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The Almighty Buck The Courts Games

Blizzard Sues Private Server Company, Awarded $88M 356

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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  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:06AM (#33255324)

    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 caught/convicted?! What's the financial equivalent of a Darwin Award? The Lehman Award?

  • 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.

  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <[moc.liamtoh] [ta] [eilrigyag]> on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:22AM (#33255392) Homepage

    Was the private server just duplicating the game's protocol, or was the game world actually duplicated?

    Yes, they were using actual WoW data files, including player and enemy models, sound effects and all that. That is clearly infringing on copyrighted material.

    Duplicating a protocol though is not wrong or illegal; it's not a file or bunch of data that could be copied and re-used. A protocol is a set of rules as to how to pass data along and thus anyone is free to implement an application or library that does pass data along following those rules. It'd be different if the protocol was patented but I doubt Blizzard has patented it; it's used only for WoW and it's not even efficient. They'd just not make money with it even if they published all the protocol details openly.

    I hope this answers your question.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:41AM (#33255444)

    What I'm amazed is they got the server software in the first place. I guess the client software can be reversed engineered to point the client to the private server, but getting the inhouse server software is gotta be tough thing to do?

    WoW server emulators have been around for years. The guy built nothing, he was most likely using an open source software like Mangos.

    Actually, in short, this guy made 3 millions while doing no work at all. He was using blizzard's and mango's work,
    His only benefit is that he managed to market it. Much like Apple. They steal and sell crap, but marketing is the key to become rich.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @02:51AM (#33255470)

    Actually, back then, the beta server software was released and the Mangos and other people reverse engineered that and all.

    But none of that actually included the scripts to how things actually ran. All the instances and mobs AIs and all they, they had to redo themselves as do all the newer private servers that are out. That is why most private servers have brain dead instances where everything is just tank and spank and even the caster mobs will sit there and try and whack you with their staff instead of actually trying to cast.

    Scapegaming was just the first one to actually get big enough to get noticed by them back in the day. And to be honest, they were already on their way out a long time before this, the operator actually got greedy and tried screwing over thoughs helping her and tried throwing in all this extra gear for cash that couldn't be matched in game and players just left after that point. Don't mind players paying to get level ups or decent gear, but when they can pay for something that can not be matched, the server typically isn't one worth playing for most people.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 15, 2010 @03:15AM (#33255536)
    Npe. It's not punitive damages. It's statutory damages. There's a difference.
  • 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.

  • 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:Blizzard? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vaphell ( 1489021 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:25AM (#33255706)

    look what they did to the custom map scene. They created that incredibly powerful editor that dwarfs anything that was done before but they pretty much killed it with ridiculous restrictions. Warcraft 3 thrived on map making, i suspect that half the people owning wc3 never bothered to play ladder matches.

    http://eu.battle.net/sc2/en/forum/ [battle.net]
    look at popular topics section:
    - Allow authors to cross-realm publish
    yup, people can't publish their maps globally, they do it on their server only

    - A short rant on SC2 and general censorship
    list of censored words is very long and includes such words as suicide - if by any chance you want to write 'banelings suicide attack' somewhere in your map or words like bullshit that can be found in the single player, the map can be even banned. No idea if the words that are filtered out in other places like black, white trans(port), (g)rape cause problems but i think they do

    - Want "Custom Game"? Go back to WC3 or SC1.
    says all - despite primitive editors you enjoy more fun and freedom in the realm of custom games. You have the control over the rules and players that join and you, also you can name your game to broadcast rules (people playing dota add a lot of codes to the game name so people know what they join) or desired skill level. People have none of that in sc2 and maps are sorted by populatity (self perpetuating scheme, new maps can't get high enough to get noticed by more than a handful of people, good luck autofilling all player slots in a reasonable time)

    - The new Custom Game system? (What is wrong with it)
    other problems - without lan developing multiplayer scenarios is a chore after all debugging is all about running a map, finding a problem, trying to fix it, running a map again, wash rinse repeat. To do that you need to use bnet which adds considerable amount of time to the development process, testing from the editor level is not sufficient in all but the simpliest cases

    - The Real Problem with Custom Maps

    5 out of 10 most popular threads on the forum touch mapmaking/publishing alone. It shows how messed up it became thanks to the control freaks in actiblizz

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by Golden_Rider ( 137548 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @04:31AM (#33255730)

    Really? |I'm not sure what the hosting company did wrong.

    I can't see what they "copied". They provided an alternative service for people who legitimately bought copies of WoW. Disallowing use of private servers sounds like Microsoft disallowing difference search engines for Internet Explorer.

    Nope, they provided a service for everybody, even people who never ever bought WoW. You can download the client from Blizzard's ftp site - what you need to play on Blizzard's servers is an account. So what the hosting company did was allow people to play WoW without ever having paid Blizzard for the game, and they even made money out of it.

  • 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.
  • Re:Blizzard? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @05:03AM (#33255816)

    The bnetd developers had the game, which they reverse engineered, which meant they had agreed to the EULA which prohibits reverse engineering.

    According to the court's summary judgement, the developers were bound by the EULA, which they were in breach of.

    The developer's argued that "CD Keys" are not an anti-piracy measure, and 'battle.net' was not a valid trademark. Probably these arguments were a bit reaching... if CD Keys are not an anti-piracy measure, then what is their purpose?

    On appeal... BNETD was ruled a circumvention tool based on Blizzard's argument.

    Developers argued EULA is overriden by the DMCA interoperability exception.

    They failed to convince the court of the applicability of the exception to their situation.

  • Re:Anonymous Coward (Score:3, Informative)

    by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @05:27AM (#33255902)

    I don't know (or care) about the details and whether this the claims are a stretch.

    But assuming she is guilty as claimed then the damages better be more than the $3 mil brought in. Otherwise it's not a deterent, especially considering you won't always get caught.

  • Re:Blizzard? (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShakaUVM ( 157947 ) on Sunday August 15, 2010 @06:14AM (#33256034) Homepage Journal

    I was in ACM at UCSD with Mark Baysinger. If he made Bnetd because of how hard it was to connect when at our LAN parties, it had a fully legitimate purpose.

    His only real failure was not having a couple million lying around in his pocket to counter Blizzard's lawyers.

    Silly, poor college students.

  • 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.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.