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Blizzard Wins $88M Judgment Against  WoW  Private Server Owner
Blizzard Wins $88M Judgment Against WoW Private Server Owner
August 16, 2010 | By Kris Graft

August 16, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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    33 comments
More: Console/PC



Blizzard Entertainment last week won a default judgment worth tens of millions of dollars against the operator of an unauthorized World of Warcraft server.

A U.S. District Court judge awarded Blizzard $88 million from defendant Alyson Reeves, operator of Scapegaming, according to court documents obtained by Gamasutra. Blizzard originally filed the lawsuit in October last year.

Blizzard accused Reeves of copyright infringement, unfair competition and circumvention of copyright protection systems, among other allegations. The company said Scapegaming was "well aware" that its actions were unauthorized.

The total award includes over $3 million in disgorged profits, $85.4 million in statutory damages and $64,000 in attorney's fees. Reeves had not responded to the suit, resulting in the default judgment in favor of Blizzard.

Blizzard had accused Reeves, based in the state of Georgia, of marketing and promoting Scapegaming, which allows users to access the copyrighted World of Warcraft without using official Blizzard servers, circumventing subscription fees due to the game's creators.

Operators of pirate servers can alter gameplay of copyrighted MMOs like World of Warcraft, such as allowing players to level up considerably faster than in the legitimate game. The original complaint said Scapegaming would ask for "donations" from players -- but these donations were in exchange for virtual items ranging from $1 to advance characters two levels, to $300 for a pack that included a collection of rare items.

The judge's order said Blizzard "submitted satisfactory evidence from third-party PayPal Inc. showing that Defendant’s PayPal account received $3,052,339 in gross revenues."

The order also said that Blizzard submitted satisfactory evidence that showed Reeves' website (Scapegaming.com, currently down) hosted 32,000 users on a given day in June 2008. That same month, there were over 427,000 members of the Scapegaming community, and Reeves, who goes by a number of aliases including "Peyton," said that 40,000 people play on Scapegaming's servers every day.

The court took the size of the community, 427,000, and multiplied that figure by $200 "per act of circumvention" of a copyright security system, and came to the statutory damages amount of over $85 million. It's unclear if Reeves, who didn't respond to the suit, would be able to pay the award to fulfillment, or if the defendant would appeal the ruling.


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Comments


Aaron Truehitt
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And that's whatcha get for touchin' that.

Travis Griggs
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I have a feeling Reeves is long gone with his or her, 3+ million dollars. I know I would left the country the second that suit arrived...

John Goos
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Oh man, might as well put in jail for the rest of their lifes. Since they will never pay that off.

Brett Stuart
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88 million? Sounds a bit ridiculous...

Jason Taylor
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Brett:



Of course it does, that's the point. Blizzard is making an example to others.

Andre Gagne
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How can you justify a price of $200 per user for copyright infringement? The server wasn't cracking every client in order to pay, no?

Matthew Cooper
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The Empire Strikes Back

Samuel Browning
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Ok, now while I am all for the nipping in the bud of any and all PC game piracy (it kills the market, seriously) $85 Mil sounds pretty darn ridiculous. Though really, that might be what Blizzard was aiming for with this. This is like a legal way to proverbially say 'OMFGSTFU!!1'

Dan Felder
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I think they wanted us to sit back and go, "Wow..."

Tom Baird
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@Andre



The Clients link directly to Blizzard's server, and therefore you need both a Cracked server, and a cracked Client.



If he was providing the Cracked Clients with the Server, then he infringed on every client downloaded.

Alex Franco
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Lmao @ matthew's comment!

Andre Gagne
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@Tom



From a bit of research it looks like all you need to do is change a file called "realmslist.wtf". Changing a text file is considered copyright infringement? Wow, I fully understand how ludicrous our world is...



Am I violating a copyright by writing this message?



Blizzard just jumped down the slippery slope.

BobbyK Richardson
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Reeves has dissapeared to the Bahamas with that $3 million and Blizzard has made sure nobody will try this again.



A private investigator friend of mine said she was working on a case for Blizzard "about a lawsuit", I really wasn't that interested, I figured it was against a user. Reeves count your days, because they're numbered. One day a bounty hunter is going to slap on a pair of handcuffs when you least expect it.

John Ragland
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Well Blizzard actually got the result it wanted, as anyone in the industry knows, the aim wasn't to get $85 M, the aim was to scare and cease and desist the website and it's owner[s]...



If they can actually recoup some of the monetary damages good for them, but as we also all know, Blizzard isn't hurting for money... XD



With Diablo 3 on the Horizon, and Starcraft II reborn, well you do the math... That 85 m is chump change to Blizzard.

Evan Combs
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Andre, I agree, there was no copyright infringement on running a private server for a game. Although what could have been violated was the terms of service, but then you run into the problem of not being able to read and agree to the terms of service before purchasing said product.

Rage Quit
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I get it. And I love PC Gaming and never want to see it die. The only thing that really pisses me off is the legal system in the States and how a Judge can make a ruling like this. Seriously $85,000,000? Get a f****** grip. Award what the defendant made off the infringement, pay the lawyers bills and some more money to make a point, but if they guy made 3million, how can you award 28x more than the guy profited off of his dirty deeds?

It's almost as lame as awarding the RRIA 40k a song that a single mother downloaded for personal use. Makes me sick.

Maurício Gomes
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I wonder why it is copyright infrigement?



I mean, the server does not need copied assets (or code), and the client side can be BOUGHT, and then asked to load a alternative server (you don't need to "hack" it).



It is kinda stupid.

Andre Gagne
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Yeah, I figured this, us talking right here, was the reason blizzard sought 85 million vs. the 3 it's actually owed.



Hrm. I'm seriously considering never working for any activision studio because of shenanigans like this.



I wonder what, exactly, blizzard had a problem with? the free server or the donations? Is this meant to scare the rest of the free servers into shutting down?

David Rodriguez
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It's not that shocking honestly. He didn't respond to the suit, he didn't show up to court and he CLEARLY is guilty of pirating a server of a Trademarked property that is tied to TONS of licenses and is worth TONS of money. Maybe if he showed up it would of been substantially less but courts HATE no shows. Not to mention going against big dogs like Blizzard. Everything he coulda done wrong, he did.



Life lesson right here, If you don't confront your fate and instead let someone have 100% control when they pass judgment on you...well, lets just say you won't be going Number 2 correctly for a while. Have a nice life Reeves.

Dave Smith
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he got what he deserved.

gus one
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I am a shareholder in ATVI. The reality is the $3m in sales he made was my money since I have a share in the ownership of WoW. It's tantamount to theft. As for the fine $200 per player is nothing. Look at the small print at the start of DVDs and see the fines for copying films.

dan levin
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i don't understand people here that think that blizzard is being ridiculous about this lawsuit, this guy stole the game, he took a game blizzard worked a lot on and gave it away for free, 85m is the money blizzard would have for the users that were on the server, blizzard is not being ridiculous, they ask for exectly what they lost

Daniel Boy
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@gus: but the reality is more complicated. A friend of mine started on a (i think) swedish pirate server, played for half a year and then he and his four friends migrated to blizzard. How can that be? First and foremost because they hated in-instance crashes. He's a very smart guy, but he would have never paid 13€ a month for the content, in the beginning he talked about freedom and the wild side. But in the end he pays happily for the service. By ripping off ATVI he began to understand the value of their product (beware the anecdotal evidence... but he is now a paying customer and he and his friends give ATVI 1000$ more revenue p.a.).

Evan Combs
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Dan and Gus, from the information given he neither stole the game nor gave it away for free. All he did was open a free server for people to play a game they already spent money to buy. This is an issue that is outside of copyright. There may have been other issues that he would have been guilty of, but in no way was he guilty of any copyright law unless something more was going on other than simply running a server.

Aaron Casillas
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The lines of code can be copywritten (a similar case occured between EA vs Activision when members of a start up that left EA had lines of code belonging to EA). Say the game was client to client only (which I doubt highly) and he was merely providing a match making service, he is still denying the owner of lawful direct revenue. This would be like opening a McDonad's without a franchise license.

Vlad Zotta
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$88 million is a ridiculous ammount. check my analysis here to understand why



http://blog.gamaganda.net/2010/08/17/blizzard-awarded-88m-faulty-
system-or-mock-trial/

gus one
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@ Evan.



On the contrary when you 'buy' WoW you are buying the right to play it for 30 days period. If you want to play more then you pay monthly thereafter - think of it as getting the game free and buying 30 days server rental time in future. The criminal was not licenced to open the free server and then provide services to personally profit from generating revenues of $3m. The breach of copyright is simple - he took Blizzard's IP and personally profited from it. If anyone thinks this is not copyright infringement/theft they just are not commercial.



As for Pirate servers being a means to an end - the alternatives are called trials and they last a couple of weeks to a month. Doing a 6 month 'trial' on a Pirate server as Daniel commented is unreasonable and ridiculous. It's also worth pointing out that his mates only subscribed after such a poor server on the Pirate server. Presumably if the service was better they would still be using a Pirate server. Poor argument for justifying theft.

Aaron Casillas
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Gus is correct here. The property and the means to access the property belong to Blizzard. Basically this would be equal to stealing a car, then renting it out. The car was never his in the first place. I'm not sure why people have a hard time understanding ownership...strange.

Brett Stuart
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@gus



If the game is free and the money spent is for "rental time" then it shouldn't matter what is being done with the clients; especially since the people who played on the "pirate" server most likely had no intention of paying Blizzard a monthly fee at all. The argument that revenue was lost is simply absurd.



The whole "rental" scheme is also something which is a bit unsettling. I think its a clever way to scam people out of their consumer rights, but that's another issue.



I do however agree, that profiting off the IP is copyright infringement. However, that infringement is definitely not worth 88 million dollars. For Blizzard to argue for that amount is just ludicrous and it makes them look like the D-Bags over at the RIAA as someone noted previously.

Tom Baird
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@ Brett



"especially since the people who played on the "pirate" server most likely had no intention of paying Blizzard a monthly fee at all. The argument that revenue was lost is simply absurd."



They had no intention because they have a free version. Every single person on every single Pirate server is interested in WoW, and therefore a potential customer. Not every one will buy it, for a myriad of reasons, but trying to say that most wouldn't seems a bit silly. They gave him 3 million dollars collectively for items in a game they have no interest in?





"The whole "rental" scheme is also something which is a bit unsettling. I think its a clever way to scam people out of their consumer rights, but that's another issue."



Not really a scam when it's on the front of the box, and embedded within the genre. You know what you are getting and choose to get it.





And I don't think you understand the result of this trial. I do not think that anyone at Blizzard will ever expect to collect 88m. I would even go so far as to assume that if Reeves steps forward he could settle it to a substantially lower (but still incredibly high) price. The point of this result is to make every single other private server and person interested in making a private server know that the consequences are more than they can possibly handle, and deter future piracy. They don't want more money from this, they just want less piracy.

Brett Stuart
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@Tom



"Ever single person on every single "pirate" server is interested in WoW, and therefore a potential customer."



That's a hard sell in my opinion. These "pirate" servers are vastly different than their retail counterparts. The people who run these servers change the rules of the game significantly, in some cases to the point where the only similarity are the graphics and the interface. So to say that the players interested in a heavily modified version of WoW are potential subscribers is flawed. You in fact prove this with the following,



"They had no intention because they have a free version... They gave him 3 million dollars collectively for items in a game they have no interest in?"



The question that just begs to be answered is, why did these players decide to give their money to the owner of a "pirate" server over that of Blizzard? It's simple really, because it's not the same game. This completely nullifies that revenue was lost. Just because you play on a "pirate" server does not mean you would ever play on a retail one. And this doesn't even go into the fact that the money spent on the "pirate" server was optional.



"Not really a scam when it's on the front of the box, and embedded within the genre."



I would be willing to wager that the majority of WoW players have no idea they do not own the game. I would also be willing to wager that the majority of WoW players have no idea that Blizzard reserves the right to terminate their access to the game at any time without any notice or reason. These two facts alone should set off some serious consumer protection warnings.



To say that it is embedded within the genre is cop-out in my opinion. Just because people like us who work in the industry understand how it works doesn't mean that the 11 million subscribers to WoW do. The genre is also thankfully starting to break away from this practice with Free-to-Play becoming much more popular.



Don't get me wrong in all this though, I'm not a fan of piracy or copyright infringement. The owner who made that $3mil should have it taken from him. However, filing a lawsuit and winning for $88mil is not just absurd, but was an abuse of the legal system.

David Fried
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@Brett



How is it a hard sell? If they had no interest in WoW, they would have no interest in pirating WoW either. It's a very easy sell in my opinion, and the court obviously agrees. It would be different if they were all running torrent sites that simply transfer the WoW client. Then sure, maybe they have an interest, maybe they don't, but they were all ACTIVELY PLAYING THE GAME! That is a clear interest in WoW from any point of view. For this particular server, my understanding is that the only rule that has changed, was that you could purchase items rather than having to earn them... All assets, all content, is generally the same.



Any money spent by these players for items, clearly shows an interest in WoW. If they are willing to pay for items, then it stands to reason that if there was no pirated WoW server, they would pay and try to earn these same items.



Regardless, if the person being sued had shown up and had his own lawyer, maybe he could have argued against some of this and brought the lawsuit down to something more feasible. Not showing up = rape in the court system.



If a cop doesn't show up for a speeding ticket trial, guess what happens? The charges are automagically dropped.



Anyways, the vast majority of the lawsuit here stems from the whole pirated server thing. The server is NOT something Blizzard sells or allows anyone to have access to. The fact that he had a server is not unlike stealing a priceless artifact that no one else is supposed to have. Hacking clients is frowned upon and illegal by the EULA, though they do allow for sanctioned modifications using the built in functions they put in for that purpose. But stealing the server... Not acceptable under any circumstances. =p



As to WoW players knowing they don't own the game. It's in the EULA. On top of that, they hear about bannings of hackers all the time. Most people understand that if Blizzard wants to shut down all its servers one day, then they can't play the game anymore. Anyone who bought Earth and Beyond is well aware of that fact...

Haole Dude
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Alright,

So I now wonder when Blizzard is going to go after servers like Molten which makes a ton of money off their donators. They have more then 3k players per realm for both Litch King & Cata & rank #1 in most of the top lists for private wow servers. It is also claimed by the owners of Molten that they have legal rights allowed by Blizzard to have their servers up though I find that hard to believe being that they are stealing population away from the retail game. There are quite a few private servers out there that think they are untouchable much like the poor fool who just got nailed by Blizzard. Just to name a new #1 molten-wow.com, #2 monster-wow.com, #3 dispersion-wow.com, #4 wowbeez.com, #5 http://eternal-wow.com/ & so many others. Also why doesn't Blizzard target the top sites that list these illegal private servers to help cut down on making it so easy for players to find new servers & sites like AC-Web.org who supply the needed files for setting up such servers. If you nip the sites & people who are supplying the files to host there will be a lot less servers around & a lot less people able to just start up a new one.


none
 
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