Security Circumvention

Synopses, Inc. has filed a lawsuit against several Oregon individuals, alleging infringement of various forms of electronic design automation (“EDA”) software for which Synopsys holds copyrights.  The software is intended for testing and designing computer processing chips and semiconductors.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, with Case No. 3:15-cv-01953, says that:

EDA generally refers to using computers to design, verify, and simulate the performance of electronic circuits on a chip. For more than 25 years, Synopsys’ solutions have helped semiconductor manufacturers and electronics companies design, test, and manufacture microchips for a wide range of products.

Among the works claimed to be infringed are the “Design Compiler, PrimeTime, Formality, IC Compiler, CustomExplorer, HSIMplus, HSPICE, and NanoTime applications.”

The defendants include four named individuals whom are believed to be residents of Portland, Oregon, as well as 10 Doe parties.  The plaintiff claims to know specifically how many times the named defendants have circumvented access control systems.

The complaint alleges violations of 17 U.S.C. § 1201 via the alleged use of counterfeit license keys.  The relief sought includes statutory damages of $2,500 for each violation, injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees and costs.

The complaint was filed by Brenna K. Legaard of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, P.C.

Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., the developer of popular PC game franchises including “World of Warcraft,” “Starcraft” and “Diablo,” is now in the business of anonymous copyright litigation.

Earlier this year, Blizzard filed a 20-page complaint against 10 Doe parties alleging violations of the Copyright Act, “Trafficking in Circumvention Devices” under Section 1201 of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA), breach of contract, and interference with contractual relations.  The case involves “StarCraft II,” which is, according to Bizzard’s complaint, “one of the most popular PC software products currently sold in the United States and is one of the most critically acclaimed computer games ever released.”

The complaint alleges that the Doe defendants are hackers who have developed and distributed online “unlawful hacks and cheats” that allow game players to gain competitive advantages (i.e. to cheat) during StarCraft II gameplay.  Specifically, the complaint alleges that the Does developed and sold a software product called “ValiantChaos MapHack” (VCMH) that:

…permits its user to view areas of the game “map” that are normally obscured, to monitor the other player’s unit movements, and to access other information that normally is not available to the player. VCMH also automates certain tasks within the game. These gameplay changes give the player using VCMH a significant competitive advantage over others.

Blizzard further alleges that VCMH and related hacks are circumventing a proprietary software program called “Warden” that “enforces Blizzard’s rights by running targeted scans of the user’s environment for the presence and/or use of ‘signatures’ of known unauthorized third party programs that facilitate cheating or allow the modification of the StarCraft II interface, environment, and/or experience in any way not authorized by Blizzard.”  Blizzard also claims that the use of VMCH violates the Terms of Use and End User License Agreement (“EULA”) that all StarCraft II players must accept.

Allegedly, the ultimate harm to Blizzard resulting from the distribution of VCMH and similar software is that non-cheating players become fed up with their online gaming experience and cease participating and purchasing “expansion” packs.

The Copyright Act violations are intriguing, and include both an allegation of copying and creating unauthorized derivative works:

Such infringing conduct includes, but is not limited to copying and adapting StarCraft II to create the Hacks (including through the process of reverse engineering or decompiling StarCraft II to create the Hacks); and creating a derivative work of StarCraft II by modifying it via the installation and use of the Hacks.

According to the electronic docket, the case remains pending.  The most recent docket entry suggests that Blizzard was granted the right to seek discovery from PayPal about the identity of purchasers and sellers of VCMH and related products.