On May 19, Blizzard Entertainment filed a lawsuit in a federal court in California, alleging that 10 unnamed people were involved in the creation and sale of software that “hacks” Starcraft II. The hack named in the complaint, called the “ValiantChaos MapHack,” supposedly removes “fog of war” from the map and automates actions, among other things. Both of these give the player using the hack a competitive advantage in a multiplayer game that is supposed to be fair.
I’ll use this post to clear up a few things brought up in the complaint that gamers may not know about.
Why are they suing a bunch of “John Does”?
When you don’t know the precise identity of the people you are suing, but want to begin the process, some courts allow “John Doe” defendants to be named. Then, during the course of the trial process, defendants can be identified as more information about them is discovered. The complaint is then amended to reflect the defendant’s identities.
Why are there so many different causes of action?
The complaint alleges multiple causes of action against the Doe defendants. Generally, when you sue someone, you want to plead as many alternative legal theories up front. If you don’t, you will probably be barred from suing them on that theory later.
So, the prevailing strategy is to get every plausible cause of action out there. The complaint can be amended later to remove them if the discovered facts don’t support that cause of action.
Would you infringe on this guy’s copyrights?
Why are there three types of copyright infringement?
The complaint is alleging three types of copyright infringement:
Regular old copyright infringement: The first allegation says that the defendants themselves copied Starcraft 2 code and made a derivative work when they created the hack.
Contributory copyright infringement: This allegation says that the defendants knew about others committing copyright infringement by using the hack, and that they “induced, caused or materially contributed” to that infringement.
Vicarious copyright infringement: This final copyright allegation says that the defendants are liable for the infringement of the users of the hack. This is because they have control of the infringing conduct and they get a direct financial benefit from it (from selling the hack and getting donations from users).
What will the outcome be?
Assuming that Blizzard’s attorneys can locate the defendants and provide proof of the allegations in the complaint, the case seems pretty cut-and-dry. A prior lawsuit involving Blizzard and hackers involved defendants in other countries, which could be the case here. If Blizzard wins and is awarded the profits made from the hacks and attorneys fees, the real difficulty will be in actually enforcing that judgment. They will most likely have to go to a court in the defendants’ home countries to get them to enforce it. Then, who knows if the defendants even have any of the money.