IPE: Snail Games Sues Angela, Tencent

Responds to demand for declaratory judgment with a lawsuit of its own.

Today’s lawsuit update is running a little late, since I’ve been getting back up to speed following my vacation and the court websites aren’t being updated as quickly as usual given the holidays. Earlier this month we reported on the removal of Myth of Empires from Steam, due to a DMCA from Snail Games, and how developer Suzhou Angela Online Game Technology Co. Ltd. had filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgment, basically forcing the judge to make a decision on whether or not Myth of Empires did indeed violate the copyright for Ark: Survival Evolved.

Well Snail Games has since filed its own countersuit, and they are going after everyone. The Snail Games countersuit was filed as part of their response to the Suzhou Angela lawsuit. Snail Games has named Angela Online in its counter-suit as well as Tencent who Snail Games claims deliberately ignored a DMCA notice to shut down operations of Myth of Empires servers, which it suggests may be due to a direct financial investment in Angela Games as a company.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that since the DMCA notice, Angela has been scrubbing any potentially incriminating information from the Myth of Empires codebase over several iterations. The lawsuit also notes that of Angela’s 82 employees, 60 are ex-employees of Snail Games and that the employee seemingly most directly indicted for stealing the code, Yang Li Ping, was the person responsible for backing up the Ark: Survival Evolved source code to a server in the United States while working for Snail Games.

Angela’s recent conduct further confirms that Angela has acted unlawfully and that Angela knows that. In the two weeks following Snail’s December 1 DMCA notice, Angela has scrambled to cover its theft. Angela has repeatedly revised its Myth of Empires code, removing or revising code headers and other copied elements. And in many cases, Angela has modified the same copied code elements Snail USA had discovered and included in its DMCA notice to Valve, Tencent, and, of course, Angela. Angela had no reason to do this, other than to erase evidence of its misconduct.

In regard to the duplications of header code, Snail Games notes that none of the Angela employees were involved in writing the Ark code, throwing out the possibility of a programmer simply using terms they were familiar with.

This is further reinforced by the fact that Angela’s employees who worked at Snail (China) had no involvement in writing the Ark code. That rules out any possibility that these hundreds of matches are a coincidence arising from the same programmer using the same coding techniques twice.

The counter-suit also targets Imperium Interactive Entertainment Ltd., who is the entity that made the distribution agreement between Angela and Valve to put Myth of Empires on Steam. Imperium are directly accused of making the deal while aware of the stolen code, as well as for refusing to cease distribution of the game when they should have known the code was stolen.

Imperium knew or should have known that Angela was engaged in direct copyright infringement when Angela created the Infringing Game using stolen source code from Ark. Imperium then materially contributed to Angela’s infringing activity by publishing and helping distribute copies of the Infringing Game. Imperium is therefore also liable for contributory copyright infringement.

From Angela and Imperium, Snail Games is demanding damages for misappropriation and theft of code as well as a royalty payment, that Angela and Imperium must give up all profits from Myth of Empires, statutory damages, that Angela/Imperium forfeit any device that contains unauthorized code, a full report of all gains and business opportunities derived from said code, further damages, a permanent injunction on all employees of Angela, Imperium, and affiliates of both companies from further infringement on Snail Games code, attorneys’ expenses, and whatever else the court wishes to add on for good measure.

Meanwhile, Snail Games has launched a side-cart lawsuit against Tencent, alleging that the company holds a major interest in Angela and that they continue to host servers for the game in noncompliance with a DMCA takedown request for their own unjust enrichment.

On information and belief, Tencent’s ultimate parent, Tencent Holdings, Ltd., directly or indirectly owns a substantial interest in Angela. Tencent has allowed its servers to host the Infringing Game while refusing to abide by Snail USA’s DMCA takedown notice.

Snail Games is alleging direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and vicarious copyright infringement, for hosting Myth of Empires on its servers and refusing a valid DMCA takedown request.

On information and belief, Tencent can take simple steps to stop the infringement on its servers: specifically, Tencent can simply take down the Infringing Game so that it is no longer run on Tencent’s servers. However, Tencent refuses to take down the Infringing Game. Accordingly, because Tencent has actual knowledge of specific infringement, and refuses to take simple steps to end the infringement, Tencent is liable for contributory copyright infringement.

Snail Games has demanded compensation, disgorgement of profits received by Tencent for operating Myth of Empires, that Tencent be ordered to forfeit any hardware with the code on it, full accounting of any benefits obtained by use of the code, a permanent injunction on future infringement, and all reasonable attorney’s fees. And whatever else the judge feels like tacking on.

For the sake of brevity, as well as because covering this lawsuit is running up a tab, I’ve included Snail Games’ Exhibit M which is a 52 page document showing tons of evidence for their claims of infringement. I’ve also included Exhibit A. The present list of exhibits goes up to P and includes over 170 pages. So this is going to become a big lawsuit pretty fast.

On a minor note, Angela Games filed an injunction against Snail Games to have the DMCA takedown removed, allowing the game to go back up on Steam. The court has since denied that injunction request, noting that Snail Games has offered “a plethora of circumstantial evidence” supporting their claims of copyright infringement. The document is also below.

All documents provided at my expense for public use.

Source: Snail Games Response/Countersuit, Injunction Decision, Exhibit A, Exhibit M, Exhibit P