Less spam, more ham – oh wait that was just the Gnome that ganked me.

I can fit 8 gnomes in this can

I can fit 8 gnomes in this can

(Virtually Blind) – Blizzard’s lawsuit against virtual item and power-leveling company In Game Dollar (doing business as Peons4Hire) has settled, resulting in a permanent injunction that essentially shuts down In Game Dollar’s entire World of Warcraft operation. Though no monetary damages are specified, the injunction represents a complete victory for Blizzard. The news is likely to be well received by the World of Warcraft player community, which voiced widespread support for Blizzard’s move when the lawsuit was filed.

Blizzard brought the lawsuit against In Game Dollar in the Federal District Court for the Central District of California last May. The Complaint alleged that In Game Dollar violated World of Warcraft’s Terms of Use and End User License Agreement by spamming chat in World of Warcraft with advertising. This, Blizzard alleged, diminished players’ game experience and cost Blizzard subscribers, bandwidth, employee time, and ultimately, revenue.

Blizzard claimed six causes of action, including violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, interference with contract, and trespass to chattels.

Peons4Hire was not the largest virtual property dealer in World of Warcraft, but it was well known for aggressive in-game marketing via chat spam. The lawsuit could be seen as a shot across the bow of larger sellers.

The key provision of the injunction specifically prohibits In Game Dollar from “engaging in the sale of World of Warcraft® virtual assets or power leveling services.??? In Game Dollar is also permanently enjoined from:

“Making any use of the World of Warcraft® in-game communication or chat system to advertise any website, business, or commercial endeavor, including any business associated with In Game Dollar, LLC or www.peons4hire.com.

Sending messages to the World of Warcraft® servers, the World of Warcraft® in-game communication or chat system or any other computer used by Blizzard in connection with the World of Warcraft® game, if such messages mention or advertise the website www.peons4hire.com, In Game Dollar LLC or any other commercial endeavor.

Making any unauthorized use, or obtaining any unauthorized access to Blizzard’s computer systems or network.”

The injunction also prohibits In Game Dollar from investing in a new operation doing any of the enjoined acts, and authorizes the court to award damages in the event that the company violates any of the terms. Essentially, the injunction puts In game Dollar out of the World of Warcraft virtual item and power-leveling business. The Peons4Hire website is down.

Blizzard has taken what is arguably the most aggressive legal stance in the industry against gold farmers, chat spammers, third-party bot providers, and others who violate World of Warcraft’s Terms of Use and End User License Agreement. The company’s actions have been widely praised both by players and by commentators who follow legal issues in games and virtual worlds. Blizzard was represented in this lawsuit by Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP.

The injunction is part of a settlement, so it does not carry the precedential weight that a decision on the merits would carry. However, it joins last year’s default and consent judgments resulting from intellectual property claims in Second Life as yet another example of a court entering a judgment regarding virtual property (here, “virtual assets???) without comment or apparent concern regarding the subject matter of the agreement. For those watching this space, it represents another small step toward recognition of virtual property.

The Court retains jurisdiction for the purposes of enforcing the injunction, but the case is otherwise concluded.

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