Activision Subpoenas Reddit to Identify Call of Duty Warzone ‘Leaker’


In response to the many Call of Duty Warzone leaks appearing online, Activision has been filing aggressive takedowns on copyright grounds. According to documents obtained by TorrentFreak, the gaming giant has also obtained a DMCA subpoena from a US court, which compels Reddit to hand over the personal details of a user who allegedly posted a leaked image to the site.

Sometime last week, speculation that a new Call of Duty ‘battle royale’ mode might be due for a March launch began to intensify.

Noted leaker TheGamingRevoYT (TheGamingRevolution) posted footage on YouTube claiming to be from the ‘Warzone’ mode and as VGC reported, players were able to glitch into menus following the Season 2 update.

It didn’t take long to work out that Activision was unhappy with the leaks. The video posted by TheGamingRevoYT was taken down, leaving a notice behind declaring that the video was no longer available due to a copyright claim by the gaming giant.

Around the same time – perhaps earlier, perhaps a little later – a Reddit user called Assyrian2410 took to Reddit’s /r/modernwarfare to post a new thread. “I found this image online. Not sure what it is. Possibly Battle Royale,” he or she wrote.

The thread linked to an image, hosted by Reddit. According to a source detailing the captured image and crediting it to the user, it shows Call of Duty soldiers standing on top of a downed chopper. Most strikingly, the text in the background shouts “CALL OF DUTY: WARZONE.”

According to a user who participated in the Reddit thread, TheGamingRevolution confirmed on Twitter that the image was “legit”. However, the tweet was removed and according to Twitter, that account has now been suspended. Another tweet, published by a moderator of the /r/modernwarfare sub-Reddit, was also “withheld in response to a report from the copyright holder.”

Whether any further action is being taken against most of the alleged leakers listed above or indeed the many others around the web remains unclear. However, documents obtained by TorrentFreak show that Activision has taken to a US court in an effort to discover the identity of Reddit user Assyrian2410.

In a filing on February 14, 2020 at a California district court, attorneys acting for Activision requested a DMCA subpoena against Reddit.

“Petitioner, Activision Publishing, Inc. through its undersigned counsel of record, hereby requests that the Clerk of this Court issue a subpoena to Reddit, Inc. to identify alleged infringers at issue, pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (‘DMCA’), 17 U.S.C. § 512(h),” the request reads.

“The DMCA Subpoena is directed to Reddit, Inc. Reddit is the service provider to which the subject of the subpoena – Reddit user ‘Assyrian241O’ – posted infringing Activision content.”

As the image shows, the proposed subpoena provides a Reddit URL where the supposedly infringing content was published. However, rather than listing the specific Reddit URL where the actual image was hosted, it instead references the Reddit discussion thread.

No infringing content was posted in the thread itself and the actual image URL isn’t mentioned at all in the subpoena request. In any event, the image was deleted days ago.

Nevertheless, Activision claims that the image content infringes its exclusive rights under copyright law, “Specifically, it infringes Activision’s rights in its popular video game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” the request adds.

The image in question is currently being used on many gaming sites in articles discussing Warzone but it’s unclear whether the Reddit user was the source of the original material. However, an aggravating factor can be found in the thread itself.

Contrary to the initial claim, that the user “found this image online”, he or she later confessed to it being sent to them by an “inside source”. That raises the question of who Activision is more interested in – the Reddit user or the person who sent them the image, possibly from inside Activision or a related company.

Despite the URL issue, the seemingly deficient subpoena request was signed off by the clerk of the court and will now be delivered to Reddit, which is required to hand over the personal details of its user by February 29, 2020.

Whether it will or can comply is currently unknown. The Assyrian241O account was deleted days ago but it’s not clear what data Reddit retains on users after such an event, particularly in light of a legal issue.

The DMCA subpoena request and related documents can be found here (1,2,3 pdf)

Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.

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