Court: no hacking Blizzard games

A three-judge panel from the 8th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court ruling that bars hacking Blizzard’s online titles. Two programmers, Ross Combs and Rob Crittenden, created an open-source application that emulates Blizzard’s Battle.Net, allowing owners of Blizzard titles to connect to unofficial servers.

Since its creation, BnetD has been used by gamers to play Blizzard titles online. By playing on non-Battle.Net servers, players get more control over channel names, account attributes, and can more easily take action against undesirable players. It also allows them to play online for free while avoiding Battle.Net’s occasionally draconian administration. Blizzard responded to BnetD’s appearance by filing suit against the programmers, accusing them of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act along with breaking the EULA the games shipped with. In a 3-0 decision, the judges agreed with Blizzard, stating that Combs’ and Crittenden’s creation broke Blizzard’s EULA, which bars users from reverse-engineering the software. In addition, the court also upheld the lower court’s finding that BnetD violated the DMCA’s prohibition against circumventing software antipiracy measures.

The court’s ruling is an unqualified victory not only for Blizzard, but also for other software developers that want to restrict how consumers use their products. Following the reasoning of the decision, it looks as though third-party developers who want to create add-ons to extend the functionality of or interoperate with an existing program are likely out of luck. The ruling also serves as a grim reminder that clicking the ubiquitous “I Agree” buttons during the installation process has actual ramifications, even if those work against the consumer’s best interests. But as long as consumers keep buying and clicking, there’s no incentive for Blizzard or others to do things differently.


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