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Blizzard Sues Private Server Company, Awarded $88M

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the not-such-a-good-business-model dept.

The Almighty Buck 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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Big surprize... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255210)

Did Reeves not see this coming?

Anonymous Coward (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255216)

and the rich get richer

Re:Anonymous Coward (5, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255292)

Erm, yes, actually. And this is exactly the sort of thing the law is intended to defend against.

Here we have a case of someone infringing Blizzard's work for the explicit case of making money off it without getting Blizzard's permission. You don't get a more clear cut case than that.

One can argue the statuatory damage claim is outlandish, and it'll likely be reduced on appeal (it always is...), but Alyson here is still going to be on the hook for a decent chunk if $3 mil was brought in.

Re:Anonymous Coward (3, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255334)

What I'm wondering is whether or not anything significant was actually copied. Was the private server just duplicating the game's protocol, or was the game world actually duplicated?

Looking through the information linked to in the summary, it looks like there was no actual debate on anything. The judgement was default.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255392)

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.

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255418)

I'm intimately aware that protocols can't be protected by copyright. I figured they were probably including files, though from TFA, that's never clear. Being a default judgement, it's altogether possible that the actual material being copied was never even looked at.

Patents also do not apply to protocols, since they must cover a specific mechanism, such as an algorithm. Now, if the protocol requires encryption or encoding using a patented algorithm, that's a problem.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255442)

Private servers require a user to have a copy of the full game in question. The "player and enemy models, sound effects, and all that" are handled by the client.

However, the private server generally has its own copy of the game data in order to maintain the state of the world, where things are supposed to respawn, etc.

I suppose it would be theoretically possible to create a server emulator which didn't use any of the original game's data files, but nobody as attempted it that I have seen.

Re:Anonymous Coward (3, Interesting)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255620)

Well, true, sound effects are client-side, my bad. But server needs map data, quest data, stats of all items, enemies etc, world triggers, and atleast hitbox dimensions if not the whole model. That's still a lot of data and would take forever to replicate without using WoW's own data files.

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Interesting)

Khyber (864651) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255698)

And those data files would be installed upon EVERY COMPUTER WHICH HAD WoW INSTALLED. Which means a legitmately-bought game could have the server protocol emulated, and it wouldn't infringe because theoretically everybody has the same WoW-sanctioned and installed patches/updates. (of course, there are pirates/crackers as the exception, but this is given.)

I doubt ANYTHING is handled server-side besides coordinates and flagbits. Everything else, from physics to animation, is done client-side, from locally-installed files (local as in you initiate the download and installation, not a game server.) To stream such insane amounts of information with the limited bandwidth of our connection speeds pretty much prohibits this. If we had 100mbit solid connections, MAYBE.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Interesting)

Cyberllama (113628) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255754)

No its definately all server-side, though cached client-side on occasion (which is how the server operators are able to get their hands on it).

If you've ever been playing WoW when the server goes down, you can keep running around cause the client doesn't time you out right away as its still waiting for the server to communicate with it. When you do this, if you keep running far enough in one direction you'll eventually just hit a place where the world 'ends' because you don't have the map data beyond that point.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Insightful)

citizenr (871508) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255436)

Yes, they were using actual WoW data files, including player and enemy models, sound effects and all that

server executable doesnt use sound files, wow is so simple (no collision detection) that server side executable also doesnt use player models. Its all a chessboard from server executables perspective.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

Drantin (569921) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255456)

The WoW server doesn't need player or enemy models, it just needs to know a bunch of numbers out of a database, how to manipulate them, and the protocol for communicating with the clients (as well as miscellaneous other things also not related to the models or artwork). Regardless, charging users for things still a blatant violation of the EULA, regardless of your opinion on just running a private server. Both on the server side (the admins have probably played the game before, and likely run around in the server as well) and also on the client side, as they get to see the EULA on install of the application.

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255496)

Duplicating a protocol though is not wrong or illegal;

But it does breach the contract(s) possibly signed with Blizzard if it asserts the removal of rights including reverse engineering, maintaining or connecting to an unauthorized server (as Blizzard does claim); and a possible DMCA violation if claimed that access to a non-authorized server constitutes copyright protection circumvention (as Blizzard does claim).

EULAs & TOUs have been upheld in the past, so he's probably screwed on count #1 (if appealed). The second argument is new to me, so I don't know how that would pan out. This is what Blizzard has to say in their complaint [google.com] (direct link [mmoglider.com] ):

Blizzard's Anti-Piracy Mechanisms
...
51. When the user runs the game client software, the game client displays a login screen in which the user must enter his or her unique account username and password. The client then sends information, including information derived from the username and password, to the server. If this information passes certain authentcation tests, the server allows the game client to enter the WoW gaming environment and access the copyrighted material resident on the server, as well as opening access to the copyrighted material on the game client.

52. As such, access to the copyrighted content on the game client is predicated on access to the authorized WoW server. In this way, the server "unlocks" the copyrighted information on the game client.

Re:Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255674)

A company could potentially avoid some of these claims by running with already unlocked data. Simply require the user to log into the official game world once, and then copy all the unlocked data to disk (which should be legal, since its just a local copy). Those users that can't connect to the official server first can illegally obtain a key that is already unlocked, putting the fault on the user, not the company. "Game enhancement" (a.k.a cheating) devices have typically been deemed legal since their software borrows the copyrighted unlock key from the software you use. It is this reason you can't operate a gameshark or similar device unless a game is connected, even if you just want to perform administrative actions. Emulators are typically legal since they simply don't care what the unlock code the game has.

Assuming the reverse engineering was done clean room style (or if they can't prove it wasn't), it would be hard to get damages that way. Which mostly leaves it up to the enforceability of the EULA

Re:Anonymous Coward (2, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255422)

What I'm wondering is whether or not anything significant was actually copied. Was the private server just duplicating the game's protocol, or was the game world actually duplicated?

WoW private servers generally do duplicate the game world found in Blizzard's game. Much of the graphical data is stored client-side, but all data about where things are and what they're doing is on the server. Many of them try to keep their server software as up-to-date a copy as possible, though some will allow you to do things which are not allowed in the real game.

There is zero question that this copyright violation: it's as open-and-shut a case of copyright violation as if you stole a copy of a Hollywood blockbuster from a movie studio, duped it, and sold tickets to see it in your backyard.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255576)

it's as open-and-shut a case of copyright violation as if you stole a copy of a Hollywood blockbuster from a movie studio, duped it, and sold tickets to see it in your backyard.

Feh.

There's nothing here to suggest that they've stolen anything.

It's more like they've bought a legitimate copy of a Hollywood movie, duped it (so what?), and sold tickets to see it in their back yard.

Only the last point has any bearing.

Re:Anonymous Coward (4, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255714)

It's more like they've bought a legitimate copy of a Hollywood movie, duped it (so what?), and sold tickets to see it in their back yard.

Surely it's more like they watched a Hollywood movie, then charged people to watch them reenact it in their back yard with their mates?

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255632)

that's a good thing, at least someone is enjoying life more

Blizzard? (-1, Troll)

mustPushCart (1871520) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255218)

I wish they would change it to say 'Activision Sues Private Company'. I don't want my superb memories of the games I played that started with a blue blizzard logo breaking through to be soiled by this bunch of evil goblins in suits. God knows Blizzard did not mind private servers before this (because they sucked).

Re:Blizzard? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255230)

God knows Blizzard did not mind private servers before this (because they sucked).

What? Remember Blizzard v. bnetd?

Re:Blizzard? (1, Troll)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255484)

They minded that because the developers were stupid enough to call the product "bnetd" and refer to Blzzard's trademarked name battle net...

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255642)

i hope you are kidding. Why was a simple change of name not sufficient then?
What they did mind was bnetd ignoring cd key checks and the fact that bnetd was a direct competition to their platform. If blizzard wanted, they could implement some cdkey authorization scheme for external servers and require all to use it, but they chose to kill the project entirely.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255676)

This is something I never understood. How exactly does Blizzard "require" completely independent parties to do anything?

Re:Blizzard? (2, Insightful)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255720)

with frivolous lawsuits of course :)

Re:Blizzard? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255744)

Because when they saw the name 'bnetd' and blizzard name and imagery, the lawyers immediately saw an opportunity to justify their existence.

Once the thousand pound gorilla sees you and decides to sit on you, you are not going to change its mind by donning camouflage at that point.

If such an obvious name hadn't been chosen, it's doubtful Blizzard spidering for anyone using their protected names would have become aware of their existence, let alone pursued anything.

Remember, there were other similar programs which had been forked from bnetd, and were designed for Warcraft III play, with hacked WC3 beta copies?

Remember how blizzard pursued bnetd, but not the forks around at that time which were actually more blatant and being actively used by pirates (unlike bnetd which was used by legitimate players and didn't actively encourage piracy or distribute license hacks), but the forks just had a more obscure name, and nothing happened to them?

Re:Blizzard? (1)

MartijnL (785261) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255232)

They probably still don't mind just as long as the host doesn't start a commercial business out of it. And in this case, whichever way you look at it, $ 3 million is well beyond the "hobby" stage.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

notanother1 (1791938) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255250)

seriously? hobby is not in this dudes vocab, this is a mission, if you earn 3 mill making a 'farm', you're doin great, fuck the man!!

Re:Blizzard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255270)

No, it's Blizzard, the company who sued the bnetd project out of existence just because some pirates released a patched version of it with cracked copies of Warcraft 3. Which was after the bnetd team had made a good faith effort to have their battle.net emulator validate CD keys -- and Blizzard had replied "no that'll cause piracy!"

From what I understand, though, they just shut down most private servers. That's still a far way from not minding, though.

Moon Crickets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255234)

I wish they would change it to say 'Activision Sues Private Company'. I don't want my superb memories of the games I played that started with a blue blizzard logo breaking through to be soiled by this bunch of evil goblins in suits. God knows Blizzard did not mind private servers before this (because they sucked).

Blizzard or Activision are also private companies so your suggested headline wouldn't tell us very much.

Re:Moon Crickets (1)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255314)

Activision is not a private company.

http://www.google.com/finance?q=activision [google.com]

Re:Moon Crickets (-1, Flamebait)

PHAT64 (1878922) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255446)

Activision is not a private company. http://www.google.com/finance?q=activision [google.com]

Not a single person here said that Blizz was a private company. Douche.

Re:Moon Crickets (0, Troll)

PHAT64 (1878922) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255464)

Activision rather. A damn shame theres no edit features on this site.

Re:Moon Crickets (1)

therealobsideus (1610557) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255528)

Um, the AC above ScytheBlade1 said, "Blizzard or Activision are also private companies so your suggested headline wouldn't tell us very much." So... what?

Re:Blizzard? (5, Insightful)

ScytheBlade1 (772156) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255248)

Oh they cared before. Remember BnetD?

That was WAY before Activision. They report their income on different balance sheets; the only effective change in Blizzard mindset was the part where they went public.

Activision has nothing to do with anything they've done recently, and anyone who says otherwise is blaming something they don't like on a company of convinence.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

carigis (1878910) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255428)

Im sure they are against them.. but only bother suing profiteers

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255612)

Im sure they are against them.. but only bother suing profiteers

You are mistaken. [wikipedia.org]

LK

Re:Blizzard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255682)

The stench of Activision is all over bnet 2.0

Region locks, "connectivity" with social networking sites, no chat/clans/channels, a single character name.

Not that it matters much, SC2 ladder is compromised already due to rampant maphacking. BW all over again. I might go back to D2, where cheating is accepted, normal, rarely punished, and doesn't really affect legit players like me (except in flooding the economy)

Re:Blizzard? (2, Insightful)

Aliotroph (1297659) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255252)

Oh they did indeed mind them. There were the guys who got shut down for cloning Battle.net (for either Starcraft or Diablo II purposes iirc) and they made sure to shut down the server being run by my brother and his friends. Vivendi Universal isn't a nicer company than Activision.

Re:Blizzard? (3, Interesting)

Zephiris (788562) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255304)

The difference here seems to be that they were explicitly soliciting money for in-game stuff, rather than accepting donations purely to offset hosting costs. (Eg, most private servers aren't going to be needing 3 million dollars just to host it.)

Some of the language that Activision/Blizzard uses in the briefs are unnerving (such as 'unauthorized client' and 'you must be connected to blizz servers onlien to patch, not use blizz-provided offline patcher files').

If you also RTFA, it was a default judgment, meaning scapegaming was served, and chose not to respond at any point during the whole proceedings.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255354)

Uh, wrong. Blizzard absolutely does mind private servers, and the EULA has always stated that they are against the terms, on top of the fact that it is actually copyright infringement.

I'll be the first to say that blizzard suing the Glider people and claiming that "copying the software into ram is making a copy and counts as copyright infringement."

And I even have a private server of my own. I think it should fall under fair use, if I want to use the software I purchased a licence for but don't want to pay to subscribe to their servers, a local host function is necessary. They don't offer one, which is unfortunate.

However, as soon as you start charging money to run your server, well, that changes the mood completely. Fair use goes out the window. This company was making millions off of blizzard's success, and had this coming.

Re:Blizzard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255486)

It is not against the law to black box reverse engineer a wire protocol and write a server to implement it. Companies may not like it and may lodge threats using the legal system as a weapon to waste your time and money into submission but its not against the law and its not copyright infringement. Its no different than samba implementing the smb protocol.

Distributing copyrighted code/data to make the system work is however a legal problem one which many of the previous attempts fell into at some point. An EULA cannot apply to PPL writing servers who don't even have the game.

In terms of blizzard loosing money on PPL writing their own servers -- fuck blizzard. I just wasted my money on SC2 only to find out I can't even play a fricking lan game with friends. Unbelivable. Only reason for purchasing. Blizzard are a bunch of fucktards and I hope they rot in the lowest dungeon of diablo for being a bunch of selfish punks who don't care about their customers.

Re:Blizzard? (4, Informative)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Blizzard? (1)

Velorium (1068080) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255488)

Someone needs to put you in charge of fair use laws.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255560)

Haha, meant to say that: I'll be the first to say that blizzard suing glider people... is a huge stretch and that copying into ram is not the intent at all.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255532)

Blizzard and Activision still act independently of each other. All the shit that came after the merger was done by Blizzard itself, not some Activision overlords that went in and told them what to do.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255596)

I still have a hard time believing that a lot of the recent changes to WoW for the worse don't have Bobby Kotick's grimy little fingerprints all over them.

Re:Blizzard? (1)

Vaphell (1489021) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255762)

the episodic nature of sc2 strangely fits the activision doctrine of 'milk the franchise for at least $100M every year till it runs into the ground spectacularly'. 3 installments of sc2 were supposed to allow for a more epic feel but my experience with Wings of Liberty is the opposite. Story is watered down very badly, 2/3 of all missions are nothing but fillers, not to mention a considerable number of retcons that kill the continuity for old time sc1 fans.

Who runs an illegal game server with a real name? (1)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255236)

They should be suing Bobafett (resident of rwanda), i.e. John Doe.
QQ Alyson Reeves?

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (3, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255262)

Somewhere along the chain, you have to pay for the hosting. Plus if you're getting money, there's another paper trail.

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255302)

PayPal allows me to collect payments as well as pay for hosting without ever providing any kind of ID. Especially if you register your PayPal account in a small, less regulated country it's quite easy to "run" the operation off the books.

The problem starts when you want to withdraw money to a bank to get cash - or buy something online which requires shipping.

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (1)

RsG (809189) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255426)

The problem starts when you want to withdraw money to a bank to get cash - or buy something online which requires shipping.

Or do pretty much anything else with it. Really, try and find a way to actually use money garnered anonymously without leaving a trail for the courts to find.

Breaking a paper trail is damn difficult, and moreover tends to run into laws and agencies regarding money laundering. So if the people mentioned in the article had done so, they'd go from being pursued by Blizzard's lawyers to being pursued by the FBI, IRS or other TLAgency. Not really much of an improvement...

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255538)

A properly done money laundering scheme wouldn't be traced that easily but I don't think money laundering usually takes its money from online services.

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255764)

Nope, I wouldn't imagine anyone with two brain cells would use an online service to (attempt to) launder money. That's what bars, restaurants, and other businesses where lots of cash is exchanged and there are lots of "perishable" items that can be lost, destroyed, misdirected, etc. are for.

Re:Who runs an illegal game server with a real nam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255264)

If you want to accept payments, then you need to have something "formal" somewhere

Private servers are garbage anyways (1)

ekaoxide (1878900) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255278)

Why anyone would pay micro-payments towards a private server is beyond me. If you have ever wasted precious minutes of your life attempting to play on one you will soon see why it's just worth it to fork over 10-15 bucks a month for the real deal.

Re:Private servers are garbage anyways (2, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255370)

Why anyone would pay micro-payments towards a private server is beyond me. If you have ever wasted precious minutes of your life attempting to play on one you will soon see why it's just worth it to fork over 10-15 bucks a month for the real deal.

People pay money because of what you can parts of the games whole you can alter. Remove level caps, allow learning more then 2 core skill sets and then the real "fun" mode when you die, you can stay dead. Like Diablo 2 online's Hardcore mode.

Services on that private server? (2, Interesting)

Allnighte (1794642) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255280)

Does anyone know what that private server was giving when you paid them?

I can understand playing on private servers if it's free, but if you're going to pay money to play on a private server, why not just pay Blizzard and play on official servers? Usually the private servers are a little behind on content anyway.

Re:Services on that private server? (2, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255290)

Often they include things like +10,000 strength items and the like. Its the same reason people cheat at any game.

WoW Server Software? (1)

dammy (131759) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255384)

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?

Re:WoW Server Software? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:WoW Server Software? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Hmmm (4, Interesting)

ZDRuX (1010435) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255284)

I don't think there's really a way to turn it around and make excuses for the hosting company. I'm generally in favor of the small guys doing their own thing, even using someone's code - but in this case, it was purley for profit and not for fun any sort of personal enjoyment.

I do have a problem with the damages awarded though... I mean - How in the world did they come up with this figure?

Re:Hmmm (1, Informative)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255390)

If I were going to do something like this I would assume I would get caught.

Now, if I managed to bring it to a rather fruitful set of earnings I might do one of two things. Attempt to work within the structure of the law to minimize damages to myself or blatantly work outside the law and optimize for monetary gain. Perhaps, there was yet a third view point in that the scenario ended with a friendly take down. Though that would just be rather unrealistic optimism.

Whatever the outcome I would assume it was clear from the beginning. Face the consequences or take the money and run.

Re:Hmmm (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255548)

I wonder if the default judgment was reached precisely because the server operator was busy shoveling the money out of the country and leaving.

Re:Hmmm (3, Insightful)

EvilIdler (21087) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255342)

I thought that sum was rather modest. Remember all the RIAA cases? THOSE were excessive.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255350)

perhaps ((number of registered users to private server) x (blizzard subscription fee) x (months the server ran before it was shut down)) + ((number of registered users to private server) x (amount for retail dvd)) = damages?

Re:Hmmm (4, Informative)

Zephiris (788562) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Hmmm (0)

bm_luethke (253362) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255410)

"I do have a problem with the damages awarded though... I mean - How in the world did they come up with this figure?"

Most of it is punitive - you may want to look that word up.

Punitive damages are typically rewarded when someone knowingly did something wrong or did something so wrong they should have known it was. Lets say for instance a court case I know of where a person flung a bottle into a crowd of random people, it beaned another person on the head with enough force to cause a concussion. The person who flung the bottle was on tape and got sued for hospital costs and punitive damages in small claims court, IIRC out of pocket hospital costs were less than 1k put the amount sued for was the max - 5k. The defense was that the person who flung the bottle didn't intend it to hit anyone so as far they were concerned that it did only mean they should have to pay actual medical costs. Turns out not so much - you get fines over and above the cost of the actual damages (and in this case had the individual sued in something other than small claims could have probably got more) for being that negligent/stupid.

Frankly the defendant here was more or less flinging said bottle - not much of a legal leg to stand on. Many of us here - and I'm not sure where I stand on this - would like to say that information wants to be free so bully for them, yet that isn't where our legal system sits nor has it ever sit there. If they were pushing the envelope for a civil rights case I would be apologetic (again, not sure where I sit on it), but one for profit? They made a bad risk/reward calculation as a for profit business and lost. As such the judgment was not not only with respect to actual damages but also with respect to punishment. Whilst they will most likely get it reduced in an appeal since their main source of income was not legal they are facing bankruptcy - might as well accept the judgment and liquidate.

Re:Hmmm (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255536)

Npe. It's not punitive damages. It's statutory damages. There's a difference.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255534)

I don't think there's really a way to turn it around and make excuses for the hosting company.

Depends what they were doing. If they were just hosting WoW sessions, using a reverse-engineered version of Blizzard's WoW servers a la bnetd [wikipedia.org] , I don't think there's a problem with it - if people have bought a copy of WoW, they should be free to play it on their own servers instead of Blizzard's if they want to.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Golden_Rider (137548) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255704)

Private servers do not NEED you to buy a copy of the game. You can just download the client from the Blizzard website without paying anything (since you are supposed to also buy an account for WoW, and the client is useless without an account) and then use that client to play on a private server. So the "I already paid for the game, I can play on whatever server I want" excuse does not work. I would not be surprised if 99% of the players on the private servers never actually paid for the game. Blizzard has every right in the world to sue private server operators who allow people to play Blizzard's game without paying Blizzard.

Re:Hmmm (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255552)

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.

Are you serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255626)

Disallowing use of private servers sounds like Microsoft disallowing difference search engines for Internet Explorer.

Except that your computer software doesn't need World of Warcraft to run. A pretty big difference.

Imagine you owned a Chinese all you can eat buffet restaurant and one day these guys come in pay for the buffet but never leave, then they set up a stall inside your restaurant selling your buffet food much cheaper than you can as they have none of your overheads in buying stock and preparing it.

Blizzard worked very hard and continue to do so to produce their products, invested a lot of time and money and pay a many staff who have their own families to feed. Then these guys come in and start making bucket-loads of cash in part directly from Blizzards back pocket. Now its one thing to pirate a game you can't afford, its quite another to make loads of money hosting downloads of pirate games and pirate servers and these guys really do make a lot of money.

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255654)

That's not quite right. Part of Blizzard's allegations is that the emulator server doesn't attempt to verify the users to allow service only for purchased game copies. I suppose this would involve detecting known invalid or duplicate registration codes. In essence, it was a server made for pirated copies.

Re:Hmmm (2, Informative)

Golden_Rider (137548) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

cheap lawyer! (4, Insightful)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255352)

WOW! I know it's an open and shut case from the get go but with a company that big, usually $60,000 will barely get you a random word generator with text to speech representing you. For a quarter mil, you might even be able to get the disembodied voice that lives in my GPS to represent you. Somehow it always costs about a million for a supposedly "respectable" lawyer to even show up in court. What a joke. Oh well, at least they got around that this time somehow.

Re:cheap lawyer! (1)

Trivial Solutions (1724416) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255650)

What? You want "the advocate"? That's all you had to saaay!

25
But in order that the word written in their law 11 might be fulfilled, 'They hated me without cause.'
26
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send 12 you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me.
27
And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.

God says...
babes incredibly baggage transcription Neptune succouredst
emptied quieter diversity adorning overpass

Re:cheap lawyer! (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255688)

Do staff lawyers' salaries count towards that figure? It seems like they wouldn't.

Normally (1)

KarlIsNotMyName (1529477) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255362)

Normally I don't feel that copyright infringement is a big deal, or automatically a bad thing, especially when it breaks down artificial limitations and restrictions.

But profiting from other people's work, work that you have no rights to, is just wrong.

Doesn't seem to be any details on what the microtransactions were for here, but apparently they were selling in-game items for real money. I find that disgusting even when it's legit. Ruins the value of actually playing the game.

DEFAULT JUDGEMENT (5, Interesting)

carigis (1878910) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255364)

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. the judge will overturn the default judgement and the case will start over... or she will declare bankruptcy and the judgement will be discharged.. but maybe they will recover some of the 3 million

Re:DEFAULT JUDGEMENT (3, Informative)

crankyspice (63953) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

I used to play on that one. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255404)

Played on it a long time ago when it was still known as WoWScape. It was the whole reason I actually started playing on retail, me and a good portion of my friends. Blizzard would have lost out on thousands of dollars from me and my friends if it wasn't for them.

Scapegaming actually was good enough that it got me (Feral druid), my best friend (Rogue), his roommate (Resto shaman), his roommates friends (Enhance shaman), their wife (Arms Warrior), neighbor down the road (Ret Paladin), Another friend (rogue), step brother (Rogue), another friend (Mage), and a few others. WoWScape actually got enough friends playing retail that we could host our own personal raids if we wanted.

Since then, all of us left. Scapegaming brought Blizzard a lot of business, but The Wrath of the Lich King ran them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I find an old TBC server now. Lasted till just before ICC was released on retail, but I just can't stand it anymore, it just isn't fun. Was fun back in the day raiding Kara, SSC, and the Eye just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted and still able to hold their own. Then 3.0 had to come and ruin it.

I honestly wonder about how much did Scapegaming make blizzard compared to how much it cost them. Wouldn't be surprised if it did them more good than harm. And don't try and mention the trail accounts on WoW, they capped you at level 10 and a bunch of other stuff, none of my friends were willing to try it like that. Actually downloaded the software off the internet months before we ever thought about registering a retail account.

Re:I used to play on that one. (4, Insightful)

Derosian (943622) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255492)

"Since then, all of us left. Scapegaming brought Blizzard a lot of business, but The Wrath of the Lich King ran them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I find an old TBC server now. Lasted till just before ICC was released on retail, but I just can't stand it anymore, it just isn't fun. Was fun back in the day raiding Kara, SSC, and the Eye just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted and still able to hold their own. Then 3.0 had to come and ruin it."

All my friends are leaving WoW. Cataclysm is running them off. Only way I can tolerate WoW anymore is if I don't pay attention to the Cataclysm stuff. It just isn't fun anymore. Was fun back in the day raiding Naxx, Ulduar, and ToC just playing around, talking shit in Vent and having fun while half of them were wasted still able to hold their own. Now this Cataclysm is gonna come along and ruin it.

Or maybe I'm just tired of playing WoW, yeah that could be it...

All I heard was (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255416)

Nuclear lawsuit detected.

Owned by Jewavision (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255542)

What else do you expect?

Blizzard refuses to accept the views and wishes of a large base of players who wish to only play vanilla or even just BC level servers before Jewavision completely ruined the game. They catered to a market ignored by the Jewavision overlords who wish to force everybody to expose every single piece of personal information possible because they have already sold it to anti-privacy whores like Facebook.

Figures a bunch of Jews and their Jews token jobs (the waste of life known as lawyers and their paid off court buddies) would rain hell down upon somebody only seeking to cater to an ignored and shit on market. It really is a damn shame the entire holocaust was a complete myth, that many vermin Jews getting what they so rightly deserved would have made the world only a much better place.

Re:Owned by Jewavision (2, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255760)

Interesting viewpoint. It appears as though you may not be happy with most things, and I would suggest you disconnect your computer from the rest of the world immediately. At the very least, hire a psychiatrist.

REALMLIST (1, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255568)

.WTF !?

You just edit this text file and it points WoW at a different server.

Just happens that WoW net traffic isn't encrypted and therefore people have reverse engineered the protocol and created their own servers.

Not really any different than any other reverse engineering I've heard of.
Is it copyright infringing if they made their own server software that mimics the client / server protocol?

Is it legal to ask for payment to connect to my web server?
Is it still legal if my server can speak the reverse engineered WoW protocol?
Is it common knowledge that Judges are ignorant of the technology they are asked to provide judgment over?

If you answered "no" to one of these questions you have been qualified as next in line for judicial appointment.

Re:REALMLIST (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255610)

Is it smart to make these comments without reading the article?

If you answered "no" to that question, then you probably don't realize that Scapegaming never even showed up in court, which means Blizzard got a default judgement. They could've argued those points in court and perhaps won, but if you don't even bother making the court appointment, then you can't really bitch that the judge is ignorant for following a pretty goddamned clear procedure.

Re:REALMLIST (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255732)

if you don't even bother making the court appointment, then you can't really bitch that the judge is ignorant for following a pretty goddamned clear procedure.

Who bitched about the judge? I'm bitching about Blizzard's lawyers for even filing the claim.

Re:REALMLIST (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255702)

.WTF !?

You just edit this text file and it points WoW at a different server.

Just happens that WoW net traffic isn't encrypted and therefore people have reverse engineered the protocol and created their own servers.

Not really any different than any other reverse engineering I've heard of.
Is it copyright infringing if they made their own server software that mimics the client / server protocol?

Is it legal to ask for payment to connect to my web server?
Is it still legal if my server can speak the reverse engineered WoW protocol?
Is it common knowledge that Judges are ignorant of the technology they are asked to provide judgment over?

If you answered "no" to one of these questions you have been qualified as next in line for judicial appointment.

Are you sure their servers did not distribute any material with Blizzard's copyright?
Models? Textures? Maps? Texts? Raid data?

Re:REALMLIST (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255750)

Are you sure their servers did not distribute any material with Blizzard's copyright?
Models? Textures? Maps?

I'm not an expert on this, having never actually touched WOW, but with most MMOs these are distributed with the client, the server only sends out identifiers to reference the data the client already has.

Texts? Raid data?

As these (typically) reside on the server, I'm not sure how the defendant in this case would have acquired them. From what I've seen of such things before, chances are the server in question ran custom-build raids that had little in common with the official Blizzard ones other than (due to the restrictions imposed by the client) using locations and creatures that Blizzard designed.

Re:REALMLIST (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255736)

Look at the WoW server like a website, and the client like a web browser. It's a very apt comparison.

So, the private server companies are making their own websites! Obviously, there's nothing wrong with making a website.

There is, however, something wrong with copying another website in its entirety, or even with minor changes. That's what the private servers do. It's not really about the protocol.

At least, I assume this is what the lawyers would say if anybody showed up to argue with them.

Blizzard Sues (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255582)

That's all the headline you need.

UOGamers (1)

Kethinov (636034) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255602)

So does this precedent put other popular private servers for other popular MMORPGs in danger too, like the UOGamers private server of Ultima Online? (http://uogamers.com)

Sad day for everyone (1)

Journey72 (1762034) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255630)

Sad day, I used to play one of the Scapegaming servers, and if it wasn’t for this “free trial” I would have never switched to Blizzard’s servers, which is what many people did, the others on the servers would have never paid $15 a month to play it, so I don’t think blizzard ever really lost as much as they thought they did, and they probably actually gained money from private servers like these.

CelticKnight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#33255648)

Hmm what would you expect for a company that is basically stealing another companies IP? no surprises about the verdict..

What id have to ask was, What was the first company thinking? blatently stealing Blizzs' game like that? we all KNOW blizz hunts down copyright thieves...

Interesting (5, Informative)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#33255692)

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?

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