BlackSnow Interactive: the documents

Those who have been following the RMT scene for some time can probably recall the shady company called BlackSnow Interactive (‘BSI’). Like many others, BSI was using computer-controlled player characters (“macros”) and vulnerabilities in game code (“dupes”) to obtain large quantities of game property very inexpensively. According to Julian Dibbell (Unreal Estate Boom sidebar, Wired magazine, January 2003), they also set up a “virtual sweatshop” in Tijuana, Mexico, where unskilled laborers played Dark Age of Camelot (‘DAoC’) in three shifts. (See comments below)

In 2002, BSI became famous for suing DAoC’s operator Mythic Entertainment over the right to sell game properties outside the game. They also threatened to sue Funcom, operator of Anarchy Online, to retrieve accounts that Funcom had frozen for EULA violations. There was some anticipation that BSI’s actions would result in the legal status of virtual property receiving clarification in the U.S.

A gaming news website called UnknownPlayer.com followed BSI’s legal struggles in a Groklaw-esque fashion as they unfolded, publishing court documents and engaging in a bit of investigative journalism. Among other things, they released a very interesting instant messaging log that was verified to be a conversation between Funcom’s lead database administrator and a BSI director.

UnknownPlayer.com has not been maintained for some time, and is now offline, along with its BSI materials. With permission from Scott Miller, one of the people behind the site and the story, I decided to publish my local copies of the relevant materials here at VERN. This is in part in response to a query by someone conducting legal research on the topic. Note that many (all?) of these materials are also available through Archive.org if you know where to look. I’ve simply gathered them in one place and added a bit of my own interpretation.

The cases eventually fizzled as BSI and the people behind it disappeared, but not before addressing the burning question of end-user license agreement (‘EULA’) enforceability, if only in a very small way. The materials also provide fascinating insights into a historical farming/duping operation, its opponents, and its collaborators.

UnknownPlayer.com’s BSI materials

What follows is a chronological list of summaries of UnknownPlayer.com’s articles, linked to the actual texts. Related documents are referenced below each summary. The texts have not been edited in any way, so they contain a lot of old dead links.

Update: main article links now point to corresponding copies in Archive.org.

Directory listing of all the files stored locally

Thanks to Scott!

5 thoughts on “BlackSnow Interactive: the documents

  1. According to Julian Dibbell, they also set up a “virtual sweatshop” in Tijuana, Mexico

    Notable in this is that Julian Dibbell’s book, Play Money, states that he met with BSI to take a drive down to Tijuana and see this “sweatshop”, but never actually did. He makes suspicious overtones about the actual existence of such a sweatshop at the time of his interview. Thought I’d mention that.

  2. The Tijuana incident is covered in the first two chapters of Dibbell’s book “Play Money”. I think the “interview” that Michael is referring to is in chapter 2 when he starts trying to get location information from BSI and they tell him nothing. By the end of the chapter, Dibbell seems convinced that there never was a “virtual sweatshop”.

  3. Ah ok, thanks. I have to confess I haven’t read the book yet, it’s been sitting on my desk since I got it from Julian in September…

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