Oh yes, you read that correctly. On June 9, 2020, this email was received into our general inbox in the middle of the night (presumably because they are European) and advised us to remove a meme we had posted on our Meme Wall that used some images from a series of leaks from the new The Last of Us Part II game (out in June). The letter is as follows:
C/O Copyright Agent for Notice of Claims of Copyright Infringement
Sent via email
DMCA / EUCD NOTICE OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENTS
Dear Sir / Madam,
I, MUSO TNT Ltd certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorised to act on behalf of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd the owner of certain intellectual property rights.
I have a good faith belief that the item(s) or material(s) listed below are not authorised by law for use by the above named domain name owner or their agents and therefore infringes the copyright owner’s rights. I hereby demand that you act expeditiously to remove or disable access to the material or items claimed to be infringing.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd
C/- MUSO TNT Ltd
207-215 Kings Cross Road
Location of INFRINGING WORKS:
(a long file extension we aren’t going to include)
The infringing items are the works of: The Last of Us Part II – PS4.
This content is as yet unreleased and has not been authorised for distribution.
We would appreciate a swift response and action, please remove the above link(s).
MUSO TNT Ltd
09 June 2020
Muso Legal Team
But We Aren’t The Only Ones
The editorial staff was rather surprised about this letter. Usually, Rouges is simply too small for most companies to pay attention to us. We do our best not to post things that infringe but we don’t ever get contacted. Our readers are loyal but there are simply not enough (yet!) so we were surprised and began our research. We started looking into MUSO legal to make sure it wasn’t some sort of scam or something along those lines. Finding out that they specialize in doing this sort of internet detective work we looked around to see if anyone else had gotten a similar notice and we found out that indeed major YouTube channels had videos removed for covering the leaks and one channel even seems to have run into a monetization issue with YouTube because of the copyright claim on their video. These channels sport millions of subscribers and millions of views. It represents a major loss of revenue for those channels.
DMCA, Fair Use, and Sony
Sony has a long history of using the law unfairly to censor the internet. This is another case where material from the new game (out now) was leaked and in some massive clean-up operation they are trying to remove every last vestige of it the leaks from the internet and they’ve hired this expert law firm to do just that. They are spending millions to run around the internet and shut down memes and video commentary. In this video from Hoeg Law, he goes over the legalities of DMCA and how Sony is stretching the law to achieve its goal of erasing the leaks from the internet.
A Final Word
Ultimately, we decided to take down the meme both because of this letter and because of other reasons. However, it is still rather disturbing that Sony can, without any oversight misuse law, and then when they called out on their misuse of DMCA end up settling with the YouTube Channels in question. What’s worse is that YouTube blocked videos first and asked questions much later. DMCA should be used for when someone legitimately is violating copyright by posting content as if it is their own. Commenting on gaming leaks is certainly fair use.
As a journalistic organization, what’s worse is that Sony is spending millions to track down even the smallest violators (like Rouges Magazine) for something as silly as a meme. Also, the distinct lack of mainstream articles on this subject was also surprising. In our research, we only found YouTube videos about the situation. As far as we could tell almost no other organizations had taken the time to look at this. I know that many of our colleagues around the internet do not take this sort of thing seriously but we do.
We were not holding their content as our own. We were barely aware of where the meme came from to start with much less than we were violating copyright for something we merely shared for fun. And that’s the problem with many major corporations and how they use copyright today. This is just another bad example of corporations trying to use vague laws to get what they want.