Playing World of Warcraft, the world’s most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), can be, well, a drag. As the parents, teachers and spouses of gamers know all too well, playing through the 70 or more levels of the game in order to amass desired virtual currency, weapons and armor can be extremely time-consuming. So some gamers have resorted to the use of bots (automated game-playing software robots) to make their way more quickly from the more tedious early levels of the game to the more interesting upper levels. Michael Donnelly developed WoW bot software (Glider) for his own use and it worked so well that he decided to sell it to other gamers. And that worked well, too. In a few years, Donnelly (incorporated as MDY Industries) had gross revenues of $3.5 million from sales of Glider licenses.

For Blizzard Entertainment, the distributor of WoW software and the operator of the servers that enable online game play, bots are, well, a drag. Other gamers complain that they constitute cheating, and Blizzard potentially loses revenue when gamers finish the game sooner rather than later. So Blizzard added a provision to the WoW Terms of Use prohibiting the use of bots and similar third-party software. WoW also deployed a software solution, WoW Warden, that checks gamers’ computers for prohibited software and prevents their access to the server if it is present. Warden works only so-so at blocking Glider-using players, though, and it costs a lot of money to deploy and maintain.

So Blizzard also sent its lawyers to Donnelly’s home to personally demand that he cease selling the Glider program. (Whether he called them Worgen and tried to repel them with his Corpse-Impaling Spike is not part of the record.) Donnelly subsequently filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that his sale of the Glider program did not infringe Blizzard’s copyrights, and Blizzard responded with counterclaims under copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and state law.

Game on.