For years Blizzard Entertainment has struggled to take down Bossland, a German maker of cheats for online games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch, victory seemed at hand this week. Bossland didn't show up at a California District Court trial, and with no opposition, the court ruled that Bossland owed Blizzard $8,563,600 for 42,818 intellectual property violations. Not only that, Bossland would have to pay $174,872 of Blizzard's legal fees. That, it would seem, was that.
We managed to get in touch with Bossland CEO Zwetan Letschew to learn his perspective, and for him, the fight is anything but over. In a conversation over email, Letschew asserted that he doesn't think the ruling can even be enforced in Germany.
[Bossland cheat "Watchover Tyrant" for Overwatch in action. The cheat helps players avoid being hit.]
"That is why we did not even defend ourselves in the U.S.," Letschew said, adding that he'd only asked the court to dismiss the suit since he believed the court had no jurisdiction over him. He also added that Bossland is considering an appeal, but has no "final word on it."
"There is no change before and after the default judgement, especially as this is pure punitive damages, and the European Union and its countries do not accept punitive damages in civil cases," he said.
The ruling ostensibly prevents Bossland from selling its products in the U.S. as well, but Letschew even takes issue with that.
"Who said the US is out of the picture?" he asked. "Judgments that are within jurisdiction are being followed. Would you want me to follow a judgement if [Kim Jong-un] decides to forbid [Bossland World of Warcraft cheat] Honorbuddy in North Korea? Or one from the Sudan? Abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act does not mean that it is applicable in the EU."
According to Ma'idah Lashani, an associate attorney at Morrison/Lee, a New York City-based law firm specializing in video games and entertainment, Bossland may at least be right about Blizzard's current power to enforce the ruling.
"Practically speaking, only assets that have ties to the United States will typically be subject to enforcement (for example, PayPal, bank accounts, Amazon, etc.)," Lashani said in an email conversation. "Overseas assets, on the other hand, are almost always impossible to enforce against. This is because recognition of the judgment in Germany is not automatic, and Blizzard would have to initiate proceedings in the German court where the defendant resides."
Technically, though, jurisdiction is another matter.
"The California court likely had proper jurisdiction here because Bossland advertised and distributed its products to California customers, and because it intentionally harmed a California company," Leshani said. She further pointed out that Blizzard had argued in its original complaint that Bossland advertises its products in California and has contracts with several California entities connected to its business.
Letschew argued quite the opposite in his email.
"In our opinion, the court has no jurisdiction along with all the false reasons Blizzard brought to court, lying that we would have our server infrastructure in the US, in California, that we would engage actively users from the US, California to buy our products, that we have business partners in California and so on," he said.
Letschew especially takes issue with Blizzard's original assertion that Bossland hacks "destroy the integrity of the Blizzard games, thereby alienating and frustrating legitimate players and diverting revenue from Blizzard to defendants." As strange as his reasoning may seem, he argues that his products actually have a degree of integrity compared to World of Warcraft's cash-for-gold tokens or its instant level boosts.
"It's interesting that Blizzard always says that they're protecting the 'fair play' users—the ones that use their hands to play the game, instead of automation software—while at the same time selling instant boosts for World of Warcraft that level you from one to 100 in one millisecond for $60 USD, repeatable as many times you wish, as long you have the money," he said.
This case, seemingly over, may have a bit of life left in it yet. Despite the ruling, Letschew seems unfazed.
"This case in the U.S. was only meant to waste money, our money, and to lead us into bankruptcy," he said. "There's still a long way to go and fight, and I am still sure that, at the end, justice will have spoken."