September 2010

Runescape Copyright and CFAA Case Fails at Preliminary Injunction Stage, But Runescape is Not Down for the Count: Jagex v. Impulse Software

September 25, 2010

A decision in Jagex v. Impulse Software, issued by Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Gorton in August, has some interesting (albeit not nonobvious) lessons for software developers seeking to protect their websites from copying or reverse engineering.  The decision arises in the context of a preliminary injunction – a request by Jagex to provide it with legal relief at the outset of the case, before discovery or trial – so Jagex may yet prevail in this case, particularly since most of the reasons the court denied it relief that this stage can be corrected before the case progresses much further. The plaintiff, Jagex operates an online role-playing game called “Runescape.”  Runescape is a “massively multiplayer online role-playing game” (MMORPG for short, but we’ll just call it “the game”). Impulse offers online cheat tools – software that lets users advance through the levels of the game without actually playing the game.  Moving to higher and more challenging levels is the goal of the game, and the Impulse software allows users to reach those hallowed grounds without investing the time and effort the game expects users to endure.  And, it is possible to invest a great deal of time and effort with this game – Judge Gorton noted that the top three Runescape players averaged about 20,000 hours of playing time.

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Hey Dude, That Program’s Mine! Vernor v. Autodesk

September 17, 2010

You’re out cruising garage sales on a hot summer Sunday morning when you spot an unopened copy of AutoCAD sitting on a card table for $40 – 40 buckeroos for a program people spend $700 for new.  Yeah, it’s a couple of versions back, but you figure you can get $340 for it on eBay, and not break a sweat.  You buy it from the clearly clueless seller, and the next thing you know you’re watching bids come in at over $300.  Except that Autodesk, proud owner of this high-end computer aided design program, objects.  You don’t own that program, they say, we licensed it to the original seller, and she had no right to sell it, no right at all.  You are infringing our copyright by reselling the software, so take it off eBay right now, Autodesk’s lawyers insist in a hand delivered, “sign-here-to-acknowledge-receipt-sir” letter.  In the meantime, they’ve sent eBay a DMCA take-down notice and eBay has killed your sale.

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