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Dangerous Ruling Menaces Rights of Free Software Programmers
Contract and Copyright Trump Fair Use and Competition in BnetD Case
St. Louis - Fair use was dealt a harsh blow today in a Federal Court decision that held that programmers are not allowed to create free software designed to work with commercial products. At issue in the case was 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, argued that programming and distributing BnetD was fair use. The programmers reverse-engineered Battle.net purely to make their free product work with it, not to violate copyright.
EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz said, "Consumers have a right to choose where and when they want to use the products they buy. This ruling gives Blizzard the ability to force you to use their servers whether you want to or not. Copyright law was meant to promote competition and creative alternatives, not suppress them."
EFF will appeal the case, challenging the court's ruling that creating alternative platforms for legitimately purchased content can be outlawed.
Electronic Frontier Foundation