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Upholding the Legality of Reverse Engineering

PRESS RELEASE
June 20, 2005

Judges Weigh Issues in Eighth Circuit Videogame Case

St. Louis, MO - Judges in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments this morning in Blizzard v. BnetD, a case that pits the large videogame corporation against three game-loving software developers. The developers were sued because they created an open source program called BnetD, which lets gamers play popular Blizzard titles like Warcraft with other gamers online. Blizzard, which maintains its own game server called Battle.net, claims that these programmers violated its end user license agreements (EULAs) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The developers reverse-engineered a protocol used in Blizzard's Battle.net service in order to develop their program.

The BnetD engineers are being represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Arguing on their behalf was EFF co-counsel Paul Grewal of Day Casebeer, assisted by EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz.

"The judges were struggling with the right questions," said Schultz. "They're trying to balance copyright interests with the right to reverse engineer. They clearly recognized the public interest in reverse engineering, but they admitted this would be a hard case to decide."

Congress expressly recognized the importance of reverse engineering when it created an exception to the DMCA for this activity. Whether it's allowing gamers to choose a better server for Internet play, or allowing a printer owner to purchase from a range of printer cartridge replacements, reverse engineering is a critical part of innovation in a world where more and more devices need to talk to each other in order to operate correctly.

An audio file of the oral arguments will be available here on June 21, 2005.

Contacts:

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
cindy@eff.org

Jason Schultz
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation
jason@eff.org

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