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Blizzard issues cease and desist to private WoW server

Legacy Nostalrius server violates usage policy says publisher

Blizzard has issued a cease and desist order to the owners and hosts of Nostalrius, a private World of Warcraft server which runs a legacy 'vanilla' version of the MMO - a direct violation of the terms and conditions of the game.

The team behind the server, which boasted a peak userbase of over 150,000 has penned an open letter to Mike Morhaime, agreeing to shut down the current iteration of the service, but offering to collaborate on a solution for people who want to play pre-expansion versions of WoW no longer supported by the developer.

"We were a team of about thirty volunteers, and used to host an international legacy server for this version of WoW," the post reads. "For roughly one year, it was an amazing journey for all of us, and for the 800,000 players who registered an account, including the 150,000 players who were active. We passionately reproduced the original progression you created throughout patches and content releases.

"We never saw our community as a threat for Blizzard. It sounds more like a transverse place where players can continue to enjoy old World of Warcraft's games no longer available, maybe until a new expansion appears; a huge and powerful community of fans that remains attached to future Blizzard games, as we have in no other gaming company.

"We don't have the pretention to come up with a complete solution regarding legacy servers that you and your company didn't already think about, but we'd be glad and honored to share it with you if you're interested, still on a volunteer basis.

"Do you think that a policy change can be made regarding legacy servers based on volunteers work, for very old no longer supported game expansion?"

Blizzard's response has been unequivocal, with a Blizzard employee pointing out that the operation of these servers is very clearly in violation of the company's terms and conditions and will not be tolerated.

"As a number of our helpful forum regulars have already answered for you, playing on (or hosting) 'private' WoW servers is always against the Terms of Use, regardless of whether you've been a legitimate paid subscriber since the game launch or, conversely, never played the game before.

"Ultimately, this isn't an issue because of 'lost' subscription fees from players choosing these illegitimate servers over the real WoW servers - it simply boils down to the fact that private servers are illegal, and that's that."

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Latest comments (10)

Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 3 years ago
The news pieces I have read (on eurogamer for example) about this have almost been written like its a good thing to rip off other peoples content and take a dump on copywritten material. Why is that? Ofcourse Blizzard needs to shut them down as not doing so would basically be saying "yes, here, take our content and do whatever you want with it."

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Aleksi Ranta on 12th April 2016 2:34pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Well, from what I understand, this is akin to Star Wars fans encoding the VHS or laserdisc version of the Original Trilogy to preserve the versions they prefer. Whilst, yes, it's a copyright violation (in both cases), it's keeping alive a version of something that some find preferable, and would rather play.

Yes, leaving the server alone could be a tacit admission that some could "take our content and do whatever you want with it", but there's a world of difference between a server running Vanilla, and a server running the latest expansion that's directly copying the official servers.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Difference is, Morville, copying that SW tape or LD is a lot more private (you don't have to tell Disney about it by posting you've done so online) than running a server for a game version no longer supported that's still an active product (with goofball upgrades those users disliked). I guess if this were the Dreamcast or GameCube versions of Phantasy Star Online or something super dated that only a handful of users would go to the trouble of setting up a server for, no one would care. Blizzard is just flexing its arm by rolling out that TOS no one reads all the way through.

It's also one more reason to have some sort of offline and/or co-op play in these games,but that's another can o' worms to open up on the MMO scene...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 12th April 2016 6:57pm

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Show all comments (10)
Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 3 years ago
@Morville from a legal standpoint i dont see a difference in running vanilla WoW or the last version. Its Blizzards IP, blizzards content, Blizzards copywrite, whatever the version of the game. There is no legal difference if you arerunning version 1.0 of the game or 1.01 or 2.0.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
I guess if this were the Dreamcast or GameCube versions of Phantasy Star Online or something super dated that only a handful of users would go to the trouble of setting up a server for, no one would care.
This is true... WoW is still very healthy, so it's not like you can claim there's no alternative but use a private server. :)
There is no legal difference if you are running version 1.0 of the game or 1.01 or 2.0.
No, there's not, just like there's no legal difference between encoding the VHS Star Wars releases, and the BR release of Force Awakens - copying is copying. But from a community-relations perspective, there's a vast difference between letting a Vanilla server run, and clamping down on a current-version private server. Obviously, no-one has to care what the community thinks (especially legal departments :p ), but still... :)
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Benjamin Hoyt Founder & CEO, 47 Games, Inc.3 years ago
@Aleksi, @Morville, and @Greg - I think that Morville actually makes an excellent point here. The key difference between what these guys are doing, as well as what the Star Wars Despecialized Editions do, is that the copyrights that they are technically violating are for works that are literally no longer being made available by their creators. They aren't trying to make money by undercutting or bypassing a product that is being made available by the rights holder. They are engaged in an activity that, while perhaps a violation of current copyright law, is actually much more defensible and which I think could be quite reasonably described as cultural preservation. This is not unlike a museum allowing people to play classic Atari 2600 games or other out-of-print games. I would argue that the rights holder has a pro-active obligation to make the product available for sale if they care to assert their rights. If they forego that option then the work should enter the public domain. That may not, legally, be the case now, but I certainly think that comparing this activity to other forms of copyright violation is unfair.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Benjamin Hoyt on 13th April 2016 4:27am

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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
@Benjamin: Well, to Blizzard
They are engaged in an activity that, while perhaps a violation of current copyright law
is where the discussion ends. I'm sure despite what they say, it's also about getting those thousands of players back into WoW in its current form as paying customers. I'm betting the numbers aren't as huge as they were a few yeas back, so anyone playing the game's older versions on a non-Blizzard controlled server probably isn't playing the newer one (which Blizzard isn't pleased about).

It's their baby at the and of the day and still one in their crib. Like it or not, there's a difference between long-dead IP a game company sues over and one they still make money from they're suing over (even if older versions are no longer being played or have been kept alive as a public gathering spot without proper permissions).

And hey, the game historian side of me agrees with the preservation aspects of this. But again, as this is being done with a product still in use today, it's dicey at best that it's anything resembling legal use by those who choose to play on that unauthorized server. That TOS seems to be pretty clear on that front.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 13th April 2016 9:13am

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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 3 years ago
@Benjamin Where would you draw the line with regards to "not being made available"? The crafting of a certain health potion that was patched out a week ago so that it takes 10% less materials/different materisl, as a made up example? Ok, ill run my private server because i didnt like that change. Or where would the line be drawn? A more drastic change? or even more subtle?
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany3 years ago
What they do with those server, although I understand that there is no harm intended, are still against Blizzard's EULA. And there's nothing to say to that.
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Tim Wright Managing Director, Tantrumedia Limited3 years ago
Herein lies the problem with online games...
A game you love that's on disc or some other distribution medium that doesn't require a server, you can play that version until you die in front of the screen.
If Blizzard were to host an original vanilla version themselves, they'd need to support it fully, costing some $.
They could of course issue a permit for someone to run a vanilla version if they so wished, but then again, they'd be tacitly responsible, even if it was just in a P.R. sense, especially if the people running the vanilla service somehow brought themselves into disrepute. "Sh*t sticks" as it were.
The only solution was really the current one, where a vanilla server was running, and Blizzard just ignored it. Thereby allowing people to experience the vanilla version ( which t.b.h. I'd love to play again! ) but remaining at arms length and having nothing to do with it if anything went wrong.
As for the financial considerations, so long as they weren't charging money, I don't see much harm in it. When they turn the server off, I doubt if many of the people booted off will go play the latest WoW. I would play the vanilla verison, but I don't play the current WoW - they've dumbed it down, and made it way too easy.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Wright on 19th April 2016 6:48pm

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