Moonton Responds To Copyright Infringement Suit From Riot Games By Threatening The Press With Lawsuits

from the great-strategy,-yo dept

While we often talk about oversteps regarding copyright protectionism and lawsuits in these here pages, it's not as though there aren't understandable disputes that exist. Likewise, while we often detail bad actions by aggressors on copyright issues, it's not as though those on the defending side of that coin are always virtuous in the way they handle the dispute. The issue of game and mobile application cloning serves as a good ecosystem to show plenty of examples of both, with the latest dust-up between Riot Games and Shanghai Moonton Technology offering a specific look at how a party on the defense from a copyright claim can get everything wrong.

First, some background. Riot Games recently filed a lawsuit against Moonton for copyright infringement over three Moonton games: Mobile Legends 5V5 MOBA, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, and Magic Rush: Heroes. A cursory look at the evidence Riot Games offered up in the filing sure makes it look like Moonton was simply cloning League of Legends, from title screen to in-game design.


And there's a lot more images you can compare in the link. The point is that nobody is going to look at this lawsuit and think Riot Games is crazy for filing it. There is enough cloning going on here to make even the most sympathetic pause. By now you're probably wondering why this post is appearing on Techdirt at all, as we don't make a habit of posting about seemingly legitimate intellectual property lawsuits.

Well, you're reading this because we certainly do write posts about companies that attempt to lash out at the press and threaten them with lawsuits for covering them critically. And that's exactly what Moonton decided to do in the face of the lawsuit.

In case you can't see the embed, that reads:

Official Statement: Recently some media have published negative and unreal reports against Mobile Legends. Here is the statement of Moonton.

Mobile Legends is a MOBA game that is developed by Moonton independently, and its copyright has already been registered and protected in multiple countries all over the world. Moonton has independent intellectual property rights.

Mobile Legends and all the users will not be affected by these unreal reports and we will keep providing the best gameplay experience to players all over the world.

Meanwhile, for some media and competitors who have spread the unreal information and rumors against us, we reserve the right to protect ourselves and pursue legal actions.

Vague threats against the press for reporting on the lawsuit is simply not a good look. It also serves to put this into Streisand Effect territory, with much more coverage on the lawsuit due to Moonton's response than would otherwise have existed. References to "unreal information" and "rumors" seem particularly silly, given that there is a very real and concrete lawsuit currently filed against the company, one which the press is certainly going to report on, whether Moonton likes it or not.

So, feel free to debate the validity of Riot's lawsuit all you want, but this is a terrible response from Moonton.


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:42pm

    Threatening the press: the mark of the desperate and guilty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:49pm

      Re:

      It could've been worse. They could have had a Trump spokesman Stephen Miller look-and-sound-alike telling the press that "Our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the [company] are very substantial and will not be questioned."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2017 @ 2:09am

      Re:

      Well when you get legal threats from a company much bigger than you (one of two dominant IPs in the genre) you might feel desperate too.

      I can understand lashing out at the press particularly if they're only seemingly supporting the massive company. Still shouldn't have said it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:45pm

    "By now you're probably wondering why this post is appearing on Techdirt at all, as we don't make a habit of posting about seemingly legitimate intellectual property lawsuits."

    Even if this wasn't a legal issue against the press. I do find it refreshing to see a potentially legitimate copyright claim. Nice to see copyright law used in a legitimate fashion rather than a shakedown.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:00pm

      Re:

      Yeah, it is nice to see it closer to the law, but I still kind of wish only explicit copying was covered. Like, you're allowed to "paraphrase" but not directly duplicate exact representations. Where this instance is like paraphrasing. They've obviously borrowed a lot of ideas and the style, but they've not actually copied the source code or included the actual original images.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:01pm

        Re: Re:

        Paraphrasing part of a work would be fine.

        This looks more like paraphrasing an entire work only by cutting a couple of corners and hoping people do not notice.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Are you sure they're not actually copying original code or assets? Some of that looks awfully similar. This is why it needs to go to court.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:23pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm quite sure. It doesn't need to go to court to determine whether they got a hold of the source code and modified it or if they explicitly copied assets. They didn't. It has to go to court because under copyright law, even making something from scratch that looks too similar can be found to be infringing.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 11 Feb 2018 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re:

        Sorry, but this is too close to the source material to be considered "fair use" or "different enough".

        All I see is a lighting difference on the map. That's far from "we didn't copy". That's "we copied and we did this one little thing to make it look different".

        That doesn't change the fact that the company ripped off League champions for Magic Rush (and they lost that lawsuit, by the way) and now they've ripped off the map (minimum, I haven't played the game to see how much else they copied) and have said "this is our own!". Montoon needs to be shut down if they're going to blatantly ignore copyrights in an attempt to piggyback off another company's popularity unfairly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:46pm

    "Govern yourself accordingly."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:49pm

    I skimmed through the pictures in the lawsuit itself, and it seems a bit silly to include that bit at the end where they show that users have left comments claiming the game to be a copy of League of Legends. And then they try to claim that as evidence that it is infringing.

    If I've learned anything from TechDirt and Popehat, it's that a random yahoo on the internet doesn't know much about the particulars of IP law.

    But maybe they only included it as evidence aimed towards the trademark claims but not the copyright claims?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:00pm

      Re:

      Didn't check the comments but after looking at the Lux and Karna examples, it is easy to tell that someone was doing a lot of copying. I can see have 1 or 2 similar abilities when making characters but all 4 and it looks like they are just trying to cash in on Riot Games' success.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:40pm

      Re:

      Though "comments from people saying these two things look alike" isn't enoigh even for a trademark claim.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:48pm

        Re: Re:

        I'm aware. But at least in trademark it might be evidence that would be considered (though wholly insufficient on its own) instead of just non-sense that might leave a judge shaking his head, wondering what this bit is doing in this lawsuit filing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 1:51pm

    Official Statement: Recently some media have published negative and unreal reports against Mobile Legends. Here is the statement of Moonton. ... Mobile Legends and all the users will not be affected by these unreal reports and we will keep providing the best gameplay experience to players all over the world.

    So now they're trying to get sued by Epic too?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:01pm

    Without merit

    Sorry, but look and feel and rules and game design -- are not subject to copyright. Only a very specific expression is.

    That means something that just looks "similar" is not infringing.

    There might be very well a case for infringement of so-called design patents (look & feel) or even trademarks, but if Moonton programmed its games themselves and made the artwork themselves, there cannot be a copyright infringement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:06pm

      Re: Without merit

      Only a very specific expression is.

      Look in the screenshot attached to this article. Moonton is trying as hard as it can to copy the specific expression of “League of Legends” without directly copying it. Riot has an actual case here; whether that case succeeds depends on whether the legal system agrees with Riot’s claims.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Thad, 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:24pm

        Re: Re: Without merit

        History has shown that it's difficult to win a copyright infringement case over a knockoff video game, even when there looks to be a clear case.

        Ars Technica had a good article a few years ago titled Game makers face uphill battle proving copyright infringement in court.

        The copying here is obvious and blatant. But it still may not be enough to win in court.

        I could see a pretty good trademark case over that logo, though.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Without merit

          It's really bizarre... you only need a few notes to be guilty of copyright infringement for music, but making the entire game 99% the same as another is fine. Guess who has a better lobby? :)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 4:14pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Without merit

            Arguably, the music industry would be in a much better position today if they followed the game industry's example.

            It's generally accepted not just by game developers but also by a lot of the gaming community that good games borrow each other's ideas.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 9:35pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Without merit

            They just never said they were inspired by any other games.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 6:00pm

          Re: Re: Re: Without merit

          Ars Technica had a good article a few years ago titled Game makers face uphill battle proving copyright infringement in court.

          That was a few years ago. Copyright is ratcheting up all the time.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 20 Jul 2017 @ 5:55am

      Re: Without merit

      I wouldn't be able to differentiate the games and heck I've played enough games in my life to know that you can use an established genre and make it at the very least LOOK different. Easy win to Riot I'd infer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 2:18pm

    I like the phrase unreal news

    "Unreal news" sounds so much fancier than "fake news". It's like the news came from some other reality, say like a video game.

    They should include a disclaimer to make sure people don't confuse this with news about the Unreal development engine or any Unreal video games, which could be considered "Unreal news".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 4:24pm

    Sometimes bad companies are still legal

    Moontown seems like a garbage company, but the question of whether or not you can copyright a mechanic is more important than they are.

    It would be a very troubling direction for the game industry to go if a judge established precedent here. I hate crappy iOS clones too, but sometimes you've got to take the bad with the good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 7:02pm

    A note on the article itself

    The title is introducing one point: That Moonton is making vague vacuous threats against the media.

    But the article starts off discussing the merits of the case. Whoever is in the wrong (one, the other, or both) on the merits is kinda irrelevant (as you say, above).

    My guess is that whoever drafted this didn't run it by a lawyer who's done any defamation work. Possibly, by any lawyer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2017 @ 7:04pm

      Re: A note on the article itself

      Sorry: "drafted this" - the Moonton notice, not the Techdirt article.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 19 Jul 2017 @ 9:58pm

      Re: A note on the article itself

      The article mentions the lawsuit because the factual claims raised by said lawsuit are the basis for Moonton’s vague threats against the media (“for some media and competitors who have spread the unreal information and rumors against us, we reserve the right to protect ourselves and pursue legal actions”). Whether Moonton sues a specific media outlet seems to depend on whether that outlet continues to report on this lawsuit — which, I imagine, will continue to happen now that Moonton has run afoul of the Streisand Effect.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Túi Lọc Bụi (profile), 20 Jul 2017 @ 3:21am

    I thought...

    I thought they are one, mobi legend is a really good game

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2017 @ 10:33pm

    I don't really get this. Riot has been after everyone's asses for a long time now. Why do they really fret over their "LoL" so much, provided LoL itself is a rip-off of the old DoTA game (Yes I know the internet bashing for me is now imminent).
    But League of Legends is based on the same platform as DoTA and also, "most" of the characters and abilities are similar. So, if you have taken the idea from someone and you're fine on your conscience with it, let others take a dig at it too. Really, selfish people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ml sucks, 29 Mar 2018 @ 12:59am

    Ban this game

    I hope this game will be ban and this game make people so stupid and forgot about there work or some thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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