EFF condemns copyright abuse in awsuit threat against Open Source gamer community


Author: JT Smith

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
today chided media conglomerate Vivendi Universal
Publishing for threatening gamers who created their own
multiplayer gaming community.

On behalf of its Blizzard Entertainment division, Vivendi
sent a “cease and desist” letter to Internet Gateway Inc.,
the Internet Service Provider (ISP) host of a free software
project called “bnetd” that emulates Blizzard’s Battle.net
gaming service. Blizzard game purchasers can meet online
or on a local area network to chat, find competition, and
start multiplayer games using the bnetd software.

Vivendi demanded that the ISP disable the website hosting
the bnetd software, claiming it violates copyright law and
the anticircumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act (DMCA).

EFF responded to Vivendi’s letter, explaining that its
claims were unfounded and stating that the bnetd software,
which was removed upon receipt of the demand, would be
reposted in 10 days.

“A group of volunteers decided to write a server for
Blizzard games because the Blizzard servers were
undependable and we wanted increased functionality,”
explained Tim Jung, owner of Internet Gateway, based in St.
Louis. “Vivendi claims that the server violates the law
because it does not implement checking the game’s CD-KEY,
designed to prevent the use of illegal copies of their
games. We asked them to give us the information we needed
to do the checking, but they refused.”

“This is yet another example of misuse of the DMCA and
copyright law,” noted EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Bnetd
developers engaged in legal reverse engineering without
circumvention or any illegal activity.”

The DMCA has no requirement that one must include every
feature of a program or system like CD-KEYS; in fact, the
DMCA’s “no mandate” provision states that developers of
interoperable programs do not have to respond to CD-KEYS
and similar technology.

“Corporations have wielded the DMCA to censor magazines,
academic researchers, and competitors,” said EFF Senior
Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann. “Now
Vivendi is using the DMCA to threaten customers who simply
want to improve the gaming environment for a product
they’ve purchased legitimately.”

Cease and desist letter sent by Vivendi Universal:

EFF reply to cease and desist letter:

For this release:

Bnetd website:

Blizzard’s explanation:

Media coverage and websites related to the case:

A Penny Arcade comic about the case:

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively encourages and
challenges industry and government to support free
statement, privacy, and openness in the information
society. EFF is a member-supported organization and
maintains one of the most-linked-to websites in the world at

About Internet Gateway:

Founded in 1995, Missouri-based Internet Gateway provides
Internet and networking solutions, as well as consulting
services, to businesses and end users across the country.
Internet Gateway provides Internet access, consulting and
support to other ISPs as well as to its own customers. In
addition to nationwide consulting and support, Internet
Gateway currently provides Internet access to five cities
including the St. Louis metro area, Cape Girardeau,
Sikeston, Perryville and the St. Charles/St. Peters metro
area. The company website can be found at

About bnetd Project:

The bnetd project is a collaboration focusing on
development of a server that attempts to emulate Blizzard’s
Battle.net gaming server. The bnetd project is run by
volunteers and is neither supported by nor affiliated with
Blizzard Entertainment. The project website is at