Disney: If We Can't Run Club Penguin, No One Can Run Club Penguin [Updated]
from the you're-a-grinch,-disney dept
Update: As an update, a bunch of folks left comments suggesting that this action was fine because the guy running this Club Penguin server was recently arrested on suspicion of child porn, and that this particular server also allowed “racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and sexual messages flow freely.” Those are certainly reasons to be concerned about this server, but they are not issues that you deal with via copyright. If it’s reasonable to go after the people who set up the site for criminal activity, go after them for that. Copyright should not be the tool.
Disney’s overly aggressive copyright bullying strikes again. Apparently, Disney has decided that if Disney can’t run Club Penguin in a way that people want to use it, then no one should be able to run Club Penguin, and so the company has used the DMCA to takedown a fan server.
If you somehow missed it, Club Penguin was a hugely popular virtual world in which players as cartoon penguins would hang out and interact. It was targeted at the younger set (age 6 to 14) and at one point had over 200 million users. In 2007, Disney bought the site for $350 million. Over the years, through neglect and the general evolution of what kids think is cool, Club Penguin languished and Disney shut it down in 2017. While Disney then tried to capitalize on the name with an entirely different virtual world called Club Penguin Island, folks who loved Club Penguin were not impressed and Disney quietly shuttered that as well.
Some fans still liked the original Club Penguin, and were able to build up unlicensed fan servers recreating the original game. And for a while now Disney had mostly looked the other direction (or perhaps its lawyers were busy gobbling up every other major piece of pop culture). However, now with everyone on pandemic lockdown, the most popular of the unlicensed fan servers, Club Penguin Online, was getting a big usage boost and Disney could not allow that to happen. They sent off a DMCA notice demanding the site be disappeared:
This is an unauthorized version of the Club Penguin game and contains infringing copyrighted content including but not limited to software and artwork.
The folks behind Club Penguin Online decided that they didn’t want to deal with a legal mess and appeared to have just shut down the entire thing in response.
Of course, this should raise all sorts of questions. What “harm” was Club Penguin Online doing to Disney in the first place? They had abandoned their own version (and even the weaker followup). There is no competition. It’s not like there’s the Disney version that this is taking away from. Even more to the point, this highlights some of the many concerns people have had about other online virtual worlds and MMOs, and how those experiences can or should be archived.
But just for a cultural level the whole thing is absurd (and so very, very Disney). These are people who want to celebrate an important part of culture, at a time when a lot of people are looking back nostalgically at things we did in the past. And Disney and its lawyers have to jump in and say “NO! You cannot do that.” All because it feels the need to “own” culture. What a shame. What a loss.