Posted on June 4, 2010, Ron Whitaker Blizzard and Glider Return to Court Monday
Back in January of 2009, Blizzard won a court case against MDY, the makers of the Glider ‘bot’ that players can use to automate gameplay in World of Warcraft. Not only did the judge award Blizzard summary judgment on several issues, he also held that MDY’s founder, Michael Donnelly, was personally liable for the actions his company took.
There’s been a lot of talk concerning that ruling, and the repercussions it has for future cases if Blizzard is successful. Not being a lawyer, I won’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the judgment, I’ll just point you to Ars Technica so you can see what went on there.
I can hear you now. “So what if Blizzard gets sued? They have tons of money!” Well apparently, this lawsuit could have a very lasting effect on how games are played, marketed, and run online for a long time after this case ends.
Monday marks the return of this case to a courtroom, as MDY’s appeal is being heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. This impact of this case could be felt all over the software world, and not just in gaming. As Tim Lee notes in the Ars article referenced above,
Blizzard argued, and Judge Campbell agreed, that when users violated the World of Warcraft EULA, they no longer had a license to play the game and were therefore guilty of copyright infringement. As Siy noted in a blog post last year, Blizzard’s theory, if taken literally, would mean that violating any of the rules in the EULA and Terms of Service, such as choosing a screen name that didn’t meet Blizzard’s guidelines, would be an act of copyright infringement. And distributing software that helps users infringe copyright itself constitutes secondary copyright infringement, which could expose MDY to copyright law’s draconian “statutory damages” of $150,000 per act of infringement. The law gives aggrieved parties to contract disputes much less potent powers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is also opposed to the ruling made in Blizzard’s favor, and they have posted a lengthy discourse describing why on their site. Basically, this case will determine the enforceability of all those EULAs that you just click through without reading, and whether or not you own the program you purchased, or just a license to use it.
I know legal proceedings can be as boring as watching paint dry, but the implications this particular case has for the gaming industry mean it is definitely one to watch come Monday.