UI Policy Change? We're Calling a Lawyer!

We interview MDY vs. Blizzard Attorney, Connie Mableson about Blizzard new formalized design and distribution guidelines for ad

We recently reported that Blizzard Entertainment has formalized design and distribution guidelines for addons. There were a number of changes, including the fact that developers can no longer sell their addons. Since that time a great majority of the community have voiced their concerns with these new changes, so we decided to talk with a lawyer who's well-versed in such things. Connie Mableson played a role in the now famous MDY vs. Blizzard case and she has some interesting theories about what Blizzard is intending to do now that third party addon authors cannot sell their creations. "Based on all the changes Blizzard is making, I believe the Blizzard business model is to "Monetize" UI Mods/add-ons by developing them in house and offering them for sale to players " said Connie. Unfortunately when we approached Blizzard about this theory, they had no comment.


ZAM: Hello Connie, thank you for taking some time away from your practice to answer our questions about some of the legalities involved in Blizzard's most recent addon policy changes. I understand you're something of a WoW player yourself!

Connie Mableson:
Yes, I play WoW almost daily.  Probably too much .  I use add-ons particularly for raiding, keeping track of players in raid, and for DKP.  Our guild's main raid leader has over 100 mods he uses from time to time.

ZAM: Let's start by talking about the new policy that was announced by Blizzard Entertainment on Friday.  Coming from a legal standpoint, what do you think of the policy overall?

Connie: Blizz recently changed the TOU, adopted a revised UI Mods policy as it relates to developers, and changed the terms of its Battle.net site.  Blizz has the right to make these changes from a contractual viewpoint.  Azeroth is their world and they have the right to control what happens in it and to it.

ZAM: On what legal ground could Blizzard prosecute an addon author for violating a portion of the policy?

Connie: I recently represented Public Knowledge in an important lawsuit, MDY v. Blizzard.  MDY developed an add-on called "Glider"-a leveling mod.  The court held that MDY, as an add-on developer, violated the terms of the license agreement in the TOU/EULA.  This violation resulted in MDY violating Blizz's copyright to the game program and its components.  Now, the case is a bit more complicated than that, but the court found that a violation of the Blizzard license by a party not in a contractual relationship with Blizzard is a copyright violation.  Damages for copyright infringement can be huge-potentially a lot larger than damages for a breach of a license agreement.

ZAM: You'd be hard pressed to find many players in the World of Warcraft community that openly support programs like Glider; however, you've stated that you're very concerned about the case by saying "A violation of a license agreement should not (and is not) a violation of copyright law." Can you explain what you mean and how it relates to the new policies for those of us without a law degree?

Connie: Sure.  A license is a contract.  Blizz allows players to use its game code (and related components) as long as the player abides by the restrictions in the license agreement.  The license is contained in the TOU/EULA.  MDY is a company that owns a mod/add-on called Glider.  The court found that the Glider mod/add-on violates the license agreement and the court found that this formed the basis for a copyright infringement and a tortuous interference case against MDY.  MDY didn't sign the TOU/EULA.  So, the court effectively ruled that someone who violates the TOU/EULA policies by creating an add-on that utilizes the Blizzard code the player is allowed to load into his or her computer is a violation of copyright.  It is legally much more complicated than I described but that is the essence of it in a couple of sentences.

ZAM: If there is any litigation between commercialized addon authors and Blizzard, do you see the Glider case as a good example?

Connie: The MDY case is going to be appealed by MDY to the Ninth Circuit.  Until the 9th Circuit rules on it, Blizzard will use the MDY case and its new policies as precedent to support shutting down the commercial add-on developers if they do not comply with the new Blizzard UI/add-on policies and the TOU/EULA.

ZAM: Why do you think this policy was created after so many years?

Connie: I believe the policy was always in the future plan of Blizzard but the MDY case gives Blizz a tenable reason to bring it to fruition now.  This is pure speculation on my part but it makes sense to my way of reasoning.

ZAM: There are those in the addon community who argue Blizzard is merely trying to dictate how something completely out of their control is done. What legal benefits or protection do you see Blizzard gaining from exerting more control in this area?

Connie: Based on all the changes Blizzard is making, I believe the Blizzard business model is to "Monetize" UI Mods/add-ons by developing them in house and offering them for sale to players. "Monetization" is adapting non-revenue-generating assets to generate revenue.  The "non-revenue" generating assets are those created by the add-on developers that interact with the Blizzard code to make the gaming experience more enjoyable or meaningful for the player.

Under the new policy, the add-on/mod developers must make their code available to the public (including Blizzard).  Blizz can use this information to create something similar and can probably do so without violating copyright laws. 

Under the new policy, developers cannot charge for UI add-ons/mods.  Carbonite is a good example.  The "quest" version of Carbonite is free.  The "full" version costs $14.99/year and offers an extensive and very useful set of add-ons.  Under the new policy, Carbonite must make the code for its free, "quest" version available to Blizz to review.  Carbonite cannot sell its "full version" without violating the policy.

So, Blizz (and everyone else) gets to see the code, develop something similar for its exclusive use, create its own Curse.com style of add-on download & management (perhaps through its Battle.net website), and generate additional revenue while controlling the gaming environment.  No more third party add-ons.  Voilà

ZAM: Since the LUA programming language is open source and free to the public, doesn't that make it impossible to copyright? As such, doesn't this further the point that Blizzard is working outside the confines of the law with this new policy?

Connie: Open source means the program language Lua can be used without payment to the Lua owner as long as certain conditions are met.  Blizzard owns the code it writes using the Lua language.  Similarly, the developer owns the copyright to the applications and add-ons it builds using the Lua language.  Here is the Lua license language: "Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions…."  Open source software is fraught with legal issues.

Blizz's new policy also states that "all add-ons must follow the World of Warcraft Terms of Use and the World of Warcraft End User License Agreement."  A possible result of the MDY case is that if the add-ons violate the TOU/EULA policies, the developers may be liable for copyright infringement.

ZAM: What if Microsoft decided to stop people charging for applications that help make Windows a more enjoyable experience? Wouldn't that essentially be the same thing we're seeing with this new policy?

Connie: Basically, yes. However, it's Blizzard's world and they can do what they please within it.  I strongly support the rights of owners of Intellectual Property.  That is what I do for a living.  There needs to be a better balance between the rights of the consumers (such as add-on developers) and the rights of intellectual property owners.  Blizzard showed up at 6 am (with its business representative and lawyer in tow) on the doorstep of MDY's owner with lawsuit in hand to persuade MDY to stop selling Glider.  That type of strong arm tactic is excessive. 

I love the fact that there are thousands of individuals and companies that are creating fresh and useful mods/add-ons.  It would be a shame to see all of that creative energy and effort ganked by big business.  But that is the reality of the real world.  

ZAM: Thanks Connie. We definitely appreciate the time you spent answering our questions.

Connie: Thanks for the chance to comment on this important issue.



Connie J. Mableson, Esq., is a nationally recognized attorney with over 26 years of experience emphasizing Intellectual Property Law and Computer and Internet Law.  Many of Connie's clients are the worldwide leaders in internet and web technologies and progressive business models.  She was voted one of the top 10 IP lawyers in Arizona as "Best of the Bar."  Connie made Internet history when she represented the very first business to commercialize the Internet, "Cybersell" (aka "Cantor & Siegel").  Connie was also the first lawyer in the world to open a law office in a virtual world, i.e., Second Life. If you'd like to know more about Connie Mableson and her practice, please visit her website.

 

Andrew "Tamat" Beegle
Editor-in-Chief
ZAM.com

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I respectfully differ
# Apr 06 2009 at 8:10 PM Rating: Decent
Quote:
Blizzard showed up at 6 am (with its business representative and lawyer in tow) on the doorstep of MDY's owner with lawsuit in hand to persuade MDY to stop selling Glider. That type of strong arm tactic is excessive.


Not excessive enough, in my opinion. Glider deliberately violated the ToU and every player in the game except those using it. MDY didn't suffer enough. I certainly hope that the 9th circuit court laughs their appeal out of the courtroom.
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Off topic.
# Mar 31 2009 at 9:30 PM Rating: Good
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Every time I see that woman's picture, I expect someone to pull off her face to reveal some kind of creepy alien underneath.
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Interesting
# Mar 31 2009 at 7:35 PM Rating: Good
I don't care how Blizzard managed to stop Glider as long as it is gone.

Anyway, Glider isn't exactly representative of in-game mods which is what this article is about. The whole article seemed to end up being about glider and not the actual LUA mods that the new policy is about.


Quote:
Based on all the changes Blizzard is making, I believe the Blizzard business model is to "Monetize" UI Mods/add-ons by developing them in house and offering them for sale to players.


This reads to me as utter rubbish. Nothing Blizzard has ever done has given me this impression. They have included many mods functionality into the game free of charge (not always as well as the mod) and are doing the same with the Outfitter mod in 3.1. At the moment Blizzards mentality seems to be to improve the accessability of their game and grow their user base. While that is still growing, I can't see them starting to charge for mods and pushing some users to competitor MMORPGs.

The fact is that add-ons were moving in a bad way with the inclusion of in-game advertising and charging etc. and Blizzard decided to make a change before it got out of hand.


It was interesting to hear a legal opinion on the issue, so thanks for the article. It is just a shame that the lawyer used obviously has their own agenda on this issue. A more impartial opinion would have been more interesting.

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Interesting
# Mar 31 2009 at 8:08 PM Rating: Decent
"I think"

First I am not a lawyer so I think that I will allow the court and the lawyers to work this all out. I do happen to agree, however, that this particular lawyer had some point that she was making ... follow the money. As to the rights of blizzard - They own the virtual world. If they want to close up shop and never let anyone play another day tomorrow morning they have that right. They created this melieu and as such it is theirs to do with as they see fit.

"Come clean"

I am a writer. A writer of fantasy and science fiction, which I copyright. If someone uses my work and does not pay me ... well, I will follow the money. It seems that for what ever the reason there is a sense in the world these days that owners do not have the right to decide the fates of their owned possessions. Dunno where this came from, but it is important to realize that disagreement with the court system based upon personal desires will not be viewed as acceptable by those persons actually enforcing the edicts of the court and or the principality from which it derives power (the police will arrest you if you violate the decisions of the court).
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Very Bad Precedent Set
# Mar 31 2009 at 5:33 PM Rating: Decent
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The decision against MDY sets a very bad precedent. First of all MDY was not infringing in blizzard's copyright, as the judge found. Blizzard claimed that the bot software somehow infringed on their warcraft code, loaded into the computer's RAM. The judge in this case was extremely ignorant in regard to how computers work, or may be a shill for big business. People need to read the court documents before commenting to see what a complete joke they are.

Now Microsoft can use this precedent to selectively stop competitors from developing products that run on windows, and why not? They don't have to stop all products that run on windows, they can just make the rules up as they go, as it suits them, since Windows(TM) is their world, they created, and they have a right to determine if they want said software on "their" environment.

This ruling tramples on innovation and creativity.

I'm With Blizz On This One
# Mar 31 2009 at 7:09 AM Rating: Default
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I agree with everyone here. Blizz is doing us a huge favor by allowing any sort of third party add ons. If they want to create or alter rules about what kind of add ons are allowed and what aren't then they have every right to do so. If they want to allow only free add ons and ban paid add ons or add ons that have in game requests for donations then they have every right to do that. Some people may not like it but it's Blizz's right to do that.

How about all of these people that charged for their add ons, get together and create their own MMO and then they can charge whatever they want for their game and whatever they want for the add ons for that game.
I'm With Blizz On This One
# Mar 31 2009 at 1:10 PM Rating: Default
Indeed, people seem to be forgetting that you don't have to abide by the new policy; and Blizzard doesn't have to let your addon work with their game.
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Again with Glider?!
# Mar 30 2009 at 10:27 PM Rating: Good
Apparently, many people...are idiots; when it comes to Glider.

So because some those people don't get it.


WOWGLIDER IS A BOT PROGRAM; IT IS CLEARLY STATED THAT YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE BOT PROGRAMS. IF YOU CAN'T BE BOTHERED TO PLAY THE GAME YOURSELF, WHY ARE YOU WASTING $14.95 A MONTH ON IT.

I again point out: I (we) are not your parents, I (we) are not Welfare; GET A GOD **** JOB AND STOP MOOCHING. You* are making addons for the community; not yourself. If you don't like that you can't making 'easy money' then stop creating addons. I do not have a problem with donating to help you buy a new computer because your old one (that you code on) died, I do not have a problem donating to fund your subscription (presumably you'll be using it to also beta-test), I do not have a problem "tipping" you for a fine job on an addon.

I DO have a problem when a dev states they need my (our) donations to pay rent, utilities, and other bills. Coding for addons is a hobby; not a job despite what you may think.

*"You" does not necessarily imply anyone who reads here, but many seem to defend what it did...so 'you' get to be lumped together :P


Side Note:

I bet Blizzard wishes they would have made this policy back at release.

Also, lawyers are like sharks; they smell money (blood) and will take up which ever side will make them the most money. Since Blizzard already has a pack of sharks this lonely shark has sunk her teeth into the group that will most like lose; after all she'll still get paid.
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Again with Glider?!
# Mar 31 2009 at 2:41 AM Rating: Decent
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Dyner wrote:

Apparently, many people...are idiots; when it comes to Glider.

So because some those people don't get it.


WOWGLIDER IS A BOT PROGRAM; IT IS CLEARLY STATED THAT YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE BOT PROGRAMS. IF YOU CAN'T BE BOTHERED TO PLAY THE GAME YOURSELF, WHY ARE YOU WASTING $14.95 A MONTH ON IT.


Obviously because they think there are boring aspects of it, and if they have leveled 6 characters to max already it becomes a chore.

Dyner wrote:

I again point out: I (we) are not your parents, I (we) are not Welfare; GET A GOD **** JOB AND STOP MOOCHING. You* are making addons for the community; not yourself. If you don't like that you can't making 'easy money' then stop creating addons. I do not have a problem with donating to help you buy a new computer because your old one (that you code on) died, I do not have a problem donating to fund your subscription (presumably you'll be using it to also beta-test), I do not have a problem "tipping" you for a fine job on an addon.


Kid get over yourself. If they can make money from it, it IS a job. Despite your weird hangup over this.

Licensing
# Mar 30 2009 at 10:09 PM Rating: Good
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Actually, if Microsoft wanted to. They could prohibit people from developing software for their operating system. The problem is that'd render Windows practically worthless. Seeing as nobody is going to use just an operating system. They are fully within their rights to do so.


Look at it like this. You want to move into an exclusive neighborhood. Whether its a gated community or a mobile home park. They can say "Okay, you can come in here, and build a house inside our community, but it must be to these specifications. You also can't have your builder advertising inside the community. They can do it outside. But no billboards on your house or property."

Blizzard has decided they want to control how their world looks and acts. They are saying "You can have this freedom to modify the game, but only if its for the sake of the community. You can lease a lot [account], but you can't advertise inside the game for money. You can do it outside all you want. But when you're inside our software, you can't do that. We don't want advertisements cluttering up our work"

Although I agree addons greatly enhance the game and if they banned them I'd sure as heaven, raise ****. I doubt the majority of users would cease to use World of Warcraft.

With this in mind, Blizzard is doing US the favor of allowing addons. Not the addons doing Blizzard a favor. There are some MMORPGs which forbid addons of any type altogether. Blizzard says "We'll allow you to modify the game and how it works under these conditions"

That's what you're doing. Modifying World of Warcraft. And if you look at nearly any commercial software license you'll see VERY strict rules. Blizzard's are altogether pretty mild.

I think its right where it should be. If you make a mod it should be for the community.

Edited, Mar 31st 2009 2:12am by ekaterinodar
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Glider and Other junk
# Mar 30 2009 at 1:30 PM Rating: Good
Now I understand what glider is lol. I was making a joke in trade about Stratholme and said that I sleep my way through stratholme (because I have done it so **** much and knew each pull with my eyes closed. Someone said that I should be careful using glider, and I went "huh? what's glider?" Till that day I had never even heard of glider.

Question though, If addon developers release under Open Source doesn't that stop (in a legal stand point) blizzard from copying the ideas for their own uses? I don't believe that developers should have the right to sell (commercial) addons or even skin packs for eepanels/kgpanels, but blizzard shouldn't have the right to basically copy/paste the code and said it was their creation. Of course the EULA/TOU has an entry specifically allowing blizzard to take any code and use it for themselves.

Edited to add:
didn't catch the part about Open Source.

Edited, Mar 30th 2009 4:32pm by SimpleMajority
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lol Cantor & Siegel
# Mar 30 2009 at 12:32 PM Rating: Decent
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Connie made Internet history when she represented the very first business to commercialize the Internet, "Cybersell" (aka "Cantor & Siegel").


Some may say "commercialize", others may say "spam".

From the Wikipedia entry on Spam:

Quote:
The first major commercial spam incident started on March 5, 1994, when a husband and wife team of lawyers, Laurence Canter and Martha Siegel, began using bulk Usenet posting to advertise immigration law services. The incident was commonly termed the "Green Card spam", after the subject line of the postings. Defiant in the face of widespread condemnation, the attorneys claimed their detractors were hypocrites or "zealouts", claimed they had a free speech right to send unwanted commercial messages, and labeled their opponents "anti-commerce radicals." The couple wrote a controversial book entitled How to Make a Fortune on the Information Superhighway.[19]


I read Usenet when this happened, and it's safe to say, the readers of Usenet back then did not think highly of Cantor & Siegel.

That speaks volumes to me.
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Please, tell me I'm wrong...
# Mar 30 2009 at 12:30 PM Rating: Decent
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Someone, please feel free to correct me here, but am I to understand that someone is actually trying to sue bliz for not allowing them to profit off of blizzards creative works. Yes, I use addons, in fact quite a few, but it doesn't change the fact that bliz created this game, and we merely pay to participate in it. I find people that are charging for their addons are simply doing the same thing guide sellers, gold sites, and power levelers are doing, which is profiting off of the success of someone else. Making the huge leap into comparing addon sellers to companies that make programs that function within the confines of windows is a bit crazy. Lets all take a step back and think about something here, this is just a game. When Norton creates a string of programs designed to help protect ones computer, I find that VERY different than someone creating a program designed to change the way blizzard intended their product to be used, be it subtly or extremely and then turning a quick profit off of there clients.

Also...
Quote:
Wowglider (mmoglider) quoute;

"Glider is a tool that plays your World of Warcraft character for you, the way you want it. It grinds, it loots, it skins, it heals, it even farms soul shards... without you."


This, more than anything, is the most disturbing thing I saw on this page. Now blizzard, unlike a lot of MMOs I've played, not only allows addons, but makes it very easy for us to install/use them, but one big thing they have ALWAYS had a strong stance against is people using third party programs for the purpose of playing the game for them when they're not even there. I find it sad that anyone would even use something like that. I mean, why do you even have a WOW account if you enjoy it so little that you have to have a bot play it for you.

Now, in the end, I agree that blizz trying to force all addon providers to to make their code available to anyone is wrong, and I only hope that something can be done to stop that. Copyright or not, that code is someones creative property that they where nice enough to make usable by others, and they should be allowed to protect it.
Connie Mableson is a joke
# Mar 30 2009 at 11:46 AM Rating: Default
4 posts
Quote:
Based on all the changes Blizzard is making, I believe the Blizzard business model is to "Monetize" UI Mods/add-ons by developing them in house and offering them for sale to players. "Monetization" is adapting non-revenue-generating assets to generate revenue. The "non-revenue" generating assets are those created by the add-on developers that interact with the Blizzard code to make the gaming experience more enjoyable or meaningful for the player.

After reading this line of horse manure, I lost all respect for this lawyer. Not that I had much in the first place. Anyone that represents a(n) company/individual like MDY/its developer willingly, as opposed to be assigned, has questionable values anyway.

Blizzard's new UI policy isn't an effort "steal" anything from the mod authors, as this questionably esteemed lawyer implies. If anything, it will benefit the whole and only those that had misguided intentions will suffer.
Bravo!
# Mar 30 2009 at 11:31 AM Rating: Good
While I understand the issues facing Blizzard and support protecting WoW, and their IP rights, I am VERY glad that there are people such as Connie Mableson out there. This was a refreshing and informative news article/interview Tamat. Thanks for brainstorming it, setting it up and reporting it. Thanks also to Connie for her time & attention to an issue she {and many of us also} obviously feels strongly about.

Hehehe...it was priceless when she said "It would be a shame to see all of that creative energy and effort 'ganked' by big business." LOL :P
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Blizz vrs World
# Mar 30 2009 at 11:25 AM Rating: Good
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Wait, wait. A company that sells a product that bots your character, is sueing bliz. Hilarity.

Wowglider (mmoglider) quoute;

"Glider is a tool that plays your World of Warcraft character for you, the way you want it. It grinds, it loots, it skins, it heals, it even farms soul shards... without you."

That's what some of the text says in the legalese.

The case document states;

"MDY Industries, LLC seeks a declaratory judgment that its product—WOWGLIDER—does not infringe on the Defendant's copyrights to World of Warcraft, violate the DMCA or interfere with the contractual relationships between Defendants and their World of Warcraft customers."

And claim that Blizz will offer services that reduce grind time by selling it in game to players.

-=-=-=

I was always under the impression that the EULA's (plural) forbade people from using botting software. I may be wrong about this legally, but whatever. Blizz reserves the right to ban who ever they want for whatever reason, since we don't own our characters on the servers, blizz does. We own the right to make and control these dolls, for a fee.



Since it's their game, blizz's, they can pretty much do what they want, legally or otherwise. If they don't want people selling guides to the game, they can probably tell them to stop, and they would stop. Same goes for addons and leveling services... We already know gold selling is a big no-no.
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Plaintiff first
# Mar 30 2009 at 11:21 AM Rating: Good
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Quote:
Connie Mableson represented MDY in the now famous Blizzard verse MDY case


You usually list the plaintiff first, not the defendant (i.e. Brown vs. Board of Education, not Board of Education vs. Brown). MDY actually sued Blizz, not vice-versa.
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Plaintiff first
# Mar 31 2009 at 4:50 AM Rating: Decent
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RPZip wrote:
Quote:
Connie Mableson represented MDY in the now famous Blizzard verse MDY case


You usually list the plaintiff first, not the defendant (i.e. Brown vs. Board of Education, not Board of Education vs. Brown). MDY actually sued Blizz, not vice-versa.


Sued them *first* Blizzard showed up on his doorstep and threatened him with hellfire and damnation. When they left he sued them, and then a few days later they sued him - as was their plan all along if he didn't comply.
Plaintiff first
# Mar 30 2009 at 11:35 AM Rating: Excellent
My apologies. I misunderstood how the case went. MDY actually filed first after Blizzard showed up on Michael Donnelly's doorstep with Lawyers and a Blizzard rep. In the end however, Blizzard ended up winning and the case is awaiting a section nine appeal.

ORDER AND STIPULATED JUDGMENT pursuant to 112 Stipulation: ORDERED: 1. Blizzard shall be entitled to recover the total sum of $6,500,000 as monetary damages for counts I, II and III of its Counterclaims and Third Party Complaint related to the sale of Glider up through and including 2/23/09. 2. Blizzard shall be entitled to double or triple recovery for counts I, II and III. That is, Blizzard shalll be entitled to $6,500,000 in damages for counts I, II and III. However, should liability on any one or two of the counts be reversed on appeal, any remaining count shall independently support the $6,500,000 award. 3. Michael Donnelly is personally liable for the $6,500,000 damage award under counts I, II and III. (See document for full details). Signed by Judge David G Campbell on 3/2/2009.

Edited, Mar 30th 2009 2:07pm by Tamat
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