Most game companies take a hard stance against cheating in online games such as World of Warcraft, often putting protections in place to prevent unauthorized software from being used while playing and even banning players who don’t play by the rules. This hasn’t stopped programmers from making bots and other software designed to circumvent the rules and give players some sort of advantage, however.
World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment isn’t willing to just let this happen, though. Vowing to “aggressively defend” its games, the company has filed a lawsuit against the creator of bots for its games and has even taken some questionable actions to better guard against those bots.
On November 11, Blizzard filed a lawsuit against a German company called Bossland that makes and sells bots for WoW, Diablo III, and Heroes of the Storm. Blizzard claims that not only do the bots cause harm to the company, by giving users an unfair advantage over other players, but that the bots actually infringe on Blizzard’s copyrights by “reproducing, adapting, distributing, and/or authorizing others to reproduce, adapt, and distribute copyrighted elements of the Blizzard Games without authorization.” The lawsuit targets programmer James “Apoc” Enright and other unnamed defendants, instead of going after Bossland directly.
In response, Bossland CEO Zwetan Letschew alleges that Blizzard has gone too far. Blizzard supposedly made a deal with Enright, with the terms of the deal including Enright turning over the source code for the Heroes of the Storm bot known as StormBuddy. As the bot is the property of Bossland, however, he claims that the source code was not Enright’s to give and that Blizzard “acted in a manner as shady as possible for a multi-billion-dollar corporation” to get its hands on his company’s intellectual property. Bossland has since removed StormBuddy from its store and halted further development, though other “Buddy” bots remain available for World of Warcraft and Diablo III.
This isn’t the first time that Blizzard and Bossland have been to court; Blizzard has sued the company before in its home country of Germany and won. This makes it seem a bit strange that the company named Enright specifically and not Bossland, since Blizzard obviously knew who the “Buddy” bots belonged to. This lends at least some credence to Bossland’s insinuation that Blizzard targeted Enright specifically to get the source code, since he is not an executive or shareholder at Bossland and was described by Letschew as being just a “random freelancer.”
Given Blizzard’s claims, its history with Bossland and the fact that it can fall back on a study from 2009, which suggested that games like WoW are legitimately harmed by bots, it’s likely that this lawsuit will end up another win for Blizzard. A threatened countersuit by Bossland likely won’t be successful, though it’s suggested that the suit will simply be an attempt to find out the exact terms of Blizzard’s deal with Enright anyway. Regardless, the suit shows that Blizzard isn’t afraid to take any steps it deems necessary to try and curb the use of bots in its games.