Video game fans may recall the dissapointment when, last year, uS courts forced Bnetd servers to shut down. Bnetd, short for Battle Net daemon, was created by some hackers who had become very upset with Blizzard’s Battle.net. There was rampant cheating and latancy problems. They did what any hacker would do when confronted with a software problem – develop new software that fixes is. They created their own servers to play Warcraft (and Diablo, etc) on and life was good. that is, things were good until Blizzard too,k them to court and won an injunction against them. The judge had cited that law which I hate so much, the DMCA, as one of the reasons why this software was illegal. Also, he said, Blizzard’s license (which you have to agree to or else can’t play the game) says that you can’t do this. Aha! I knew I should have been reading that crap instead of just clicking next to install my favorite software.
Now they are back and have appealed to the 8th Circuit Court saying that the DMCA doesn’t apply. Indeed, many agree that it does not apply in this case. However, they may still lose on the basis of the license they agreed to when installing the softare. A CNET article seems to thing this is likely.
I found their partners in this appeal to be an interesting assortment of characters, a motley crew indeed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is providing free legal assistance. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Consumer’s Union, and Public Knowledge. I was not surprised to see the EFF there as they, along with the Free Software Foundation, was working hard to protect the right to hack. At first glance, however, I was a little surprise to see the IEEE there. They are a very respectable world-wide organization, of which I have been a memeber since my Freshman year at Cornell. I think they add the greatest amount of legitimacy to this appeal as people will respect them more than a hacker group. The CNET article didn’t explain why they were a part of this, but I figure it has to do with preserving the right to reverse engineer.
The right to reverse engineering in the US is both a blessing and a curse. If you are the one who is being reverse engineered, you view it as a blight, but to consumers it’s one of the best things that can happen. Were it not for reverse engineering, we wouldn’t have $350 computers at Best Buy. It was the ability to see what IBM was doing and then copy it that allowed computers to get more and more affordable beacause competition ALWAYS drives down price. Any company will fight the lowering of the price of one of its products, but it is inevitable. To stop this from going on prevents growth and efficiency. Yes, we may have messed up IBM’s ability to sell computers, but look at the market which sprung from this: CD-ROM, CD-R, digital cameras, affordable scanners, nearly infinite storage, and so on. Thus, to keep the world going, I think the IEEE is seeking to ensure that the right to reverse engineer.
I hope the Bnetd guys win this time.