San Francisco - 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 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:

Bnetd website:

Blizzard's explanation:

Media coverage and websites related to the case:

A Penny Arcade comic about the case:

Related Issues