World of Warcraft Bot Maker Suffers Crushing Defeat

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World of Warcraft Bot Maker Suffers Crushing Defeat

Ceiling Fan Software logo

Ceiling Fan Software is facing a $7 million judgment after losing a legal battle with Blizzard over its World of Warcraft bots.

Score another one for the big guy, as Blizzard has prevailed against another maker of bots that automate World of Warcraft. Blizzard won a summary judgment against Ceiling Fan Software in September after a judge ruled that "the uncontroverted evidence establishes all elements of Blizzard's breach of contract claim against the individual Defendants." The judge also agreed to issue a permanent injunction against the company, following submissions from both Blizzard and Ceiling Fan on its terms.

That injunction was issued earlier this week, ordering Ceiling Fan Software to permanently halt the sale and support of its bot and forbidding it from transferring any part of the software to any entity other than Blizzard. The court also issue a whopping $7 million judgment against the company, which posted a message on its website apologizing to users for no longer being able to offer its products.

"After more than 2 years of legal battles with Blizzard Entertainment to both pursue our right to operate and our customer's right to play WoW as they choose, we did not prevail in the suit and have been ordered by the United States District Court in California to cease our operation," the message states. Ceiling Fan is also now soliciting donations to help cover its legal fees.

The order granting Blizzard's summary judgment is available here, while the permanent injunction and $7 million judgment against Ceiling Fan Software is here.

Source: Ceiling Fan Software

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How dare that big meany Blizzard try and ensure people follow the rules when playing a multiplayer game. Those jerks.

I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

Sean951:
How dare that big meany Blizzard try and ensure people follow the rules when playing a multiplayer game. Those jerks.

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

In Denmark, we actually have paragraph in our Copyright law that ensures us the right to develop software that works with other software, including the right to reverse engineer the parts of the software necessary for us to make our own software work. Over here, Blizzard would have lost that lawsuit :-)

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

A "Leak" could mean more than just a 7 mill judgement. Blizz knows their code so they'll know a leak and it circles back to CFS

Damn the whole "trial" took two years to complete? Must have been a good legal team on both sides to keep it going that long, or blizzard played the whole "Lets keep delaying the case and run them out of money so they can't keep their case going" power move.

Also, with subscription numbers dropping by the thousands or millions, whatever the case may be, can't this be seen as a negative for blizzard? Maybe I'm over thinking it.

Third party software is one thing, but having a bot qualifies as "cheating" at WoW. While having an addon/mod is one thing, having one that damages the game for other players is quite another, and this clearly damages the game for others. It wrecks the economy and degrades the experience of other people trying to farm. It would be interesting to see how that case would play out in Denmark though.

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

If it was, I would imagine that either Blizzard would see the people at the company utterly ruined or they would face criminal charges for failing to comply with a court order.

If they made bots specifically for World of Warcraft then I can see this being a serious problem.

Now if they made a bot program and released a World of Warcraft "template" on to the net that needed to work in conjunction with it - not selling of course, just leave it out there like a subtitle file for a video clip - it'd be a lot harder to prosecute.

From what I understand they were making World of Warcraft bots specifically designed to breach the terms of service of World of Warcraft and were selling them for profit.

Zero sympathy. It's a multiplayer game.

Athinira:

Sean951:
How dare that big meany Blizzard try and ensure people follow the rules when playing a multiplayer game. Those jerks.

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

In Denmark, we actually have paragraph in our Copyright law that ensures us the right to develop software that works with other software, including the right to reverse engineer the parts of the software necessary for us to make our own software work. Over here, Blizzard would have lost that lawsuit :-)

On the flip side I can completely understand the appeal of bots and I would argue for their use being allowed... if only the use of bots didn't give someone an unfair advantage over other players by denying other players access to resources or reducing their team's chance of winning in a battleground. If your bot does something that doesn't affect another player I'd be all for it, but when it goes against the spirit of the game and experience that OTHERS pay for I would hope the courts of Denmark take that into account as a deciding factor.

We here in America take fairness in sports and entertainment very seriously (i.e. steroids in baseball, etc.)

If only we were this concerned about fairness in things that actually affect people's quality of life...

Sean951:
Third party software is one thing, but having a bot qualifies as "cheating" at WoW. While having an addon/mod is one thing, having one that damages the game for other players is quite another, and this clearly damages the game for others. It wrecks the economy and degrades the experience of other people trying to farm. It would be interesting to see how that case would play out in Denmark though.

Rather irrelevant. In Denmark you have to prove (and by that i really mean prove) actual damages in order to be eligable for compensation. Since most people who get banned in WoW buy their accounts back (which is why Blizzard does 'banwaves' rather than banning people all the time - it increases the chance of them buying the game again, and gives them a reason to post positive publicity). So no, it wouldn't really be interesting to see. Our legal system is much more simple than in the states, and this is a very cut and clear example where it's about as straigth as it gets :-)

Abomination:
If your bot does something that doesn't affect another player I'd be all for it, but when it goes against the spirit of the game and experience that OTHERS pay for I would hope the courts of Denmark take that into account as a deciding factor.

They won't. As mentioned above, very cut and clear case of a consumer right here (or, software-developer right since it concerns software). As long as the software doesn't circumvent any copy-protection, and isn't being used to make a similar/duplicate program, it's a cut and clear case. Blizzard needs to prove actual damages to be eligable for anything in a civil suit. Simply arguing that "Bots are ruining the experience" isn't gonna cut it, because those are Blizzards rules to enforce, not the courts.

The first thing you said actually reminds me of the AutoTravel addon in WoW. Before patch 1.6, addons used to be able to initiate movement, so someone made an addon called AutoTravel. You would set waypoints, and the addon could navigate by those, including automatically mounting. You could also name the waypoints, so if you had several waypoints called "Mailbox", you could have an addon with a macro that said "/at goto Mailbox", and it would automatically find the closest mailbox to you. I'm still sad they removed that addon (although it probably wouldn't be much use with flying mounts) - good times in vanilla, thanks for the nostalgia trip :-)

Bots... I can think of nothing positive that is associated with their use, with the exception of the user of said bot being able to gain things they didn't play for.

Good on Blizzard. Crap like that needs to get stomped out.

Good fucking riddance. Bots screw up the in-game economy and ruin pre-90 battlegrounds, one of my favourite parts of the game.

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

More likely Blizzard will repurpose the code and start selling power level bot packages at a premium.

"Catch up to your friends faster!!"

Can't say I've never used a bot out of curiosity.(Literally, the longest I've had a bot run for was 60 seconds and at that, it performed extremely poorly. It was more efficient to do it myself.) However, I've never really accepted that bots as a whole are a detriment and give an unfair advantage. Fact is, doing it yourself is faster/more efficient if you do it right. Unless the bot is extremely well coded, you're at a deficit, not a gain. It really kindof boils back down to the whole debate regarding Pokemon and Action Replay codes being used to create "perfect" pokemon instead of the hours and hours it takes to breed merely 1 (one) not quite perfect and the months it could take to breed a "perfect" then having to repeat that over 6 "pokemon" for competetive play. But, that's neither here nor there. My issue, is with the 7,000,000$. Is that in legal fees or is it a fine? If it's legal fees-Fine, that's fair, they need to be recompensed for the time and energy spent debating it in open court. If it's a fine-No, that's not cool. You cannot properly gauge how much or how little impact this one software groups "bots" did or did not do to the World of Warcraft as a whole. It isn't like they were creating a way of bypassing Battle.Net security and making false accounts that were being spoofed and played on legitimate servers. They were making automated methods of playing an online game with no tangible consequences. I'll be the first to admit, I take pride in my characters, I take pride in my achievements. It pisses me off knowing I'm "working" hard at a game and others are just cheating their way into finance and making headway on a raiding schedule that I never get to be a part of, but this is taking it a bit too far.

Definitely rooting for Blizzard on this one. Gold sellers/buyers, script kiddies and people running bots are a cancer in this MMO and need to be catapulted out of the game as fast as they can possibly catch them.

Also, I love that the bot makers are trying to play the self-righteous indignation card.

Athinira:

Sean951:
How dare that big meany Blizzard try and ensure people follow the rules when playing a multiplayer game. Those jerks.

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

In Denmark, we actually have paragraph in our Copyright law that ensures us the right to develop software that works with other software, including the right to reverse engineer the parts of the software necessary for us to make our own software work. Over here, Blizzard would have lost that lawsuit :-)

For start they did not sue for breach of copyright but for breach of contract. Ceiling fan accepted that contract when they bought their copies of wow. Blizzard have proved breach of contract and even under Danish Law you can't profit from an illegal act, any and all monies taken will go to Blizzard. I would suggest reading the article before going on about Danish copyright provisions because they are not pertinent to the case.

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

From the judgment against ceiling fan

4. Defendants, and all persons under Defendants' direction, supervision,
and/or control are prohibited from transferring or assigning the Software or its
source code, to any individual or entity other than Blizzard, including by making
available or uploading the software to Google Code, or otherwise "open sourcing"
the source code for the Software.

If the code gets leaked, the directors of ceiling fan are personally liable and could face fines and jail time for contempt of court. Blizzard would also be legally entitled to pursue case against the personal assets of the directors.

Athinira:

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

Bots today, FRAPS tomorrow?

I could see that happening, sadly. Suddenly if you want to record video of your game play, you need the Blizzard combo recorder plus codec ($20 USD). Anyone caught recording on anything else will have their account banned.

Someone tries to argue the point *Points to bot case*

"But sir, it wasn't hurting your game," you might argue.

"Sure it is, look at how low our sales of the Blizzard game recorder is, but how many let's play videos are on youtube on our latest game," replies the lawyers, "Everyone one of those should have been a sale."

Frost27:

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

More likely Blizzard will repurpose the code and start selling power level bot packages at a premium.

"Catch up to your friends faster!!"

Yeah that TOTALLY sounds like something they'll do.

-eyesrolledupsohighglowingorbsreplacethem-

OT:
Yay. Bots suck. It's pretty one-sided from the player's perspective I feel like. Less so in the legal circles, but I'm not part of them.

I may not play WoW anymore, but just knowing that a company that made money off those bots is dying horribly makes the world a brighter place for me.

Athinira:

Sean951:
How dare that big meany Blizzard try and ensure people follow the rules when playing a multiplayer game. Those jerks.

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

In Denmark, we actually have paragraph in our Copyright law that ensures us the right to develop software that works with other software, including the right to reverse engineer the parts of the software necessary for us to make our own software work. Over here, Blizzard would have lost that lawsuit :-)

There are other issues though. Can you profit from the software that works with other software? Some things are okay if you give it away but when you start bringing in sales you've gone too far.

Im very much on Blizzards side here. If you get caught breaking the rules I have 0 sympathy for you.

TwoSidesOneCoin:
Damn the whole "trial" took two years to complete? Must have been a good legal team on both sides to keep it going that long, or blizzard played the whole "Lets keep delaying the case and run them out of money so they can't keep their case going" power move.

Also, with subscription numbers dropping by the thousands or millions, whatever the case may be, can't this be seen as a negative for blizzard? Maybe I'm over thinking it.

As someone who played WoW in the bot heyday...

no, in fact if this had happened back then I would of bought more game time instead of letting it run out. Nothing is more annoying than seeing a level 60 [at the time] gnome mage running around and the instant you target him he targets you regardless of where you are at and stops moving, presumably macroing his attacks.

Anyone who has played an MMO that has boting in it will say that they wish the developer would do something about them. Unless of course they themselves bot, but then who would openly admit that?

Sean951:
Third party software is one thing, but having a bot qualifies as "cheating" at WoW. While having an addon/mod is one thing, having one that damages the game for other players is quite another, and this clearly damages the game for others. It wrecks the economy and degrades the experience of other people trying to farm. It would be interesting to see how that case would play out in Denmark though.

Zeren:
I give it a week before the bot code is "leaked" and a spike of bots swarm WoW.

If it was, I would imagine that either Blizzard would see the people at the company utterly ruined or they would face criminal charges for failing to comply with a court order.

What makes you think that someone couldn't put the code out there anyway? The last time I checked, laws and legal threats don't stop people if they really want to share something.

i sense a sudden intrusion into computer systems formerly owned by the company and the code somehow being accessed and distributed.

but this brings up other questions. there are bots and hacks made for many multiplayer games. this judgement could very well set a precedent.

SecondPrize:
There are other issues though. Can you profit from the software that works with other software? Some things are okay if you give it away but when you start bringing in sales you've gone too far.

And why is that going to far?

There are limitations stating that the software you develop cannot be similar in nature to the software you are making it operate with (meaning that it cannot, at the basic level, provide the same functionality). But beyond that, there is no reasonable argument for why it should be disallowed to make your own independent software and sell it (coded and developed by yourself), that works with some other unspecified software. Unless you copy code or similar, which is still illegal, it's still an original piece of work. The reverse engineering clause is to allow for study of the software to allow understanding of it's mechanics.

It's by the same model that Jailbreak-only apps for iOS are sold. They are also developed for iOS and sold on seperate app-stores, even though they aren't sanctioned or supported by Apple (who actively work against jailbreaking) :-)

Edit: someone also provided the excellent example of FRAPS. FRAPS is a commercial software that works with most games, but if FRAPS happens to experience problems with some games, the developers would by danish law have the right to investigate what was causing the issue. By your argument, they would either be prohibited from fixing the problems (unless they could reach an agreement with the publisher/developer) or be forced to freeware/open-source their software. Not really a healthy model for the software-developing community to run on.

albino boo:
For start they did not sue for breach of copyright but for breach of contract. Ceiling fan accepted that contract when they bought their copies of wow. Blizzard have proved breach of contract and even under Danish Law you can't profit from an illegal act, any and all monies taken will go to Blizzard. I would suggest reading the article before going on about Danish copyright provisions because they are not pertinent to the case.

Except that part 3 of the paragraph in question specifically says that the rights this paragraph grants you CANNOT be waived by agreement. So the law trumps anything Blizzard writes in their EULA or ToS in that regard, which still makes it very pertinent to my original post.

I would suggest reading and understanding danish law (which i can hardly blame you for not doing, since they don't have official english translations - i assume you're from the United States - and are hardly that interesting given that we're a small country) before going on about what is or isn't relevant to my example. :-)

Edit: also, even though I've already mentioned this in an earlier post, in Denmark you need to be able to prove actual damage in order to be able to make a financial claim in a civil suit in addition to proving that there has been a breach of copyright to begin with - which as already stated isn't the case. Simply pointing to breach of parts of the EULA/ToS (which the law in this case invalidates anyway) isn't going to award you anything.

JaceArveduin:
Bots... I can think of nothing positive that is associated with their use, with the exception of the user of said bot being able to gain things they didn't play for.

When Runescape was full of bots all those years ago when I was on a dialup connection it was okay.

The economy was actually awesome. When the very first ban drive went through in RSClassic the economy went in the absolute shitter and consumeables went up to absolutely bullshit prices for a few months before people started botting again.

I'm talking about pretty much every material or food went up by a couple of hundred gold each, some of the higher end fish doubled price.

Getting shit done was difficult. I honestly think bots made that game, because without them getting stuff was really fucking hard because nobody would ever have enough stuff to sell, and EVERYONE would want top dollar for it. Finding what you wanted was hard enough, it was nice when there were a dedicated crew of all these botters who had a heap of shit to sell. Very convenient.

I've been told there's an auction house system in place now, so maybe that makes bots less required in the game but who knows.

Athinira:
In Denmark, we actually have paragraph in our Copyright law that ensures us the right to develop software that works with other software, including the right to reverse engineer the parts of the software necessary for us to make our own software work. Over here, Blizzard would have lost that lawsuit :-)

That's not actually true. The key words there are "to make our own software work." Denmark's copyright clause is designed to prevent unethical obsolescence plans like Microsoft does, where the software breaks down and you're not allowed to modify it without breaking terms of use. It's not designed to prevent people from making programs which clearly compromise the integrity of a game that already works perfectly fine on its own.

You're talking about a clause instated to protect the customer from unethical software companies bleeding you for unnecessary 'new editions' of a program that don't appreciably change. Honestly, Blizzard would likely have still won the case in your country because that clause wouldn't even apply to bot makers. There is no logic in the world that would convince a sane judge that a company which creates bots that trail around a perfectly functional digital world soaking up xp is worthy of being protected under that law.

Not to say they wouldn't try, but I guarantee it wouldn't fly in court.

Your example would only work if the people getting fried in court by blizzard were making, for example, a patch that would make the game work for people that it didn't work for. That would be protected. Bots? Not even close.

Good, bots are god damn annoying. There was a time when I couldn't even compete with ore farming as there was bots seemingly on 24/7 just patrolling the area picking up everything in their path.

Ninmecu:
But, that's neither here nor there. My issue, is with the 7,000,000$. Is that in legal fees or is it a fine? If it's legal fees-Fine, that's fair, they need to be recompensed for the time and energy spent debating it in open court. If it's a fine-No, that's not cool. You cannot properly gauge how much or how little impact this one software groups "bots" did or did not do to the World of Warcraft as a whole.

The fine is the Punishment part of the deal. Not fining is like saying: "Well don't do it again." And leaving it at that. The point of the fines is the Punish the parties that broke the law. It's incentive not to do it again and an example to others who might think about committing similar practices. Maybe it was a steep punishment but consider this:

A company was making programs that unfairly compromised the fairness and integrity of their game in the favor of people who paid for ai bots to follow them around. Then they took up Blizzards legal attention for over two god damn years trying to weasel out of it. I'm the first to point out Blizzards flaws too but the fact is that this company very clearly broke a ton of ToA rules which the Judge agreed was the case. The SOLUTION to the problem was dissolving the company and making them unable to sell the bots anymore. But that's not punishment. What's to stop them from just doing it again under a different banner in a different game? That's the point of punishment.

Punishment is not to 'pay legal fees' or 'recoup losses'. Let's face it, Blizzard is stinking rich. They don't actually need the money, however nice it is to have. The point is that it punishes, rather severely, the people who broke the law and the ToA. Now others know that if they do that, then they too could get slapped with a 7 mil ticket. That's the point.

lordmardok:
That's not actually true. The key words there are "to make our own software work." Denmark's copyright clause is designed to prevent unethical obsolescence plans like Microsoft does, where the software breaks down and you're not allowed to modify it without breaking terms of use. It's not designed to prevent people from making programs which clearly compromise the integrity of a game that already works perfectly fine on its own.

You're talking about a clause instated to protect the customer from unethical software companies bleeding you for unnecessary 'new editions' of a program that don't appreciably change. Honestly, Blizzard would likely have still won the case in your country because that clause wouldn't even apply to bot makers. There is no logic in the world that would convince a sane judge that a company which creates bots that trail around a perfectly functional digital world soaking up xp is worthy of being protected under that law.

Wrong. You're reading the wrong paragraph here. What you are referencing here seems to be, at least from what I'm reading, § 36 of danish copyright law. I'm referencing § 37, which gives exactly the rights I've been talking about. Those are two different paragraphs. Since your profile says you're American, I've done you the favor of translating it for you (Google Translate is rather useless for laws, so i did it myself).

As you can see, it very clearly states "to make an independently developed software program and other software programs capable of interoperability with the original software program".

So in short, it probably would (and should) fly pretty damned well, assuming you stick to the restrictions applied, (including only doing the necessary reverse-engineering work, not using it to develop/market a similar product, not transmitting/publicizing the information you've gathered, and that you have a license to use the original product, which in this case means simply having an active WoW-account). Even an EULA/ToS clause that specifially says "You cannot make bots for this game" would be invalidated by this, because the law always protects your right to make an independent software program work with another program as long as the restrictions in question are respected.

pezofdoom:

Athinira:

Whether you like cheating or not (most people don't, obviously), this is still a rather controversial subject.

Consider that a judgement like this can be used as a basis for limiting/prohibiting ALL software development of third-party addons/plugins for games or other software (not talking the standard WoW addons here), and it's in fact a rather large limitation.

Bots today, FRAPS tomorrow?

I could see that happening, sadly. Suddenly if you want to record video of your game play, you need the Blizzard combo recorder plus codec ($20 USD). Anyone caught recording on anything else will have their account banned.

Someone tries to argue the point *Points to bot case*

"But sir, it wasn't hurting your game," you might argue.

"Sure it is, look at how low our sales of the Blizzard game recorder is, but how many let's play videos are on youtube on our latest game," replies the lawyers, "Everyone one of those should have been a sale."

Those 2 cases are not even the slightest bit similar, blizzard could make that same case without the bot one and the outcome would be the same.

For 1, recording gameplay isn't against the T&Cs, and if they added it in to the T&Cs you better believe there would be a shit storm from the community and it would likely bring lawsuits upon blizzard for purposely eliminating the competition in trying to create a monopoly on gameplay recording.

This case doesn't give shaky precedence to anything except other bot makers (third-party program that Automates gameplay)

Ninmecu:
Can't say I've never used a bot out of curiosity.(Literally, the longest I've had a bot run for was 60 seconds and at that, it performed extremely poorly. It was more efficient to do it myself.) However, I've never really accepted that bots as a whole are a detriment and give an unfair advantage. Fact is, doing it yourself is faster/more efficient if you do it right. Unless the bot is extremely well coded, you're at a deficit, not a gain. It really kindof boils back down to the whole debate regarding Pokemon and Action Replay codes being used to create "perfect" pokemon instead of the hours and hours it takes to breed merely 1 (one) not quite perfect and the months it could take to breed a "perfect" then having to repeat that over 6 "pokemon" for competetive play. But, that's neither here nor there. My issue, is with the 7,000,000$. Is that in legal fees or is it a fine? If it's legal fees-Fine, that's fair, they need to be recompensed for the time and energy spent debating it in open court. If it's a fine-No, that's not cool. You cannot properly gauge how much or how little impact this one software groups "bots" did or did not do to the World of Warcraft as a whole. It isn't like they were creating a way of bypassing Battle.Net security and making false accounts that were being spoofed and played on legitimate servers. They were making automated methods of playing an online game with no tangible consequences. I'll be the first to admit, I take pride in my characters, I take pride in my achievements. It pisses me off knowing I'm "working" hard at a game and others are just cheating their way into finance and making headway on a raiding schedule that I never get to be a part of, but this is taking it a bit too far.

i'd just like to make a point here that the purpose of bots is not to necessarily emulate the level of player activity on a 1 to 1 basis, but also by running during times when the user is not actively playing, or in the case of resource gathering, multiple agents which may collectively meet or exceed the production speed of just one person

Good riddance. bots and botters can go to hell. I hate WoW but I hate bots way more. I only wish the court order could make Ceiling Fan required to pawn off the shirts from their backs.

Good. If, while playing a videogame that you're paying $15 a month for, you decide you'd rather have the computer play it for you, it should be obvious that you are not having fun which is what games are for!! (generally... Spec Ops: The Line yada yada)

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