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Destiny 2 YouTube Takedown Revenge Plot Leads To $7.6 Million Bungie Lawsuit

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Image: Bungie

A spree of rogue DMCA takedown notices for Destiny 2 content on YouTube earlier this year has now ballooned into a $7.6 million lawsuit, as Bungie goes after the alleged perpetrator in court. In addition, some Destiny 2 content creators now say they feel "betrayed" after the person who was seemingly responsible denied this during private Discord chats with them. "I feel lied to, betrayed, and unbelievably upset that someone we knew and trusted would do this," wrote Destiny music remixer Owen Spence on Twitter. "Literally, almost all Destiny music on YouTube is gone because of this."

It's a lot to unpack and it starts back when a bunch of YouTube videos, including some of Bungie's own, were hit with DMCA takedown notices in March of this year. Bungie announced that the notices were fraudulent, and weeks later took the matter to court in an effort to get Google to disclose the identity of whoever was responsible. As Bungie pointed out at the time, part of the reason the fraudulent takedown notices were able to escalate in the first place was because YouTube's copyright system is opaque and hard to navigate (Bungie went through customer service and didn't get the issue solved for days). Months later, the studio now says a Destiny 2 player named Nick Minor, who goes by Lord Nazo on YouTube, is the one allegedly responsible based on personal data obtained from Google on June 10.

Minor and Bungie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"This case arises out of Nick Minor's malicious campaign to serve fraudulent takedown notices to some of the most prominent and passionate members of that fanbase, purportedly on Bungie's behalf, in apparent retaliation for Bungie enforcing its copyrights against material Minor uploaded to his own YouTube channel," the company writes in a new lawsuit filed on June 22 in the U.S. Western District Court of Washington.

Bungie alleges that Minor ripped music for Destiny: The Taken King and Destiny 2: The Witch Queen directly from the company's official soundtracks, and then uploaded them to YouTube. Despite repeated takedown notices, Minor left the music up, eventually resulting in YouTube disabling Minor's channel altogether. According to Bungie, that's when Minor started impersonating a third-party agency it uses to enforce its copyright protections called CSC Global by using fake gmail addresses that resembled the company's own.

Seemingly in retaliation for the takedowns against his own channel, Minor is alleged to have then issued fraudulent takedowns against 96 other videos, including some by apparent mutuals of his in the rest of the Destiny YouTube music scene. Bungie also accuses Minor of using the smoke screen of suspicion kicked up by his takedown spree to sow distrust in the Destiny community, and counterclaim the legitimate takedown notices against his channel.

"Extremely disappointed to find out that Lord Nazo, our friend and someone in direct communication with us about the takedowns, was the person who issued the fake DMCA takedowns 'on behalf' of Bungie," Owen Spence, who orchestrates remixes of Destiny 2 music, wrote on Twitter yesterday. "[Minor] lied to us, started a Discord group DM with me, Promethean, Breshi, and Lorcan0c, and then said things like this, all while acting like he was a victim."

The purported Discord chat logs show Minor explaining in March how it's easy to submit fraudulent takedown notices and suggesting the culprit is someone abusing YouTube's system. A screengrab of old tweets, meanwhile, appears to show Minor writing to Destiny 2's community manager around the same time that his channel was wrongly caught up in the takedown spree, despite allegedly being the one behind it. During this time he was also posting manifestos criticizing YouTube's copyright takedown policies.

As Bungie lays out in its case, Destiny 2 is a live service game which thrives in part as a result of the player community on other social platforms like Twitch, YouTube, Twitter, and Reddit. One area of community content is music, including looped tracks, remixes, re-orchestrations, and fan covers. Spence contrasts what Minor was doing—uploading direct official soundtrack rips and then looping them with small audio edits—with preservation attempts based on in-game recordings as well as more transformative works (though it's not clear if Bungie agrees with this distinction). As a result of Minor's apparent actions, however, many in the latter group have also been wiped from YouTube.

As one example, the YouTube channel Promethean, Archival Mind uploaded music as it played in-game. While a few of those still exist, like the First Disciple raid boss fight, many others were deleted during the takedown spree to avoid losing the entire channel. While there are offline backups, Promethean wrote in a March update on YouTube that they would be getting prior approval from Bungie directly before moving ahead with future projects. On Twitter yesterday they simply wrote, "Well... there's a twist I didn't see coming…"

"[Minor's] decision was, ultimately, a terrible attempt to draw attention to an issue that resulted in destroying the thing he cared about," Promethan told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. They also said there's still an "ongoing dialogue" with Bungie about what kinds of Destiny music can be uploaded to YouTube moving forward.

Bungie isn't taking the alleged offenses lightly either. The studio is seeking "damages and injunctive relief" over what it says is economic and reputational harm arising from the incident. Those damages include "$150,000 for each of the works implicated in the Fraudulent Takedown Notice," for a total penalty of $7,650,000 plus legal fees. Just last week, Bungie won a settlement of twice that in a dispute with a Destiny 2 cheat seller. Minor's YouTube channel, on the other hand, has less than 3,000 subscribers.

Update: 6/23/22, 2:15 p.m. ET: Bungie acknowledge the lawsuit in its weekly blog post update on Destiny 2 and said it's now moving forward with processing license requests for archived music uploads. Here's the full statement:

In a previous TWAB, we let everyone know that a series of copyright takedown issues on YouTube had been identified as being fraudulent by someone impersonating our intellectual property protection service. We wanted to give a brief update and let everyone affected know that we have identified the individual responsible and we are taking legal action.

We take these matters seriously and will invest the time and resources required to protect our community from malicious actors.

That said, do not attempt to harass, attack, or pile onto this individual. Any direct outreach not by Bungie's legal team could impair our ability to address the harm done to our community, which is our priority. We have your backs on this and will make sure this individual meets with the future they deserve. Much though we appreciate the sentiment, we aren't asking for your help in making that happen.

Now that this person has been identified, it has removed some challenges we faced in reviewing license requests for archived music uploads. If you have been waiting for these, thank you for your patience, and we hope to get back to you in the next few weeks.

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