The finer details are available here and relate to Christopher Boomer, the developer behind Roblox titles including Weight Lifting Simulator 2 and Muscle Legends. Boomer’s games have been viewed over two billion times but he claims to have a big piracy problem too.
According to Boomer’s legal team, other Roblox developers cloned Boomer’s games and are now enjoying tens of millions of downloads at their client’s expense. In an effort to bring this to an end, Boomer filed an application for a DMCA subpoena at a California court, hoping to compel Roblox to unmask the alleged infringers.
This could’ve been a relatively straightforward matter but the demands in the application went beyond reasonable into the realms of the absurd. Instead of targeting specific alleged infringers, it sought to identify hundreds of thousands of innocent gamers too.
Nevertheless, the clerk of the court signed the subpoena, and Boomer’s representatives optimistically served it on Roblox Corporation. Given the blunderbuss approach on display in the documents, that went exactly as expected.
Roblox Corporation Comprehensively Objects
In a notice of objections filed with the court late last week, Roblox begins by explaining that 10 days to produce the requested information is too short and “especially unreasonable” given that Boomer is attempting to obtain information on potentially hundreds of thousands of Roblox players, in addition to a small number of potentially infringing users.
Other than to prevent piracy, details on Boomer’s motivations to unmask so many Roblox users haven’t been made public. That being said, evidence of underlying disputes is not hard to find.
Comments posted on various Roblox communities suggest a conflict some time ago involving Roblox developers and various gaming groups. Who caused the dispute isn’t clear and most allegations lack obvious supporting evidence. One theme implies that one or more developers may have done work for which they were not compensated. Another suggests that events outside Roblox may have led to a developer’s Roblox account being banned.
Whatever the specifics, there’s no question that a dispute exists. Roblox Corporation does not directly address any such ‘gaming drama’ in its objections but does point out that DMCA subpoenas have one use and one use only – to deal with copyright matters, period. The company suggests that isn’t the case here.
“Roblox objects to the extent the requests seek information in connection with, or for the purpose of, pursuing matters unrelated to alleged copyright infringement, which is not permitted under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s subpoena provision 17 U.S.C. § 512(h),” Roblox says.
The company also complains that the subpoena demands access to documents that it either doesn’t possess or doesn’t have in its custody or control. However, Roblox says that if it does agree to hand over information, the company will perform a “reasonable search” to comply with its obligations.
Roblox Cites Recent Twitter Case on Anonymous Speakers
Boomer’s requests for information are split into three groups, the first relating to information held on people who posted allegedly infringing games to specific URLs. This might’ve been a more straightforward matter if the requests targeted alleged infringers, as required under DMCA subpoena rules. In this case, that didn’t happen.
Instead, the subpoena demands access to a spectrum of personal details, including IP and email addresses, phone numbers and more, in sufficient detail to identify all current and previous owners, operators, developers, and contributors to specific games. The response from Roblox suggests that a bigger battle may lie ahead.
Citing a recent DMCA subpoena case involving Twitter, which was thrown out by a judge after Twitter fought to protect a user’s right to anonymous speech, Roblox indicates that it too can do the same.
“Roblox objects to the request to unmask anonymous speakers without the provision of notice to the speakers so that they may address directly any potential concerns, First Amendment or otherwise,” Roblox informs the court, adding that the affected users have already been informed.
“Subject to and without waiving the foregoing objections, once users whose information is subject to this request have had a reasonable time to address the request, Roblox agrees to produce documents responsive to this request for any user who has not intervened in this matter, but only to the extent such information is within Roblox’s possession, custody, and/or control and is available in a producible format,” the company adds.
Hundreds of Thousands of Group Members
The second request in the DMCA subpoena requires Roblox to supply all of the personal data it holds on users who form part of certain gaming groups. Data published in our earlier article revealed that the request covers six Roblox groups containing at least 460,000 members.
The DMCA subpoena process places no limit on the number of people who can have their identities handed to rightsholders but certain standards must be met. Section 512(h)(3) of the DMCA provides for the disclosure of information “sufficient to identify the alleged infringer”, not information relating to anyone who may have simply been in the vicinity of an alleged infringement.
It’s fairly obvious that close to 460,000 users of these Roblox groups will be completely innocent of copyright infringement. The subpoena, on the other hand, attempts to draw in as many Roblox users as possible, regardless of wrongdoing, and without necessary supporting evidence.
“Roblox objects to this request as overbroad because it seeks a wide swath of user information that Petitioner has not established is relevant to any alleged copyright infringement, and thus the information requested does not qualify as discoverable subject matter,” Roblox writes.
Again, Roblox also objects to the request to unmask ‘anonymous speakers’ in this group and says that all of the users affected should be contacted so they can address any potential concerns.
Request #3 – Roblox Says No
The final demand in the subpoena requires Roblox to hand over the personal details of around 10 Roblox users who Boomer suspects of infringing his rights. The problem here is that DMCA subpoena applications need to be supported by documents showing that DMCA takedown notices were previously directed at the allegedly infringing content.
In respect of this set of ‘anonymous speakers’, that didn’t happen.
“Roblox objects to this request as overbroad because it seeks user information that Petitioner has not established is relevant to any alleged copyright infringement, and thus the information requested does not qualify as discoverable subject matter,” the company writes.
“Finally, to the extent information sought by this request is deemed discoverable pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(h), Roblox objects to the request to unmask anonymous speakers without the provision of notice to the speakers so that they may address directly any potential concerns, First Amendment or otherwise,” the company concludes.
Roblox Corporation’s Notice of Objections can be found here (pdf)