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Appeals court denies Blizzard vs Glider copyright claim

Revised bot ruling many mean new legal precedent on EULAs

The US 9th Circuit appeal court has broadly upheld a 2008 ruling that WoW Glider, an auto-play program for World of Warcraft, is illegal.

However, while the court agreed that the Glider violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act due to its side-stepping of Blizzard's 'Warden' anti-bot software, it overturned a judgement of copyright infringement.

Said the court, "Were we to hold otherwise, Blizzard - or any software copyright holder - could designate any disfavored conduct during software use as copyright infringement, by purporting to condition the license on the player's abstention from the disfavored conduct.

"The rationale would be that because the conduct occurs while the player's computer is copying the software code into RAM in order for it to run, the violation is copyright infringement. This would allow software copyright owners far greater rights than Congress has generally conferred on copyright owners."

This may, reasons Gamer/Law's Jas Purewal, limit Blizzard's potential pay-out from Glider-maker MDY Industries.

It could also set precedents for the treatment of EULA statements in similar cases. "Just because Blizzard said that using a bot was illegal and a breach of copyright, didn't actually make it so."

The ruling that Glider constituted DMCA violation may also affect the course of future rulings, as it effectively endorses the right of game-makers to seek legal action against the circumvention of access control measures.

Despite the upheld ruling that Glider is illegal, Blizzard is to pay its own, likely high, costs for a case which has now been running for almost three years.

The case may not yet be over, with the court hinting at a future retrial of Blizzard's tortious interference with contract claim (which sought damages for subscriptions potentially lost as a result of Glider's presence on servers). This could impact the original $6.5m fine ordered against MDY.

In addition, the option for either party to appeal to the Supreme Court remains.

A PDF of the full verdict is available here.

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Alec Meer avatar
Alec Meer: A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.
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