The DOTA Dispute: The Right to Possess a Public Good

In court is a case between two giants of the industry.

The plaintiff (person pursuing action) is Blizzard Entertainment.  Blizzard is the cash cow of Activision representing 30% of the total revenue.  Blizzard has very powerful brand recognition.  Since Warcraft Blizzard has been producing blockbuster games that have had no chance of failure.

The Warcraft franchise was unique in RTS games because it came with a fully functional map editor that allowed a person to make their own maps to play.

The map editor was a shocking success and in each RTS game Blizzard would make it would not only have one of these but also an improved one.

When Blizzard released Starcraft it came with the most advanced custom building tool ever made.  Blizzard also included a new special mode for online play called “Use Maps Settings” also known as simply UMS.

UMS allowed players to gain additional user created campaigns, mini games and missions that they would have not otherwise had.  As a matter of fact it was only in Korea people were playing the actual game.  The vast majority of people were playing these UMS maps.

A lesser known map was created involving using heroes with groups of invading armies to beat an enemy.  This is the first known formation of DOTA.

When Warcraft 3 was released DOTA designers created a very new game involving heroes who could level up, have abilities, and now it was a player versus player map.  Blizzard actually had 1 on 1s with many UMS developers trying to add more stuff to Warcraft 3 specifically for these game maps.  But DOTA in particular was more popular.

A movement was made to create a single DOTA game.  It would be called DOTA All Stars.  After some years of shuffling IceFrog became the lead guy of this website.  This website had the rules of DOTA and strictly forbid people from using old versions of the game or non-DOTA All Stars versions.  A notorious black list was created as an addon you could download to only join official maps and add people to the blacklist who are caught using older or modified versions.

When Ice Frog took over DOTA All Stars he made sure to copyright the DOTA All Stars map for Warcraft 3.  Blizzard was reluctant to allow someone to copyright a material in their game but they agreed to it on the condition that it would always remain free of charge.

Blizzard had created games beyond the value of their purchase and they wanted to protect this.

Roughly around the same time the defendant, Valve Software had successfully launched Half Life 2.  Half Life 2 would become one of the most modded games of all time.  Valve specifically recruited the developers of these mod creators to try and make some extra cash.  The mod developers were hired, paid and supported by Valve to this day to create stand alone games from their mods including World at War, Counter-Strike:Source, Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead.

This represents one of the largest independent studio developments.  Valve software had made their buck off of the innovations of others and now… they were turning to sources outside of their own products.

Fast forwarding today Ice Frog was recruited by Valve Software to develop a fantasy MOBA themed after DOTA.  It was to be called “DOTA 2.”  Simultaneously Blizzard was looking to make a stand alone DOTA game simply called “DOTA.”

DOTA All Stars LLC refiled the copyright in 2011 however it is suspended pending this hearing.

Valve argues that because the lead architect of DOTA All Stars was developing DOTA 2 the copyright for the game should go to Valve making Valve the soul creator of this addon.

Blizzard refutes this by stating that Ice Frog was one person in the development process of DOTA which has lineage as far back as Starcraft.  Ice Frog was not the first developer nor is he the last.  Ice Frog has however put up a website to try and maintain his strength as developer for this mod.

League of Legends developers were once a part of the DOTA team as well.  Their interest was in DOTA to remain freeware.  If it was copyrighted they could be liable to whoever owns it since their game is essentially DOTA.

So with all that in mind can a person claim a right to own something that was collectively made and created as a public good?


My sneaking suspicion is that at the end of all of this it will be decided that Ice Frog is a developer of DOTA, not its creator.  This argument is really coming down to Valve vs Everyone else.  Valve sees League of Legends’ popularity and knows whoever makes the first DOTA stand alone game will be the most popular one.  They also know that if Blizzard is working on their own DOTA that it will out sell their’s.

Valve has a lot of supporters and people I think of as “Valvites” but Blizzard has enough people to fill convention centres every year.  When Blizzard put out Starcraft 2 it RUINED the RTS industry.  No other RTS had a chance after Starcraft 2 came out.

My suspicion is even greater.  I think that Blizzard did not initially sue Valve because they attempted to either recruit Ice Frog to their own project or ask Valve for a royalty fee.  I suspect that when either Ice Frog or Valve turned them down they decided to move against Ice Frog or Valve.

There are no heroes here folks, just two industry giants vying for big bucks.

One thought on “The DOTA Dispute: The Right to Possess a Public Good

  1. 1) Use some commas in your sentences.
    2) “Ice Frog has however put up a website to try and maintain his strength as developer for this mod.” – this is the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard.
    3) The fact that you refer to IceFrog as “Ice Frog” shows you know nothing about the game, the developers or the topic.
    4) The fact that you do not know the difference between “DotA” and “DOTA” shows you know nothing about the game, the development history, or anything to do with the lawsuits and their outcomes.

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