by ~Tess-27

About a month ago plenty of people took notice to the sudden changes of MLP Online’s website, basically their logo had suddenly changed and a notice was posted on the front that all development on the project itself had halted, and that a press release about the future of the project would be published at some point in the future (that future is now). And as many of us had guessed, the team was visited one night by Old Man Monopoly who kindly handed them a Cease & Desist order.

Truthfully as we haven’t really covered the subject, this is the fourth time a C&D has been handed out in the past six months. Two of the cases was involving the iTunes episodes, echoing the same situation as Ponyarchive last year. In both of these cases it was mainly links within the forum boards that were removed and business went on as usual. Another was a project dubbed Shards of Equestria, a Magic: The Gathering based game which of course featured a deck of ponified cards. In this case it was actually Wizards of the Coast who made the complaint, citing the game was using the same general card layouts as M:TG, along with the same rules. Wizards of the coast is of course a division of Hasbro, and there had been issues within the M:TG crowd of card forgery.

People always tend to get upset as such things, but as its been explained before in these situations, it’s basically US trademark law forcing Hasbro’s hand. At some point I’d like to dig further into that, but I guess somewhere in writing it says a company must defend their trademarked property, otherwise the general public gets to play with it all we want. Disney is currently doing the same thing with Mickey Mouse, copyright law wise he’s suppose to have become public domain due to the age, but of course Big D is fighting that.

Here is the press release from the team:

“Just over a month ago, we released our first episode of our game. After a year and a half since the outset of the project, we were happy to present our first Episode to you. Though our servers suffered, we were pleased with the response and the great feedback we received!

Shortly after that–exactly 4 weeks prior to now–we received a complaint about copyright and trademark infringement. We initially dismissed this it was most likely submitted by some trolls, as they could be submitted anonymously by anyone through our CDN. However, we continued to look into it, and by the following Monday, found it to be very real.

Hasbro is not to be blamed here. As per U.S. Trademark law, as soon as an infringement comes to light, they are obligated to defend the trademark, or they will lose it. They had no choice in the matter, regardless of what they thought of the project or how it benefited them.

The matter was quite strict: there was little that we could do to work around it. We removed the download link and development was suspended. Discussions continued through the month, but it came down to one fact: MLP:Online had come to an end.

MLP:Online: April 2011-November 2012. RIP.

We apologize for the wait. The time that we were taking for our discussions and to announce this publicly was time-boxed. Salty will be posting a eulogy about the project.

But all hope is not lost. While MLPOnline is officially dead and buried, the team is mostly sticking together. Some took their leave due to real-life considerations, but about 75% of the old team remains. We’ve officially changed our name to Starlight Studios, as per a team vote last week. We have selected a new project. It is pony related, but otherwise we’re keeping most of the details secret. It is our goal to have it completed by Bronycon 2013, though this may be ambitious.

You should expect to see something unveiled this summer.”

[Source: EqD]

  • Daedalus

    How is US Copyright law forcing Hasbro to take action? I’d like to hear more about that. Seems very strange, if they don’t want to, then why should they have to?

    • Doc

      Strictly speaking, it’s trademark law, which is very much on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis. Failure to defend a trademark is grounds for losing it. Copyright is a different beast, as it stays whether you defend it or not. However, in a court of law, the defendant could pull the ‘why didn’t you go after these other violators’ card, which can be, if not a complete valid defense, a point against the copyright owner. I’ve updated the article a bit to clarify.

      • MelloMaster

        Pretty much as Doc stated. Unless Hasbro were to buy and pick up this project they can’t give the public access to MLP so freely. Next thing people could make their own off brand toys and defend themselves by saying “Why didn’t you shut MLP online down?” “How is that public entity different than us?”… etc.

  • Yeah, just because the brony community as a whole is a great thing for Hasbro, doesn’t give us the right to feel entitled to letting Hasbro jeopardize their corporate integrity. Why, they’d lose every possible chance at partnership with any large company, if they were seen as a copyleft outfit by every big guy in suit they tried shaking hands with. It’s a lot more involved than some grudge selfish people like to claim it to be — they must follow the rules if they wish to stay in the game. It sucks, but its how big business operates unfortunately.

    I say, Don’t like it? Build a liberal, copyleft company yourself – you’re kind of alone; makes it so much more difficult to stay afloat when you can’t count on your neighbors for a hand once in awhile. Not to say you’d never have partnerships, but you’d have to prove your financial stability / dependency all-the-more.