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Blizzard Lawyers Visit Creator of WoW Glider 229

Rick Hamell writes "On October 25th, Blizzard/Vivendi payed a personal visit to Michael Donnelly, creator of WoW Glider and accused him of violating the DMCA. Their demands were unclear, but come in the wake of recent player bannings for using bots in the popular MMORPG. It looks like he's going to fight it, but I think it'll be an interesting case if it ever reaches the courts." From the post: "The visitors from Vivendi / Blizzard made demands of Michael and stated that if the demands were not met that they would file a complaint in court if he did not meet them. I asked Michael what the demands were. He was unable to comment at the time to the exact details. But I do know they handed him a copy to very briefly 'Look at'. He was not given a copy. I think I could make a good guess and say that they asked for Glider to be shut down and if they feel that they have been harmed they may have asked for a financial settlement."
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Blizzard Lawyers Visit Creator of WoW Glider

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  • by Audigy (552883) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @04:59PM (#16898882) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad to hear of this.

    Sure, it's an independent software developer, who cares? He's charging money for a program that explicitly violates the TOS that a user agrees to when signing up for World of Warcraft.

    It's just one bot program out of many, but maybe the others will get the picture and GTFO also. I'm tired of trying to play legitimately, having bots always stealing my kills. :(
    • by daeg (828071) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:27PM (#16899106)
      Just because his product violates a TOS it doesn't mean he did anything illegal. A TOS is a civil agreement, and not a very strong one, at that.

      I'm all for shutting this guy down (I play WoW and hate bots, too), but I don't want shutting him down to clog our already congested legal system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by westlake (615356)
        A TOS is a civil agreement, and not a very strong one, at that.

        The TOS is a contract. It's strength or weakness is for a judge to decide. But protecting the integrity of a service with 7.5 million paying subscribers sounds to me like a perfectly good reason for going to court.

      • by mqduck (232646)
        I'm all for shutting this guy down (I play WoW and hate bots, too), but I don't want shutting him down to clog our already congested legal system.


        I propose a new catchphrase: "Think of the already congested legal system! Won't somebody please think of the already congested legal system?!"
    • Selling a program that has no use other than violating the TOS may be actionable as tortious interference with a contract or something along those lines, but I fail to see how copyright is involved here. What copyrighted work is copied by the bot? Similarly, I don't see how it violates the DMCA.

      • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Saturday November 18, 2006 @06:37PM (#16899714) Homepage Journal
        it doesnt violate the TOS for people who never agreed to them. i amended my wow TOS before launching the game, and i guarantee the version i agreed to has no such provisions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by honkycat (249849)
          I take it you took that amended copy and had it reviewed by Blizzard personnel duly authorized to accept your changes on the company's behalf, right? Otherwise, I'll take any bet you'd care to make that you are legally bound by the original ToS to the extent that such agreements are enforceable in the first place.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by MindStalker (22827)
            Either way as he is effectivly using Blizzards service without permission (using it under a different ToS) they can kick ban him at any time without a need for explanation.
          • by Sparr0 (451780)
            Why would I? NOT having their agreement to my amended version is a perfectly acceptable outcome.
            • by honkycat (249849)
              Well, I don't see the point of what you've done in that case. You were presented with their ToS before you began using the service and you used the service. Regardless of what you may have deleted in the installer, you are probably responsible for adhering to the T's or they'll be happy to stop providing you the S. My point is that, legally, you might as well just cross your fingers when you click "I Accept." I don't think you get any protection by monkeying with the installer files.
        • by GuyverDH (232921) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @03:43PM (#16905956)
          You should see the SPIA (Software Publisher's Installation Agreement) that's pasted on the front of my Computer.

          It clearly states, that by allowing their software to be installed on this computer, that they agree to the following terms.

          #1 All EULAs are null and void.
          #2 They WILL be held accountable if their software causes a problem.
          #3 I can do whatever the hell I want with their software once it's installed on MY computer.
          #4 They can NOT install anything *extra* without my explicit permission.
              4a) Any attempts to do so will result in fines no less than 1 Million USD, and no more than (whatever they have in liquid assets)
          #5 Any updates or changes to the software's EULA must be approved by me before they can be sent out to anyone else.

          I'm currently sitting at around 4.5 billion in fines. I'm waiting until I hit the "Trillion Dollar" mark, before I move forward with my lawsuits for SPIA violations.
        • I had something similar happen in COH. For some unknown reason my TOS came down garbled and could still agree to them. I log a call on it but took 3 months for it to be fixed and never replied to me. In such instances I would probably not be held accountable in game of my actions.
      • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @08:13PM (#16900472)
        tortious interference

        If he has tortious interference, he should probably go see a Doctor ASAP, not a lawyer. That shit is itchy as hell.

    • by Jack9 (11421)
      In other news SpiderCo was sued by Black & Decker under the DMCA for facilitating the cutting of small pipes. I'm sorry, I got nothin.
    • by reanjr (588767) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @07:44PM (#16900220) Homepage
      And by violating the TOS, he is no longer licensed to play the game. Doesn't mean he can't produce software to do so. Blizzard and other companies should wake up. If a bit can play their game, it is a fault of Blizzard making a repetitive game for dullards, not the person who likes aspects of the game and is trying to avoid all the poor design decisions Blizzard made for it.
      • by Samari711 (521187)
        IANAL but I'm guessing it's a trademark/copyright suit. He's making money off selling something related to their trademarked content and is potentially using pieces of their copyrighted code in it. The TOS isn't really relevant here, the only remedy for violating it is account termination. There is still a license for the game that you agree to at the same time as the TOS though, and that's probably got the bits about reverse engineering and things of that nature.
      • If a bit can play their game, it is a fault of Blizzard making a repetitive game for dullards

        You mean "If a bot can play their game"?
        Damn right, and if Blizzard wasn't already on my boycott list, this would be a warning against buying WOW by itself.
        I've recently beta-tested a game that might be playable by a bot as well:
        Rappelz(http://rappelz.gpotato.com/ [gpotato.com]). Nice graphics, but after two weeks I can't bring myself to log in anymore. It's just too boring.

    • I'm tired of trying to play legitimately, having bots always stealing my kills. :(

      I was wondering why anyone cared before I read that line. It seems to me that a tool that gets you out of the grind so that you can focus on the fun parts of a game is just adding value, but if the bots are engaging in actively anti-social behavior, then that's another thing entirely.
  • by MrFlannel (762587) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:05PM (#16898926)
    I mean, they just want to play WoW and have a little fun. Is that too much to ask?

    Or are you too afraid you'll be replaced? Too afraid you might have to try a little harder playing against someone a little bit better than you?

    Fight for machine rights!
  • Bots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HappySqurriel (1010623) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:15PM (#16899004)
    I love WoW but think that the ability to be remarkably successful by using a bot demonstrates one of the biggest design flaws of the game (and the entire MMORPG genre as a whole). MMORPGs require very little thought or skill and most of the content is not worth seeing; killing 100,000 monsters that react in (pretty much) the exact same way in order to get to the point were you have 'Finished the game' only to have to kill 100,000 mosters that react in exactly the same way to get all the leet loot. I recognize the technical difficulty of producing intelligent (or atleast different) mobs, but until you have to be reasonably intelligent to survive these encounters a bot will be successful.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 1.000.000 (876272)
      I completely disagree. Aimbots play first person shooters (FPS) far better then most people, but that doenst mean that FPS require no skills or thought.

      Name me just 1 popular game, where its impossible to make a bot play it reasonably well!?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by GodInHell (258915)
        Tic-Tac-Toe :) They always quit when they realize they can't win, and then they stop killing the world like I wanted them to.

        Seriously though.. Bots do a BAD job of playing in these enviroments. That's why they don't workin in games like City of Heroes that have a death peanlty. The operative term in wow for leveling is "grind." I ground my way to 60 with a druid.. and a rogue.. and a mage.. and then I stopped one day when my butt hurt and I had nothing to show for all my hours and realized I was performi

      • by vadim_t (324782)
        Realtime Strategy games.

        I've yet to see a RTS where the AI can manage being even moderately difficult without resorting to cheating. The Starcraft AI for example, cheats badly by getting periodic resource injections. From what I heard, Civilization also cheats.
        • Yes, Civilisation (II) cheats, at least on the higher levels. Play as Emperor or Deity and the computer gets a significant productivity bonus. Other games simply give the AI more ressources to start with, and the player has to find a way to compensate.

      • Go, Hex, and similar games.
    • by Cookie3 (82257)
      until you have to be reasonably intelligent to survive these encounters a bot will be successful.

      This is why the bots only focus on the mobs that have little or no scripting, no special abilities, and generally are vulnerable to any sort of attack.
      • by oddfox (685475)

        Exactly, WoW bot programs, and Glider is the only one that I've even looked into before out of curiosity (A friend of mine was using it for a very short time to grind overnight while sleeping, stopped after a couple days because he decided it wasn't worth losing his account over), do nothing complicated. From what I remember reading before about Glider specifically, you set up an area to be patrolled with your character and outline basic actions that your character is to take as it does its patrols. These b

        • But this only raises the most important question of all:

          Why is there so much "grunt work" in what is ostensibly a game?
          • by oddfox (685475)

            I didn't realize that every game was supposed to be as instantly gratifying as, say, Duck Hunt. You're looking for the wrong thing in a game if you dislike it because of "grunt work" that you have to do. Would you rather that reagents and tradeskill items were simply rationed out to people? Or that every mob in the game dropped, to use an EQ term, phat lewtz? There's grunt work in everything, and depending on my mood I could turn the question around and ask it of real life.

            In any case, anyone who's played

          • It really depends on how you look at it, and how you play. There is very little required grunt work in WoW; most grunt work is optional. Example: You want that 0.1% drop from a certain mob. You can either (a) get lucky, (b) buy it off the auction house - assuming it is not a bind on pickup item, (c) grind/kill that mob until it drops. The 0.1% drop rate represents rarity, and if you want to find the diamond, then you have to either stumble on it, pay someone for it, or start digging. I know some peopl
            • I used to play WoW, and I never hunted after *any* specific loot item. But there was still plenty of grunt work involved in completing quite a few quests. Step 2 or 3 in any quest chain was almost always, "Gather 10 of <insert item that drops 3% of the time from a mob that's either hard to kill (i.e. lots of resting between killings) or just doesn't spawn very frequently>" And the number of items kept going up while the drop rate and respawn rate kept going down.

              And don't say I shouldn't have done
          • Exactly! If only blizzard would make this kind of thing a part of the game, or at least legal, I'd probably start playing WoW again. It's just silly that, as fun as WoW is, it's got such boring repetitive grinding in it. It's really quite annoying.
    • by brkello (642429)
      Look at your life and think about how much of it could be automated by bots. Your expectations are unrealistic if you think a game could be so dynamic that people can not come up with a bot for certain aspects of the game.
    • The thing is, you rarely HAVE to spend hours fighting the same enemies over and over in WoW.

      It's very possible to enjoy every aspect of the game, from PvP combat to end-game raiding, with very little "grinding" or "farming." Those who do grind or farm a lot are usually after marginal benefits or "prestige" items with no major functional advantage. Even in the most "endgame" raid guilds, those basement-nerd collectives you've heard about filled with people who play 30+ hours a week, most of those people only
  • by 3dWarlord (862844) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:30PM (#16899132)
    If people are willing to pay for a program to play the game for you.
  • Description? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TravisW (594642) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:41PM (#16899234)

    Some of us here (me included) are interested in legal issues but don't play WoW. A better summary would have included a description of the program, so that those of us who don't keep up with this niche have to fish around through links.

    From the (admittedly linked) WoW Glider Homepage. "WoW Glider is a tool that plays your World of Warcraft character for you, the way you want it. It grinds, it loots, it skins, it heals, it even farms soul shards... without you."

    I don't need the karma, but Glider FAQ [wowglider.com]

    -T

    • It's pretty straight forward.

      You generate your WoW character. You then fire up Glider, and enter the game.

      You then set waypoints and alter variables that will determine how your character will respond to threats, bad guys, etc. How far it will pull a target in from, how often it will heal, will it skin corpses, so on and so forth.

      Once the characterics are set, and the waypoints are all selected, you kick it off and the character will wander between your waypoints, killing enemies in the manner you suggested
      • by Echo5ive (161910)
        It does, however, become a problem when there are five bots literally cleaning out entire areas making it impossible for the ordinary players to do their own quests there. And that's not exaggerating; I've seen it myself. If I wasn't on an RP server I'd attack them on sight if they were of the opposing faction.
        • That is actually a problem with the game. Blizzard is using this as an excuse instead of fixing core elements of game play.
  • It would be nice to get some more details on this. There are a couple of things that could be illegal about WoWGlider. The first is the name: using a trademark of Blizzard is probably not legal. The other, the DMCA thing would likely be something-or-other related to hacking.

    Selling tools that interact with other software is not illegal. You can sell software that automates eBay auctions, for example. As long as it doesn't act as a denial of service attack or contain material copyrighted by someone else (sh
    • by Morgaine (4316) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @06:26PM (#16899624)
      What's illegal about cheating in a game?

      Nothing. But then Blizzard/Vivendi wouldn't be so utterly stupid to try to sue him for cheating in a video game. The worst they could do is ban him from it, which I'm sure they've already done.

      However, they might try to sue him for interfering in some way with their software. That would be incredibly hard to do though, since he does not modify anything nor copy anything over which Blizzard have copyright. (Copyright is a protection on works, and not on dynamically created in-core data, under any circumstances.) And he has not stolen any commercial secrets either, as long as he didn't go dumpster diving around the back of Blizzard labs. Reverse engineering for interoperability is certainly perfectly legal, and that's what Glider does, interoperate with WoW.

      What's more, he has not circumvented any DMCA protection device either, since he is merely reading system memory which is not protected but in the clear. And it's his own machine's (or user's machine's) memory, so clearly he (or the user) has every right to read it.

      Finally, he uses that information to drive the user's keyboard and mouse. Well, I'd like to see anyone challange his right to do that. ;-)
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by murphyje (965004)
      While "World of Warcraft" is certainly a registered trademark of Blizzard, Inc., to my knowledge "WoW" has never even been claimed as a trademark by Blizzard.
  • by Channard (693317) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @05:57PM (#16899370) Journal
    .. by not emoting 'HAY GUYZ I NEED A HEAL' or 'WANNA JOIN MY GUILD' every five seconds. Actually I guess Blizzard are worried not so much by the DMCA stuff as the fact this takes away human interaction from the game. Which is, after all, the only real reason to play an MMORPG and not an offline RPG.
  • I'm curious about the details of this. I suppose I should RTFA, but really, what more can they do to this guy other than ban him and anyone using his software?

    In what way can they actually sue him for simply developing software?

    Don't get me wrong, I'd very much like to see him go down, hard, even though I wish Blizzard would bother to make WoW less of a grind. But not using DMCA tactics, not if this means what I think it means. In general, providing the means to do something illegal should not, by itself, b
  • If a game is so suckie that you are willing to pay for a computer program to do it for you....wouldn't it be better to just not get the game to begin with?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Durrok (912509)
      To farm items and gold to sell to people IRL for real cash, to farm for ingredients for items you are going to use in a raid later that night when you are not there, etc.
  • Glider is bot software, but you cannot win a settlement against the creator of such software. It is the player that uses the software that is violating the Terms, and for doing that, they can be banned. If Blizzard could credibly argue that this single player is damaging their revenue in a noticeable way (very difficult, since the truth is that almost no other player is walking away from WoW because of this one player botting, and more likely, the botter would quit if forced to play without the bot, which
  • by daverabbitz (468967) on Saturday November 18, 2006 @09:12PM (#16900874) Homepage
    Has anyone considered writing an MMO where scripting up the client and making bots is part of the game. It seems so many people just play to be the l33t357 (did I spell that right?), and they get to there by botting, so why not have a game where that is the aim.

    I don't play MMO's as I don't have time, and I can't really see the point in paying money to Blizzard so my bot can play (It's bad enough having to support my brother), but I think it would be pretty cool to have a game where I can write a bot in perl (or your favourite scripting language) and have it compete against other bots to master the game. The server would need to enforce state, as it seems to be the big problem with a lot of these MMO's that they trust the client. The client says hey, I've just picked up this uber item and moved to the top of this dungeon instantly, and the server says, ok, here you are.

    The game would need to have complex economics, and somewhat complex combat/raiding/whatever in order to make ai difficult enough that it was a challenge.

    It would probably best suit the space genre as it is more plausible that a space craft/robot/??? operates autonomously, than a Paladin/Wizard/Grue.

    Also it would be great for people like me who can't be bothered sitting in front of a computer for hours on end playing MMO, when there's better things to do (like sitting in front of a computer for hours on end playing FPS).

    Meh, maybe I'll make something, can't be that hard anyway...
    • by mqduck (232646)
      How about something more along the lines of an RTS? Each player writes a script that directs how their side will build up, attack and defend, then you load them in the game and start it. After each game, the players can tweak their scripts more and more. I've never written bot or AI scripts, but if a game like this was made, I just might learn. ;)
    • by sammyo (166904)
      >Has anyone considered writing an MMO where scripting up the client and making bots is part of the game.

      Second Life?

    • by Cookie3 (82257)
      Has anyone considered writing an MMO where scripting up the client and making bots is part of the game. It seems so many people just play to be the l33t357 (did I spell that right?), and they get to there by botting, so why not have a game where that is the aim.

      But, see... Most people don't want to MAKE bots, they just want to USE them. To that end, I suggest a game that pre-includes everything necessary to fire-and-forget:
      http://www.progressquest.com/ [progressquest.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alsee (515537)
      Has anyone considered writing an MMO where scripting up the client and making bots is part of the game.

      There is a rather number of games tracing back at least as far as 1961 [wikipedia.org] where the entire game itself is to program bots. The most famous is almost certainly Core Wars. [wikipedia.org] Those two are more "pure programming" than "bot", but some later games did move to a bot style with a multitude of competing bots in a single arena such as the 1989 multi-platform Omega. [wikipedia.org]

      I'm not sure what the latest-greatest games would be in
    • by miu (626917)

      "God games" are a limited form of this, and are a fairly limited niche. Actually scripting or coding the game would be even more limited in appeal.

      I've never seen an MMO take either approach and can't really imagine it being commercially successful, MMOs cost a lot of money to develop and publishers have come to consider anything that doesn't make WoW numbers to be a failure.

      The roguelike games tend to develop a botting meta-game, but they rely on community norms and honor to keep participants honest, q

  • I used to write ALOT of bots for other MMORPGS before it became a big thing to do. Bots ruin a game only because people come to the realization that its not really a game, just a repetitive task that a computer can do for you with more determination. There is something of cruel joy when your PK bot pwns newbies screaming,"Peace!" If I wasn't starting to kick but in Texas Holdem, I'd spend my time writing a Tekken style RPG, where you actually have to fight. DDO tried it, but their attacks aren't varied
  • NOT PAYED, sheesh.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) * <dfenstrate AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @01:26PM (#16904972)
    If they had a legal leg to stand on, the Blizz team would have left him with their list of legal complaints, not taken it back after allowing him to briefly look at it. They can afford a few pieces of paper in a legal process.

    I don't see any other way to interpret their behavoir. Their complaints wouldn't stand up to scrutiny, so they don't let him scrutinize it.

    That being said, there are two reasons people grind: to level a toon they want to actually play, and to gather cash so that they don't have to grind for it to support their raiding habits.

    They could eliminate the former reason by giving new characters on an account with one or two max level characters perma double xp, or triple or something along those lines.

    If leveling subsequent characters was much faster a good deal of folks would lose interest in bots. That is an old complaint, to be sure, but it's relevant.

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