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The Club Penguin multiplayer online game was launched in 2005 and was acquired by Disney two years later. After 10 years online, Disney shut down the game, prompting the creation of a third-party remake known as Club Penguin Rewritten. Following a complaint from Disney, this service has now been shut down by police in the UK. Three people suspected of copyright infringement have been arrested.
Created by New Horizon Interactive, the massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Club Penguin opened to the public in 2005.
Its Antarctica-themed virtual world, inhabited by players’ penguin avatars, proved incredibly popular and two years later had 30 million users.
This success caught the attention of Disney and in 2007, New Horizon was scooped up for $350 million. Ten years later, Disney pulled the plug in favor of the successor Club Penguin Island, which in turn closed in late 2018.
The previous year, however, one of Club Penguin’s many third-party servers had already gained popularity.
Within months, Club Penguin Rewritten had one million users and, after briefly shutting down in 2018, reached around eight million players by the end of 2020. That seemed to shock Disney.
The copyright issues begin
In April 2020, Disney filed a copyright complaint with Google, claiming that the Club Penguin Rewritten domain (cprewrite.net) infringes not only its rights to the artwork, but also its trademarks. A month later, Disney filed a second lawsuit, notifying Google that Club Penguin Rewrite was an “unauthorized version of the Club Penguin game” containing “copyrighted content, including but not limited to , software and artwork”.
According to Google’s records, no action was taken on either complaint (1,2), but events this week show that Disney hadn’t forgotten about the popular online game. .
British police stopped the game
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is a department of the City of London Police. For years, it has issued warnings to pirate sites and other IP-infringing services on behalf of rights holders. It claims to have shut down thousands of domains and can now add one more to the list.
This week, visitors to the main Club Penguin Rewritten domain were greeted by an ominous banner stating that the site had been taken over by Operation Creative, an initiative led by PIPCU in conjunction with rightsholders.
On the game’s official Discord channel, staff confirmed the shutdown, citing a “full request” from Disney. “We have voluntarily given control of the website to the police to continue their copyright investigation,” they added.
Three people arrested
PIPCU is known to back its shutdowns with arrests of the most egregious hackers, but at least in some cases opportunities have been given to shut down voluntarily. It’s unclear if this was the case with Club Penguin Rewritten, but a statement from PIPCU obtained by Club Penguin Mountains, a site dedicated to all things Club Penguin Rewritten, reveals that three people were indeed detained.
“Three people were arrested on April 12 on suspicion of distributing copyright infringing material and searches were carried out,” the PIPCU statement said.
“They have been released under investigation and to facilitate the police investigation they have agreed to turn the website over to PIPCU control.”
PIPCU’s involvement strongly suggests that the individuals are located in the UK, but as Cloudflare data shows, Club Penguin Rewritten was only marginally active in the UK market, with the vast majority of its traffic coming from the United States. United.
The next steps and their timing are difficult to predict. Previous PIPCU arrests have turned into full-fledged criminal cases and heavy prison sentences, but others have also failed.
In any event, the process faced by Club Penguin Rewritten operators is unlikely to be short. Cases can sometimes take years to get to court, if at all.