Blizzard finally flexes some NDA muscle

Yesterday Blizzard decided to clear up what  a Non Disclosure Agreement actually means, and asked mmo-champion to remove the Cataclysm Alpha information.

Two points come to mind first:

1. The NDA isn’t just a legal agreement

When a beta is under NDA, in the gaming world it mostly means in practice that people agree not to talk about anything they have seen or heard from anyone else about it. Think of it as a gentleman’s agreement with the vague possibility of legal action behind it. Truth is, any legal action is going to ask, “how much damage in $$$ did this leak actually do” and it would be hard to  justify that a gaming NDA leak made much of a difference to the bottom line. As a lot of people have commented, it may actually raise interest and awareness.

So if we keep the NDA, it’s either because we can’t get the information or else out of a sense of goodwill. So for all Blizzard have likely sent legal letters to Boubouille (owner of mmo-champion), they equally could just have asked him formally to take the information down without any threats at all. Most fansites would comply.

So what does an NDA really signify? Just that the game is at a stage in development when the owners would rather people not discuss the details – probably because they’re either still in flux or they’re worried about bad reviews. In this case, bad reviews won’t be an issue. WoW is WoW.

And if you run a blog or fansite, all you need to decide is whether you support that or not. It’s nothing to do with whether you actually signed a legal agreement. “This game is in NDA” signifies a stage in development.  I’ll prefer to comply with NDAs –– obv. much easier when I’m not in the beta anyway – unless they’re doing something which I feel I need to break in the gamer public interest.

2. You know, Blizzard have actually released a lot of OFFICIAL information about Cataclysm

If we could stop talking about half-cut priest talents and new screenshots of Mulgore (which look surprisingly like the current version) for a moment, there is a lot of official blue information around about Cataclysm.

  • We’ve had class previews – which did mention a lot of the talents that people are busy ‘analysing’ from alpha build.
  • We’ve had previews of zones.
  • We’ve had previews of instances.
  • We’ve had previews of the new races.

I don’t see any special reason why people need to go searching out alpha data on warez sites that will infect their computers with dreaded lurgy (this was one of the arguments in favour of leaks being on ‘official’ fansites). What more could they need to know? You really want to see half-baked talents that are probably going to be tweaked several times even before beta?

Also, I freaking hate the argument that ‘well, if we didn’t leak it they’d just go and get it anyway from more dangerous sources’. It’s like saying that software vendors should just give away their code because people will only go pirate it and the poor pirating babies might pick up a nasty virus along the way.

Hello? If you go pirating software or poking around for alpha leaks, then don’t complain if you pick up a computer virus.

6 thoughts on “Blizzard finally flexes some NDA muscle

  1. Having been under several NDAs myself I’m quite surprised that MMO Champion actually broke it. When they released all that information I naturally assumed it was because there either a) was no NDA, b) They had special dispensation and were allowed to release certain bits of information (IE they weren’t allowed to release quest information, mob info, raid info, instance info etc, just maps, screenshots and the unfinished talents)

    I honestly hope that they’ve had their Beta privileges removed or atleast suspended otherwise the NDA isn’t worth the tubes it’s sent down

  2. any legal action is going to ask, “how much damage in $$$ did this leak actually do”

    I think the usual court procedure is to look at the earnings of the person infringing the IP rights. If MMO Champions makes £400 this year and leaking the Alpha is deemed to be 25% of the value of the site this year (based on hits etc) then Blizzard would be entitled to £100.

    There’s also malicious damages but clearly MMO Champion did not leak this to be malicious.

    I’m sticking to my theory that Blizzard actually quite likes this hype-storm.

  3. Here’s the thing, an NDA is: a non-disclosure AGREEMENT.

    Agreement implies (actually requires) that both parties have signed a legally binding document. I don’t recall seeing/reading/hearing that MMOc had signed any agreement with Blizzard regarding the alpha.

    If that is the case (that nobody at MMOC signed anything) then the NDA that Blizzard has with someone has ZERO bearing on MMOC.

    Let’s say that MMOC signed nothing, but I did, and I somehow got into the alpha. I then give the info to MMOC. The only person that is legally at risk by the NDA would be me.

    Now, let’s say I gave MMOC the kernel for the torrent, which they then used to obtain the software, break it apart. Then MMOC published that info, then there is the possibility of theft and of copywright infringement issues.

    However, if someone at MMOC *did* sign something, that’s a whole different ball of wax…

  4. My understanding is he never signed the NDA, therefore it doesn’t apply.

    Instead, he is simply *distributing material under copyright*. Amazingly, still illegal, as the MPAA or RIAA will be happy to tell you.

  5. I’m not so much talking about the legal side of it here, as the NDA phase being a part of development. It’s the pre-beta where people who share goodwill towards the company just agree not to talk about it.

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