Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Do WoW autopilot bots infringe copyright?

(via TerraNova) Blizzard, the makers of World of Warcraft, are involved in copyright litigation against MDY, the makers of a cheat program called Glider. This program allows users to run the game on autopilot by becoming a bot that allows the user to kill monsters and farm their loot without having to spend hours in front of the system. You just install Glider, leave the computer running, and see the Gold rush in. This has serious implications for a game like WoW, and Blizzard argues that "Glider use severely harms the WoW gaming experience for other players by altering the balance of play, disrupting the social and immersive aspects of the game, and undermining the ingame economy." WoW gold has real value in the real world, therefore the claim gains credence in my opinion.

What is Blizzard's copyright argument? They have gone back to licensing basics. Players who buy WoW have to sign up and accept the terms and conditions of the licence. WoW Terms of Use clearly state that:

"You agree that you will not (i) modify or cause to be modified any files that are a part of the Program or the Service; (ii) create or use cheats, bots, "mods", and/or hacks, or any other third-party software designed to modify the World of Warcraft experience; or (iii) use any third-party software that intercepts, "mines", or otherwise collects information from or through the Program or the Service. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may update the Program with authorized patches and updates distributed by Blizzard, and Blizzard may, at its sole and absolute discretion, allow the use of certain third party user interfaces."
This is a condition which would translate into a termination of the licence. As we know, a copyright licence is an agreement that allows a user rights which they would otherwise not have. In this case, if the licence is removed, the user would be infringing copyright. Blizzard also argues that Glider is breaking its technological protection measures, which makes it liable under the DMCA s1201.

I have to say that I'm with Blizzard on this one. The terms and conditions are clear, so whoever is in breach of those terms, should face the consequences. Also, the existence of bots devalues the currency exchange between WoW and real currency, as it clearly affects the ingame economy. However, I wonder if MDY will argue that Blizzard turns a blind eye against all other modifications of the game. One of the best things about WoW's interface is that it lends itself to countelss user-generated add-ons. These clearly enhance user experience, but are they not infringing the ToS as well?


andrewducker said...

Is it copyright they're infringing though? They aren't distributing, or otherwise copying anything. It's terms of use for connecting to Blizzard's servers that are being violated, I would have thought.

Or am I missing something obvious?

Andres Guadamuz said...

Good point. Installation means to make a copy of the software in the computer. Making such a copy is an act restricted by copyright, hence most EULAs will grant users, amongst other things, the right to make a copy of the software.

If the EULA is breached, then the user is infringing.