Running private servers violates the EULA, DMCA

How serious does Blizzard take private World of Warcraft server operations? A woman who ran a WoW server and sold items via Paypal was the victim of a shocking $88,594,539.00 judgment. Although it may seem high, more than $3 million was actually made by the woman from the server's "inappropriate profits." Her private server, which she ran under the name Scapegaming was a multimillion-dollar business. She was also a highly attractive target for litigation.

Private servers are a violation of the EULA and DMCA.

The World of WarCraft End User License Agreement and Terms of Use prohibits the creation of a private server and selling access and items to players. You agree to the EULA and promise not to "host or provide matchmaking services for the Game" or intercept, emulate, or redirect communication protocols used by Blizzard in anyway, for any purpose. This includes without limitation unauthorized play over internet, network play, or as a part of content aggregation systems. This agreement clearly prohibits you from playing on any server other than Blizzard's.

According to court documents, the server was not small. It hosted 32,000 players at one time. The website's community had 427,393 members as of June 2008. This is where the math comes into play if you think that Blizzard has been given too much money.

The document states that "Based on these allegations it is reasonable to infer Defendant provided each of its users anti-circumvention services or products on at least one occasion." "Although Plaintiff cannot prove this fact definitively the Court must draw any reasonable inferences in Plaintiff’s favor due to Defendant’s failure to participate the litigation process."

This is correct, because the woman in question didn't appear in court, she was slapped with a DMCA violation on every user. You'd think that after making a few millions from running a private servers, it would be prudent to save some money in case the company in question comes after you.

According to the court, the statutory damages were actually low. The $200 per circumvention fine is a minimum statutory penalty, and it was multiplied in this case by 427,393 people. The judgment stated that "To the extent this figure seems unreasonably high, Congress has mandated it and the Court cannot deviate from this approach."

Blizzard also claimed that every Paypal transaction was a circumvention. However, the court ruled against that argument. What was the amount Blizzard claimed it owed, based on the Paypal transactions? Additional $20,886,200 in statutory damage.

Private servers for profit are not a viable career path

If you're just playing around with your friends, it's unlikely that you'll find yourself in court. But Scapegaming was dealing to hundreds of thousands of players who paid millions of dollars to access what amounts to a pirate website.

World of WarCraft, Activision Blizzard’s biggest cash cow is not funny. It's hard for gamers to find a way to play without paying a monthly fee.