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Blizzard defeats Peons4Hire gold farmers in court

Michael Zenke

In news likely to have repercussions for similar cases, Blizzard has handily won their lawsuit against the gold farming outfit Peons4Hire (aka Game Dollar). The permanent injunction [pdf] they were awarded in the suit's settlement effectively means you'll never see a Peon spam message in your mailbox or chat window ever again. The original suit was filed because of Blizzard's belief [pdf] that this gold spam 'diminished players' game experience and cost Blizzard subscribers, bandwidth, employee time, and ultimately, revenue.'

The injunction deals with that by prohibiting Game Dollar/Peons from selling virtual assets from World of Warcraft, or powerleveling characters in the game. They're also legally enjoined from using the chat or in-game mail system to advertise their service ... possibly the first time I've seen a court case refer to a virtual world's specific forms of communication. Beyond all that, Game Dollar is further prohibited from investing in a new company that engages in these activities.

Read on for ... the catch. (There always is one.)

The only catch, and it's kind of a big one, is that since this is a settlement there's no weight of law here. The article makes the point, though, that the court's willingness to have this matter discussed is just further proof that we'll see a US court deciding the limits of virtual property sometime soon. Recent cases involving Second Life lawsuits, as well as plans by other MMO publishers to deal with their gold farming problems, are further proof that the online and offline worlds are become more and more interconnected.

There's already a discussion of this announcement going on at WoW Insider; as Mike Schramm notes over there, it's great to see Blizzard walk away with such an obvious win. Let's hope other MMO developers can net the same kind of success in future suits.

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