Feeds

World of Warcraft bot ban ticks off world of critics

Glider crash, DMCA power grab, you name it

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Analysis A federal appeals panel has upheld a ban on the distribution of a once-popular World of Warcraft bot in a sprawling ruling that is sure to anger just about everyone with a stake in the debate over whether gamers have the right to tweak the titles they play.

Tuesday's 3-0 decision from the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals said the Glider bot, which automatically plays early levels of WoW to save users time, violated provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that bar the circumvention of technology designed to prevent access to copyrighted material. Glider maker MDY Industries added the measure to evade a feature called the Warden, which WoW maker Blizzard Entertainment added to enforce terms of service that forbid the game's 10 million users from employing bots.

The ruling means that MDI's sole member, Michael Donnelly, who had gross revenue of about $3.5 million selling 120,000 Glider licenses, won't be able to put the bot back on the market anytime soon. That's sure to tick off gamers and hackers who believe they should be able to modify the software they legally acquire, as well as entrepreneurs who want to make money selling products that do just that. (WoW users who consider Glider users cheaters, on the other hand, are likely to applaud.)

The lynchpin of the ruling (PDF) is the determination that one of the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions extends a new form of protection that is distinct from those under the US copyright act. That finding, which directly contradicted a 2004 ruling issued by an appeals court in Washington, DC, means content owners are free to wield section 1201 (a) against bot makers and modders even when there is no claim of copyright infringement.

That's sure to tick off critics who believe the DMCA has already handed hardware and software manufactures too much control as it is.

The decision also affirms previous decisions, including this one from September that people who pay money to use software are mere “licensees” of the titles, not the owners. That means the software makers are free to impose restrictions on its use that in many cases wipes away important consumer rights.

But Tuesday's opinion offered much to anger manufacturers as well. It struck down a lower court finding that Donnelly was liable for what's known as secondary infringement because Glider made it possible to violate Blizzards copyrights. While Glider violated WoW's terms of use, the violation was rooted in contract law, not copyright, so there was no direct infringement to begin with, the judges said.

“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 opinion stated. “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.”

The judges went on to overturn a finding that Donnelly was personally liable for a $6.5 million fine. They also ordered the lower court to reconsider the fine amount in light of the determination there was no infringement.

“This was a victory for our client,” Lance Venable, one of the attorneys representing Donnelly, told The Reg. “It wasn't what we wanted in total, but it was definitely a victory.”

He said he's confidant the ruling on the DMCA's anti-circumvention provision could be overturned should the US Supreme Court ever take up the matter. And with a split on the matter in appellate courts, it wouldn't be surprising to see the nation's highest court weigh in.

Until then, parties on all sides will have to grin and bear it. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.