On Monday, June 20, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in Blizzard v. BnetD, a case that could dramatically impact consumers' ability to customize software and electronic devices and to obtain customized tools created by others.
Along with co-counsel Paul Grewal of Day Casebeer, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is representing three open source software engineers who reverse-engineered an aspect of Blizzard's Battlenet game server in order to create a free software game server called BnetD that works with lawfully purchased Blizzard games. The BnetD server lets gamers have a wider range of options when playing online. The lower court held that the reverse-engineering of the games needed to create this new option for consumers was illegal.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will determine whether the three software programmers were in violation of the anticircumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and Blizzard Games' end user license agreement (EULA). EFF will argue that the DMCA expressly protects the programming and distributing of programs such as BnetD and this protection cannot be undercut by general state contract law as applied to EULAs.
EFF took the case to stand up for consumer choice in the marketplace. Reverse engineering is often the only way to craft a new product that works with older ones. Congress expressly recognized this when it created an exception to the DMCA for reverse engineering. Whether it's allowing gamers to choose a better server for Internet play, or allowing a printer owner to purchase from a range of printer cartridge replacements, reverse engineering is a critical part of innovation in a world where more and more devices need to talk to each other in order to operate correctly.
The hearing will take place Monday, June 20, at 9 a.m. at the Eighth Circuit US Court of Appeals, 27th Floor, Southeast Courtroom, at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse, 111 South 10th Street in St. Louis, MO.