St. Louis - Game maker Blizzard Entertainment, along withits parent company Vivendi Universal Games, late Friday sued a small Internet Service Provider and its owner for distributing free software that emulates Blizzard's free Battle.net gaming service.
The lawsuit claims that the creation and offering of the "bnetd" free software emulator for Blizzard games violates copyright and trademark laws.
"Blizzard contacted our lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) saying they would consider dropping the case if we help find ways to prevent pirates from using the bnetd server software," noted Tim Jung, Internet Gateway ISP owner of the and defendant in the case. "While we bnetd developers spent many hours last week trying to help Blizzard, they apparently spent many hours preparing to sue me and my small business."
"The complaint is a classic big corporate attempt to scare the little guy," noted EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Fred von Lohmann who represents Jung and Internet Gateway pro bono. "This software was developed by hobbyists using longstanding, legal reverse engineering techniques -- the same ones used by major hardware and software manufacturers. If bnetd is vulnerable to copyright challenge, then most reverse engineering projects designed to create interoperable products, from games to printers to network cards, are also vulnerable."
"The bnetd software has many uses that have nothing to do with piracy, and everything to do with improving the gaming experience for legitimate purchasers of Blizzard games," added EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Suing your customers for making your product more fun to play is a poor use of corporate resources, as well as unfounded by law."
The bnetd software allows Blizzard game purchasers online or on a local area network to chat, find competition, and start multiplayer games. A group of volunteers, including Jung, created the bnetd project for Blizzard games because Blizzard's Battle.net service was undependable and had limited functionality.
Blizzard sent a cease-and-desist letter to Internet Gateway in late February, claiming violations of the anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) along with copyright violations. Internet Gateway has removed the bnetd software temporarily in response to the letter. The current complaint does not claim DMCA violations, but instead adds trademark claims never mentioned before.
This case, entitled Davidson & Associates d.b.a. Blizzard Games and Vivendi Universal Games v. Internet Gateway and Tim Jung, was filed in Federal District Court in St. Louis, Missouri.
Blizzard's complaint against Jung and Internet Gateway:
Earlier correspondence and other case material:
Earlier media coverage and websites related to the case: