Popular World Of Warcraft Legacy Community Shutting Down Again To Avoid Being A ‘Pirate Server’

Popular World Of Warcraft Legacy Community Shutting Down Again To Avoid Being A ‘Pirate Server’
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What goes up must come down. This indelible law of nature applies to precisely two things: Gravity, which you may have heard of, and World of Warcraft legacy server Nostalrius.

After Blizzard dropped the hammer on Nostalrius earlier this year, the server — which recreates World of Warcraft before crusades, cataclysms and pandas reshaped it — reemerged in partnership with another legacy project called Elysium. Early this month, Nostalrius returned, and fans who’d turned it into something of a folk legend in the WoW community were stoked.

Cue a funeral dirge made up of sad trombone noises. Nostalrius is pulling the plug once again, but this time it isn’t because of anything Blizzard said. Rather, they’re not happy about how the project is perceived, and they think it runs counter to their ultimate goal of getting official legacy servers from Blizzard.

“Today, only 10% of the former Nostalrius players have generated a token to join Elysium, and we believe that we failed to satisfy this community entirely, as at the same time legacy fans acquired a reputation of ‘pirates’ on the official WoW community,” wrote Nostalrius’ project manager, who goes by the handle Viper.

“We know that Nostalrius carries the hopes of the legacy community but moving from ‘fan server’ to ‘pirate server’ reputation makes it harder to convince that legacy fans have a place on the WoW community,” they added. “Until this stigma is removed, it’s unlikely any true progress towards official legacy content can be achieved.”

They have requested that Elysium stop using their source code and data, and they have already ceased the account transfer process on their end. Elysium says they plan to comply.

“It is with sadness that we must act under such circumstances,” wrote an Elysium admin named Shenna. “However, rest assured that our loyalties remain with the community in all things. All characters that have existed in the game world since Elysium’s launch until now will be maintained and all Nostalrius specific data will be wiped… All future Nostalrius related data will be denied. The new realms will not be affected, and Elysium will not disclose any Nostalrius’ data such as the databases and core.”

They revealed, however, that they recently peaked at 30,500 players simultaneously online over four realms, which is no small feat for a fan server. And so, Elysium plans to continue with new and improved databases and cores of their own. “Nostalrius handed us the torch, we have no intention of putting it out,” the admin said.

As for Nostalrius, they plan to approach the problem from a different angle. They just aren’t quite sure what the angle is yet.

“For us, Legacy fans can still be part of a broader and stronger WoW community,” wrote Viper. “The original versions of WoW deserve preservation and there should be an opportunity for veterans and newcomers alike to experience the game in it’s original forms. World of Warcraft is as important to the larger gaming community as some of the most iconic video games in history, like Mario or Zelda, and the versions of the game that originally created that significance should be able to be experienced by anyone at anytime.”

“From our side, we keep on working on multiple ideas which may go in the right direction,” they added. “We want to apologise to the former Nostalrius players who transferred their account. We understand that our decision to ask Elysium to stop using our data might bring you pain. Our community has always been the center of our actions, and we still need to find the proper solution to please WoW community as a whole.”


  • Herm.. I wonder if some extra greenbacks were paid to the admins @ Nostalrius?

    Perhaps Blizzard just bought them off? – might be cheaper than trying to develop and run their own servers?

      • Ah, but suing would be detrimental to their reputation, AND they could escalate the issue – i.e. just host it in another country? The ‘law’ also protects copyright – but how successful have the government laws on torrent site blocking been? :S

        I really think this is almost a dream-come-true for blizzard! The vanilla server community is apparently just going away AND not flaming blizzard in the process AND blizzard haven’t had to commit to anything OR follow through on legal threats… Good Day for bliz?

  • “Shutting Down Again To Avoid Being A ‘Pirate Server'”

    Avoid being a pirate server? It is one. You are pirates.

    • …Except for all the people on the legacy servers who bought the game at some point, which is probably a large proportion (or even most) of them? Sure, they’re not paying Blizzard for continued updates or server maintenance, but they’re also not using either of those things.

      The definition of piracy is ambiguous. I am pretty sure that many courts outside the US would protect playing on legacy servers as a legal use of your property if you bought the game. If server operators who are not distributing nor advertising where to get copies of the game illegally, and didn’t create the code that runs the server via illegal means (reverse engineering code that does the same thing as other code is not illegal), are not at fault if some of their users chose to acquire the game illegally.

      It’s probably against the anticircumvention laws in the US but those are far from universal. It’s against Blizzard’s terms and conditions but those aren’t the law. It’d be difficult to argue convincingly that they’re doing any damage to Blizzard’s business.

      It’s a grey area, is all I’m saying. Whether or not it’s illegal will vary from place to place. Whether or not what they’re doing is actually wrong comes down to personal opinion. I think they can make a pretty compelling argument for not viewing themselves as pirates.

      • Their use of private servers is against the ToS and playing on servers that are free instead of paying blizzard is denying them money.

        • Can’t argue with violating ToS, these servers are using Blizzard assets for things the company doesn’t want them to and has told them not to do but it’s NOT denying Blizzard money. The justification for a subscription fee is so that Blizzard can pay for and profit off providing servers and content updates. But these servers are NOT getting any kind of content update, they exist specifically to avoid it and maintenance of the server is not footed to Blizzard. So if the players on these servers have already paid for the original game what actual money is Blizzard being denied? If Blizzard were providing a service this was competing with you could make that argument but they aren’t and probably wont for a good long time.

        • The ToS/EULA is not the law. The idea that when you buy a copy of a game you are in fact paying to access a service, rather than… buying a copy of a game… can’t be upheld legally. Which is good because it’s anti-consumer in the extreme and also basically gibberish. Anyone who purchases a legitimate copy of WoW is also free to modify that copy any way they want so long as it doesn’t circumvent technology put in place to prevent illegal copies being made – in general (and by design, not oversight) copyright law doesn’t prevent consumers from defacing or altering the thing they bought. Building and hosting an emulated server is definitely not illegal as long as you didn’t use actual code from Blizzard that you acquired illegally and you’re not distributing any copies of the game or telling users where/how to get illegal copies of the game, with the caveat that you probably shouldn’t try to make any money from your emulated server (although more for safety than anything).

          The WoW private servers probably violate anticircumvention laws in the US, which are stricter – hard to say since it’s never been to court – but I would be extremely surprised if they did in Australia (considering we have legal precedents such as selling/installing modchips in PS2’s being found to be legal so long as they didn’t allow people to make illegal copies of games, bypassing region-locking is in a weird confusing grey area but probably legal, etc.) or in most of Europe. All of this makes whether or not Blizzard is losing money because of private servers basically a moot point because even if they are they’d still be legal. Probably. Again, hard to say without a case going to court.

          Of course most server operators aren’t going to be willing to accept the risk of actually going to court and will stop when they get the cease and desist. Even if you’re probably in the right legally, it wouldn’t be smart to tangle with Activision-Blizzard’s army of lawyers.

          I brought the damage to Blizzard’s business thing more for the ethics angle – if people want to play the current state of the game on official servers and get updates, they pay Blizzard for that service. If they want to play an old version of the game, Blizzard doesn’t offer that service. Even if they did it might still be legal to run private servers, but since they don’t, they’re obviously not losing money on it. If you want to get into ‘how many people play on private servers who would pay a subscription to Blizzard if the private servers went down’ you’re just theorycrafting, but my bet would be that it’s a number that would be so tiny they wouldn’t notice the blip in their customer stats.

          • The ToS/EULA is not the law. The idea that when you buy a copy of a game you are in fact paying to access a service, rather than… buying a copy of a game… can’t be upheld legally.

            While it’s true that the EULA isn’t ‘the law’, they are legally enforceable and can be upheld legally under contract law in most circumstances (see ProCD v Zeidenberg (1996), Verner v Autodesk (2010)). Software licensing is even better established, the only relevant protection is US first sale doctrine, which several courts have ruled either doesn’t apply or applies in a limited fashion to licensed software.

            For example, Verner v Autodesk (mentioned above) established that first sale doctrine doesn’t extend to licensees of a copy of software. MDY v Blizzard also established that purchasers of World of Warcraft are not owners but licensees, and this part of the ruling was upheld in the partial appeal in the ninth circuit court. The ruling also noted that violation of the EULA is valid grounds for the licensor to sue for breach of contract.

            In short, buyers of World of Warcraft are licensees (not owners), and where the EULA has been applied appropriately (as was found to be the case for WoW), EULA violations constitute breach of contract. It’s not illegal (prohibited by law), but neither is it legal (permitted by law). It’s called a civil wrong and and can be sued for damages and injunctions.

            As for the server, anti-circumvention is a factor but so is straight up copyright infringement if any of the original quest data was copied into the server’s database. I noted in a reply below that quest text and NPC speech is all stored server-side in World of Warcraft, so it’s impossible for a legacy server to operate legally as long as it has even a single original quest without the copyright holder’s permission.

          • Thanks for taking the time to reply, wasn’t aware of MDY v Blizzard. IANAL but copyright law is something I’m interested in. I also didn’t know that quest text and NPC speech were stored server-side in WoW, obviously bad for the server operators.

            I’d still be kind of surprised if playing on a private server would be an offense in Australia though – software here (even digitally downloaded software) seems to mostly be treated as a good that consumers own (came up as recently as the case with Valve and the ACCC), and the modchip thing definitely breached the PS2’s EULA but was still allowed here, although that is quite a while back now. The extent to which the US follows corporate interest when it comes to copyright law/enforcement is far from universal.

          • I’m not a lawyer either so obviously take what I say with a grain of salt, but I am a software developer and I’ve invested a fair amount of time in researching rights and requirements when it comes to software.

            As for Australian law, I have no idea. I don’t think there’s any precedent here but we do have a tendency to pull precedents from the UK and US. Resale as a right is often treated separately to the fact software is licensed though, as it usually involves transfer of the license itself. The terms of the license itself I expect would still hold up in Australia.

      • Does not matter, If i have previously bought a Commodore, Does not mean i can go in and take another for free. Nost and alike are using blizzard products in an illegal manner. And to access these servers you have to download a pirated copy of the game.

        • As far as I’m aware you don’t have to download a pirated copy of the game. You need to have an old version of the game. Lots of ways other than pirating that that might be the case.

          What does stealing a Commodore have to do with this? 100% unrelated situation. A better comparison would be “Does not matter, if I bought a Commodore, does not mean I can modify it so that I can plug it into an HDMI port on my monitor rather than using the monitor the creators intended.” Except it totally does and that is completely legal.

          They may well not be using them in an illegal manner – just a manner that Blizzard doesn’t approve of (not the same thing). That was kind of my point.

          • No, Its an illegal manner, They are appropriating blizzards copyrighted property. Its completely legal for blizzard to take them down. Rightfully so. Blizzard owns the copyright to World of Warcraft. They decide how its used. Copyright 101

            “As far as I’m aware you don’t have to download a pirated copy of the game. You need to have an old version of the game.”

            And please do pray tell how you get that old copy? Because i can almost guarantee 99.99% of people got that old copy from a site called The Pirate Bay

          • That is not copyright 101. It only allows copyright owners to dictate how something is used in an extremely limited manner. If you buy a DVD or a music CD or a videogame or a book there are actually very few things that you can’t legally do with it. One thing you are 100% allowed to do with it is modify it if you want to in /nearly/ any way you see fit. Unless what they’re doing makes it easier to make an illegal copy of the game than it already is (it doesn’t – there are no controls on digital copies to stop you from copying them and it wouldn’t affect the copy protection on a CD of the game), it’s probably legal in most of the world.

            I have the install CDs for the original WoW box around here somewhere, and I bet they’re pretty easy to come by. You can get them off eBay for one, but I know lots of people who still have their own discs. I’d actually guess that the vast majority of people playing on these servers own a legal copy of the game. Many of them probably actively subscribe to the current game in addition to playing on the legacy server.

          • What the server owners are doing is still illegal. Hosting a private wow server is copyright infringement.

            You buying WoW does not give you the right to host your own private WoW server. You can only do that if the owner allows it.

  • This article’s title is misleading. It makes it sound like Elysium is closing down. It is not, and anyone that transferred their character will be able to keep it.

    Also, there is a possibility that Nost always planned this or that they were threatened by Bliz and just wanted to show face. Either way, it has been done and Elysium don’t care as they are outside of Blizzard’s reach.

    • There are very few places that aren’t signatories to the Berne convention. Elysium isn’t out of Blizzard’s reach, it’s hosted by OVH which is a French company subject to French laws regardless of where their servers are hosted. OVH is also the company that hosted Nostalrius so there’s already established interaction between them and Blizzard in the past.

  • And this is exactly why I didn’t bother applying.
    I still hope to play on a vanilla server again, but when your progress could be removed just like that… no thanks.

  • Vanilla is better than retail by 100x

    nost is still up its just labeled Elysium.. come join us its plenty fun

  • Legacy servers using your own code are legal. The precedent being SAMBA on Linux. It would be illegal for Microsoft to force Windows to only work on their domain controllers. The same is true of legacy servers built using non-Blizzard source code. Companies cannot shut down a clean room reverse engineered server. It is 100% legal to reverse engineer and implement an interoperable server service. It would be funny to see this tested in court as I’m sure Blizzard would lose. All the defending party would have to do is prove that they are using the reverse engineered server for any legitimate purpose such as LAN play and it would invalidate the arguments that it exists solely for piracy.

    • Legacy MMO servers aren’t legal, they’re a copyright violation. They’re also punishable as EULA violations. The legal principles have been tested in court at least once to my knowledge, in 2010 in California where Blizzard won the case against a pirate WoW server.

      The legal gist is as follows: the EULA prohibits the development of or playing on unauthorised servers. Breaching the EULA is a civil violation (ie. not illegal but punishable), one of the consequences of which is the voiding of the user’s license to use the software. Continued use of the software without a valid license is a copyright violation, which is illegal.

      The other obvious copyright violation is content. All of the quest data (including text), emotes and NPC dialogue are stored server-side and sent to the client on demand. It’s all copyrighted and can’t be used without permission. This particular point isn’t a problem if the server runs entirely custom quests, but all legacy servers I’ve ever seen have word for word copies of original quest text.

      • It seems that the accusation or assumption is that everyone on a private server, one that offers a wow experience that is NOT possible now, must just want free access to a game. That is not correct. I own every peiece of content up to Legion. I play vanilla not because I dont want to pay, but because I dont enjoy Legion. I WOULD PAY MONTHLY for legitimate acces and again, I DO have legitimate copies of every VERSION of this game past and present. Like surely 90% of players on private servers, we own copies already and just want to experience what is no longer offerred by Blizzard. There isnt any legitimate reason for Blizzard not to offer legacy. Its all excuses. If this can be done privately, it can be done by a large company with plenty deep pockets, and they could profit off of players who dont want their new version of the game. Nost already proved this with the numbers reported. The debate shouldnt be about the legality of it as on the grounds of owning a licensed copy, I am free and clear as are many, no instead it should be about why Blizzard wont do it. Anyone have copies of the conversation betweem Blizzard and Nost? Guessing not but i would love to hear/read it.

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