A long-awaited private server intended to keep the status of World of Warcraft during the decade-old “Burning Crusade” expansion was halted by a legal requirement from Blizzard representation just hours after the server launched on Friday.
The planned launch of the Felmyst server was long overdue in the “legacy server” sub-community of Wow players looking to recreate a “vanilla” version of the game as it existed before the current batch of expansions and updates changed how the MMO looks, plays and feels. While there are other fan-run legacy servers from the “Burning Crusade” era, Felmyst had already built a reputation before launch as one of the best and most complete efforts to capture that well-remembered era of the game in a playable way. to lay.
But with thousands of players reportedly signed up after that launch Friday afternoon, the Felmyst server was unceremoniously removed after just five hours. The reason: A letter of termination from Mitchell Silberberg and Knupp LLP, who represent Blizzard, calling for an immediate shutdown under numerous copyright laws. A copy of that letter can be seen in a post from Felmyst coder and creator Gummy52 (which now replaces the deleted Felmyst webpage and forums), as well as a video Gummy52 posted this morning.
The letter accuses Gummy52 and Felmyst of “allowing”[ing] users to obtain modified and/or illegal copies of Wow online, without the need for a legitimately purchased copy or subscription… As you know, Blizzard has never authorized and in fact expressly prohibits the foregoing activity.
“Our client’s copyrights are extremely valuable and Blizzard takes this matter very seriously,” the letter continues. “As you understand, your activity causes serious and irreparable damage to the value and integrity of our customer’s products and intellectual property.”
“[I] sat around in disbelief for a few hours”
In public comments on his website and a follow-up post on Reddit, Felmyst creator Gummy52 recounts the past four years working on the project while unemployed and struggling with previously undisclosed muscular dystrophy. “This project has given the last four years of my life a purpose that I have enjoyed immensely,” he writes.
“I was upgrading the server’s upload speed when I opened the door and then sat in disbelief for a few hours,” Gummy writes of receiving the stop-and-desist letter Friday. “During those hours, of course, I checked that the law firm was a real place, then checked that the number on the paper matched the number on their website, then called them to verify authenticity.”
The request to stop was even more surprising, Gummy writes, because his previous private Wow server project, Scriptcraft, attracted no legal interest from Blizzard after its launch in 2011.
Gummy says he rented the Felmyst server only to host up to 3,000 players, paying out of his own pocket rather than accepting donations (which could cause their own legal troubles to take advantage of the alleged breach of the copyright). He says he hoped its small size would help the project stay under the radar, just as Scriptcraft had done, and was shocked that the demand to stop came so quickly.
While some have suggested moving the server to another host in another country that may be further away from Blizzard’s legal threats, Gummy says he doesn’t have the resources to do something similar on his own. Gummy says he is considering releasing the Felmyst source code so that development can continue elsewhere, but should consider the legal implications of such a move before taking action.
The Felmyst takedown follows last year’s drama surrounding Nostalrius, a large private Wow server project that was aborted shortly after launch, to the dismay of reportedly 150,000 active players. Although Blizzard agreed to meet with the Nostalrius team last summer, that team eventually got tired of waiting for Blizzard to respond to its concerns or launch an official “legacy” server product. Instead, the Nostalrius team put its weight behind Elysium, a spiritual successor server launched last December and running to this day.
Blizzard representatives have not yet responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica.