OK, this is very much “just in”, but it appears that Blizzard, makers of World of Warcraft, have just taken the ground-breaking (in a bad way) step of threatening legal action against a fan comic.
WoWInsider’s Mike Schramm has posted the news, and he’s following up with Blizzard, so hopefully we’ll have more details soon:
First the legal crackdown on fan-made iPhone apps, and now this: German-based webcomic Shakes and Fidget, a longtime sight in our Sunday Morning Funnies column, has apparently been smacked with a cease-and-desist by Blizzard. Our German isn’t that great (and we’ve reached out to the comic’s creators for further comment), but a translation of this forum page tells us that Activision-Blizzard’s legal department suggested to them that there was enough similarity between the official game and the unofficial comic to cause a problem, and while they believe that they’re covered under parody laws, they decided to take the “offending” comics offline anyway, and are apparently currently working on editing them so that they can be put back up without any issues.
(From WoWInsider, Blizzard legal censures Shakes and Fidget)
I’m keeping up to date on this story, and I’ll put up more news as soon as we have it.
Currently, I’d say there’s no immediate threat to Machinima creators, but Blizzard’s actions are tending in a very, very bad direction, and I’d certainly suggest that you might want to consider another engine if you were thinking about making something in WoW. I’m in an internal Strange Company discussion right now where we’re debating just that.