March 24, 2006 11:11 AM PST

'Warcraft' maker sued for blocking sales of unofficial guide

Makers of the wildly popular "World of Warcraft" online game now face a lawsuit from an eBay seller who claims he was improperly barred from selling copies of his own unofficial gaming guide.

Filed Thursday in a California federal court, the complaint (click here for PDF) alleges that Blizzard Entertainment, its parent company Vivendi Universal, and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) were wrong to order eBay to terminate auctions of "The Ultimate World of Warcraft Leveling & Gold Guide," a book penned by 24-year-old Brian Kopp of Bronson, Fla.

The multiplayer online game of wizards, warriors and monsters has now attracted a following of 6 million subscribers worldwide since it debuted in 2004--among them, active virtual guilds.

During several months beginning last August, Kopp sold several hundred copies of his guide, which contains tips on playing the game and accumulating points, at roughly $15 apiece. Weeks after his first auction went live, Blizzard, Vivendi, and the ESA began sending repeated takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), asking eBay to yank the auctions because of copyright and trademark infringement concerns. The auction giant's general policy is to halt auctions when it receives such complaints and to suspend a user's account after it racks up a certain number of warnings.

Kopp filed counternotices protesting the infringement claims. Because the companies did not respond to the documents within 14 days, eBay was free under the DMCA to reinstate his auctions, which it did. But by November, eBay had accumulated enough takedown warnings from the companies to warrant suspending Kopp's account. He restarted his sales under a new username, which quickly earned suspension, too.

The companies went on to threaten copyright and trademark infringement action against Kopp. In one message quoted in the complaint, a Blizzard executive said Kopp could not lawfully sell a guide that "attempts to trade off the substantial goodwill and recognition that Blizzard has built up in connection with its World of Warcraft product." He also dismissed Kopps' claims that his book was solely meant for "educational" value, saying it clearly had a commercial purpose.

Kopp's complaint argues that his book does not infringe on any of the companies' copyrights for several reasons: The book presents a disclaimer on its first page about its "unauthorized" nature, contains no copyrighted text or storylines from the game and makes "fair use" of selected screenshots under copyright law, the complaint said.

In effect, if the video game industry's actions are upheld, "then selling a how-to book about Microsoft Word would infringe Microsoft's copyright, especially if the book contained one or more screenshots of Word's user interface," said Paul Levy of the public-interest advocacy group Public Citizen, which joined in filing the suit on behalf of Kopp. "We think this cannot be the law."

The case points to a broader problem, Levy said: large companies that send takedown notices with abandon to eBay and jeopardize the prosperity of smaller sellers.

The suit seeks three major forms of relief: monetary compensation to cover, among other things, profits lost from the halted sales; an injunction preventing the entities from interfering with Kopp's book sales; and a judgment that his book is protected by the First Amendment and doesn't interfere with intellectual-property rights.

Kopp has continued to sell the product through a personal Web site and plans to continue doing so indefinitely, according to the complaint.

Representatives from Blizzard, Vivendi and the ESA did not immediately respond to interview requests Friday.

See more CNET content tagged:
Blizzard Entertainment, auction, complaint, DMCA, eBay Inc.

55 comments

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Trying to protect the new guide for Expansion
Blizzard has a expansion of this game coming out soon and I am sure they don't want any competetion for that. Plus there is also the problem that fan based guids always tend to do a better and more complete job of how to actually play the game.
Posted by JJWhitney (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Competition...
What you are talking about is competition, not illegal copyright infringement. It is pretty bad practice to file false claims against a competitor in order to disrupt their business practices.
Posted by zaznet (1138 comments )
Link Flag
How to Get Around a copyright issue...
Very simply, get written permission from the company who'se
copywritten material you plan to use! DUH!
Posted by Gromit801 (393 comments )
Reply Link Flag
why?
Do you know the law? do you know what fair use is?
Posted by juser_bogus (31 comments )
Link Flag
It's "copyright"
Not "copywrite"
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Link Flag
The Trouble With Copyright Owners
The trouble with many copyright owners, especially when it's a corporation, is the misunderstanding that copyright law is there to protect their right to squeeze every last penny from their original creative work, to include everything and form into which that work can be twisted. That's why a silly idea like protecting a work about how to play a game (or use any piece of software, FTM) proliferates. And it's why copyright owners think that they should have laws to secure copyright for decades past what our founding fathers had in mind.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Reply Link Flag
However if you use their characters, their material (including the gear or quests) you are on copyright danger. You are using their material which is copyrighted.
Posted by sel_barton (1 comment )
Link Flag
The bigger trouble with copyright owners
is that they can send DMCA notices willy nilly, and because of the threat of a lawsuit, isps/ebay/etc. just take down the content whether it is legal or not. I think that there should be a high monitary penalty for ever DMCA notice sent wrongly.
Posted by mwa423 (78 comments )
Reply Link Flag
how to farm wow gold easy?
<strike>wow gold</strike>
Posted by wower (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Umm, hey Tom?
Why did you link to your own topic thread?
Posted by Christopher Hall (1205 comments )
Link Flag
The Level of Greed and Stupity in Hollywood is Unbelievable!
Those clowns in Hollywood are simply out of control. Their level of greed and corruption is simply astounding, not to mention twisted politics. And how shortsighted to deny the publication of a book that promotes your product for free! Duhh!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I am sorry:
I can't resist...

"Those clowns in Hollywood are simply out of control."
They are in Irvine, CA not Hollywood.

"Their level of greed and corruption is simply astounding," Greed? ok I will give that to you, corruption? I am not sure I see that.

"not to mention twisted politics." Let me guess the trolls are actually commies.

"And how shortsighted to deny the publication of a book that promotes your product for free! Duhh!" Duhh? they have 6 million users right now, are yout telling me that a non user will buy this game because they saw the fan made gameguide on ebay? You have got to be kidding me right? This is about leeching off one of the biggest videogame hits of all time, not a effort by fans to "promote it".

95% of what you posted is just wrong, wierd or silly. The other 5% is at best debatable.
Posted by JJWhitney (32 comments )
Link Flag
Actually, uh, no.
They aren't in Hollywood, they're in Irvine, and how would a manual on your game promote the game? The game promotes the manual. Fact of the matter is; the manual had words, names, pictures, maps, and information Blizzard invented. They drew the maps and art, they wrote the lore and they made the game. Publishing something like is would be like writting a book based on Star Wars and selling it- George Lucus would be pissed, right? They have every right, and whoever supports this idiot is probably just mad about Queues. If he wanted to 'distribute information about the game' why not post it on the Blizzard forums, or submit it to Allakhazam? He just wanted some money.
Posted by k3lit0 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Selfish
and stupid. I agree with the seller. Its like an unofficial biography. There are tons of that in bookstores everywhere and no one gets sued.

Its different if the author unfairly blasts the subject. That can be brought to court.

My two cents.
Posted by dquiec (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
About Blasting the Subject
The "operative" word in your statement about "the author unfairly blasts the subject" is "unfairly". Reviews that are highly negative and critical of a given copyright work are specifically protected as "fair use". That means the reviewer does not need the permission of the copyright owner to use snippets of the copyrighted work to prove his point. This makes sense, because one would not expect that a copyright owner would give permission for a reviewer that provided a critical review (even if the owner didn't know in advance the review would be critical, revenge for denying later requests would always be a factor).

So, back to "unfairly". Pretty tough word to define, legally. I would propose that your statement would be more correct to use words like "slanderous", "libelous" or even "factually incorrect".

Bottom line: Highly negative reviews of copyrighted works are legal.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
Beware of Brian Kopp
Though I understand the point of the article and agree with most
of what is being said, I do have to say that Brian Kopp is guilty of
doing the same thing to others that he claims Blizzard and
Vivendi are doing to him. I had put an instruciton guide on
auction using eBay myself, only days later to see that Brian Kopp
had used the Vero system to have my guide taken down,
claiming that I had infringed on his copyright (it wasn't his in the
first place, at least if you agree with this article, it was
Blizzard's). I had made several attempts to discuss this further,
using eBay as a mediator, only to find that Brian Kopp was
dodging every email and remained unavailable. I waited a few
weeks and put my guide up for a second time. Again, it was
taken down and I was given Brian Kopp's email by eBay in order
to "hash" things out. Would you guess? Mr. Kopp again dodged
my emails. I have since given up on eBay as they were no help
when I explained to them that he was evasive and unavailable. It
was a very negative experience dealing with Mr. Kopp and I can
only guess that he has whats coming to him.
Posted by DMH75 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's Funny!
Actually, this puts a new light on the issue altogether. Originally, I sided with Kopp being the victim of a Greedy Corporation throwing their weight around, but this makes the matter more complex!

First off, it seems that ANYONE?? can just ask eBay to obstruct some other seller's auction just by asking?? It would have been interesting to see what eBay would have done if YOU made the same claim about Kopp's book as he apparently did to yours!

Secondly, if you can PROVE Kopp's actions against you, then you might be able to strengthen Blizzard's case to show that Kopp is doing exactly what he claims to be a victim of!

People certainly do act strangely, all in the pursuit of the illustrious dollar bill!
Posted by TMB333 (115 comments )
Link Flag
In addition...
I neglected to mention that Mr. Kopp had my eBay account
banned as well. I did however log on under a different ISP and
change all my personal information. Now, if I used eBay as my
sole form of income, as Brian Kopp claims he does, I wonder if
he'd have liked receiving a lawsuit in the mail?
Posted by DMH75 (4 comments )
Link Flag
The solution is simple!
Support game companies that support their community. I'm building mine on this premise, but there are far more established companies that actually care about the people that buy their games.

Stardock is by far the most gamer friendly company I've heard of. They don't use copy-protection, not because they want ppl to copy their game, but because it's not what gamers want.

Support these sort of companies, not the companies that are too big to care what gamers want over their all important profits.
Posted by skozombie (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Message has been deleted.
Posted by wower (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I wonder if Vivendi publishes how-to guides?
I imagine Vivendi's publishing arm has published quite a few how-to guides, it would be entertaining for this guy to post a list of them on his website!
Posted by justcommenting (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
YUP
they did, and they're on the blizzard store. :)
Posted by k3lit0 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Brian Kopp: Semiliterate con man?
The key to understanding what is going on with Brian Kopp is
that gold farmed in the game can then be sold, literally, to other
players for real money. The buyer then climbs the ladder in the
game without having earned his status. So, what Kopp's tip
sheet does is provide insider information on a form of cheating.
Blizzard would prefer that players play by the rules.

Is it copyright infringement? Unclear. But, I think that Kopp is
damaging Blizzard's interest in its intellectual property. A game
in which cheaters rule is less attractive.

I haven't seen the guide (book is much too respectful), but I did
visit Brian Kopp's site. The most notable aspects are:

" He can barely read and write.

" His goal is to make money. REAL money. The objective of
selling his product to gold farmers who will then resell the game
gold for REAL money is barely masked. There is nothing
"educational" about what Kopp is doing.
Posted by J.G. (837 comments )
Reply Link Flag
yup
I have buddies who sell gold in that game and most of them are high school drop outs, although they manage to hide it well. It is truly genious to make money from selling infinitely renewable non-tangible goods such as onling gaming currency. Great for people who play games all day and don't have a real job/education. In reality I think Blizzard would be better off going after all the companies that sell gold rather than a guy selling a guide on how to get it.
Posted by setite (1 comment )
Link Flag
why is he charging in the first place?
Kopp is a greedy dude. Most people post walk throughs for the love of the game and to help fellow players. Why would anyone want to 'buy' Kopp's manual when free advise is usually out there? What is the worls coming too?
Posted by gravrdr (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are you totally out of it!?
People have been making money off strategy guides for years. What perfect little world do you live in that people would spend months writing a guide and then not make money of it!

Personally, I wouldn't want to use a guide that I didn't have to pay for - it would probably be a load of crap.

And what's $15! It's not like it's going to break the bank.
Posted by blakesheep (2 comments )
Link Flag
I do think you're missing the point
Although I agree with you that walkthroughs should be free, it
seems to me that there should be no law against Kopp or anyone
else selling something which doesn't violate any copyrights.
Frankly, I don't see what the big deal is from Blizzard's perspective
- they should want any and all guides to be made available.
Posted by klamarre (1 comment )
Link Flag
Why not charge?
He clearly spent a great deal of his own free time and resources (WoW subscribtion fee, for example) to put together a very extensive guide. It's only fair that he'd want to be compensated for his work.

You say that all this information is freely available elsewhere on the web which is also true about any piece of software, and yet there are many "how-to" guides being sold in every bookstore. Are you saying that their authors are also "greedy" and should just give away that information?

The authors are providing a service by collecting the information, organizing it, adding their own ideas to it, and finally publishing it so that you DON'T HAVE TO spend countless hours searching the web for it. If you are unwilling to pay a nominal fee for that convenience it's your choice, as nobody is forcing you to buy his guide. But if your only beef with the author is the fact that his guide is too expensive, perhaps it's you who are greedy.
Posted by Chahk (3 comments )
Link Flag
Why bother with eBay
It's not illegal to sell gaming guides over the internet - hundred of people do it everyday and make a lot of money. Why does this guy bother with eBay!?

He should just set up his own website and sell it off that - the bigwigs at WOW can't take that down.
Posted by blakesheep (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's not the point.
Initially, lost sales might have been an issue for this guy. However, as the article states at the end, he already has a website and is already selling the book off of it.

Somewhere along the way for this guy, it became a matter of principle that Greedy Corporations shouldn't be able to hamper small entrepeneurs just because they wave the DMCA (which by all accounts is a stupidly written Act) around. Furthermore, his book isn't even breaking copyright law (according to what I read in the article, I haven't read his book personally).

I hope that he wins this case personally, because it can only further strengthen the fight against old copyright laws. As I'm sure that most everyone is already aware, the issue of copyright is NOT a small simple solution anymore, and the time needs to be taken to update ALL Copyright laws to conform to the present day situations.
Posted by TMB333 (115 comments )
Link Flag
elfingo
A highly recommended site is elfingo.com for online auctions. They are the new ebay. Many smaller sites like this offer buyers far better deals than ebay ever could. Buyser also save a ton because this site charges little or nothing depending on the day. One more reaso I like elfingo.com is because they don't take a part of the sale at all. No commissions or final value fees. A+++ <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.elfingo.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.elfingo.com</a>
Posted by aneff01 (1 comment )
Link Flag
world of warcraft
A class action suit should b taken against warcraft maker to refund the money for game and at least 1 month of game play...it just simply does not deliver...it alway has problems....
Just rediculous
Posted by romekie (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Fair use? NOT!!
Ok, now that I have your attention...

Before the DMCA, there did exist a "fair use" provision that many people used to their advantage.

However, then the DMCA was written the entire idea of fair use was specifically EXCLUDED. No such usage is allowed of digital media.

The question remains, though... when does digital media become free to discuss? If no portion of a product contains any actual material copyrighted by others, can infringement occur?

Personally, I believe the answer is No. However, the Supreme Court rarely consults me before reaching its decision. :)
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not quite. Fair use under the DMCA
The DMCA did not repeal fair use. Fair use is still encoded in Section 108 of copyright law. The DMCA did not specifically exclude fair use. The legislative history for the DMCA even mentions that fair use is supposed to still exist. The DMCA itself in section 1201(c)(1) states that nothing in the section modified by the DMCA affects rights, remedies, limitations or defenses to copyright infringement, including fair use.

The problem is that their anti-circumvention provision gets in the way of fair use, and there is no good way to get around that. That being said, in this particular case this isn't an issue.
Posted by (2 comments )
Link Flag
Websites the Next Target?
You may have differing opinions about the value of Kopp's book but the first question that immediately springs to my mind is:

&gt;&gt;&gt; What's to keep Allakhazam.com (or any other website) from being shut down should Vivendi / Blizzard / ESA win this lawsuit?

Kopps claim that the book was meant for educational value was dismissed by Blizzard because they feel that it is produced clearly (for) a commercial purpose. Couldn't this argument can be used against websites too. This brings me to my second question:

&gt;&gt;&gt; Based on the rather broad language used by Blizzard, how would a negative ruling for Kopp affect someone who authored an extremely popular World or Warcraft website and then collected money for Premium Content (such as Allakhazam) or from banner ads?
Posted by rishidan (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You're jokin?
Allakhazam and Thottbot are free websites. The only services they offer for a fee are better servers, faster searches, etc. All the information is user-imported and free for all to view. Blizzard has every right to refuse somebody making profit off their game. This isn't even a lawsuit, it's a bad joke.
Posted by k3lit0 (3 comments )
Link Flag
And then...
Here's what's coming next:

Only "authorized" reviews of companies products will be allowed. Anyone posting a review which is not approved by the company, either on a website, or in a publication, will be sued for "copyright infringment", when is this coming, next year?
Posted by critofur (17 comments )
Link Flag
use of "artwork"
Using in-game screenshots for a how-to guide should be legally no different than using, say, pictures of a car engine to show a reader how to do some repair, or "before" and "after" pictures of a dirty car then a shiney car to show how effective your car cleaning products are.

If we have to pay a "licensing fee" to Ford Motor Company before we could use pictures of engines from Ford cars to make our book, then, I say it's time to stop having corporations altogether because corporate greed is getting out of hand.

Excessive greed seems to be the standard accross most all of corporate culture. It seems like Hollywood, and the RIAA seem to think that it's somehow their God given right to be paid more and more money each year, regardless of the quality of their product or the desires of their customers. We all know who Supreme Court Justics Alito would vote for in this case, every time I think of that (him) blight on what should be a great institution I get sick to my stomach. How can we undo the damage done by Imperator G.W. Bush? It will probably take decades.
Posted by critofur (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Melandri Remus?
Any idea how this guys guide compares to Brian Kopp's?

MelandriRemus.com
Posted by Medivh632 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Nearly everyone who sells products for money will try to keep competitors at bay... be it Brian Kopp or Blizzard. Banning, sueing... everything is viable.

I know the maker of guides and add-ons eventually find a way to legally sell their products again. And there's nothing wrong about it, is it?
Posted by philiphall949 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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