Way back in 2016, we discussed how Blizzard was very busy shutting down fan-made and hosted World of Warcraft servers, pretending like intellectual property forced it to do so. At the time, these fan servers were hosting WoW's vanilla experience, mimicking what the game looked like upon first release, rather than then current iteration of the ever-evolving MMORPG. While Blizzard has since come out with a vanilla experience product of its own, at the time, these fan servers were filling a market desire for a product that didn't exist. Rather than figuring out a way to work with these fans, Blizzard just shut them down.
And now it's all happening again with Riot, makers of League of Legends, an online game that similarly is ever-evolving. Fans of the game once more created a fan server that hosted the older, vanilla version of the game for those who wanted to play it that way. What makes this situation different, however, is that Riot only sent its C&D notice to the developers after the developers posted online an exchange they had with a Riot representative which took on a very 1920's wise guy tone.
Speaking with PC Gamer, Riot said that it has sent a cease-and-desist request to the developers of Chronoshift after one of them posted an exchange with a Riot employee to Reddit earlier this week. The post showed a back and forth over Discord, during which a member of Riot’s security department named Zed wrote to a Chronoshift developer that Riot’s legal team “isn’t super thrilled about your project unfortunately and is looking for a way to come to a mutually acceptable end to it.”
A few lines later, Zed took the conversation in a decidedly bizarre direction, claiming that their team had archives of chat channels the Chronoshift team tried to delete. Zed followed that by saying, “you’ve obviously put a lot of work into Chrono shift, but I assure you that the chrono break is coming.” When the Chronoshift developer asked Zed to dispense with the “scare tactics,” Zed demanded that the developers hand over Chronoshift’s website and source code to Riot, as well as “all identifiable information” they shared with a specific developer. Zed then made the stakes of the situation clear: “Give me what I’m looking for and we won’t sue,” they said. “Refuse and we will.”
Riot told PC Gamer that, while it didn't love the tone of its rep's interactions with the Chronoshift development team, still the request for code and information about the project was a "standard" request. That sort of thing happens so that the rightsholder can figure out exactly to what extent the project was infringing. But it's notable in this case again that Riot doesn't currently have a competing project of its own for this sort of vanilla LoL experience. Despite that, and despite the fact that the Chronoshift team never took a single dime in any way for this project, through donations or otherwise, Riot still shut the whole thing down and pretended intellectual property forced its hand.
In Riot’s letter to the developers, which leaked despite the developers’ apparent wishes, the company also noted that Zed’s grab at the game’s source code was “a standard demand made to all developers engaged in unauthorized activity in order to assist Riot’s security team to understand the precise nature of the project, the manner by which it infringes Riot’s intellectual property, and other rights, and the extent to which the code has been shared or disseminated online.” In other words, it does not appear that the company is planning to use the work of fan developers to form the backbone of its own legacy servers, despite fan speculation to the contrary.
In the letter, Riot further explained that it is compelled to defend its “valuable” intellectual property from conduct that “enables and encourages acts of copyright infringement,” which in turn “harm Riot, its business, and ultimately, its employees.” This is similar to what Blizzard said when it infamously shut down popular fan-run WoW server Nostalrius back in 2016. However, Blizzard has seemingly eased off fan-run servers like Elysium in the wake of WoW Classic’s release.
Similar and equally chock full of bullshit. There are plenty of ways Riot could have worked with these dedicated fans on their project to allow it both to come to fruition while also protecting its own rights. But Riot would have to want to have that kind of outlook and interaction.
Instead, it sure seems like Riot instead wants to apologize for its own rep's "Nice project you have there, be a shame if anything happened to it" tact. Certainly the rest of the League of Legends fandom should be sitting up and taking notice.
With thanks to our Friends over at : Techdirt.
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