REVERSE ENGINEERS LIABLE


(This is an archived case summary)

Davidson & Associates v. Internet Gateway, et al
US Court of Appeal for the 8th Circuit (2005) No. 04-3654

The plaintiffs do business as Blizzard Entertainment, and make and sell computer games such as StarCraft and WarCraft. Blizzard launched an online service, Battle.net, that allowed gamers to play with each other over the Internet. Blizzard has valid copyrights on all of its games.

Blizzard took steps to avoid piracy by creating various safeguards in its software. For example, when a user connects with the Battle.net server, the server performs a "secret handshake" with the game to verify if the game is an authorized version. Furthermore, in order to play a Blizzard game users must install the game and agree to comply with the End User Licence Agreement and Terms of Use (both of which prohibit reverse engineering).

The defendants created a similar server to Battle.net and reverse engineered the Blizzard software to allow users to play both real and pirated versions of the Blizzard games online. The most significant difference was that the defendants' server read every code as an "ok" when performing the "secret handshake" and allowed users to log on regardless of the status of their software.

The Court of Appeal upheld the District Court's finding of copyright infringement, circumvention of copyright protection systems, trade-mark infringement and breach of the user agreements.

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