Disney Arrests Fans Who Made Their Own ‘Club Penguin’ Online Game For Copyright
of mine-mine-mine! department
In the pantheon of aggressive IP tyrants, Disney would certainly be one of the companies vying to be Zeus. Disney has simply never seen an opportunity to enforce intellectual property that it hasn’t acted on, whether it’s copyrights, trademarks, or anywhere in between. . More to the point for this post, Disney also has this fun mindset that even though this isn’t going to use an IP address he owns, he doesn’t like anyone else doing it either. With respect to copyright specifically, this would represent a complete departure from the purpose of copyright law: to encourage the creation and dissemination of content in exchange for a temporary monopoly over that content.
Do you remember Club Penguin? It was the name of a once independent online game/community that Disney acquired in 2007 and spent the next decade running straight into the ground. The once popular site and service was shut down completely in 2017. Disney attempted to use the Club Penguin name in publish a mobile app version of Club Penguin called Club Penguin Island. This mobile app was taken down by Club Penguin fans and shut down in 2018, just over a year after its release.
But fans of the original indie Club Penguin survived. In 2020, a group of fans launched Club Penguin Online, run by fans in a completely unlicensed scenario. Disney filed DMCA notices and had the CPO taken down. In fairness to Disney, many at the time postulated that these actions were due to extremely rude and illegal predatory behavior being carried out on children on CPO servers by certain users. But to be fair to the law, that’s not what copyright is for. There are already other laws designed to combat these predators.
Besides, we are in 2022 and here we are again, with Disney is working with the City of London Police not only to shut down another Club Penguin fan-run site, but to arrest three people who run it.
In an emailed statement to TechCrunch, Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt of the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crimes Unit (PIPCU) said:
“Following a complaint under copyright law, PIPCU has seized a gaming website as part of an ongoing investigation into the site. Three people were arrested on April 12 on suspicion of distributing copyright infringing material and searches were carried out. They were released under investigation and to facilitate the police investigation, they agreed to turn the website over to PIPCU control.
Note the complete absence of any accusations of racism, terrorism or child predatory behavior in this statement. By all accounts, there seems to be no indication here that this has anything to do with anything beyond Disney’s enforcement of its Club Penguin copyright. A copyright that, by the way, he did absolutely nothing with for several years now.
In other words, Disney won’t use that IP, and the public won’t be able to use it either. So who can play the beloved Club Penguin in any form? Nobody, who is it. Why? Because Disney would rather enforce its copyright on a musty piece of culture than let someone else enjoy the meal.
And, we shouldn’t let the City of London Police off the hook either. Their actions have already been well documented on the pages of Techdirt. As everyone will remind you, this is not the Metropolitan Police Service in London. This is a law enforcement arm of ‘the City of London’ which is a one square mile piece in the middle of London where this police force decided long ago that she was to become Hollywood’s personal thugs. They have a long history of overly aggressive attacks on the internet, assuming everyone is a criminal. They literally claimed that 90% of the internet is a risk to society. They were able to inject “this website has been reported to the police” on websites without due process. They’ve arrested people before with sketchy logic. They tried to argue that domain registrars are criminally liable for actions taken by websites. And they’ve seen some of their previous copyright fever dream arrest cases fall apart.
Basically, they’re the police force Hollywood always wanted, and they’re happy to oblige, never acknowledging that the world isn’t what they think it is, and some fans remember a community they loved, even one owned by Disney, is not a criminal offense.
Again, this is the opposite of the intent of copyright law. Copyright was not designed to deny the public access to culture. It was designed to promote After public access to culture. It appears to be yet another example of a design flaw in the law – and it’s sad that the City of London Police are so happy to abuse their power to lock people up to continue to pervert the intent of copyright law.
Filed Under: arrests, city of london police, penguin club, copyright, criminal copyright, fan site, pipcu