New Genshin Impact DMCA Subpoena Targets Leaker @merlin_impact
Genshin Impact publisher Cognosphere PTE Ltd is developing an aggressive stance towards people who leak images of unreleased content online.
In December 2022, Cognosphere targeted Ubatcha, one of Genshin Impact’s most prolific and popular leakers. Last month, Cognosphere kept up the legal pressure by targeting users of the popular ‘House of Daena’ Discord channel, among others
In both cases, Cognosphere’s attorneys filed DMCA subpoena applications at district courts in California. DMCA subpoenas compel service providers, such as Discord, Twitter or Reddit, to hand over information they hold on users identified by rightsholders as copyright infringers.
In the event that useful personal information is disclosed to Cognosphere’s legal team, a number of options become available. A full-blown copyright infringement lawsuit is one possibility, but the company may use the information to end or mitigate future infringement instead. If an alleged infringer has useful information about leaks but wouldn’t normally disclose it, a legal letter with their name and address on the front may help them to change their mind.
New DMCA Subpoena Targets @merlin_impact on Twitter
Filed on February 8 at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Cognosphere requests cooperation from Twitter so that it can obtain the identity of one of its users.
“It has come to our attention that numerous images infringing Cognosphere’s copyrighted Game are being made available by user Mero@merlin_impact at his Twitter account available at Uniform Resource Locator: https://twitter.com/merlin_impact,” the application reads.
“We request that Twitter take expeditious action to remove or disable access to all copyrighted materials concerning the Game in the Infringing Account, including those posts identified in the attached Exhibit A [shown below]. Alternatively, we request that Twitter remove or disable the entire Infringing Account.”
As proof of infringement, Cognosphere provides links to two tweets published by its official Genshin Impact Twitter account. Each of those tweets contains one piece of original content for reference.
The Original and Allegedly Infringing Images
Published on Twitter by the official @GenshinImpact account on January 16, 2023, the first image depicts a new Genshin Impact character named ‘Deyha’.
According to the DMCA subpoena application, @merlin_impact published copies of this image on their Twitter account in two individual tweets, one on January 17 and the second on January 18.
As shown in the image below, the image at the top right is the original tweet from the official @GenshinImpact account (1), and the two images at the bottom are the alleged copies (1,2) published by @merlin_impact.
It’s immediately obvious that while they relate to the same subject matter (a new character), the images posted by @merlin_impact are not copies of the original image featured in the Genshin Impact tweet.
Also published on Twitter by the official @GenshinImpact account on January 16, 2023, the second allegedly infringed image depicts another new Genshin Impact character named ‘Mika’.
According to the DMCA subpoena application, @merlin_impact published copies of this image on their Twitter account in two individual tweets, contrary to copyright law, on January 18 – two days after they first appeared on the official Genshin Impact account.
The image at the top left is the original posted by the official @GenshinImpact account, and the two images at the bottom are the alleged pirate copies posted by @merlin_impact.
Again, it is clear that the images posted by @merlin_impact are not identical copies of the original image featured in the Genshin Impact tweet, as referenced in the DMCA subpoena.
The ‘copies’ clearly feature the same character, but so do hundreds of images and countless videos available online (including on YouTube) that predate @merlin_impact’s tweets.
For example, the article published here reproduces both pieces of artwork in full but isn’t targeted in a subpoena. Another article featuring the new characters dates back to December 2022, and that appears fine too.
Twitter Hasn’t Taken The Tweets Down
Despite having been sent DMCA notices on Tuesday this week, at the time of writing, Twitter hasn’t taken down @merlin_impact’s allegedly infringing tweets. Of course, that could still happen, but that raises questions about the hundreds of images shared by fans online that actually match the original images mentioned in the subpoena but don’t appear to have attracted interest from Cognosphere’s legal team.
So moving forward, what are the rules for Genshin Impact fans posting online? Post images and hope the lawyers don’t mind, or stop posting images altogether to remove all doubt? Every single piece of Genshin Impact artwork is protected under copyright law, meaning that at least in theory, $150,000 in damages per image if it all goes wrong.
That kind of worry could discourage fans from promoting the game altogether but perhaps something else is going on here.
It’s possible that @merlin_impact is of interest for other reasons, and that’s why they’ve been handpicked for personal attention from a pool of thousands. While that does seem more likely, the chances of the details being made public are very limited indeed.
The DMCA subpoena documents can be found here (1,2, pdf)
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