Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Who owns your Wow DVD?

I'm going to talk about something that most of us might find a big vague, something a little bit strange and not obvious... Ownership of an MMO.

More specifically the ownership of the DVD/CD media it came on.
I've already talked about Developers bringing in the opinions of the players through some sort of democracy, the reason that post came up is really because of the draconian stance Blizzard Entertainment have always taken with World of Warcraft, they are very sensitive about ownership of WoW. And I'm not just talking about the intellectual property I'm talking about the physical disks.

Blizzard are currently taking a company known as MDY to court over a certain supposed problem with a software product MDY produced to allow automated play of Warcraft (yes they made a bot, a good one as it happens and Blizzard have taken them to court – right or wrong on either side I'm not going to be talking about that, but) one thing which has come up in the course of that court case is the ownership of the media the MMO was delivered on. What they are referring to is, the CD or DVD it came on.

I myself have a half dozen physical copies of WOW and the expansions handing about. All including Boxes, key codes and manuals... I even [somewhere] have a copy of the original WoW manual which explains how you can become a criminal!... [that feature never got into the game, but it did get into the manual and it does explains the gallows outside certain goblin towns].
Now, according to Blizzard we the paying public, whom have all these DVD's and boxes on our shelves, we don't own those boxes. We are only leasing them... This I believe is just a lawyer trick to make Blizzards case against MDY a little more solid.

However, to me it casts a couple of scary and interesting points. First of all, if I'm just leasing my DVD boxes... and I'm not currently subscribed to the game... am I defaulting on some lease agreement? If so, should I return my discs forthwith? Or am I not actually leasing them, and I do own them [and are MDY right in their assertions]?

It is a heck of a tricky question for anyone to answer, it's typical of where a slippery oily skinned lawyer has got their teeth into getting money out of Blizzard to fight this case for them. And they've not thought this through... I mean, for example, if I go and throw away my DVD's and boxes and all the bits of shit that came in the box with the game, actually are Blizzard responsible for taking these items back and recycling the material? There is precedence set for schemes like this with batteries, so instead of my putting plastics from those discs out the door, to leech their oestrogen-like gubbins into the soil, should Blizzard provide me with a return address where they will accept their property back?

I'd have to come down on the side of common sense and say, no, Blizzard are not responsible for what I do with these things, they don't want that kind of burden... yet they want to bully MDY?

What it boils down to from MDY's point of view is that someone went to the store, Itheyhanded over money for something and they walked away with it. No-one spoke to a Blizzard representative, I myself never signed nor acknowledged an EULA in doing that part of the transaction. I did it, myself, in conjunction with the game being on the shelf, it was there, I had money, so I bought it.

Indeed in the depths of the MDY archive of stuff about the case from Blizzard they [MDY] point out that “if a sale looks like a sale, if it smells like a sale, then it's a sale” not a lease. Yet Blizzard are continuing with this absurd opinion that we only lease our game disks, we do not own them. They're clinging to this mantra in the face of ever growing legal opposition [see Vernor v Autodesk, UMG v Augusto and other cases out there].

I believe Blizzard are arguing this line of thought because you no longer need a physical disk to deliver the game to your machine for playing, indeed even if you start off putting a DVD install in you end up downloading a vast amount of data from Blizzard in order to play. I can understand Blizzard saying that you are leasing the service on their server to download that additional information, and the information itself is their own, I can get my head around that...

Except, you don't need to subscribe to download that information, you can download the game before subscribing, you can even download it and get it all fully patched without creating a trial account.

So are setting a prescedence themselves of giving this information away, they give it you, and then punitively prohibit people from using the information given?
As you can tell by my rambling this is neither a neat, nor a tidy topic for anyone to litigate. I feel very sorry for whomever ends up on the judging panel or jury for this case.

I understand how Blizzard want to protect their game, they don't want massive farming operations using game gold to launder money from whatever nefarious criminal activities through out the world [that's a topic for another post right there] but I don't understand why they don't stomp on that at the gold transaction level, something they can track and monitor in their database.

For instance, the case against MDY has been pending for a very long time now [two years I think] in that time, I've been in World of Warcraft and seen all sorts of hacks being used to advertise gold selling sites... why are Blizzard not more proactive in dealing with that, which they can monitor and control, rather than this long expensive litigation, with dubious questions of ownership, with MDY?

If Blizzard had just stuck to the concise and direct point of “you the human must interact with our client software” then it'd be nice and neat, but arguing about our owning the DVD's we paid for... it's just a layer of obscurity which doesn't wash. Especially when while using MDY's software you still have to give Blizzard your subscription fee!

You can read all about the legal machinations going on between MDY and Blizzard at MDY's Site: http://www.mmoglider.com/ in the forum under legal. Some of it makes for interesting reading.

Other coverage of this case:

Please note - I do not condone botting/hacking/cheating in a game, I simply don't like seeing people bullied.

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