Blizzard abandons DMCA threat over 'WoW' manual

Video game maker drops copyright complaints over eBay sale of "World of Warcraft" guide after advocacy group steps in.

A Florida man who claimed he'd been unlawfully blocked from selling copies of his unofficial "World of Warcraft" guide by the wildly popular game's makers can resume his sales, owing to an out-of-court settlement reached Friday.

Brian Kopp, 24, had filed suit in March against California-based Blizzard Entertainment, parent company Vivendi Universal and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The complaint alleged that those organizations were wrong to order eBay to terminate auctions of his book "The Ultimate World of Warcraft Leveling & Gold Guide," of which he had sold hundreds of copies since last August at about $15 apiece.

Alleging the book violated intellectual-property laws, Blizzard, Vivendi and the ESA sent repeated take-down notices, provided for by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to eBay. The auction giant's general policy is to halt auctions when it receives such notices and to suspend a user's account after it racks up a certain number of warnings.

Kopp routinely filed counternotices protesting the claims, according to his original court complaint (click here for PDF) in California federal court. Because the companies never responded to those documents, eBay was free to reinstate Kopp's auctions, which it did. But the video game industry continued to issue take-down notices, the number of which grew high enough that eBay was forced to suspend Kopp's accounts under multiple usernames.

"It's pretty much the equivalent of showing up at your store one morning and finding your goods on the curb with nothing you can do about it," said Greg Beck, an attorney representing Kopp on behalf of advocacy group Public Citizen. "They get so many notices of claimed infringement that they can't investigate all claims."

The parties also threatened copyright and trademark infringement action against Kopp, but he argued the book was in the clear because it presented a disclaimer on its first page about its unauthorized nature, contained no copyrighted text or storylines, and, though it did use selected screen shots downloaded from a site unaffiliated with the video game's makers, those uses were "fair."

The terms of the settlement do not provide for monetary compensation for Kopp, which he had originally sought. Instead, the companies agreed to withdraw their previous take-down notices and to drop their infringement claims. They also said they'd refrain from filing any future take-down notices against the same items Kopp had already disputed through counternotices.

Kopp, for his part, agreed to retain the book's disclaimers about its unofficial nature and said he wouldn't include links or instructions on how to locate "cheats" in the game.

Representatives from the video game industry were not immediately available for comment.

 

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