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January 2024 Copyfraud Attack

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January 2024 Copyfraud Attack

Tips: 0.50 INK Postby Remæus on Thu Feb 15, 2024 5:07 pm

On January 20th, 2024, RPG's datacenter (Hetzner) notified us of an email they received demanding the site be taken offline due to a user account mentioning the word "NBA" on their profile and linking to a scam site that presumably sold related products. As we were not notified of this complaint or given any opportunity to respond, Hetzner proceeded to block all access to RPG, taking it offline for every user in our nearly 20-year old community.

After engaging with lawyers in Germany and Finland, and a protracted, two-week long debate with the datacenter, we have as of this morning successfully brought RPG back online and received assurances that further diligence will be applied for future complaints of this types. Nevertheless, I want to reiterate some of the guiding principles we established in 2005 but have perhaps been forgotten over the years:

  • 1. Avoid using anything real — photographs of real actors should be avoided, as they open RPG up to copyright claims by legitimate holders. Our goal is to operate at the lowest cost possible, so hiring lawyers and other staff to handle this steady stream of incoming complaints is not viable moving forward. Do your part, and stay in the realm of fiction!
  • 2. Aggressively report spam — in the case of complaints being lodged against spambot profiles, our existing moderators have the ability to hide content (both posts and profile pages) from prying eyes, preventing automated scanners from finding potentially infringing content.
  • 3. Do not reply or engage — replies, even if flippant or dismissive, contribute positively to search engine results, pushing the original content (OC) higher and making it appear more often. This increases the chance of RPG being targeted for a copyright claim, so don't feed the trolls

Potential for Abuse
While this looks like a mundane spambot on the surface, someone had to have submitted the false claim. While this certainly could have been the result of an automated scanner, it seems more likely that someone is trying to take RPG offline, given some members' sordid history of previously published content, and, perhaps worse still, holding a vendetta against us. While this would be unfortunate, RPG does have the stated goal of providing a permanent home for all fictional content, and we would be remiss to allow this threat to exist in the wild.

As such, we are launching a criminal investigation into the organization that submitted the false claim; under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f), there is a provision that imposes liability on any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material or activity is infringing. In such cases, the party affected by such misrepresentation may be eligible to recover damages, including costs and attorney's fees. While we may not be able to recover much from damages, we can prevent this from happening again, whether to us or other creative communities.

Upon initial review, we have recovered the exact origin of the fraudulent claim, and discovering it to be in the United States, are now pursuing legal action against the originating party. Attacks on RPG or its members, of any type, will not be tolerated. Further updates will be provided in this thread; but know this — we are coming for you.
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