Blizzard wins hacking lawsuit

Federal appeals court says players don't have the right to reverse engineer games to circumvent


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A federal appeals court has ruled that computer programmers do not have the right to reverse-engineer Blizzard Entertainment's video games to improve their playability.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled Thursday that federal law--specifically, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act--disallows players from altering Blizzard games to link with servers other than the company's official site.

Affected games published by Blizzard, a division of Vivendi Universal, include games in its Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft lines.

In a 3-0 decision, the court upheld a trial judge's ruling from October, concluding the programmers' "circumvention in this case constitutes infringement."

The DMCA broadly restricts circumventing, or bypassing, antipiracy measures. Blizzard had included such measures to tie its games to the site and detect pirated copies.

The defendants in the case, Ross Combs and Rob Crittenden, reverse-engineered the Blizzard protocol using tools like "tcpdump" to listen to the software's communications with a game server. Eventually, their "bnetd" project let Blizzard games connect with unofficial servers, yielding benefits like faster response times.

The 8th Circuit also cited a contractual agreement that Combs and Crittenden OK'd when installing Blizzard software. That agreement prohibits reverse-engineering.

[Blizzard providing the following statement to GameSpot shortly after this story first appeared: "By again ruling in our favor on every count, the court is reiterating the message that creating unauthorized servers which emulate Blizzard’s servers is without question illegal," stated Paul Sams, chief operating officer of Blizzard Entertainment. "We have worked hard to provide gamers with a free and secure environment on, and this ruling further validates that we are justified in protecting our service and our players. In addition, it represents another major victory against software piracy."]

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Avatar image for iowastate

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Avatar image for SmallPower

My World of Warcraft paladin just hit level 15.

Avatar image for bunchofpixels

I have no problem with what they did. Bnet is slow as hell, so Id love to have another option.

Avatar image for Gedddy_lee

I defenitly think there should be no hackers Hackers suck hard but a lawsuit? comeon

Avatar image for Naggeh

Court has spoken, i agree! i dont think it's fair that some **** can play for free when i pay! AND they steal from blizzard by using fake stuff, BNet auths cd-keys meaning that a fake cd-key cant be used on BNet. the fake servers doesnt auth cd-keys.

Avatar image for warnexus100

i still dont like whe ppl using exploits and hacks in starcraft to name a few stacking buildings on top of each other, eliminate fog of war, more resoucres

Avatar image for rycr

They may not be altering the program itself, but no matter how they did it, they are circumventing copyright protection. Whether it's illegal or not doesn't matter. I'm assuming that the EULA mentions that you can't, under any circumstances, bypass the copyright detection in any way, shape or form, which means that they broke a contract that they agreed to. I'm siding with Blizzard, but I'm still sorry for those guys, since they didn't really have any malevolent intent. But they still broke the law.

Avatar image for Benet

Nooo! The guys that make these servers only make it more fun for the players, its not like they're getting payed or getting anything back for it.

Avatar image for jamesgecko

A few points: 1) It's not "hacking". They watched the signals being sent to and from the official servers and wrote software to mimic them. This is sort of like what people do with obscure video cards to write Linux drivers for them. (minus the network, of course.) 2) To play on an unofficial server, you edit a file and enter a new server URL. There's no "hacking" here, either. You aren't modifying the client. 3) is free to play. The only reason Blizzard has a problem with it is because the free server software can't auth cd-keys. 4) is full of annoying people. It's not uncommon for people to have private servers they play on with their friends for other games. 5) This leaves people out in places like Africa literally almost no way to play the game. You think is laggy normally? Try connecting to it halfway around the world.

Avatar image for rancorx

That is plain stupid i agree with blizzard but at the same time i feel for the people who made the free servers some people just want goof off whats rong with that its not like they were hurting any one any who thats all i got to say .... for now = D peace

Avatar image for ryokinshin

creating private servers for a free service? good going. just another look at people who want everything and dont want to give anything