October 10th, 2008 by Kenan Farrell
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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