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.
- 16 March 2002: The initial story that BSI threatens to sue Funcom, and additional materials obtained from both sides
- 16 March 2002: Funcom’s Adam Young’s response to statements by BSI
- 17 March 2002: BSI’s response and an announcement by a player organisation that opposes BSI
- 19 March 2002: Some investigative journalism regarding BSI’s background and connections
- 19 March 2002: Obsidian Technologies, a company connected to BSI in the previous post, responds by saying they’re not involved
- 21 March 2002: A slightly unrelated revelation: people behind BSI are already involved in a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission over fradulent hardware auctions
- 10 May 2002: A district court of California (to which BSI originally took their complaint) orders the case to be moved to arbitration as provided for in Mythic’s EULA, dealing a blow to BSI’s hope that the EULA would not be enforced.
- 8 June 2002: BSI’s attorneys file a motion to be removed from the case, saying that they are no longer able to contact the client and that their bills have not been paid
- 8 June 2002: Mark Jacobs, CEO of Mythic answers some questions about the BSI case
- 11 June 2002: Some speculations not related to RMT regarding the significance of the district court’s decision to uphold the EULA
Thanks to Scott!