Thursday, April 15, 2010

I am NOT a Blizzard Stooge

Everyday, I wake up, stagger over to the couch, and check my email. All the comments left on my columns are mailed to me; this makes monitoring what people think of the Lawbringer much easier, as I don't have to constantly read through old columns to check for anything new. The last few morning, I've woken up to see comments like these:
Waitaminute, so she is coughing out her professor's material in class?
Ms. Schley, it would help us all if you disclosed what appears to be a "conflict of interest". Your bio lists your employment with a firm as a clerk; exactly what firm, and exactly what type of employment? Your opinions were never qualified as directly related to Blizzard's own legal positions, and you did not disclose your rather close contact with a member of their legal team. In the future it will help those reading your opinions, if these sources of obvious motivation are provided -- in advance.
Where to begin? Let's start with noting where this idea that I'm getting lectured by Blizzard's legal team originated. When I discussed contract law in Europe, I made the following comment:
(As my Intellectual Property professor, an associate at the law firm that represents Blizzard, put it: question marks and exclamation points have no place in a contract.)
I'm taking a class in Intellectual Property Licensing, (note there is a missing word in the quote -- whoops) which teaches how to write contracts like End User License Agreements. The adjunct professor teaching the class is an associate for Sonnenschein, Nath, and Rosenthal, a well respected firm of 700 lawyers in 14 offices around the US and in Europe. Blizzard Entertainment is one of the firm's many clients. None of Blizzard's work is done in the Kansas City office. My professor has never worked on any Blizzard related business. My professor has never told me anything about any part of Blizzard's legal issues. In fact, during the few outside of class discussion we've had, I've been informing her of Blizzard's legal strategy.

"Ah," you charming detractors might be thinking, "maybe you aren't learning anything from said professor, but you are conflicted because you're slanting your analysis in hopes of getting a better grade." Let me note several facts:
  1. My prof is a working parent and busy associate who doesn't have time to read gaming blogs.
  2. The class is blind graded, so even if the prof read my column, sucking up would have no effect.
  3. My grade in IP Licensing is the best grade I've gotten in law school, minimizing any need to suck up.
  4. I wrote much of this same analysis of the legal issues involved with gold farming in my dissertation, which was finished before I ever stepped foot in IP Licensing.
As for my employment: I work for a small firm in Kansas City whose main client is General Motors. I draft patents for various ways of integrating shape memory alloys into vehicles. I suppose that makes me conflicted because my boss went to law school with my prof, but frankly, the idea that 1) my prof would check my blog, 2) find my tone worthy of informing my boss, 3) notify my boss I'm writing about one of my prof's clients, 4) prompting my boss to change the way he treats me, and thus 5) I slant my tone to make the two of them happy is ludicrous.

I will admit, I may be somewhat biased towards Blizzard, but it is NOT because of some second hand connection between myself and their legal team. Any bias I have is because of my fundamental beliefs. I believe in the freedom of contract -- if you don't like what a EULA says, you shouldn't have signed it. I also am a strong believer in property rights: real property, personal property, and intellectual property. Even if I disagree with the terms and some provisions of the patent, copyright, and trademark laws, I still strongly believe in the importance of recognizing that property. Finally, I also strongly believe in the importance of the rule of law. Even laws I don't like, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, should be respected and obeyed. (I'm also all for using the political process to get such idiotic laws repealed.) Thus, when Blizzard is sued by MDY for having the temerity to request MDY to stop facilitating subscribers' EULA/TOU violations and copyright infringement, I'm inclined to side with the people not breaking the law.

Perhaps this means I'm too biased to speak to anything about Blizzard. I don't think so, and my employers don't seem to think so either. But for those convinced, I will add a final thought. Given that Blizzard wins its lawsuits against botters and private realm providers, perhaps reality also is biased towards Blizzard.


  1. Have you stopped posting at I just happened by here when I clicked your profile on that site. Many people may not know you are continuing to post here and not there.

  2. I'm curious where you stand on virtual property rights and how these conflict with Blizzard's interpretation of the various laws involved. Do you think we will ever get any rights with regards to virtual property (be it gold/items or even more 'tangible' virtual goods such as a song on iTunes)?

    This is especially important now considering the lawsuit that has been riased against Linden Labs.

  3. I know you feel the need to respond to the, people, raising these accusations, and that is fine. However; please remember that the majority of your readers wholeheartedly enjoy your articles and the thought that you are a part of some Blizzard conspiracy has not entered our minds. You seem to be someone who enjoys a good debate, so I can see why you would respond to these kinds of things, but please don't think that we all think these things about you. As always, keep up the good work, and I know we all await your next article.

  4. Oh, I don't worry too much about such things. However, I was noticing that the comments were building off each other, and I figured a prepared statement to combat the misconception would be better than rather than letting it fester.

  5. Thankfully, here in europe most countries dont constitute pressing "Accept" on an EULA as signing any contract, and also lawfully gives us the right to ignore anything in that EULA that is unreasonable under our consumer protection laws.

  6. "Thus, when Blizzard is sued by MDY for having the temerity to request MDY to stop facilitating subscribers' EULA/TOU violations and copyright infringement..."

    I understand the argument regarding EULA/TOU violations, but how can copyright violations really be seriously considered in the MDY case? It is a bot, it does not copy anything. Do you really believe that Blizzard's arguement will hold up on appeal? I have read MDY's response to the decision and it makes much more sense than the judge's interpretation of the situation.

    Having said that, doesn't using DMCA to support what amounts to a TOU violation seem like something we, as consumers, would not want to support? It was not meant to do anything of the sort as it was only meant to protect companies from piracy, not bots.

  7. If you post anything at all you can be fairly sure that some troll out there will always try to hit you with something you didnt do, say or hinted at. Dont let them stop you - your stuff is really good.
    Another point which a poster from further up brought up and really intrigues me: Is it legally even possible to personally own virtual chars? For real?
    I mean - its neither touchable nor copyrightable ... And if - how would the contract look like, or the technicalities work?