Software Control Through Copyright

wow.gifWho controls the software you use: you, or the software’s producer? That’s the question at the heart of a lawsuit by Blizzard, creator of World of Warcraft (WoW), against MDY Industries. Apparently, MDY has developed software called Glider that allows a WoW player to cheat by having their computer play for them in their stead. In other words, it enables players to gain experience points without playing or experience.

Blizzard maintains that the creator of a software application retains legal control over how it is used, and if anyone attempts to break or circumvent that control, they are in violation of copyright.

Seems to me that such a legal precedent would be quite detrimental to the software industry – particularly its future in light of mash-ups and other yet-to-be-discovered techniques of innovation. The EFF weighs in on this, as does Public Knowledge.

In this case, it’s unclear to me why Blizzard is trying to use legal control over their application, when they should be exerting application control. Why not change the software to prevent this cheat – freeze it out like a bricked iPhone?

It does bring up the question of who actually owns software. The End User License Agreement (EULA) stipulates a license for the use of the software. That implies the software manufacturer still owns the software; you purchase the right to use it, but not to change it without permission. And if I truly believed that as a consumer, I would consider web versions of applications like Photoshop. But since I don’t, you’ll never pry my Adobe CS3 discs from my hands. They are mine.

The idea of preventing non-approved uses sounds more like pharmaceuticals; that framework is for pharma companies’ own indemnification purposes, and is not intended to stifle innovation and discovery. If it were, aspirin would not be prescribed for thinning blood.

Blizzard is using the courts to skew software licensing in their favor when they should be spending their resources engineering a more secure product.

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