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Author of Warcraft guide sues games firms

The writer of a guide to the hugely popular online multiplayer game ‘World of Warcraft’ has sued Blizzard Entertainment, its developer and publisher, after the firm allegedly interfered to prevent the guide being sold on eBay.28 Mar 2006

Advert: Free OUT-LAW breakfast seminars, UK-wide: open source software; and data retentionThe Ultimate World of Warcraft Leveling & Gold Guide was written and published by 24-year old Brian Kopp of Bronson, Florida.

According to his suit, filed last week in the US District Court for the Central District of California, the guide contains tips on how to play the game but does not contain any copyrighted text or storyline from the video game. It also includes disclaimers stating that it is not an official guide and noting that Kopp is not affiliated with Blizzard Entertainment.

He has sold several hundred copies of the book on eBay, for around $15 each, since August last year. But he says that Blizzard, its parent company, Vivendi Universal Games Inc, and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) have invoked the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act to ask eBay to block sales of the guide, claiming that it was in breach of copyright.

Every time eBay received such a notification, it closed down the relevant auction for the guide, says Kopp. EBay then suspended Kopp’s account.

He is now selling the guide on a personal website, despite threats that he will be sued for copyright infringement.

Kopp has made a pre-emptive strike. He is suing Blizzard, Vivendi and the ESA, seeking to establish that the guide does not infringe upon any intellectual property rights, to ensure that the defendants do not interfere with any future sales of the guide, and to recover damages for lost sales.

His case has been taken on by advocacy group Public Citizen, which is concerned that if the companies’ interpretation of their copyright is allowed to prevail, it would threaten the publication of future how-to guides about any subject and a wide variety of other speech that merely comments on a copyrighted work.

“Copyright laws are designed to promote creativity and innovation, not squelch it,” said Greg Beck, the Public Citizen attorney representing Kopp. “A video game is copyrightable just like a book, and just like a book you should be able to comment on it, create new works inspired by it, teach about it in classes, write newspaper articles about it and so on.”

“By claiming that mere publication of a how-to book about its game infringes its copyright, Blizzard has interpreted its intellectual property rights in a way that would prohibit legitimate commentary that is protected by the First Amendment,” he added.

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