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The Lawbringer: Mail Bag 9


Pop law abounds in The Lawbringer, your weekly dose of WoW, the law, video games and the MMO genre. Mathew McCurley takes you through the world running parallel to the games we love and enjoy, full of rules, regulations, pitfalls and traps.

Welcome to another mail bag edition of The Lawbringer, ready to answer your questions, inqueries, and crazy considerations. A lot of you have been emailing me about SOPA and PIPA, the two bills currently being legislated on in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. These bills make it extremely easy for parties who feel that they are the victims of copyright infringement to take websites offline without much due process due to the overreaching aspects of the broadness of the respective legislations' wording. We as a subculture of the internet do not like these pieces of legislation.

I chose not to talk about SOPA or PIPA because, honestly, I think everyone is saying what I would say better than I could say it. So many people much smarter than I have already said wonderful things about these bills that you should probably read those instead. If you're looking for more information on SOPA, PIPA, and their general mechanics and potential fallout, hit up Wikipedia for a full FAQ about the bill and great links. For a different perspective, my good friend Chris put up a great discussion of SOPA from a non-legal standpoint as a developer and programmer.

My Lawbringer mail bag always has awesome questions, and I'm thankful to all of you who send them in. I try to get to as many of them as I can, and if you haven't gotten a response, try sending your question in again. It might have just gotten lost or whatever. Email with any of your Lawbringer questions.

No sale

Our first question this week comes from Joe, who has a buddy looking to sell his World of Warcraft account, and he wants me to clear the air on the issue for him.

Got a friend who is fed up with WOW and wanting to play TOR full time. He is considering selling his account. I told him it was illegal and can be sued, but others are saying it was not. Is that true or not? I think it is cause basically he is getting close to $2000 for an account on Blizzard's dime. Please clear the air on this.

Thanks for the email, Joe. Selling your World of Warcraft account is against the Terms of Use and subjects your account to termination. You can and will be denied access to World of Warcraft if you get caught trying to sell it. However, Blizzard, the feds, and all of those types of parties do not get involved if you try to sell your account. You just broke your agreement with Blizzard. That's all.

Here's where things get tricky. While all of those people aren't going to sue you or call the cops or get you thrown in prison, the person who paid money for an item you had no license to sell would probably take issue over the money he was out. That guy definitely has a fraud claim, and depending on the amount of money, jurisdiction, local laws, and so forth that are involved, this could mean varying consequences. That is not something I would want to have to deal with. Remember the kid from Florida?

You are correct on this one, Joe. Your friend won't get arrested, but if accounts get banned, parties get spurred, and money is lost, there is definitely a problem. The best thing to do is for your friend just not to sell his account, end of story.

Rock on

I love this next email so much.
Hi Mat,

I am just getting a band off the ground and I think the name "Windrunner" is an awesome name as it accounts one of the most awesome lore figures around. Can I get into any legal trouble from naming my band after something from Blizzards IP?

Thanks for the email, Aaron. There are some words, names, colloquialisms, and so on that do not qualify for protection because they are too broad. The last name Windrunner is so gosh-darn broad and non-specific that there are probably already 900 other bands named Windrunner out there already. Not to diss on your band name or anything, but the point is that any overly broad names like Windrunner or Lightbringer, without being copies of the characters from the Warcraft universe, are up for grabs.

Where you would run in to trouble is if your songs used Blizzard names or artwork on the albums, if you stressed any relationship to Blizzard that wasn't actually there, or if in any way you made yourself out to be something you weren't. Then you'd start heading into willful infringement and fraud territory. Don't go there.

Large companies fight for the protection of their brand names' becoming too colloquial and too generic. Once a term or phrase becomes too generic, it's harder to protect. Kleenex, Photoshop, Xerox, and Band-Aid are all brands that skirt the line between colloquial, generic term and protectable brand names because of their heavy, generic, everyday use. Interesting, hmm?

Naming your band Windrunner is probably not a problem. Naming your band Sylvanas Windrunner and the Undercity 5 might get you a letter or two in the mail.

Mythical Man Month

@orkchop on Twitter asked about the Mythical Man Month concept and what the deal is with that whole thing. Can you still Wikipedia things? Has the blackout ended?
@gomatgo What's this about the Mythical Man Month? Why won't hiring 1,000 more developers help Blizzard get content out faster?
The Mythical Man Month, or Brooks' law, is the common way of expressing the concept that "adding more people to a late project makes the project later." The teams at Blizzard are not small by chance; they are they size they are because the money that goes in to them has to balance out on the sheet for the appropriate amount of profit, etc.

Hiring on more people doesn't necessarily mean that content will be produced faster. If all of the team members were on the project at the start, then sure, yes, more people would get the same task done faster, most likely. However, adding more people on to a project clouds vision, requiring you to train and get new team members up to speed on the project and let the natural flow of the work cycle take its time to accommodate new people. You know what I mean, because you have all been on a project where a new person comes on late in the game. It takes some time to get them fully aware of the situation.

When Blizzard is deep into developing raid content or a new expansion, slapping new programmers on the project won't make the coding process any easier because the problem isn't how fast the lead programmer can type. It's not about more and faster typing, but rather what individuals are capable of creating in a certain amount of time. Stuff happens to throw off schedules, but adding more of [insert job here] isn't usually the answer.

This column is for entertainment only; if you need legal advice, contact a lawyer. For comments or general questions about law or for The Lawbringer, contact Mat at

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