Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is Buying Gold a Violation of World of Warcraft's Terms of Use?

It has long been understood that Blizzard is opposed to companies who offer World of Warcraft power leveling services and sell World of Warcraft gold. That antipathy and the reasons underlying it were crystallized yesterday when Blizzard posted an article on the Negative Impacts of Buying Gold on the official World of Warcraft website. The question remains, however, are buying gold or using a power leveling service violations of World of Warcraft's Terms of Use?

Let me start by saying that I have never purchased gold or used a power leveling service. I actually enjoy leveling and playing the auction house, so I have never felt the need. It also likely does not help that I am outstandingly cheap and hold on to my money like you likely hold on to that "first epic" which has been sitting in your bank since you were a lowbie. I know players who have done both with good and bad experiences being reported. This discussion, however, is not about the ethics, merits, or safety of buying gold/power leveling, merely whether those actions appear to violate World of Warcraft's Terms of Use, last updated July 29, 2009, on its face.

Section 2(B) of the Terms of Use prohibits "exploiting the game... for any commercial purpose." This includes, but is not limited to gathering in game resources or providing in game services in exchange for payment outside the game. The World of Warcraft End User License Agreement contains an identical provision. This language expressly bars sale of in game currency and in game services, such as power leveling, but does not bar purchase. No other provision in either document even references these kinds of out of game transactions.

Though it does not specifically mention commercial transactions, the Code of Conduct contained in the Terms of Use may also, arguably, implicate gold and power level service purchasers. Section 9(C)(iii) of the agreement prohibits acts "Blizzard considers contrary to the 'essence' of the game." The recent article from Blizzard on Negative Impacts of Buying Gold as well the company's overt animus towards these services may demonstrate that, according to Blizzard, the act of supporting these rogue vendors is contrary to the game's "essence." The company has not, however, officially declared that position even though yesterday's article would have been the perfect opportunity to do so. It can then honestly be said that gold buying and power level service purchases do not expressly violate World of Warcraft's Terms of Use or End User License Agreement, but may theoretically run afoul of the agreements at Blizzard's discretion.

That, however, is not the end of the discussion. There is a lovely provision in the Terms of Use which states: "Blizzard may suspend, terminate, modify, or delete accounts at any time for any reason or for no reason, with or without notice to you." The End User License contains a similar section. This means that even absent a violation of the specific prohibitions contained in the document, you could still lose your World of Warcraft account if Blizzard so chose. As the document itself indicates, most suspensions and terminations are the result of Terms of Use or End User License violations and that seems to be Blizzard's practice, but such restrictions are not required under the language of the agreement.

In conclusion, purchasing gold or a power leveling service is not an overt contravention of World of Warcraft's Terms of Use, where as selling gold or offering a power leveling service certainly is. Despite this, Blizzard has a great deal of discretion in whether or not your character remains in Azeroth and the company certainly does not appreciate players using these vendors. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to use these services is not one to be made lightly and the best thing you can do is make sure you are adequately informed before you commit one way or the other.

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