A recent case has shown how vulnerable the whole approach is to legal action from rivals.
A German studio used a freelancer to write a cheating bot for Blizzard’s World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Heroes of Storm. Blizzard managed to get its paws on the source code by threatening to sue the freelancer, James Enright, for millions.
Freelancers are not known for their deep pockets to pay for lawyers.
The German company behind the bot, Bossland, now accuses Blizzard of stealing its code and says it will stop all sales and development.
Bossland’s CEO Zwetan Letschew who says that Enright works for the company as a freelancer. This is something Blizzard should know, as they are already involved in several legal proceedings against the bot maker in Germany.
Blizzard’s lawyers reportedly offered the freelancer a deal, under which he agreed to hand over the source code for the Stormbuddy software.
“Today Blizzard acted in a manner as shady as possible for a multi-billion-dollar corporation. We were informed that the deal compelled Apoc to submit the entire source code of Stormbuddy, which is actually the intellectual property of Bossland GmbH, to Blizzard,” Letschew notes.
It means that Blizzard now possesses the whole Stormbuddy source code.
There was no permission given by Bossland GmbH, nor were we contacted by
Activision Blizzard, nor had Apoc the rights to give out our intellectual property.
Bossland, meanwhile, says it will sue Blizzard in Germany next week hoping to get a copy of the deal the company made with its freelancer, and under what terms the code was shared.
So basically a company can threaten your freelancers to hand over your company’s code. Rather than facing court, which they can’t afford, it is better to do so.