Nexon Awarded $3.6 Million in Private Server Lawsuit

Nexon America was recently awarded $3.6 million in damages from the creators of UMaple, a MapleStory private server. The judgment was issued in the U.S. District Court of California on the 3rd of April 2012. UMaple, a private server with an alleged 17,938 users, and its creator Gurvinder Kumar were fined $200 per act of circumvention (the statutory damages minimum) set out by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) 17 USC 1203.

Kumar did not appear in court to defend himself leading to a default decision by the court. However, the judge seemed extremely skeptical that UMaple significantly affected Nexon’s business through the operation of their limited private server. explains,

Thus on most of the claims, the judge seems to look for ways to avoid giving MapleStory much, if any, money. For example, in determining profits made by UMaple, the judge repeatedly knocks MapleStory for failing to show what profits were specific to UMaple’s infringement, telling it that it can’t just assume all money made by UMaple belongs to MapleStory. So the judge dumps a request for $68,764.23 in profits made by UMaple down to just $398.98.

The DMCA is considered by many to be ridiculous and far overreaching the ethics of copyright law. Eric Goldman, Associate Professor of Law at Santa Clara University of Law shared his thoughts on the case in a recent blog post:

Today’s opinion is a default judgment brought by MapleStoy, a MMORPG, against UMaple, a service that runs an unauthorized MapleStory server, i.e., UMaple users can play MapleStory (using the MapleStory client software) without ever touching MapleStory’s servers. UMaple then solicits “donations” that lead to enhanced privileges in the UMaple environment.

As usual in a default judgment, the court doesn’t question the absentee defendants’ liability. Thus, the action moves to damages.

MapleStory sought profit disgorgement under copyright law. All that MapleStory can make stick is UMaples’ AdSense revenue, a paltry $400. MapleStory can’t get at any of the alleged donations because it can’t connect the dots that the revenue was solely attributed to UMaple and not other properties or activities…

It’s rare to see a judge so skeptical in a default judgment. This suggests that MapleStory’s advocacy failed to engender a high degree of sympathy. Instead, it looks like MapleStory’s advocacy (handled by a team from Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp) alienated the judge. Later in the opinion, the judge calls out MapleStory’s lawyers for their arguments about the appropriate anti-circumvention damages calculations in various precedent cases. The judge says ominously that the advocacy led “the Court to question very seriously whether Plaintiff intended to actively mislead the Court or whether these oversights were merely the result of poor legal research.” If it weren’t obvious, neither conclusion would be a credit to MapleStory’s lawyers. The worst part is that no stretching was required in a layup case like this. It’s a default judgment, and judges will usually bless all reasonable requests.

Nevertheless, the judge had no choice based on the formula it felt was binding, so this produces a massive anti-circumvention award. If it were collectible, it would be quite noteworthy as one of the biggest anti-circumvention awards of all time. But, it’s not collectible.

As a final dis of the plaintiffs, the judge rejects the attorneys’ fee award automatically produced by a formula in the local rules (about $71k). Instead, the judge only promises to award actual fees incurred.

It’s hard for the plaintiff to feel good about this win. You don’t expect to see such palpable skepticism from a judge when the defendant doesn’t even show to protect its own interests. But this case does provide an excellent example of the ridiculousness of anti-circumvention statutory damages. $3.5M+ can’t be the right damages award in this case, and it’s so guffaw-inducing that it further erodes the legitimacy of our copyright rules.

Nexon hasn’t exactly been winning any awards with their customers so far this year (see Nexon VP Min Kim’s announcement about server instability earlier this year) and the UMaple doesn’t seem to be helping public opinion amongst many Maplers on forums. Private Servers have always been a refuge for players who disliked the official version of the game and wanted to create their own and for the most part have been defended by the MapleStory community. With the recent outcry against SOPA and PIPA public opinion also seems to be questioning the powers set forth in the DMCA which could spell trouble for Nexon whom has almost entirely relied on it to shut down private servers and hacking websites.

It’s been about four years since Nexon announced their war on private servers and it’s hard to say whether any significant progress has been made. This all begs the question: was it worth it? Are private servers that host making a couple hundred players on the most popular servers at a time really affecting Nexon’s business that adversely? After all Nexon announced in November 2011 that their third quarter revenues had increased 29% over 2010. Lawsuits hurt public opinion of a company (it’s why many musicians don’t sue possible infringers and why going to try is the last thing anyone wants), especially when a company is asking for over $70 million dollars in damages from a private server that barely made $400 is profit compared to the millions Nexon makes off their games. Copyright is a popular topic these days but it’s wise to ask yourself if that kid playing a version 0.55 private server that crashes every few hours is really worth the thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and bad publicity that goes with it.

You can read the court documents here.


36 responses to “Nexon Awarded $3.6 Million in Private Server Lawsuit

  1. It most definitely is not worth it for Nexon. They should concentrate on making their game better rather than hunting down kids… I thought that Nexon had changed … but I’m disappointed. Well, anyway, at least Lloyd Korn’s name wasn’t mentioned. hahahah I miss that guy.

    • I kind of agree. But, for example, ExtaliaMS has over 1,701 people on right now. That is the same amount of players that are online right now in Broa..

      • What I’m trying to say is, I can see why they are trying to get the private servers down. And like randomperson said, “Nexon bought the game and rights to host it, whereas whereas people just steal all their progress and host the game without their consent and make a profit of their own.”

      • Really? That’s a shocking amount…I was always under the impression the amount of concurrent players in each server for GMS was at least a couple thousand considering Nexon boasts about the I believe over 100 million registered users? I know that doesn’t guarantee concurrent users, but there should be more than a little over a thousand online in Broa…

  2. The thing is that Nexon has many games to manage, and concentrating too much on maplestory alone would be counterproductive to their other games. Also hunting private servers. Can you really blame nexon for doing so? I mean Nexon bought the game and the rights to host it, whereas people just steal all their progress and host the game without their consent and make a profit of their own. It’s basically shoplifting, burglary, whatever you want to refer it to. It’s obvious that Nexon would be pissed that private servers are being sprung up making a profit off of their game.

  3. to all you people that are against Nexon on this case, please take the time to see things through the eyes of Nexon. And no, the eyes of Nexon aren’t after money. I will admit that it might be partly, but i can assure you that it is not completely.

    • hahaha everyone’s getting all worked up !!! 😛 You’re right, Nexon should be pissed. But it’s the method that they use to solve the problem where Nexon disappoints me.. Hopefully this lawsuit has taught them the futility of trying to end private servers through suing. Instead, (as I previously stated), if they improved Maplestory itself, then players would naturally leave private servers for the official server. Because in the end, it’s impossible to stop the proliferation of private servers.

  4. “Nexon bought the game and the rights to host it, whereas people just steal all their progress” <- I don't think you're aware of how pservers are coded or developed… There are private servers out there who choose not to adopt certain features that Nexon added or who decide to code something of their own for their server that might use Nexon's items/maps but have different functions to gMS so they're essentially just using the sprites. There's also people who go beyond that and use different images. Maple pserver development isn't about "stealing" and some devs put in a lot of work into sniffing the actual gMS packets to make sure they're coding correctly and accurately. Heck, did you know ExtaliaMS skipped v108 because it fixed the bugs in 107 themselves? I don't see how that's stealing at all.

    Nexon should work WITH private servers, not against them. Especially considering you actually get better customer support and a more enjoyable gaming experience on pservers as opposed to their "official" products.

  5. I think Bella may be missing the point in her post. Whilst it is a nice sentiment to acknowledge the unquestionable hard work some owners put into their private server, at the end of the day this is a legal issue and, in the eyes of the law, what occurs is theft.

    The comment that server owners sometimes include their own original images does not detract from the fact they do not own the majority of content.

    I imagine private server owners are more than welcome to work for Nexon if they were successful in an interview.

    Suggesting that private servers have better customer support can be considered one-sided. Undeniably there is a better ratio of staff/players on private servers. You can’t ignore the issue that a significant amount of problems which require customer support only exist within private servers, that is to say, these problems do not exist in the official version. Further, there is little, sometimes none at all, interviewing or consistency of the gamemasters within private servers. This opens the door to biased or prejudiced management.

    In regards to Rocketguy’s first post, I think it is worth noting that that nearly all Courts have strict pre-action procedures which require written notification of an intention to commence proceedings, sometimes even formal mediation, before the matter can be heard before a Court. My point is, they may have bankrupt a young adult, but he had plenty of warning and time to stop the whole process.

    • John, I am not talking about servers using their own images, I’m talking about actual coding. That’s the computer language used to write a program and the actual program content. I think YOU missed the point of MY post. There’s servers who code custom features… are you implying that as that’s their own content that Nexon shouldn’t sue them?

      Private servers DO have better customer service. Maple Europe has my support tickets from 2009 still open. That’s 3 years. In that time I’ve played at least 2 major private servers after OdinMS not to mention given better customer service myself as private server staff. For free. If you want to dispute how staff on private servers are hired, I think you missed servers such as DestinyMS, Nido and Extalia. I’ve worked on 2 of those and the staff hiring is very different to somewhere like Zakura where you pay $200 and become a GM.

      It seems Jon, that you know very little about private servers at all as you’re generalising so wildly when there are many examples that contradict what you are saying. I’ve been around on private servers since OdinMS. That was the first private server by the way. I’m pretty sure that after 4 years that I know what I’m talking about 🙂

  6. Bella

    To quote yourself: “There’s also people who go beyond that and use different images.” – and no I am not suggesting that, copyright law includes distribution, modification and reproduction.

    To reiterate my previous point – whilst on the face of things private servers may have better customer service, they suffer in other ways that GMS does not. I note the server you are involved with has been completely down for many days this week, GMS has been online.

    I did not miss the server you play on or Flav’s.

    As you have spent more living hours on private servers, I welcome you to bring forward any examples which condradict what I have said.

  7. As I may be late to post this, however I feel that people should read this. Nexon does have the right to sue private servers because it is a illegal act of stealing there game and re-making it as there own, not to mention the copy-right and terms of use you have to agree too to even play the game. On the other hand, Nexon can take a better action to the problem besides taking it to the court. They should examine the private servers, and try to create MapleStory more like the private server to improve the game and make more people join it. That’s my opinion into this issue.

  8. Screw Nexon… All they care about is stuffing their pockets with money, rather than helping their customers. There really should be no need to wonder why they lost so many people to private servers.

  9. so when did nexon really care about hackers and when did nexon copyright hacks? it isn’t copyright if they don’t own the hacks they only own the game nothing else. so if a hack is called deadly hacker for combat arms or maplestory it isn’t theres. its the site that created that hack. wow honestly they should watch there back cause if cod creators find out nexon stole a map from there game they will be shut down hard core

  10. Nexon is just another Apple or Microsoft
    They about two things only
    Maximizing profits
    And complete ownership of their products.
    Tahts it
    The end.

  11. @b218311ee9e01bc4ece1a3bad4dfb060:disqus Seriously. I used to play from 2005-2007 and tried to get back into it recently, but I just couldn’t. It’s gotten to the point where you can’t do anything unless you plop down at least $100 on EXP coupons or Gacha. Fuck this pay-to-win bullshit.

  12. Nexon is good. They right to leech as much money they want. Private server’s don’t have that right. They should implement better protection at their game clients, after a while Private Server will get boring.

    It’s Extalia and those latest MS private server who has so many players. Just sue them up and everything will be fine..

  13. + Those who say it is so p2p. Be thankful it is not like that World or Warcraft or Elder Scrolls Online. Actually you can play atleast without paying bitches….

  14. I played maple before pre-cash shop. It was amazing. I continued playing even when cash shop implemented character style sales only. That was back when I was a kid. I recently decided to re-download the game and see what’s changed for old memory sake… I cried. I’m twenty years old now and the cash shop, offering X2 exp, MESO MONEY BAGS?! WTF. It make me cry! to see how one of my favorite childhood memories has been so corrupted by little NXed-out shitheads flashing their fucked up NX looking characters, looking so fucking stupid and conceited, and the new content, just killed the original game style. It’s not a game anymore. It’s who’s the most flashy fuck out there. Who has the most US dollars to level up the quickest. Who can be the biggest little shit on the internet, who can be the most spoiled by their parents money. Maplestory has died. THIS ISN’T MAPLE STORY ANYMORE, it’s not even the same game, it’s been so heavily modified and fucked off the original game line that I consider it blasphemy. I take a look at the website, even the launcher for fuck sakes, ALL I SEE EVERYWHERE IS FUCKING NX SALES. I mean seriously, x2 exp sales? fucking really? THATS THE SAME AS PAYING FOR HACKS. Think about it FUCKING NEXON, YOU FUCKED UP, HARD… nexon only wants our money, do they even enjoy the game themselves?

  15. Yea, Nexom.
    You should really sue ExtaliaMS, it’s the worst pserver i’ve ever seen.
    AND IT fucking makes profit by donates & etc.
    Shut it down. it has more players than ms itself and i find it unfair 😦

  16. I think Nexon made the appropriate step. If there are hacks and hackers being supplied by a private individual for profit, and it interferes with others’ use and enjoyment of the game, then they should sue. Hacks ruin games and gamers avoid games where people hack. Nexon’s legal rights are enforced through the Courts.

    And to all you people who think Nexon should allow the conduct for which they sue, please educate yourselves. Someday when you endeavor to make money at something and you suffer from a third-party intentionally interfering with your contracts with your customer base and all your hard work fails to generate the revenues that your innovative, in-demand product should generate due to that third-party, you will believe something different.

  17. I think need sued ElliniaMS, because that server is garbage/always shutdown server then change new name…

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