Well Then: Activision Issues DMCA Subpoena To Have Reddit Unmask Whoever Posted That CoD Image Leak

from the the-nuclear-option dept

Well, okay then. We had just been discussing Activision’s silly attempt to DMCA to death a leaked image purporting to be the cover art or marketing material for a new Call of Duty game. The whole thing was idiotic in that once word got around that Activision was trying to bury the leak, it immediately caused everyone to think the image was for a real game, rather than some faked pretend leak, which is a thing that sometimes happens. From there, reporting and reproduction of the image in question went mildly viral. In other words, Activision Streisanded the leak it was attempting to bury. Pretty dumb.

But it turns out that Activision isn’t screwing around. There were some in our comments who posited that perhaps this was some marketing attempt to create virality of the image. That certainly doesn’t appear to be the case, as Activision has issued a subpoena to have Reddit unmask the user who posted the image.

In a filing on February 14, 2020 at a California district court, attorneys acting for Activision requested a DMCA subpoena against Reddit.

“Petitioner, Activision Publishing, Inc. through its undersigned counsel of record, hereby requests that the Clerk of this Court issue a subpoena to Reddit, Inc. to identify alleged infringers at issue, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), 17 U.S.C. § 512(h),” the request reads.

“The DMCA Subpoena is directed to Reddit, Inc. Reddit is the service provider to which the subject of the subpoena – Reddit user ‘Assyrian241O’ – posted infringing Activision content.”

At first, it’s hard to see how this makes any sense. Yes, it surely must be annoying to a content creator to have any plans for future content to be upended by a leak. On the other hand, first DMCAing that leak in a failed attempt to bury it, and then going to the lengths of unmasking a Reddit poster is surely the nuclear option when it comes to how to handle a leak of game art.

Except, it seems, this might not be about the Reddit post itself so much as where the leak originally came from.

Contrary to the initial claim, that the user “found this image online”, he or she later confessed to it being sent to them by an “inside source”. That raises the question of who Activision is more interested in – the Reddit user or the person who sent them the image, possibly from inside Activision or a related company.

In other words, this is all looking like an attempt to unmask the leaker of the image, not the Reddit user. Still, these are extreme lengths to go to combat a leak that would have barely been noticed had Activision not gone into legal rage mode.

Instead, the company could have chosen to try to use this all as a marketing opportunity, as comments on the previous post thought they had.

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Companies: activision, reddit

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Comments on “Well Then: Activision Issues DMCA Subpoena To Have Reddit Unmask Whoever Posted That CoD Image Leak”

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60 Comments
Madd the Sane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What effort? DMCA notices can be sent without pushback: it’s lazy. Activision/Blizzard decided it would be easier to destroy WarCraft III instead of improve it. They’re banking on microtransactions being legal and financially lucrative for as long as possible instead of the effort of building goodwill with new IPs/good and honest PR.

In short, they’re lazy. They don’t put in any effort except the bare minimum.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"reddit is trash, because it doesn’t have in its infrastructure defenses against stalking and deanonymization/pseudonymization."

Neither does anyone else … therefore it follows that you think everything is trash – awesome, but who cares?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Neither does anyone else … therefore it follows that you think everything is trash – awesome, but who cares?

Everyone should care. Leave a place cleaner than when you found it. Don’t create problems someone else has to clean up. Etcetera.

But Sturgeon’s Law applies, so don’t get your hopes up looking for the 10%.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Just don’t complain when a feature/bug of reddit rears its head, being notorious, and, as it seems to everyone, notorious. So, why complain? And, if you used reddit, you supported the situation, or at least didn’t vote with your feet, that’s for sure.

As for myself, I have deleted all socials. It’s not quite so impossible as you may suppose. For one thing, you will find that your thinking grows clearer, not cloudied by the 5 minute trends, content so swiftly forgotten, the residue lasting even years of a feeling inarticulable in a particular direction, simply: bias.

I will give you an example of the foolishness of paying too much attention to the present moment, not enough to how it really ends up. Remember the Ukrainian lady that was fired by Trump? Well, now she has book deal worth over 1 million dollars. So, did she tell the truth or not? Well, her testimony is sullied, in under a year, and even before the election (couldn’t they wait to display indecency until later?)

There’s an old Hippy saying, "the revolution will not be televised". It’s a maxim of the age, that’s for certain!

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4

Remember the Ukrainian lady that was fired by Trump? Well, now she has book deal worth over 1 million dollars. So, did she tell the truth or not?

Two things.

  1. Marie Yovanovich was born in Canada; she moved to the U.S. at age 3 and became a naturalized citizen at age 18. She is not Ukranian, though she may be of Ukranian descent. Get your facts straight, champ.
  2. Unless she had that book deal in place before her testimony before Congress, I see no reason to treat that as a sign that she lied before Congress. If you can provide any plausible evidence that she lied — and that her book deal was the motive for telling those lies — I’d love to see it.
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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

"did she tell the truth or not?"

You obviously think the was less than truthful, perhaps you could tell us exactly what that mistruth might be.

"the foolishness of paying too much attention to the present moment, not enough to how it really ends up"

This foolishness to which you refer is in need of a real example and an accompanying explanation.

Koby (profile) says:

DCMA vs section 230

There seems to be some hypocrisy for Section 230, which says that while you can’t hold the website liable for content posted by its users, you can go after the copyright infringer. The person who posted the COD image CAN be held to account. Now the reddit poster must come up with a defense: reveal their identity, and admit that they are an internal leaker, or describe where the supposed leaked image came from and expose the leaker. We’ve heard is all the time from the other articles on Techdirt that a user would be the responsible party to sue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: DCMA vs section 230

Where is the hypocrisy?

"Section 230, which says that while you can’t hold the website liable for content posted by its users"

"you can go after the copyright infringer"

Of course you can go after the copyright infringer, that is what you are supposed to do. The site is not responsible for the infringement, all they have is an ip addr which is not a user.

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

(Seriously, Mike: Look into negating the "hitting Enter in the subject bar sends the post" thing.)

There seems to be some hypocrisy for Section 230, which says that while you can’t hold the website liable for content posted by its users, you can go after the copyright infringer. The person who posted the COD image CAN be held to account.

I…I don’t see how that’s hypocritical in re: 230. If anything, it’s the exact situation that 230 is meant to uphold: Activision is trying to hold the infringer liable for posting the image (i.e., going after the person who used the tool), and Reddit is treated merely as an intermediary (i.e., a tool).

Bruce C. says:

Possible reasons?

Pre-existing paranoid work environment…
Term of contract with sub-contractor — if sub-contractor is liable for leaks, say.

I can see justification for using DMCA for this since it’s a copyrighted image, but the counter-argument is fair use, which has been winning more cases recently.

The irony is that in order to bring action and fully force the DMCA issue, they have to register the copyright, which will make the image visible to the public, and clearly subject to fair use exceptions in reporting and commentary.

ike says:

Using DCMA for non-Copyright purposes

This reminds me of the Darkspilver case. The Watch Tower magazine, which is effectively the Jehovah’s Witnesses, issued a DCMA subpeona to unveil Darkspilver’s identity. Darkspilver fought the subpeona on the grounds that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were using the DCMA not to further the goals of Copyright, but to persecute Darkspilver, he himself a longtime Jehovah’s Witness. (It was also fought on other grounds, such as fair use and lack of personal jurisdiction.)

The judge ruled that Darkspilver’s identity would only be revealed to The Watch Tower’s attorneys (so that they can start a DCMA suit), and they would be barred from revealing the identity to anyone.

Darkspilver appealed, arguing that didn’t go far enough. (Also, the attorneys are themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses and have made statements that suggest that it’s possible that they might leak the info to The Watch Tower.) That hasn’t been resolved yet.

If you want to look into this in detail, you might want to watch these:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIKrpQrORpo
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6l5dEn0SiM
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQfW66pOxJw
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbL4x8atgVY
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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, no. Any court that unmasks Darkspilver’s identity to anyone will set a precedent for future whistleblowers: “You’re not safe if your whistleblowing involves allegations of copyright infringement.” That the whistleblowing in this instance relates to religion provides a double whammy. Who would blow the whistle on religious misdeeds if doing so could possibly result in a copyright lawsuit?

Ideally, the DMCA should not be used to silence this kind of speech. You view this as a case of “the mentally deficient consum[ing] each other”, but such a glib view ignores the truth of the matter. What speech will be targeted next if the DMCA can preëmptively silence whistleblowers by being a tool that can unmask them?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'I am shocked, shocked you ignored my legal prohibition!'

The judge ruled that Darkspilver’s identity would only be revealed to The Watch Tower’s attorneys (so that they can start a DCMA suit), and they would be barred from revealing the identity to anyone.

… I can only assume that the judge either took a head-first trip down several flights of stairs, has done absolutely zero research into the group in question, or just doesn’t give a damn what the damage would be when(not if) the name ‘accidentally’ gets leaked anyway. Hopefully the judge either comes to their senses or someone can overrule them, because that is a disaster just waiting to happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As much as we and the courts like to say so, plenty will continue to demand IP addresses because they can often be used to identify the household or business where the communication originated and narrow down who might have posted the image.

If you’re going to post an image such as that in this article then take a few precautions. Find a VPN outfit that at least claims to keep no logs. Open up your home wifi so that it’s easy to say some random person could have used it from the sidewalk. Recycle your DHCP-assigned IP address at home frequently if the network will allow it. Even Tor might add a small chance of avoiding a trace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Companies are only appetite without wisdom

Apparently you’re not aware that governments around the world operate Tor nodes and can easily identify the "anonymous" people using them, in many cases at least. It’s not 100% but it’s certainly not 0%. You’re not nearly as secure or anonymous as you think you are using Tor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Companies are only appetite without wisdom

Usual scare tactics.

Yes, mil intel agencies try to demask Tor. I’ve no doubt that they can in certain circumstances with some effort. Recall the NSA called the lead Tor developer a "worthy adversary".

But, demasking reveals that capability. So, they’ll never use it for stupid stuff like this.

Also, learn a bit about Tor:

https://ssd.eff.org/en/module/how-use-tor-windows

https://www.eff.org/pages/tor-and-https

Anonymous Coward says:

Perjury, anyone?

To get a DMCA subpoena, you have to file (among other things) "a sworn declaration to the effect that the purpose for which the subpoena is sought is to obtain the identity of an alleged infringer and that such information will only be used for the purpose of protecting rights under this title." 17 U.S.C. 512(h)(2)(C). I suppose tracking down a suspected NDA violator could be considered to be "for the purpose of protecting rights" under the Copyright Act, but I’d tread carefully if I were Activision.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Perjury, anyone?

I suppose tracking down a suspected NDA violator could be considered to be "for the purpose of protecting rights" under the Copyright Act, but I’d tread carefully if I were Activision.

Were I in their shoes I certainly wouldn’t, it’s not like there’s any real penalty for violating the DMCA that’s actually ever applied. All they’d have to do is claim that they just wanted the information for purely copyright related matters, and that what they did with it after that was purely incidental, and as copyright causes temporary insanity in most judges(among many others) that would almost certainly be accepted at face value.

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