Running a massively multiplayer online game with nearly 11 million patrons from all corners of the globe comes with its fair share of challenges, to put it mildly. While the vast majority of World of Warcraft-related problems can be settled in-game, Blizzard has shown no hesitation in taking its grievances to court. Primarily, Blizzard's efforts have been limited to the illegal buying and selling of in-game currency, more colloquially known as gold farming.
Another issue that has given Blizzard cause to loose its stable of lawyers is third-party software that runs counter to its End User Licensing Agreement (EULA). In 2007, Blizzard filed a counterclaim against MDY Industries, which sells the game-automation software WOWGlider, an add-on that lets players automate certain monotonous tasks in WOW such as repeatedly killing enemies to quickly gain character levels.
Blizzard's counter alleged that the automation software company was in violation of WOW's EULA, which prohibits third-party add-ons from being used with the popular MMOG. The counterclaim was in response to MDY's original suit filed in the US District Court of Arizona against Blizzard in 2006. As part of that complaint, MDY sought relief after Blizzard threatened the company with legal action, saying WOWGlider was a flagrant copyright violation and MDY was being unjustly enriched from the program, among other charges.
As reported by the BBC today, the Arizona court has awarded Blizzard damages totaling $6 million related to its first three counts against MDY. Experts had expected Blizzard to reap a higher sum from MDY, but as noted by the BBC, the company won a portion of its arguments as well as openly conceded the point that paying some form of damages would be reasonable.
Still outstanding in the case are issues related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and whether the company's founder, Michael Donnelly, will be forced to pay the damages out of pocket. The court expects to hear arguments over these issues beginning January 2009.