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 Jan 14, 2005 - 12:00 PM - by Michael
* EFF steps in on Blizzard vs BnetD

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PC Games/Hardware/Microsoft
The EFF has stepped into the Blizzard vs BnetD legal struggles.

At issue in this case is whether three software programmers who created the BnetD game server -- which interoperates with Blizzard video games online -- were in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Blizzard Games' end user license agreement (EULA).

BnetD is an open source program that lets gamers play popular Blizzard titles like Warcraft with other gamers on servers that don't belong to Blizzard's Battle.net service. Blizzard argued that the programmers who wrote BnetD violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions and that the programmers also violated several parts of Blizzard's EULA, including a section on reverse engineering.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), co-counsel for the defendants, has appealed a District Court decision in St. Louis that held that programmers are not allowed to create free software designed to work with commercial products.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether the three software programmers who created the open source BnetD game server were in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Blizzard Games' end user license agreement (EULA). EFF will argue that programming and distributing BnetD is a fair use and therefore violates neither Blizzard's EULA nor the DMCA's prohibitions.

As it stands, the lower court's decision makes it unlawful in most cases to reverse engineer any commercial software program, thus making it impossible to create new programs that interoperate with older ones. This squeezes consumer choice out of the marketplace by essentially allowing companies to outlaw competitors' products that interact with their own. EFF considers this situation unacceptable and will use the appeal to explain why EULAs and the DMCA should not be allowed to trump fair use forms of reverse engineering when undertaken to create new products.


Their opening brief (PDF) is available here
 

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