Early December, TorrentFreak discovered that prolific Genshin Impact leaker ‘Ubatcha’ had been named in a DMCA application filed by game publisher Cognosphere.
The initial aim of the application was to compel Discord to hand over Ubatcha’s name, address, telephone number and email addresses. Barring complications, Cognosphere may have them already. It’s worth noting that it could’ve filed a copyright lawsuit first and then moved to discover these details later, but certainly not for $50.
No outsider can predict what will happen next, but past events can help paint a general picture of potential outcomes. Since Cognosphere has taken the initiative, let’s stand in their shoes for a while to see how that feels. After that, we’ll step into Ubatcha’s world.
Creators Take Pride in their Work
When thousands and thousands of hours have been poured into a title like Genshin Impact, it’s not only financial success that’s important. Games are made by creative human beings meaning that developers, artists, animators, audio engineers and beyond, are motivated when people show appreciation for their art.
So after being fine-tuned down to the last pixel, the last coating of gloss is applied. Fans will finally see the game exactly as the creators intended, and the feedback satisfaction will have made it all worthwhile. Anticipation mounts and the big day arrives. This is it – minus the surprises and with no secret left untold.
For the past several months, gamers have not only learned that someone is planning a surprise party for them, but have watched the room being decorated, the cakes being mixed and baked, and already know the names of everyone invited, including someone they haven’t seen for 10 years.
It’s not difficult to see why the organizers of that party might be upset and how that scenario applies to a game in development. When leaks happen again and again and again, asking people to stop spoiling the surprises seems entirely reasonable. But what if they just don’t understand?
DMCA Takedowns: Please Stop – Or Else
In the copyright world, it might be possible to prevent leaks using an informal email, but a DMCA takedown notice is quick, more formal, removes the allegedly infringing content, and is required in the event that infringers don’t cooperate and a DMCA subpoena is needed.
This week Ubatcha acknowledged that he’d received “a warning” on Discord, but which content should be removed was apparently unclear.
“The only notice I personally received was a warning on discord in Aug which did not state what content had to be removed, just that ‘you may not share any content…’ so the ‘ubatcha’ account stopped posting on discord in order to comply with the warning received,” Ubatcha wrote.
Who sent that warning isn’t clear, so whether it met the legal requirements of a DMCA notice is unknown. Ubatcha previously acknowledged that two other people had also received warnings, details of which are also unknown. These details can be crucial in court, but getting involved in a copyright lawsuit that can be avoided is ill-advised.
Even if delivered informally, the important thing is the clarity and tone of the underlying yet unwritten message: Please stop leaking our pre-release content because we really don’t like it. Please cooperate this time, before things get out of hand.
Multiple DMCA notices and/or personal warnings suggest a copyright holder running out of patience. For the record, the takedown notice sent to Discord late November and submitted as evidence in the DMCA subpoena application, is very clear indeed.
Genshin Impact Fanatics
This week Ubatcha told hundreds of thousands of followers that things had already come to an end. All potentially infringing content had been deleted, and there would be no more Genshin Impact leaks moving forward.
“I have not received anything nor has Discord notified me if they shared any of my details. Either way, whatever happens I’m done,” Ubatcha wrote.
That’s a helpful statement on the legal side but led to disappointment among Ubatcha’s several hundred thousand followers and Genshin Impact fans.
Leaks that appear courtesy of Ubatcha (and others) seem to keep Genshin Impact players continuously engaged with the game. They may lose some surprises but it’s glaringly obvious they care deeply about the game and need it to have a future. By engaging with leaks, they feel more informed, more in touch, and even closer to the game. It’s a conundrum with no easy solutions.
Intent, Sacrifice, Compromise
Motivation is important and in Ubatcha’s case, there’s no malicious intent on display, no master plan to ruin the Genshin Impact world. On the contrary, it appears that ridiculous commitment to the game, albeit in unconventional ways, has become some kind of obligation, maybe even an obsession, to point of being detrimental to health and wellbeing.
“On a more personal note, the recent beta release felt like such a weight lifted off my shoulders when I could just go to sleep in peace rather than spending over 24hrs awake to post content and work irl at the same time. It seems so silly but I haven’t had that in over a year,” Ubatcha wrote.
While obviously extreme, this sounds like a credible take. For some people games are not just games, they’re a way of life, a life that slowly gets eaten by one game above all others. The big question is whether this carries any weight in light of recent copyright infringement allegations and wherever they may lead.
Lawyers Are Instructed To Achieve Goals
The law firm handling the DMCA subpoena is Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, and they have a lot of experience in similar cases. In fact, MSK worked with the RIAA back in 2003, obtaining subpoenas against ISPs to identify MP3 pirates.
In this case, however, that is unimportant. One phone call or email from Cognosphere can end this today or take things to the next level, and the one above that. It’s impossible to predict what will happen next but if the company feels it needs to do something, it might. But it doesn’t absolutely need to.
Demands & Opportunity
The main goal on the facts presented is simple: the leaks need to stop and stop permanently. The company may take a ‘wait and see’ approach but may also want a signed guarantee it can rely on. After all, it asked nicely in the past and got nowhere. Only court involvement produced the desired result, it might argue.
Cognosphere might also feel that unless it sets an example, other leakers won’t get the message. If they hit Ubatcha hard and in public, that could act as a deterrent, but that carries the risk of alienating growing parts of the Genshin Impact community and generating negative press that will only serve as an undeserved distraction.
One thing is 100% guaranteed, however. Making an example of Ubatcha will not stop the leaks. The only thing that will work long-term is by connecting with these types of gamers, encouraging them to feel the creative process, and helping them to understand that their fanatical support is appreciated, but not to the extent that lawyers need to get involved.
In short, what we appear to have here is an unofficial Genshin Impact marketing collective of several hundred thousand people, led by someone who works 24 hours a day and never gets paid. It needs a bit of polishing/corrective work but if someone can’t turn that into something useful, we’re all doomed. And the leaks will continue regardless.