Friday, May 31, 2013

True power of the gaming companies

We all consider the Internet a safe place. You can pick any identity you want, hide behind as many VPNs as possible, but how safe are you really? For every two virtual steps you make online, there is some End User Licence Agreement (EULA) or Terms of Use (TOU) you have to agree with in order to keep "walking". Now, we all know violating these can get you suspended, banned, or you could completely lose the account. But, that's not all.

Back in 2008, Blizzard field a lawsuit U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona against MDY Industries for violating their TOU and EULA. If that wasn't enough, they threw in a copyright violation. Now, anyone with the right mind doesn't see that violation here. If you install Skype, agree to it's terms, and then proceed to building a plugin for it, nobody will sue you. No matter what the plugin does. You spend your time, money and resources to build something on top of an existing platform, there must not be any copyright violations here, otherwise, no software in the world would ever get a community improvement. In the specified case, MDY Industries built a bot called Glider, which allowed users to play the game without playing the game. 

Here are the seven claims Blizzard made about MDY's software:
  • tortuous interference with contract
  • contributory copyright infringement
  • vicarious copyright infringement
  • violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
  • trademark infringement
  • unfair competition
  • unjust enrichment
Sounds familiar? I bet it does. It's the same claims any child makes when crying to their mom. However, US Court disagreed with this point of view. Considering US justice system, this set a very dangerous presceden, that can be used further to exploit owners of the games. The Court decided that when you purchase a game, you don't own a copy of it, rather, you own a licence to use the game. The World of Warcraft software you paid for with your money and have it installed on your hard drive, downloaded using your bandwidth? It doesn't belong to you. You paid and keep paying to Blizzard for the right to double click the shortcut, log in and play the game. Using this logic, you can easily come to conclusion that add-on developers are violating Blizzard's terms as well, as they are developing on top of a game that doesn't belong to them.

Why is this dangerous? Too many reasons. If you can get sued for something that's specified in company's terms under the "no-no!" section, this also means you can't get sued for something that's not specified there. For instance, a terrorist cell using guild chat to plan an attack, or playing child porn with in-game browser feature. By ruling this in favor of Blizzard, which they did, they basically declared their game a closed ecosystem, that has it's own laws. Now imagine a country that only has laws identical to Blizzard's terms. Anarchy.

The point that's rather funny, though, is that Glider users had violated the DMCA by using Glider to circumvent Blizzard's Warden program, a security application that controls access to the World of Warcraft game environment.
So next time you plan on creating a bot, or using one for that matter, make sure it doesn't violate the any hidden, unspoken of, software the game might be running, that you can't possibly know it's there.

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