Media giant sues small software firm

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Tim Jung runs what might be the very definition of a small business: It's just him, his wife and three employees, including two students who work part-time.

But what they're doing at the office -- the basement of Jung's home in St. Charles County -- has managed to induce the ire of Vivendi Universal, the French-based media conglomerate that spent $30 billion two years ago to buy Canada-based Seagram Co. Vivendi, now mired in a financial crisis that has seen its stock lose much of its value this year, has sued Jung's company alleging copyright infringement. Jung's foul? Writing software that lets computer gamers to face each other when playing fantasy-strategy games developed by Blizzard Entertainment, a Vivendi subsidiary, including Diablo I, Diablo II, Warcraft II and Starcraft: Brood War.

Jung, 33, who made his software available at no cost, said similar software from Vivendi's Battle.net Web site was flawed. "It ran slow," Jung said. "A lot of times it was down. It was very difficult at times to find your friends that you wanted to play games with."Even so, when Vivendi sent a threatening e-mail in February, Jung removed the software from his Web site.

Two months later, Blizzard and its parent company, Vivendi Universal Games Inc. of Los Angeles, filed suit in U.S. District Court, charging that Jung and Internet Gateway -- his for-profit business that provides Internet access -- infringed on copyright and violated a user agreement by copying parts of the game software.

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