Originally 2/19/07 posted on Avataritoria.
Blizzard Entertainment is taking legal action against the site that sells WoW Glider, a bot program that basically plays WoW for you. I learned about this from a rambling post over on Markee Dragon, a site that links to various bots, cheatware and gold famers.
I didn’t know about the WoW Glider situation because, of course, I don’t cheat. Hell, I feel guilty when I use the “World of Warcraft Atlas.”
Again a games developer is using? abusing? copyright law to control how its game is used. And again, I am torn. I don’t like publishers bullying gamers into using a product a specific way.
But I really, really don’t like cheaters.
WoW Glider sits and plays WoW while you are not at your computer, following a complex set of instructions. Some people think this isn’t cheating, since the user is not manufacturing illicit items or making walls invisible. After all, it’s just a more advanced example of the macros Blizzard lets you create, right? Right?
I’m not a lawyer. Avataritoria’s Paul Ang, who went to law school, always tells me there are no good or bad lawsuits — you either win or you don’t. This is a very lawyerly thing to think. He also reminds me often that the law has nothing to do with what’s right and what’s wrong. Also very lawyerly.
I have no doubt Blizzard will prevail in this legal action, since the current climate in law and politics is slavishly servile to corporate interests over fair use. But should Blizzard win? Do they have a point?
1.) Blizzard accuses WoW Glider of violating its intellectual property rights. This may be valid under the law, but it’s bogus in reality. Intellectual property law was invented to protect the right of artists to make money off their creative labor. It was not intended to prevent anybody else on Earth from ever making money off your labor ever, or to keep your ideas from being used in ways that annoy you or make your life harder. Intellectual property law has been amended to include these things, but it should not have been — fair use, a vital part of cultural development, has been hobbled and nearly eliminated as a result.
2.) Blizzard says that WoW Glider encourages users to violate the WoW Terms of Service. This is undeniably true, but I have two problems with it. First, I have no interest in non-negotiable boilerplate contracts that strip all of my rights as a consumer, and permit a corporation to change any provision they wish at any time. I’m not aware of any particular instance of Blizzard abusing their EULA, but cell phone companies do it all the time. The potential for abuse is enormous.
My other problem is, “yeah, so what?” WoW Glider permits users to break the rules. That makes the cheater the problem, not the cheat bot. WoW Glider has no legitimate use, to my knowledge — but the EULA isn’t violated until you log in and use it. Lots of people want to make bongs, lock picking kits and hack programs illegal, but I don’t. It’s not wrong to have the tool, it’s wrong to use it, and the distinction is important. (I’m well aware this goes against my long-held views on gun control; but guns kill people, and serve no other purpose at all, ever. I resent the idea of a device someone can point at me, press a button, and I’m dead.)
3.) Blizzard has pointed out that going after WoW Glider users and banning them costs Blizzard money. Yeah, well, boo hoo. As a paying, non-cheating WoW player, that’s why I pay you guys. Going after bot creators will never stop the creation of bots, any more than napalming cocaine farms cures drug addiction.
This all makes it sound like I support WoW Glider and oppose Blizzard. This is absolutely not true. I’d love to see cheatbots eradicated from the Earth, or at least from Azeroth. Players who cheat are scumbags. (I have respect for the people who break something like WoW apart, figure out how it works, and find all the hacks. But again, there’s a sharp clear line between hacking the game out of curiosity, and using that knowledge to ruin the game for everyone.)
But using the law to eliminate cheating makes me very nervous, not because Blizzard is doing harm, but because they may set precedents that will allow others to do harm. I’d really rather Blizzard stuck to finding cheaters and banning them.
That said, you won’t find me donating any money to WoW Glider’s legal defense.