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Virtual law news is finally trickling out of China following the Olympic media storm.  The9 is touting another victory in its ongoing war against plugins.  The9, which operates World of Warcraft for our Chinese friends, has won a lawsuit against a gamer found to be using a plugin for its licensed MMORPG World of Warcraft (WoW).

The9 has been waging an ongoing war against plugins.  The company introduced anti-plugin software in 2004, which it claimed was able to stop plugins completely.  Apparently, the software didn’t solve their problems, prompting a March 3, 2007, announcement that Chinese World of Warcraft game accounts found to be using plugins would be permanently closed.  The gamer involved in this litigation was discovered to be using a plugin on September 9, 2007 and his game account was swiftly suspended on September 10, 2007.

A plugin (or “addin”, “addon”) is a computer program which resides on the user’s computer that interacts with a host application (a web browser or virtual world interface, for example) to provide extra functionality.  Game plugins like those associated with World of Warcraft improve gameplay by intercepting and recomposing the data sent to game servers from games.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of plugins exist for the U.S. version of  World in Warcraft.  Of course, choosing whether to use a plugin is left to the discretion of the gamer.  Many gamers swear by the increased functionality provided by plugins…after all, only n00bs would use the user interface provided by the software.

Not much more is known about this case other than the facts stated above so we can’t go much farther with the legal analysis.  The case was heard by Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court.  China’s Intermediate courts are the second lowest local people’s court.  They handle not only appeal cases from the basic people’s courts but also handle relevant important local cases in the first instance.  It’s not clear whether this case came up on appeal or whether it was considered an “important” case.

I have a better solution for dealing with the people who use plugins…just put them on their own server!  Let them use plugins but cut them off from the remainder of the WoW population.  No more arguments that plugins cause an unfair advantage…just stop playing on a “plugin” server.  The9 keeps its paying subscribers and saves money on litigation.  There could be some security concern on The9′s part which I’m not privy to, but the U.S. seems to have it figured out, so I don’t know what the problem might be.

If you have any additional information about this case, The9′s animosity toward plugins, or China’s Intermediate courts, please leave a comment.

[Editor's Note: With this post, VB welcomes back regular contributor Kenan Farrell, who covers Asian MMO games for the site.]

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12 Responses to “The9 Wins Lawsuit Against Chinese Gamer for Using World of Warcraft Plugins”

  1. on 10 Oct 2008 at 3:30 amDoubledown Tandino

    Hi Kenan Farrell, I was hoping you could drop in a source or two… not because I’m demanding proof hahhaha.. not at all or in the slightest…
    I’m just interested reading more about this story that may possibly be on a international news website, or something like that? Has reuters, bbc, or any international news put a story in regarding this?
    Its definitely very hard to get news from China, so mainly just out of curiousity, I am interested in reading more about this case… and general chinese gaming reported news too.

  2. on 10 Oct 2008 at 3:41 amAnon

    I think you are confusing some things here. Addons can’t possibly be illegal in WoW. They are an integral part of WoW. They are meant to expand the functionality of the UI and are activly supported by Blizzard. That’s why there are thousands of them.

    What you mean with “plugins” are most probably third-party(!) programs like bots(!). These are of course against the rules.

    And that anti-plugin software is most probably the well-known “Warden”.

  3. on 10 Oct 2008 at 8:57 amKenan Farrell

    Yeah, not too much info was out there on exactly what plugin was used by the party in this lawsuit, bot or otherwise. The links up there are the only ones available at the time. Hopefully we can gather some more info from people with knowledge. I’m going to keep checking and I’ll certainly update with anything additional I find.

    Here’s some Wiki info on Warden for those interested: “Warden is an anti-cheating tool integrated in Blizzard Entertainment games such as Diablo II, StarCraft, Warcraft III and most notably World of Warcraft. While the game is running, Warden uses API function calls to collect data on open programs on the user’s computer and sends it back to Blizzard servers as hash values to be compared to those of known cheating programs. Privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, consider the program to be spyware.”

  4. on 10 Oct 2008 at 9:47 amPeter

    Blizz TOC doesn’t prohibe addon but 3th party software.

    Does anyone have acces to the chinesse TOC ? The jugement itself ?

    best regard!

    ps. I love this blog!

  5. on 10 Oct 2008 at 12:56 pmIke


    I have to agree with Anon that there is some confusion about the type of additional software that is being used.

    Blizzard Entertainment not only allows user-interface changes to theirs, but encourages it and supplies documentation for it. These are referred to in the US as “Add-Ons”.

    The major problem with US breaches of TOS is the use of programs that run in the background alongside World of Warcraft that intercepts and modifies data sent to the servers, or “plays” the game automatically, with minimal input from the player.

    I suspect that the terminology in your blog entry is confusing a fair number of readers, insinuating that the add-ons (those user-interface modifications blessed by Blizzard’s own hand) are somehow illegal in the Chinese version of the World of Warcraft.

    Some re-writing or appendages to this post may be in order so as to keep the legal issue accurate and concise.



  6. [...] that stemmed from a player who got their account closed when they were shown to use an add-on. In an article discussing this subject over at Virtually Blind, they suggest a server made just for add-ons, for anyone who wishes to participate. Taking into [...]

  7. on 11 Oct 2008 at 8:23 pmarti57

    The no add-on policy does seem out of line with Blizzard over all and I see no reason as to why anyone would just outright ban them for simply business reasons when the software was designed around them. I am willing to bet that this has something to do with the restrictions that the Chinese government has placed on WoW and other MMO’s that are played there.

  8. on 12 Oct 2008 at 9:02 amKenan Farrell

    Here’s the Chinese WOW site… Unfortunately, it’s all just beautiful scribbles to me, so perhaps a Mandarin-reading VB friend can try to locate the Terms of Use.

  9. on 12 Oct 2008 at 10:02 amDoubledown Tandino

    @ Kenan 3 and 8

    yeah, any time I come close to any kind of info, I get tons of chinese websites and popups and craziness flashing stuff….. I’m afraid I’ll have a seizure. Anyway, I can’t find much info in english on the net….

    but on the brighter side, I think I just signed up for the TV show “Most Extreme Elimination Challenge”

  10. on 12 Oct 2008 at 10:18 amKenan Farrell

    Too funny Doubledown! You’d better start building a practice course in your backyard.

    Also, I’ll echo Ike on making clear the distinction (at least in the U.S.) between plugins (for example, 3rd party bots) and addons (UI mods). I’m not sure yet whether China allows either. Maybe China WoW doesn’t even make the distinction and simply disallows everything. Anyone out there playing WoW in China???

    Thanks for all the great comments.

  11. [...] that stemmed from a player who got their account closed when they were shown to use an add-on. In an article discussing this subject over at Virtually Blind, they suggest a server made just for add-ons, for anyone who wishes to participate. Taking into [...]

  12. on 31 Oct 2008 at 11:02 amPJ

    Yeah, this story doesn’t make any sense. World of warcraft has been designed from the group up to allow addons (they don’t call them plugins) – they have a limited scripting language, and if people us it for something the developers hadn’t envisaged, the (the developers) remove the ability from the scripting language so the addons no longer work.
    This is no illegal in the west – of course you can’t rule out what nuttery they would be up to in china – but i believe the game has the ability to reject use of addons if directed to do so, so clearly not a problem.

    Now, a smaller group of hackers have created external programs which can the game for purposes of cheating – and those are not allowed. But since it is an external computer program divorced from the official game they can be harder to detected.

    Perhaps it is just an incompetent translation.

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