendly take down. Though that would just be rather unrealistic optimism.

        Whatever the outcome I would assume it was cl

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by EvilIdler (21087) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:10AM (#33255342)

      I thought that sum was rather modest. Remember all the RIAA cases? THOSE were excessive.

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by Zephiris (788562) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:15AM (#33255360)

      They're called statutory damages for a reason. It's precalculated by a statute (hence the name) or a law. Given that the lawyer's fees were so low...likely Blizzard wasn't considering asking for so much (especially given likely inability to repay such an amount), but was given little to no say in it, given that it was a DEFAULT judgement (defendant never responded despite being served/summoned), and hence not argued "in trial".

      It was a lengthy, boring series of motions that was never once contested.

    • by mqduck (232646)

      I don't think there's really a way to turn it around and make excuses for the hosting company.

      Really? Let me give it a shot.

      Before the expansion packs came out, the original game cost somewhere around $40-$50 (if memory serves me). Each expansion, if you bought them when they were new, cost something like $40. I already paid Blizzard $110-$120 for the software (theoretically -- I've only paid about $80 for WoW software, personally). Blizzard is the one that decided that the software and the servers you subscribe to are two separate products, so they can kiss my ass if they want to stop me from getti

  • cheap lawyer! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:15AM (#33255352)
    WOW! I know it's an open and shut case from the get go but with a company that big, usually $60,000 will barely get you a random word generator with text to speech representing you. For a quarter mil, you might even be able to get the disembodied voice that lives in my GPS to represent you. Somehow it always costs about a million for a supposedly "respectable" lawyer to even show up in court. What a joke. Oh well, at least they got around that this time somehow.
    • by Rallion (711805)

      Do staff lawyers' salaries count towards that figure? It seems like they wouldn't.

    • Re:cheap lawyer! (Score:4, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:53AM (#33255786) Journal
      It wasn't defended, so they basically charged $60000 for submitting the brief.

      Actually that's a bit unfair. They didn't know this was going to be uncontested so they had to make sure all the evidence was checked out and in order, and research appropriate case law. Still seems like a fair whack of cash though.
  • Normally I don't feel that copyright infringement is a big deal, or automatically a bad thing, especially when it breaks down artificial limitations and restrictions.

    But profiting from other people's work, work that you have no rights to, is just wrong.

    Doesn't seem to be any details on what the microtransactions were for here, but apparently they were selling in-game items for real money. I find that disgusting even when it's legit. Ruins the value of actually playing the game.

  • DEFAULT JUDGEMENT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by carigis (1878910) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:16AM (#33255364)
    there was only $63,000 is attorneys fees because it was a default judgement and they did not have to present a case in front of the court. Likey the person will claim they were never served and demand there day in court. the judge will overturn the default judgement and the case will start over... or she will declare bankruptcy and the judgement will be discharged.. but maybe they will recover some of the 3 million
    • Re:DEFAULT JUDGEMENT (Score:4, Informative)

      by crankyspice (63953) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:17AM (#33255690)

      there was only $63,000 is attorneys fees because it was a default judgement and they did not have to present a case in front of the court. Likey the person will claim they were never served and demand there day in court.

      There was only $63,600 in attorney fees because that's what they're capped at, per C.D. Cal. Local Rule 55-3 in a default judgment ($5,600 plus 2% of the amount over $100,000; they used the PayPal amount of $3,000,000 (rounded)): http://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/CACD/LocRules.nsf/a224d2a6f8771599882567cc005e9d79/0d9758b2da11901188256dc5005973fd?OpenDocument&Highlight=0,55-3 [uscourts.gov]

      The defendant was served, personally, by a P.I. / process server, who swore an affidavit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by carigis (1878910)
        process servers are a dime a dozen.. they are known to frequently use the throw in the gutter in the front of the house and check the box that the person was served method.. A judge will generally side with the person who did not get to have there case heard if they dispute it and say they do not live at the address an had moved..and the process server "served" the wrong person...or some other lame excuse default judgments are pretty easy to get vacated,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:27AM (#33255404)

    Played on it a long time ago when it was still known as WoWScape. It was the whole reason I actually started playing on retail, me and a good portion of my friends. Blizzard would have lost out on thousands of dollars from me and my friends if it wasn't for them.

    Scapegaming actually was good enough that it got me (Feral druid), my best friend (Rogue), his roommate (Resto shaman), his roommates friends (Enhance shaman), their wife (Arms Warrior), neighbor down the road (Ret Paladin), Another friend (rogue), step brother (Rogue), another friend (Mage), and a few others. WoWScape actually got enough friends playing retail that we could host our own personal raids if we wanted.

    Since then, all of us left. Scapegaming brought Blizzard a lot of business, but The Wrath of the Lich King ran them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I find an old TBC server now. Lasted till just before ICC was released on retail, but I just can't stand it anymore, it just isn't fun. Was fun back in the day raiding Kara, SSC, and the Eye just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted and still able to hold their own. Then 3.0 had to come and ruin it.

    I honestly wonder about how much did Scapegaming make blizzard compared to how much it cost them. Wouldn't be surprised if it did them more good than harm. And don't try and mention the trail accounts on WoW, they capped you at level 10 and a bunch of other stuff, none of my friends were willing to try it like that. Actually downloaded the software off the internet months before we ever thought about registering a retail account.

    • by Derosian (943622) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:59AM (#33255492) Homepage Journal
      "Since then, all of us left. Scapegaming brought Blizzard a lot of business, but The Wrath of the Lich King ran them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I find an old TBC server now. Lasted till just before ICC was released on retail, but I just can't stand it anymore, it just isn't fun. Was fun back in the day raiding Kara, SSC, and the Eye just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted and still able to hold their own. Then 3.0 had to come and ruin it."

      All my friends are leaving WoW. Cataclysm is running them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I don't pay attention to the Cataclysm stuff. It just isn't fun anymore. Was fun back in the day raiding Naxx, Ulduar, and ToC just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted still able to hold their own. Now this Cataclysm is gonna come along and ruin it.

      Or maybe I'm just tired of playing WoW, yeah that could be it...
      • by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @09:34AM (#33256494)
        As the expansions came out the content generally gets more 'accessible'. People who like doing things others can't don't enjoy new expansions as much, casuals enjoy expansions more. Blizzard realized casuals are a bigger group.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @01:20PM (#33257456)

        Nothing wrong with that, I've gotten tired of it several times. Just stop playing it. If you feel like playing again later, come back. It doesn't have to be some epic decision or involve drama, just shut down your account, and if you want turn it back on later. Interest in games can wax and wane, in particular if you've played for a long time.

        Generally the people I see who complain about a new expansion just need a break. Things are going to change and many people don't like change. So they get angry about it, rather than considering if actually it might be fun. Just take a break. Also one problem Blizzard does have for sure given their long expansion cycles and ridiculous gear scaling rates is that there isn't a tons to do before a new expansion comes out. No problem, just stop playing then. Cancel your account and wait until the expansion hits and then reactive. Or don't, if you've found another game you like better.

        It needn't be a big deal.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear lawsuit detected.

  • That's all the headline you need.
  • So does this precedent put other popular private servers for other popular MMORPGs in danger too, like the UOGamers private server of Ultima Online? (http://uogamers.com)

  • Interesting (Score:5, Informative)

    by maroberts (15852) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:19AM (#33255692) Homepage Journal

    Blizzard charge for the client, plus separate subscription fees to hook up to their servers. There is a clear separation of the money you pay for the client, and the money you pay to access Blizzards servers. The client is typically bought or downloaded and therefore once you've bought it you are free to use it as you wish, provided you don't distribute copies.

    In theory, there should be nothing unlawful against hooking up to a different server as there is a clear separation here. The protocol can and has been reverse engineered The only question is whether any of Blizzards proprietary data is held on the server and "distributed" to the clients.

    Presumably, the in-game items are not transferable from a private server to Blizzards server, so no issues there either.

    This judgement was not defended, so the question arises as to whether it would be possible to mount a defence so as to make non-Blizzard servers legitimate?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Golden_Rider (137548)

      Blizzard charge for the client, plus separate subscription fees to hook up to their servers. There is a clear separation of the money you pay for the client, and the money you pay to access Blizzards servers. The client is typically bought or downloaded and therefore once you've bought it you are free to use it as you wish, provided you don't distribute copies.

      In theory, there should be nothing unlawful against hooking up to a different server as there is a clear separation here. The protocol can and has been reverse engineered The only question is whether any of Blizzards proprietary data is held on the server and "distributed" to the clients.

      Presumably, the in-game items are not transferable from a private server to Blizzards server, so no issues there either.

      This judgement was not defended, so the question arises as to whether it would be possible to mount a defence so as to make non-Blizzard servers legitimate?

      The client is free, but when you download it, you agree (license agreement) to only use it to connect to official Blizzard servers. So there is no "I paid for it, I can do whatever I want with it".

      To be honest, I can't really stand all this "private server operators aren't doing anything wrong!" crap anymore. It's just BS. I can understand it for games like Starcraft 1, Diablo 1 and 2 and others which you buy once and then the connection even to the official servers is free. You are doing Blizzard no harm w

    • by Rallion (711805)

      I don't think that's technically how they look at it. It seems more like you pay to set up an account to play on the servers. You can download the whole client for free from Blizzard, even without a WoW subscription.

      Some of the data that the servers use, however, is not in that client. Obviously, all the art and sound assets are included in the client, as is the gameworld's terrain, but most of the actual gameplay-related data is provided by the server.

  • I try to be nice and keep on reporting phishes regarding WoW for weeks now, it has become kinda absurd as they are actually buying domains which contains their trademark and serving phishes for days.

    Look at the live phishes (means, please don't go to them) right now, which are "online".

    http://www.phishtank.com/target_search.php?target_id=88&valid=All&active=y&Search=Search [phishtank.com]

    These are the WoW phishing pages. Some very known hosting companies (not some garage guys) are also being used. I think if Bl

  • Did anyone RTFA? (Score:3, Informative)

    by rickb928 (945187) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @11:58AM (#33257052) Homepage Journal

    It looks like:

    - Alyson never responded to any service, complaint, or judgement. Default. MAYBE Scapegaming gets an appeal of the judgement, but that will require showing that multiple services were deficient. Good luck with that.

    - Blizzard's counsel repeatedly failed. Insufficient service, missed deadlines, one dismissal for failure to prosecute. I think $63k is overpaying them.

    - A judge recused themselves. Interesting, must have had stock or played in their free time...?

    - This has been going on for nearly a year. Seems that Blizzard could have wrapped this up in 3 months had they been diligent.

    Wow. Overall, a good case study in how long you can string out a suit by doing NOTHING. I'm surprised the judge let them reinstate.

    Oh well, expect this to result in no money, siezure, and no more Scapegaming. Alyson will probably change her name, change the server names on the new hoster, and Blizzard will play whack-a-mole chasing her around. Funny.

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