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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Blizzard Suing the Makers of Starcraft II Cheats and Hacks

The BBC reports:

Activision Blizzard is trying to sue hackers who have created cheats for its Starcraft II video game. 
The publisher says the software undermines online multiplayer battles and could cause players to lose interest in the title.
The full complaint is available here.

Blizzard argues that those who make the cheats for Starcraft II infringe Blizzard's copyrights by copying or recreating the game in the process of manufacturing the cheats. Moreover, Blizzard's terms of use for its online competitors prohibit users from making "cheats, automation software (bots), hacks, mods, or any other unauthorized third-party software designed to modify the Service, any Game, or any Game experience." Blizzard argues that makers of cheats know that this contract exists, and that the makers of cheats induce Starcraft II players to violate their contracts, which undermines the game's legitimacy. The hackers Blizzard is suing are those who are able to circumvent Blizzard's "Warden" security measures which generally prohibit players from using hacks and modifications.

Blizzard has sued makers of mods before. In 2013, the company won a lawsuit against Ceiling Fan Software, which had manufactured a bot for World of Warcraft players. The District Court for the Central District of California's ruling is available here. The bot would allow the World of Warcraft players' online characters to "engage in repetitive and elongated play" of the game, which would allow players to obtain experience and "virtual currency" over "periods of time impossible for human players (for example, through the night or for hundreds of hours without interruption)" (apparently the court was not familiar with the habits of some human players of World of Warcraft).

In its lawsuit against Ceiling Fan, Blizzard argued that these bots violated the same terms of use that Blizzard is raising in its current lawsuit against the Starcraft II hackers. The court held that Ceiling Fan's bots and their distribution of the bots was tortious interference with the Terms of Use contracts to which World of Warcraft players had agreed. The court that decided the Ceiling Fan case is the same court in which Blizzard has filed its lawsuit against the Starcraft II hackers.

While I am not familiar enough with the mechanics of manufacturing cheats, bots, and hacks to know if Blizzard's copyright claims will succeed, it looks like Blizzard has a pretty good chance of arguing that the defendants interfered with its terms of use contracts.

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