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The producers of World of Warcraft may not like gamers using automated “bots” to play the game, but the company can’t ban the practice under copyright law, Public Knowledge has told a federal court in Arizona.
In a brief filed Monday (May 5) with the U.S. District Court in Arizona, Public Knowledge said that Blizzard Entertainment, which produced the game, misinterpreted copyright law in its suit against MDY, which produces the “Glider” software that plays World of Warcraft while the owner is not even at the computer. Blizzard claims Glider infringed on the game’s copyright, arguing that by breaking the rules in a license agreement, the players are violating copyright each time they load the game into computer memory in order to play it.
Public Knowledge argued, however, that Blizzard doesn’t have a claim on copyright grounds because the right to make of users to make the copy for use by the computer is already guaranteed by law. According to the brief: “Therefore, Blizzard cannot claim any infringement of its copyrights based upon the creation of RAM copies because the right to make those copies was never Blizzard’s to license in the first place.”
In its brief, Public Knowledge argued that if the Court accepts Blizzard’s arguments, then companies would impose onerous new terms on their licenses: “Under Blizzard’s theory, a copyright owner could not only contractually impose the most onerous restrictions on its customers—restrictions that undermine rights guaranteed by copyright and First Amendment law—but could also enforce those conditions with the threat of copyright law’s high statutory damages. Blizzard’s attempt to use contract to alter and displace those aspects of copyright law it does not like, while using copyright penalties to construe and enforce the terms of that alteration, is untenable, and the Court should not endorse it”.
Sherwin Siy, Public Knowledge staff attorney, said the case was filed to protect copyright principles, not to take the side of one company or another. “This is a case pitting distasteful gaming behavior against an unsavory over-assertion of copyrights,” he said. A Public Knowledge blog post about the case is here.
A copy of the brief is here.