WoW Bot Maker Gets Sued, Wants You To Pay

They Helped You Cheat In WoW. Now They Got Sued And Want You To Pay.

A maker of bot software for World of Warcraft -- apps that auto-play characters and level them up -- has lost a judgment that shuts down its operation. The bot maker also owes $US7 million to Blizzard Entertainment, and it's asking those who used bots like "Pocket Gnome" to chip in.

"We are very sorry that we can no longer offer our products and we understand that you may be concerned about this result," Ceiling Fan Software writes in a statement on its web site. "After more than 2 year of legal battles with Blizzard Entertainment to both pursue our right to operate and our customer's right to play WoW as they choose, we did not prevail in the suit."

Yet Ceiling Fan's own conduct acknowledged that bots like Shadow Bot and Pocket Gnome were against World of Warcraft's terms of service, and warned users that they risked having their accounts banned if they were discovered using them. The judgment, entered last week in federal court in California, noted that Ceiling Fan provided advice to users on how to avoid detection.

Bots pose a threat to the game's balance, which is why Blizzard forbids them in the game's terms of use, and why it has gone to great lengths to shut down bot makers. Blizzard went after the maker of one, called "Glider", losing a claim of copyright infringement but still prevailing, to the tune of $US6 million. The suit against Ceiling Fan was brought in January 2012.

The judgment notes that Ceiling Fan made $US289,000 from its botting operation, charging users a $US25 start-up fee, then a monthly licence of $US8.99, plus another $US2.99 for something called "Pocket Goblin". They sold about 2000 bot licences in all, collecting the money through auto-rebills of credit cards through PayPal.

"If you would like to make donations to help offset some of our outstanding legal fees, you may do so here," Ceiling Fan says in its statement, directing users to a PayPal link.

Kotaku has contacted both Blizzard and Ceiling Fan Software for comment. If we receive any reply it will be updated here.

Blizzard wins $US7m in bot suit [GamesIndustry International]


Comments

    No sympathy here
    Zip, Zero, None!

    You willingly do the wrong thing, you don't deserve sympathy

    Great news. This particular bot was very prominent through the second half of Cataclysm through Mists of Pandaria. Nearly every night that I spent time mining in Uldum, there were anywhere from 5 to 20 bots doing the mining/herbalism rounds. Then you check the AH and it's completely flooded with tens of thousands of top end ores and herbs from the same seller. All you can really do is report them and go about your business.

    oh, so a bot imbalances the game? tell me more about how people who play the game for 20hrs a day don't imbalance the game!

      Therea a difference when a person plays and when a bot plays for them. If they invest that much time into a game then they deserve to be the people of the top range, do they not?

      They invest time spent actually sitting at their computer. You may argue that the result is more or less the same and you would be true but we don't begrudge someone the time they have physically spent performing a task, with their own hands.

        While we are on the topic of botting and menial tasks, Homg why you take so long to hatch Goomy?!. I am half way through my 3rd box and I have yet to hit a calm nature.

          It's probably a 10,000 step egg - make sure you have Fletchinder (or other Flame Body) and, if possible, the hatching o-power.

          Also, if you have a Calm natured mon that can be the father, get that holding an Everstone.

          Edit: (tagging you again to make sure you get notified of the edit: @nexi) You know, I just remembered that I have a Calm Goodra; I can probably hatch up up a Calm Goomy in 10-15 minutes if you want? My FC is: 5429-7573-1427 , but I won't be on until this evening.

          Last edited 24/10/13 1:59 pm

            I played WoW for five years or so (since it started) and I legitimately have no idea what you just said. Good grief that game has changed...

      Because there is a limitation on who much one person can play. If you use a bot though, you might as well run 20 of them, where as you cannot play 20 games at the same time.
      I think, all of us who played WoW did their share of grinding, herbing, mining and skinning. But you can do that only for so long until you are bored out of your mind.
      A single bot wouldn't upset the game balance on a server with say 500 players. But people who run bots usually don't just run a single bot, they run several, and that will unbalance the game's economy.

      I find it difficult to understand how anyone can seriously ask that question and not look like either a complete idiot or a troll.

    $6 million for something that is essentially code in a virtual world... really? seems a bit extreme

      Yeah. I'm against botting but $6m is a bit rough. My server was full of bots at one point and while it was a negative influence that greatly frustrated a lot of players I can't really see how they came to that figure.

    7 million dollars from a script kiddie to the richest company in gaming to date?

    While I don't agree with botting in games (except if you write it yourself, which for some programmers is more fun than the game), this is simply a ridiculous judgement.. Seems incredibly unlikely Blizzard themselves lost 7m from this.. Some real life hackers get sentences/fines much lower than this..

      Yeah I completely agree with you, A punishment was inevitable but 7 million dollars to their $US289,000. Seems Blizzard wants to make a stand to any other would-be boters/Hackers that if you try and mess with their game, you will slowly be paying them back for the rest of your life.

      Last edited 24/10/13 10:59 am

        Sounds like a message to the gold-seller industry to me.

        I have absolutely no doubt that gold-seller industry gets most of its product from stealing accounts and botting to supply their AH-fixers.

      "Some real life hackers" are not doing the equivalent of running 2000 hacks simultaneously.

      Blizzard provide a service to real, seat-on-the-chair users, and those users are inconvenienced by the actions of the bots and by the market distortions that occur due to bot actions. That inconvenience translates to cancelled subscriptions and lost goodwill.

      The total of all that probably does not come to $7M, but copyright law does not necessarily reflect actual financial loss. In Australia, as I recall, there's a maximum fine of $300k per violation, in this case with 2000 violations, for a maximum penalty of $600M. In the US, the maximum is $150k per violation plus legal costs, so the worst case would have been about US$300M. In other words, they've paid less than 1% of the worst-case fine.

        "That inconvenience translates to cancelled subscriptions and lost goodwill". Yeah that's a really good point and it did'int occur to me lol.

        Last edited 24/10/13 8:51 pm

      Entirely possible that the $7M figure includes legal fees. I wouldn't be surprised if Blizzard's legal team cost some pretty silly figures.

    As someone with very limited knowledge of the law and what not, what exactly makes this a sueable (that even a word? Red squiggly says no...) action? Is it because they made money from it?

      I would say first and foremost that they (Ceilingfan) went against the terms and service of Bizzard Entertainment, which you have to sign before you play the game. Of course usually it says in the EULA (End User License Agreement) what the levy will be for going against it; i.e, "This Eula grants the user a non-refundable license blah blah blah you will not reverse-Engineer, subvert or manipulate the games code for any purpose, Doing so will result in severe punishment including but not limited to Having your account removed, court action blah blah blah". Usually something along those lines.

      But I would say that the fact Ceiling Fan made money was the biggest contributing factor, as Ceiling Fan were making money from Bizzard's product with no expressed permission from Blizzard themselves. Also the fact that the product was distributed over the internet would have also played a vital part in them (ceiling fan) getting caught, as distribution of stuff that goes against the EULA is a pretty big offense.

      I would say though if it were just a single person using the Bot (That they made themselves) then Blizzard would probably not take much notice, and at most would just result in a temp or perma ban of that player.

        As someone who also skips over EULAs I never realised there was a part in them that says "We'll sue the shit out of you" I should really take the time to read them, not that I get up to this kind of thing anyway, but still. Thanks for the answer!

        Pretty confident it was also because bots are probably heavily-used by the gold-seller industry, who do some pretty serious damage to MMOs as well.

        And not just in terms of lost sales due to disillusionment, but in real, actual 'we got charged fucking tens of thousands of dollars last month by Visa for charge-backs on stolen accounts'.

        The original reason was that Blizz claimed it infringed on their rights under the DMCA. It's nothing to do whatsoever with the EULA.

          That was the other bot case. This one specifically mentioned the EULA in the ruling. There's a link to it below.

      I'll keep it shorter than the other bloke, you don't need valid and logical reasons to sue people, you just need to make it seem so and not stupid enough to be dismissed by the court.

      http://legal.ceilingfansoftware.com/docs/143%20Preliminary%20Order%20Granting%20Blizzards%20MSJ.pdf

      * Edit: I think my naive trust to RPS has been premature, but that's one document they linked *

      Last edited 24/10/13 11:27 am

    This is really good news. Bots ruin MMO's in a lot of ways, and have been one of the worst experiences for me in WoW. For example, if you do a battleground and you have a (few) bot(s) just not moving all game or randomly casting useless abilities... they take up the place of real players and leave the whole team at a disadvantage... which typically results in a loss, the enemy team getting gear to become stronger next time, and maybe even players quitting or permanently conceding that battleground due to the bad experience. And bots which farm... just say you went out into the world and farmed 5 stacks of ore to sell... whereas a few people leave their computer on with a bot while and get 100 stacks each to sell... simple supply and demand means that if they can't sell it all, they lower the price and legitimate players make trivial amounts of gold.

    This also applied to Diablo 3, and one(not the only) of the reasons that myself and my friends quit was because the economy was ruined by people with bots.

    What's also frustrating is that bots, like WoW, have been around for YEARS. So as a player, you can report them every day... but they're still there, and the effect that they have is still there. It's just unpleasant... especially for a paid subscription game.

    Also... the spam! Level 1 players spamming their gold selling websites and inundating your in-game calendars and mailboxes, or even trying to trick you to visit their websites with bad grammar "Illegal activity detected... Blizzard reports you! Please visit Blizwowhamburger. cz to verify account or will be deleted"

    Who is the "you" in the title? I didn't use his products so it's definitely not me... Was this written just for his customers or were you trying to inject some sort of sensationalist rage into a story about a dude who got in trouble for doing something wrong?

      Heh. Yeah, that was my first thought.

      "Wait, why does that asshole want ME to pay?"
      *read article*
      "Ohhhh. So the title should read, 'WoW Bot Maker Gets Sued, Wants Fellow Scumbags To Pay.'"

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