Blizzard is going after cheaters, and the people who create the programs that make exploitation possible are trying to fight back.
Yesterday, Torrent Freak posted a story about James “Apok” Enright, who created software that allows players to cheat in Blizzard games like Heroes of the Storm and World of Warcraft. Blizzard filed a lawsuit against Enright, who turned over code for a cheat bot by Bossland, the company he was doing freelance work for.
Bossland told Torrent Freak that this infringed on the company’s copyright.
“Today, Blizzard acted in a manner as shady as possible for a multibillion-dollar corporation,” Bossland chief executive officer Zwetan Letschew told Torrent Freak. “We were informed that the deal compelled Apoc to submit the entire source code of Stormbuddy, which is actually the intellectual property of Bossland GmbH, to Blizzard.”
Blizzard, however, isn’t having it.
“Bossland’s entire business is based in cheating, and the use of their bots negatively impacts our global player community,” Blizzard told GamesBeat. “That’s why we do not tolerate cheating in our games, and it’s why our players overwhelmingly support that policy. We’ve already won numerous cases against Bossland in Germany [where it’s based], and despite their tactics to delay the ongoing proceedings and the related repercussions, we’re confident that the court system will continue to validate our claims and ultimately stop the distribution of these cheating bots.
“We’ll continue to aggressively defend our games and services, within the bounds of the law, in an effort to provide the best possible experience for our players,” Blizzard continued. “We want to use this as an opportunity to remind players who might not be aware — using bots, such as those distributed by Bossland, to automate gameplay in our games will result in a loss of access to those games.”
We asked attorney Jesse Saivar, who specializes in intellectual property law, if Bossland had a case.
“I think it’s a stretch, at least if [Bossland is] really going to try to argue IP infringement,” Saivar told GamesBeat. “If Apoc gave Blizzard Bossland’s code, it’s really Apoc who would be liable for infringement. First of all, if he was under confidentiality obligations with Bossland, that would constitute a breach of confidentiality (and, thus, a breach of contract). In addition, to the extent he copied the code and distributed to Blizzard, that could also constitute copyright infringement because it was Apoc who copied and distributed the code. Blizzard, on the other hand, doesn’t have any duty of confidentiality with Bossland so they wouldn’t be in breach of any confidentiality obligations.”
Sounds like Blizzard is in the clear, but Saivar continues.
“In addition, it doesn’t sound like Blizzard has any plans to exploit Bossland’s code,” Saivar told GamesBeat. “They just want to see it. If all they’ve done is receive it, they’re not violating Bossland’s copyright because they’re not making or distributing copies. They’re just looking at something provided to them, which isn’t copyright infringement. My guess is that they want to see it because Blizzard may think that Bossland’s code includes some of their own code from their games. If so, it would be Bossland who was violating Blizzard’s rights, not vice versa. Perhaps Bossland could come up with some other claim but I think any claims rooted in IP would be pretty weak.”
This looks like a slam-dunk for Blizzard. Cheating in games like Heroes of the Storm is problematic, since it gives players an unfair advantage in titles built around competition. Blizzard also has lengthy Terms of Service documents that players have to agree to before playing its games, and these state that cheating is not allowed. So, if any of you were actually rooting for Bossland on this one, you’re probably not backing the winning horse in this race.