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Real Time Strategy (Games) Role Playing (Games) Games

Blizzard Won't Stop World of StarCraft Mod 129

On Wednesday we discussed news of an impressive-looking mod for StarCraft II that transformed the game into a WoW lookalike, which quickly drew a copyright infringement warning from Activision Blizzard. The company has now released an official statement green-lighting the mod for continued development. "'It was never our intention to stop development on the mod or discourage the community from expressing their creativity through the StarCraft II editor,' Blizzard said in a statement. 'As always, we actively encourage development of custom maps and mods for StarCraft II, as we've done with our strategy games in the past.' Blizzard went on the say that it's looking forward to seeing development of the mod continue, and that it has invited Winzen to the company's campus to meet the game's development team."
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Blizzard Won't Stop World of StarCraft Mod

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  • So basically... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kokuyo ( 549451 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:30AM (#34949714) Journal

    Blizzard first gets you intimidated by their figurative muscle, before the Don walks up to you, making you an offer you can't refuse?

    • Re:So basically... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MartijnL ( 785261 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:37AM (#34949750)

      Blizzard first gets you intimidated by their figurative muscle, before the Don walks up to you, making you an offer you can't refuse?

      Basically Activision Legal fires off the first shot before people with real brains realize the potential for something like this. The people with the brains probably did not know this existed before the C&D became news.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Still wrong. The C&D was only ever over trademark issues, not over the mod itself. Which should be bloody obvious if anyone on the internet would stop long enough to read or think things through before making up conclusions.

      • by Kokuyo ( 549451 )

        One would think they'd kick their legal teams in the balls for that one. Would it have been so hard to point this out to the developers before hitting that big, red C&D button? Marketing should have a field day kicking them in the 'nads right about now.

        At least, if they do their jobs.

        This is not a Chinese company selling pirated copies or anything, but a community member using Blizzard tools to create content. How that would ever warrant a C&D is beyond me and I have a hard time believing their lega

        • Re:So basically... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @07:40AM (#34950636)

          This is not a Chinese company selling pirated copies or anything, but a community member using Blizzard tools to create content. How that would ever warrant a C&D is beyond me and I have a hard time believing their legal monkeys don't know that difference.

          Trademarks must be vigorously defended in the United States or you risk losing them. Not copyright, copyright you retain regardless of your desire to use it.

          In this way, Trademarks are actually a bit more sane as they require the company to invest a little bit of effort and time in order to maintain them. Let it sit on a shelf, or be neglectful and you lose your right to it if someone else starts extracting some value from the item. It is this way because you can Trademark some seemingly generic terms and keeps people from just trademarking everything in the dictionary (for what, $200 registration?) and then suing everyone.

          So, back to Activision.

          They own trademarks on Starcraft, and World of Warcraft. Someone comes along and makes a game called World of Starcraft. A mashup of two trademarks which is built on products sold by the company that owns the aforementioned trademarks.

          It is incredibly easy to imagine that if a person were to come across this mod or its website that someone would consider the connection between the brand Starcraft, and the brand Warcraft. In fact, that WAS the literal intention of the creator of this mod. His goal in choosing the name was to link Starcraft, and World of Warcraft.

          So, in this legal system where you have to vigorously defend your trademark or lose it. You have someone which clearly used two trademarked names in the promotion of his product. If the lawyers DIDN'T respond to this they wouldn't be doing their jobs.

          Now, perhaps they could have been a bit more clear in their C&D, but that would open them up to liability. How you ask? What if they said:

          "Stop using these trademarked terms until you get permission to use them"

          A hell of a lot nicer yes? Except that it could imply that they might be granted permission. If they go through the hassle of trying to request permission, only to find that there is some policy in place that prohibits granting permission to use the trademarks to entities such as themselves then they may have grounds, however slim, to suggest that Activision was simply dicking them around and wasting their time/money. Waste someone's time and money like that and you have the potential for a lawsuit.

          So, A Cease and Desist letter is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect when using trademarks in an unauthorized fashion.

          Had they called their mod "Our New MMO" and they received a Cease and Desist, I'd consider it outrageous, but as it is, they should have expected one.

          • All of that would make sense except for the tiny fact that this was a modification of Starcraft (hence, naming it anything with Starcraft in the title is hardly diluting the trademark, and needs no defending). It was also being made with Starcraft editing tools, and could only be used within the Starcraft game, on the Starcraft multi-player service, owned by Blizzard. The only one of your statements that might have any weight is "World of", but many things have "World of" in the title (Worlds of

      • Re:So basically... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:58AM (#34949840)
        I think more than being concerned about the game mod per se, they were really mostly concerned about a semi-viable product using Starcraft in its name. In other words, more trademark concerns than copyright.
        • Re:So basically... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by somersault ( 912633 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @07:12AM (#34950478) Homepage Journal

          I think more than being concerned about the game mod per se, they were really mostly concerned about a semi-viable product using Starcraft in its name.

          Yeah, a Starcraft mod with Starcraft in the name is a dangerous thing that should be stricken down with no mercy.

          Seems it's more the "World of" bit that's the issue here.

          • Kind of like how canonical asks that people not use the -buntu suffix on non-official remixes of their distro? Seems kind of reasonable to me.

            • It's not a distro though, it's a mod for a game. It would be like the makers of Lego getting annoyed at someone for calling a boat they made a "lego boat"..

          • Yes because 2D Boy would be very upset.

            I think these trademark fights are retarded.

            If I want to make a product called "Smoka-Bowla" I shouldn't have to worried about getting sued by Coke.

            For those trying to actually knock off a product yes, I can see the use. So no if I am creating a soft drink, that is a cola, that uses a red and white label that also have a similar logo swoosh as coke AND I want to call my self "Soka-Cola", then yes perhaps they might have a point. Simply having a name or a phrase however

            • Hehehe.. smoka-bowla.. perhaps when it's legal.

              In revision to my previous comment, after reading a couple of articles it seems that it's the actual recreation of World Of Warcraft content that's pissing them off, not even the name (though it certainly didn't help the project to stay off of their radar).

      • by Dan B. ( 20610 )

        I'd say you are pretty spot on with that train of thought. Like many big corporates, the overlords are so disconnected from the worker bees and other talent that they don't even know where or what they sell.

        It mist have been someone like Morheim that went in to the top brass and slammed the 'bad press' in their face resulting in the official turn around, plus the bonus "show of good faith" with the invite to Irvine.

        • Not to mention pointing out that the mod is for one of their own games, and if anything is just going to make them more money.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      I'm guessing the muscle-flexing is just a way of saying "Hey, we're okay with you using some of our IP for your mod, but don't try to make a profit out of it or we'll come after you".

    • No, dumbass, They were protecting their trade marks, World of Warcraft and Starcraft. If one does not defend one's trademark, one loses exclusive use of the trademark. Don't believe me? Try asking any of the companies that have lost trademarks [] Kleenex about it.

      Now, STFU about shit you are ignorant about.
      • Kleenex still has their trademark, according to your source. If you're going to be hostile and condescending, you should probably have your facts straight... :/
        • Kleenex has spent millions of dollars KEEPING their trademark by suing people trying to use their trademark.

          As it is, part of my post is missing, the line should read "Try asking any of the companies that have lost trademarks or Xerox or Kleenex about it. "
  • by senorpoco ( 1396603 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:45AM (#34949776)
    I know that I always preface an invitation to dinner with a petty lawsuit. It gives us something to talk about if the conversation runs dry.
  • The official response comes one day after the company had video of the mod removed from YouTube, a move the company says was part of its routine procedure while reaching out to "discuss with the developer what the mod entailed."

    If this is how they reach out to discuss things, I think I'd just rather have left the things unsaid.

  • This mod got a lot of publicity and the modder(s) will probably find a job pretty easily in the gaming industry.

    In the meantime, a representative from League of Legends developer Riot Games has reportedly reached out to Winzen to speak "about potentially working for Riotgames [sic]."
    • by Seumas ( 6865 )

      The modder should tell them to fuck off and cease development on the project.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why? Because you're all whiny and pissed off? He's getting the chance to schmooze with folks, make connections, and probably had personal contact with the people involved, not just second and third-hand reports.

        Nothing bad happened to him, no great injustice was performed, simply a case of legal business being worked out.

        This is no different than say the FSF working with some company over GPL compliance. The sensible course is not to get worked up, but to properly handle affairs with restraint.

        • I heard once that the end of the universe will be predicated by the appearance of a rational AC who puts forth a reasonable argument.

          ...oh, shit! THE END IS NIGH!

          But seriously dude, get a /. handle. Need more like you 'round these parts.
  • Full Statement (Score:5, Informative)

    by pgn674 ( 995941 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @05:08AM (#34949878) Homepage
    Here is the full statement from Blizzard: - Blizzard Responds To World Of StarCraft Mod []
    • I can see that Blizzard may have some concerns about the title of the project, but this seems a shitty way of opening negotiations.

      It would have been easier to contact the developers saying that you have such concerns, and can you discuss them before the legal department sends out the nastygrams.

      • They are legally required to respond in such a way. An entity was using their trademark in a non-authorized manner. Anything less than a cease and desist could be used by other entities as a claim that Activision was not vigorously defending their trademarks and therefore, that Activision loses the right to the World of... and possibly Starcraft trademarks.

        You think any company would dare risk losing the World of ...craft trademark at this point?

        • They're not legally required to act in this way.

          As long as they take action with respect to protecting their trademarks, they are defending it; it was perfectly within their remit to open talks on a less formal basis before the heavy handed approach.

    • They should have added the word "sorry" somewhere. That would have made it a lot better...
    • I noticed they didn't mention or apologize for the cease and desist letter.
  • blizzard did not want the title "World of Starcraft" be associated with a product they dont have a real influence in. why should they allow such a title and then realize in 5-10 years that they want to make a new mmorpg with the same title but google searches will return links to the old sc2 mod. it's about trademark and not copyrights.
  • That the mod has to change name to avoid infringing on some trademark? Change art assets to avoid WoW infringement?

    I mean, they never withdrew what they said first, just that they like development to continue.

    If they mean that it's OK to use WoW art and music as public domain assets, that'd be news and unique for coming from Blizzard.

    • The "World of Starcraft" mod for Starcraft II used only Starcraft assets, not WoW assets. At least, from the videos I've seen and from what I've read. I think you're confused?
    • by RichM ( 754883 )
      I once asked Wowhead, probably the biggest WoW-related website out there, about Blizzard's policy on using in-game art on a site that I was building. They replied with the following:

      Blizzard allows use of the icons as long as you're not trying to charge people to view them or reuse them for their own purposes.

      Brielle "Miyari" Bullard
      Content + Community Manager

  • Bad strategy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @05:31AM (#34949996)

    Okay, this is very simple. Blizzard, your process is messed up. If you're looking at mods as being possibly infringing, you should have a customer liason to handle that. Hell, someone whose job description is working with the modder community. When dealing with competing companies, legal notices are routine. When you're dealing with your own loyal customers, and they happen to be stepping on your toes, the first people they hear from should not be your lawyers.

    Sample response:

    "Hey, this is Anaximander from the Starcraft II community support team at Blizzard. I saw your video on YouTube for the mod you're calling World of Starcraft. It looks pretty sweet, I've been showing it around the office. Great job, guys, can't wait to play it.

    Unfortunately, there's a problem with the name you're using. Essentially, while the mod itself is fine, we don't want other people using the name World of Starcraft. (Can't speak on whether we're working on one of our own.) We'd like to ask that you change the name of your mod before continuing to distribute it. We're also asking that you remove the current YouTube video that advertises under the name World of Starcraft, until you guys can get it changed to something else. (I'd suggest something, but I'm terrible at picking names.)

    Please understand that we value the work that you've done, and that we think mods like yours are one of the best things about things about the Starcraft II community. We'd like to work with the community, which is why you're hearing from me right now instead of our lawyers.

    If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at:"

    If they're blatantly infringing on your trademarks and saying, "neener neener neener," or if they're dragging their heels, then a formal C&D is in order. But it seems like if Blizzard had gone through that process, this wouldn't be a story at all.

    • by bbqsrc ( 1441981 )
      Looks like someone is looking for a PR job, haha. But yes, a solid point.

      It seems likely though they'd still have to send the C&D for the trademark infringement, as far as my meager understanding of trademark defense requirements goes, so it wouldn't hurt to conclude with "Please see attached legal jargon that explains what I just said, and have a nice day."
      • by brkello ( 642429 )

        I don't think he would be hired. The marketing that this has caused far outweighs any possible PR benefits by keeping this quiet.

    • Re:Bad strategy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @06:08AM (#34950162)

      Except it's cheaper and possibly even better in the long run for their reputation to do things the quick and easy way and then fix their mistakes.

      Fire out the C&D letters without spending time & money to investigate - cheap. If one of the C&Ds generates a bit of bad PR, THEN quickly move to respond, showing that you listen, can admit mistakes, and fix 'em. Look at this thread - everyone's pointing out that it was probably the legal department that screwed up and giving kudos to Blizzard's dev team for making things good. Overall that's a huge net win for the entire organization: the lawyers look bad (who cares?) while the people who make the content look great.

      • You know, you're probably right, unfortunately.

        Maybe it's not all bad. Plenty of organizations sic their lawyers on people like sadistic hellhounds, and then don't turn around when it turns out to be bad PR. Maybe it's grats to Blizzard for their response. On the other hand, maybe we've all just come to have extremely low standards for corporate civility.

      • Which is precisely why my first response to this was "Well, that's nice, but you still took a shoot-first-ask-questions-later mentality in the first place." If this is "standard procedure", then what they should be doing is apologizing for the procedure in the first place and changing that.
      • by C0R1D4N ( 970153 )
        I guarantee it costs a lot more for those lawyers to 'draft up a C&D' (despite them probably being rather generic templates with form fields) then it does to hire on one of your volunteer guides or promote a CSR guy to working with the mod community for a whopping 30k/year
        • I guarantee it costs a lot more for those lawyers to 'draft up a C&D' (despite them probably being rather generic templates with form fields) then it does to [...anything else...]

          Not if the lawyer is a salaried employee of the company. I imagine Activision is big enough to have someone already available to do this sort of thing.

      • The adage you're looking for is: "It's always easier to apologise than to ask permission."

        If noone catches you for not asking permission, then you're free and clear; but if someone does catch you, it's a second opportunity to look good and you've saved all the time from asking permission for all the times you weren't caught.

    • Yeah, I agree.

      It was never our intention to stop development on the mod or discourage the community from expressing their creativity through the StarCraft II editor

      If they don't think sending a C&D before asking for something as simple as a name change is not discouraging, then they are sociopaths.

    • Re:Bad strategy (Score:5, Insightful)

      by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday January 21, 2011 @09:29AM (#34951338) Journal

      Well, the problem is that when you start to talk about issues like this, the people you're getting advice from have a vested interest in the answer.

      Basically, lawyers have every selfish reason to counsel against civility and reasonableness.

      Most likely someone waved this 'cool new mod they heard about' in front of the CEO.
      CEO said that IS cool, but isn't the name a little close - if we don't defend it, we lose the ability to defend it later.
      (Calls the company lawyer for advice)
      Lawyer: oh you can't accept that (paints horrific gloom and doom scenario where this mod ends up with the world tearing Blizzard to shreds), CEO thinking of his own fat paycheck reluctantly asks someone to please just take care of it.
      Lawyer, who knows he gets billable hours for every second he spends drafting the letter, agrees.
      *for purposes of illustration we're assuming everyone here is basically decent and not a cynical greedy pig; well, except the lawyer because that would just be totally unbelievable.

    • by brkello ( 642429 )

      And if there wasn't a story then Blizzard wouldn't be in the news. If there wasn't a story the modder wouldn't be in the news. It is pretty much a win for everyone involved for this to be news.

  • @Blizz in this case. Someone made an error, it got corrected. The one involved gets invited to meet the real dev-team. Seems pretty nice to me.
  • If only bnetd got this civility, perhaps there might be some redeeming quality to that company.

  • Isn't that kinda the meaning behind CEASE and DESIST?

  • He's invited to meet their developers? He should be careful. The blizzard armed guards might confuse him with the ones working in the sweat shop and he won't get to go home.

  • In traditional /. fashion, I didn't RTFA, but I'm seeing a gross inaccuracy in almost all posts around here: Blizzard did not send a cease & desist, the guy received a DMCA takedown notice. Those could've been issued by anybody, though Blizzard's response seems to indicate it was them (be it Activision or Blizzard) after all. A C&D is a much more heavy-handed response than a DMCA takedown.

    What I am really curious about is whether Blizzard's decision to invite the guy for a tour of their office has a

  • Anyone have the website for this mod developer? I've tried looking, but all the search engines are chocked full of the news stories and none seem to link to his mod development site.
  • but there's nothing about letting him keep the name. I guess it doesn't matter, but I would be surprised if it was released as WoSC. ...and I'd have to side with blizz on that.

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