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Judge Rules WoW Bot Violates DMCA 498

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that Blizzard has added another victory in their campaign against World of Warcraft bots. A federal judge has ruled that not only did the Glider bot break the EULA, it can be classified as a circumvention device under the DMCA. "As we've noted before, Blizzard's legal arguments, which Judge David G. Campbell largely accepted, could have far-reaching and troubling implications for the software industry. Donnelly is not the most sympathetic defendant, and some users may cheer the demise of a software vendor that helps users break the rules of Blizzard's wildly popular role playing game. But the sweeping language of Judge Campbell's decision, combined with his equally troubling decision last summer, creates a lot of new uncertainty for software vendors seeking to enter software markets dominated by entrenched incumbents and achieve interoperability with legacy platforms."
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Judge Rules WoW Bot Violates DMCA

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  • by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @05:55PM (#26671877)
    That will allow them to use the same thing to prosecute gold spammers and the like who keep bugging the shit out of WoW players.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:01PM (#26671955) Homepage Journal

    don't install the game you're writing the bot for.

  • Interesting tidbit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:11PM (#26672059) Homepage Journal

    ...he also found that MDY's founder, Michael Donnelly, was personally liable for the actions of his firm.

    Strangely, though, those who perpetrated the recent Mortgage fiasco which resulted in the current recession are not personally responsible for the actions of their firms. I find it strange that CEOs incur personal liability for their firm's actions only when the victim is another corporation.

  • Bot if You Want (Score:2, Interesting)

    by molotovjester ( 1273662 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:19PM (#26672155) Homepage

    In my opinion, You can Bot if you want, but do it on a private server.

    This case isn't about how someone changed the game on a personal server, but how a person's actions unfairly impacted the game play experience for thousands (or millions) others.

    To that extent, enforcing a EULA in a reasonable manner is a different story than enforcing an unreasonable EULA. So those of you worrying about judgments that hinder society and technology should look instead at the recent copyright awarded to apple.

  • by causality ( 777677 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:19PM (#26672167)

    I pay for my movie tickets but that doesn't give me the right to harass others.

    I wish more people felt that way.

    I have multiple reasons why I have rarely or never been inside of a movie theater for the last five years or so, but the inconsiderate actions of the other customers is one of the biggest. I should preface this by saying that I am talking about R-rated movies that do not permit children, so the people I am describing are supposedly adults. From the "restless leg syndrome" individual who won't stop tapping the back of your seat, to the cellphone users who refuse to go outside if they absolutely must take a call, to the fact that I've never seen an establishment that had the balls to eject the small minority who have no respect for everyone else, I feel like they should pay me for the experience, not the other way around. Considering how many other methods there are to enjoy whatever movies I want in an environment that I can control, movie theaters have completely lost their appeal for me.

    It's not really the movie theater and I realize that. It's just that theaters are enclosed environments which demand that you pay attention, and the immature, inconsiderate, ADD, "I'm the only person who exists" chronological adults who are really just overgrown children aren't terribly compatible with that atmosphere. I think these are the same folks who would only care about the immediate convenience of having more gold in WoW and would not care about the principle of never buying anything from a spammer for any reason.

  • by centuren ( 106470 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:39PM (#26672397) Homepage Journal

    It's a really BAD precedent to set, to legally enforce the idea that a software developer can FORCE a customer to use their product only in specific ways they outline.

    Yeah, about that. There are these things called license agreements, they're kind of like contracts, which are a sort of legal instrument, that is maybe, like, thousands of years old.

    If you don't like the license, don't buy the software.

    That makes a lot of sense. However, Blizzard can change the license agreement required to play, and you can't keep playing unless you upgrade to the latest patch and accept the new terms. Since the game is based on accumulative success, do we get reimbursed for what we paid for if the license changes to something we no longer agree with?

    Or, in this hypothetical scenario, perhaps we could use the product we bought months ago on an alternate server to continue to enjoy our purchase.

  • by nschubach ( 922175 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:57PM (#26672619) Journal

    It just tells me they might have a market to allow bot creators an interface for making mob AI! Then the players can fight against the botters according to the game rules and those that want to make game bots can improve the game by offering a challenge to players.

    In order to keep unmanned botting popular, reward the bots for every player killed. If a bot manages to spawn, kill someone, collect a random item on the corpse and make it back to a "home base" then the bot can put the item on the global auction. Otherwise, another player character could kill the bot on the way back to town and claim said item(s) for themselves.

  • Re:Doesn't matter. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @06:58PM (#26672631) Homepage Journal

    But Warden is an anti-cheat measure, not a copy protection measure.

    To this judge, that line isn't so clear. The judge's radical invention (for which he deserves a patent ;-) is this: "dynamic nonliteral elements" (fancy talk for the whole experience of the game, consisting of not just Blizzard's code and Blizzard's game data, but also Blizzard's server responses, and the users' actions) has copyright protection. And since Warden limits access to Blizzard's server's responses, then Warden limits access to the "dynamic nonliteral elements" and bypassing Warden is a DMCA violation.

    The WoW code is copyrighted: reasonable.

    The game data (e.g. graphics and sound) is copyrighted: reasonable.

    The user-generated events are copyrighted (and by Blizzard?): wacked out.

    The server responses are copyrighted: iffy, as they are not creative works (and you don't even want to think about whether those responses are also shaped by the users' collective inputs -- which noncreative but copyrightable work is a derived work of which?).

    The sum of all the previous things run through a function (the Wow code) to become an overall experience, is copyrighted (and by Blizzard): wow!

  • Re:Bot if You Want (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @07:14PM (#26672839) Homepage

    Actually it's fairly easy for them to find the users that're using WoWGlider. But it's unattractive from a PR and subscriptions standpoint to kick their own paying users off. They'd rather kill Glider without having to target their own users, hence the convoluted arguments and tortured logic to try and find some way of doing that.

    IMO they should have gone after him on other grounds. Every WoW subscriber has to agree to the EULA to access the servers. The only purpose of WoWGlider is to break that EULA, and the Glider's author knows it. I'm fairly sure Blizzard could easily come up with advertising from that author touting those violations as reasons to buy Glider. And I'm fairly sure that inducing a breach of contract is a tort with legal liability attached. That would fit the facts better than the tortured appeal to the DMCA does.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @07:22PM (#26672923)

    How is this a problem? If someone wants to let a machine play the game for them, who cares? Also, sounds like the game itself sort of sucks. If you can successfully create a program to play the game... the game can't be that interesting. Games with "grind" suck.

  • by Sparr0 ( 451780 ) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Friday January 30, 2009 @07:30PM (#26673025) Homepage Journal

    Blame that on Blizzard. A single employee could monitor, detect, and ban thousands of gold spammers in a single day. Making a million subscribers' days less spammy is not worth $15k/yr to Blizzard.

  • The hilarious part (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thebroken ( 761356 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @07:31PM (#26673041) Journal
    The hilarious part is that this will do nothing for the hardcore botters and gold farming/char leveling firms. The WoW hacking community is quite large, and detailed information is available freely on the internet about many of its mechanisms. This has led to the creation of countless private bots that are not released for mass consumption like Glider, and hardcore firms usually end up using such bots (which, by the way, run below the radar of Blizz counter-measures like Warden). Go Google it yourself. Creating such a bot is not difficult for a good programmer.They are often not nearly as sophisticated as Glider, but they don't need to be since they're customized from the ground up for the firms on demands (and lack a lot of options that Glider has, but again this doesn't matter as these private bots aren't released for the masses). So a small victory for Blizzard in the end imo. This won't change any of WoW's messed up economy on some servers, nor will it even remotely make a dent in the farming/power-leveling community.
  • by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @07:36PM (#26673107)

    > So Blizzard shouldn't be able to set the terms of use for a _service_ they provide?

    They have every right to. The problem with these cases is just how obscenely far the laws are being stretched. It's setting precedents that could potentially have devastating consequences.

    If Blizzard says "thou shall now use a bot", then fine. If a person uses a bot then they have violated Blizzard's terms of service, allowing Blizzard to do what the terms allow. This usually means disconnecting them, but could, in principal, include a fine of $1 million. (Of course, if that were the case they'd almost certainly require a notarized signature, not just a "I Agree" checkbox.)

    In this case, Blizzard was unable to detect Glider, and was therefore unable to take recourse against it's users. That's where the road should end. They should either update their cheat detection or give up.

    HOWEVER, they went to the courts. They said that because Glider breaks their ToS, the _company_ should be held liable. And because the ToS/EULA is broken, the copying of the program into RAM to operate is a violation of copyright. AND that the people behind Glider should be held responsible for this infringement. They won. As a result, we have the precedents:
    1) Copying a program into RAM is not fair use.
    2) A company can be held liable if someone breaches a contract with your product.

    And now, we get the following:
    3) A program which reads/interoperates a with another outside the ToS/EULA is considered a DMCA circumvention device, and the author is _CRIMINALLY_ liable.

    All three of these rulings are beyond ridiculous. This one, however, takes the cake as now it's a criminal offense. It's essentially saying that writing an unauthorized plugin, addon, or even operating system can get you thrown in jail.

    To highlight:
        Windows Vista Home (or any that aren't Ultimate) state in their EULA that they may not be run under a VM. If I were to install it under VMWare server, by these points above, VMWare could be sued out of business and the CEO should go to jail.

    Thanks, Blizzard.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:06PM (#26673381)

    So Blizzard shouldn't be able to set the terms of use for a _service_ they provide?

    Just think how viable xbox live would be if MS couldn't stop people from running hacks and mods.

    And I'm sure everyone sitting in a queue waiting to get on their primary server will just love you and your afkave bot.

    HELLO. READ.... This isn't about weather or not it is right for Blizzard to Ban Bots, or weather or not a EULA should be held up in law.

    THE Judge just ruled that under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act WOW Glider was illegally circumventing copyright protection. HOWEVER much like the fact that blizzard doesn't have a trademark for the term "WOW" Blizzard also does not have any copy prevention. He has expanded an already outrageous protection that has been abused to no end to the point that even your run of the mill anti virus software is technically offending.

    The Judge also ruled that MDY Industries is responsible for upholding a not necessarily legal document (EULA) even though they do not use the software for which the EULA applies.

    Whats more is that this gives credence to the idea that Blizzard's EULA is a legally binding document. Something I don't support. WHY? BECAUSE IT CHANGES. You are forced to continue to support the EULA through whatever changes it has without any possibility of getting anything back once the first eula was accepted. You don't get back the money for the game, the money for the expansion, and certainly no the time invested in your "OTHER LIFE".

  • by Walkingshark ( 711886 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:08PM (#26673397) Homepage

    Once there's precedent it affects everyone, not just WOW players or gold farmers.

    This really depends on what court made the decision. Usually appelate decisions have more weight. If this guy appeals it up to a US district court or (shudder) the US Supreme court, it could have a wide ranging impact. Otherwise, it's just going to put Glider out of buisiness.

  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:12PM (#26673431)

    The terms of service are not laws and should not have the equivalent weight in the real world of laws.

  • by ushering05401 ( 1086795 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @08:24PM (#26673529) Journal

    Not being a WoW player I just have to ask.. If a guild did the same thing without using a bot program would the game mods punish them?

    Is the only thing defending the integrity of the WoW game-play model the fact that Blizzard don't think anyone will take the time or effort to break it in person?

  • Re:Doesn't matter. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alyred ( 667815 ) on Friday January 30, 2009 @09:35PM (#26673985)

    The user-generated events are copyrighted (and by Blizzard?): wacked out.

    I read through the legal briefing. While the line isn't clear on the "user experience" portion being copyrightable, I think that it mainly was alluding to the things that the server generates to interact with the players: Things such as gold amount given/collected, items dropped by monsters, etc. This was one of Blizzard's points in the claim (specifically); whether that will hold up in court as a "copyrightable" element remains to be seen by the 9th circuit court, apparently.

    It might be along the lines of corporate logos: you can't copyright a few squares, but you CAN copyright the arrangement and colors of those squares. Blizzard wasn't contesting access to the material on a hard drive (they were at first, but then dropped that claim). The claim is that Glider circumvented Warden, which allowed or disallowed access to the copyrighted arrangements of objects in the virtual world based on data passed between warden and the servers. The briefing was pretty specific on this part.

  • Re:Doesn't matter. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tuoqui ( 1091447 ) on Saturday January 31, 2009 @07:13AM (#26676095) Journal

    The server responses are copyrighted: iffy, as they are not creative works (and you don't even want to think about whether those responses are also shaped by the users' collective inputs -- which noncreative but copyrightable work is a derived work of which?).

    Actually you could say that as a result of the copyrighted code that the resultant output is copyrighted as well as the output is the primary function of the code. The initial creation of the code is a creative (debatable, but we'll go with what the courts have been ruling for lately) work.

  • by JTorres176 ( 842422 ) on Saturday January 31, 2009 @11:38AM (#26677335) Homepage

    Well, in WoW, you need a lot of gold to buy things like very fast mounts, land and air mounts. It takes months of farming and doing quests, or you can have a bot play for you 8 hours a day while you sleep.

    For the people who can only play 2 or 3 hours a day at most, having your computer play for an additional 8 hours would be a huge help. Instead of farming, I spent most of my time in auction halls trying to buy low and sell high, but that really cut into the couple hours of play time I could put in every day.

    WoW isn't a friendly game to the casual player. You're either addicted and play 10 hours a day, or you don't get far very quickly.

    I'll just use fishing as an example.
    30 second average to catch a fish
    0-50 points in fishing, you get one per fish caught.
    50-125 you get one per three fish caught
    125 -250 you get one per five fish caught
    250 - 375 you get one per ten fish caught

    50 x 30 seconds = 25 minutes
    75 x 30 sec x 3 avg = 112.5
    75 x 30 sec x 5 avg = 187.5
    125 x 30 sec x 10 avg = 625
    950 minutes / 60 = 15.8 hours of fishing to level it.

    So, on top of the regular playing that you do, you'd need to fish for 16 solid hours (not counting breaks or sleeping) in order to get it to max level... or what used to be when I was playing.

    So, you can spend 2 nights of letting a bot fish while you sleep, or take 8 solid days of your play time leveling (grinding) something so you can get a higher level at it.

    I'm sure my math is off, but you get the point.

  • by hdon ( 1104251 ) on Saturday January 31, 2009 @02:32PM (#26678689)

    Am I the only one who is pretty disgusted at the trend of games where the primary skill function is just how much time your character spends doing stuff?

    Go play a FPS and you'll find autoaim bots, wallhacks, and other assorted cheating tools. Corner a cheater and they'll complain about how they have a "real life" and can't spend all their time playing the game to get the skills to compete with other players. This is simply more of the same.

    You seem to have mistaken my complaint to be one about cheaters. It isn't.

    There are thousands of folks who want instant gratification. Twitch monkeys who can't stand not being at the top of whatever hill they see but don't want to invest the time it takes to get there (nevermind that being at the top of the hill doesn't HAVE to be the point of a lot of these games). So they go for the short-cut.

    I think that's precisely what I find so wrong with games that reward sacrificed time rather than enhancing aptitudes. Because those "twitch monkeys" aren't at the top of any hill, are they? The gratification they get doesn't come from being the best, so what is it? Do they just like putting virtual bullets into virtual heads controlled by other players?

    IMO this isn't healthy, and parallels games that reward time sacrifice: what exactly do these players enjoy doing? It isn't getting better at something, or being the best, because they aren't getting better or becoming the best, their characters are. I think if you set aside the morals and/or social contracts that affect how people feel about cheating, the role of cheat software to a cheater is identical to the role of the items/spells/powers your characters can accumulate: advancing your in-game advantage without advancing your own aptitudes.

    It seems to me that games like World of Warcraft and Pokemon have stumbled onto something that Final Fantasy was only beginning to uncover in the 1990s. People crave foraging for items, hunting, exhausting supplies of hiding places for things to collect and hunt, and upgrading their tools. Seems to me like this taps into some very deep-seated primal instincts that are very useful if you do not live in the first world (although I'd bet plenty of the monkeys on wall street eye their investment portfolios with a similar fascination that MMORPG players consider their characters.)

    Yeah, treadmills and grinds aren't for everyone. But that doesn't mean you get to ditch the rules because they're inconvenient for you. Play the game... or don't play at all.

    As it seems ambiguous, I'll make it clear: I was advocating the latter option: Don't play at all. Games that make wasting your time part of the experience are ridiculous. Real life contains enough of that.

  • by SL Baur ( 19540 ) <steve@xemacs.org> on Saturday January 31, 2009 @02:52PM (#26678825) Homepage Journal

    Does anyone else on a raid with you know whether you botted or whether you manually clicked your way to high rating for fishing or killing large numbers of low level mobs?

    I used those specific examples because they were being used to justify botting.

    Then why are *you* so affected by what others do that you cannot know or detect?

    Because I've obtained the skills to fish (and cook the fish) under the rules and I have to compete in the AH with those who have not.

    The achievement system actually works quite well for some of this. Those who have achieved their levels by powerleveling through instances are easily identified. Ebayers betray themselves.

    The first time I *knew* I was confronting bots was when I was trying to obtain some Felcloth to make Mooncloth bags. The area was being farmed by two hordies. No problem, I can wait for my turn. Over the next three days I came back at as many different times of the day as I could manage with a work & family schedule and the same two characters were there killing everything. So I had to give up and move on.

    Yes, it *can* be detected and it *does* affect people. Botting is griefing, not playing the game.

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