Apps, Bots and Workarounds - Part 1

 

We’ll review a trio of cases that illustrate the line drawn by the law when software users try to do an end-run around a software owner:

World of Warcraft (WoW) - Blizzard is the publisher of the popular WoW multiplayer game. MDY sold an autopilot bot marketed as Glider that automatically played the lower levels of WoW, to enable a player to graduate to higher levels and earn points.  In a fascinating case (MDY Industries v. Blizzard Entertainment), Blizzard sued MDY for sales of this “Glider” bot. In the course of the cat-and-mouse tactics between Blizzard and MDY, Blizzard prohibited the use of bots in its Terms of Use, and then deployed bot-detection software to block Glider-users. The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said that the antibot provisions were covenants rather than conditions. “A Glider user violates the covenants with Blizzard, but does not thereby commit copyright infringement because Glider does not infringe any of Blizzard’s exclusive rights. For instance, the use does not alter or copy WoW software.” Thus, Blizzard failed in its copyright claims. 

However, the court decided that MDY was liable for a DMCA violation with respect to WoW’s “dynamic non-literal elements”. The term “dynamic non-literal elements” refers to the copyright-protected elements of the game other than the written code that are created in the course of dynamic play by user. The court upheld the permanent injunction against MDY.

Lessons for business? In Canada, we don’t have an equivalent of the DMCA, though the proposed changes to the Canadian Copyright Act contain anti-circumvention rules of the type that caught MDY in the WoW case. Software publishers and vendors should ensure that their end-user terms or acceptable use policies are well-drafted and up-to-date to guard against this type of indirect access. This may not allow a software vendor to access copyright infringement remedies, but will provide a contractual remedy.

Cases 2 and 3 up next. 

Calgary - 07:00 MST

1 Comment so far

  1. Richard Stobbe March 3rd, 2011 11:51 am

    See the series:
    Apps, Bots and Workarounds - Part 2:
    http://www.ipblog.ca/?p=441
    Apps, Bots and Workarounds - Part 3: http://www.ipblog.ca/?p=442

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