Game Online taken offline
Japanese gaming news site is taken down following alleged copyright violations.
According to recent reports from numerous media outlets in Japan, including the Kyodo News, Japanese police recently arrested an individual who was allegedly releasing video game images on the Internet without proper consent from the game's publishers. The 26-year-old from Tokyo was charged with eight counts of copyright violations on game images that he distributed through an independent gaming news site named Game Online.
Police report that Game Online's administrator was distributing approximately 20,000 images taken from video games to the general public through his site, including shots from upcoming titles such as Final Fantasy XII, Dragon Quest VIII, and Resident Evil 4. While some of the images on the site were posted with permission, the suspect acknowledged that he was aware of the possible legal issues arising from posting other images without consent. The companies that are charging the site's administrator include Square Enix, Namco, Capcom, and SNK Playmore. All four companies are members of the Association of Copyright for Computer Software (ACCS), an organization active in protecting the interests of video game publishers since 2000. Game Online's site administrator is believed to have made between 100,000 yen (US $876) and 180,000 yen (US $1575) per month from advertisement revenues on the site.
Game Online was known as one of the largest independent gaming news sites in Japan, and it ran steadily for about a year before it was closed down without any prior notice on April 22. The site was closed following a police search at the site administrator's house that uncovered evidence leading to his arrest. The images that were hosted on the site were in no way exclusive, largely consisting of images available from official sites, direct screen captures from titles already in stores, and pictures and scans taken from other sites. This is the first time in Japan that any individual has been arrested for releasing what would be considered normal, nonadult-oriented video game images on the Internet.
The forced closure of Game Online has undoubtedly caused something of a commotion in the online Japanese gaming community, where sites, IRCs, and forums were quick to voice concerns about the Internet's freedom of speech and to make predictions about which site's administrator might be the next to get arrested. Unsurprisingly, a number of other independent gaming sites in Japan have been taking down game images following the news.