Games Workshop Files 12 Cases with the Copyright Claims Board

Based out of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, Games Workshop is a company that has become an international name due to its Warhammer universe and the extensive line of games and miniatures based upon it.

Over the years, the company has earned a reputation for aggressively defending its intellectual property, in particular its trademarks. This includes a 2013 dispute over the use of the term “Space Marine”, that led to widespread public backlash after Games Workshop got an unrelated book removed from Amazon. 

However, now the company has made an unusual move in that it has filed not one, but a dozen different claims with the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), all targeting the same individual over different alleged infringements (23-CCB-0285 through 23-CCB-0296).

The case is a rare example of a large corporation, in particular a corporation not based in the United States, using the CCB to target a smaller infringer. The vast majority of CCB cases involve either small businesses or individuals filing claims against alleged infringers of all sizes.

This raises some simple questions: What are the cases about? Why file so many separate cases with similar facts? And why use the CCB in the first place?

To answer those, we have to start with the claims themselves.

The Background of the Case(s)

Though Games Workshop has filed a dozen claims with the CCB, they all feature nearly identical language and are largely the same apart from the specific works highlighted in each one.

The claims all target a respondent named Eamann M Ghasemy, who uses the name EmanG online. 

According to the claim(s), Ghasemy extracted model files from a Warhammer video game, Total Warhammer, and converted them to a format that’s usable by 3D printers. They then claim he uploaded those files for free use on the website Cult3D.

Games Workshop then goes on to claim that Ghasemy operates a Patreon where, for a fee of $8 per month, users can obtain the same models, but with extra structural supports for easier printing. According to Games Workshop, the original files on Cult3D are not suitable for printing due to the lack of support and need to be edited to function.

Finally, the company alleges that Ghasemy also operates an Etsy account where he sells the prints themselves for $65 per print. That amounts to a steep discount for works that retail “between $100 and several hundred” dollars according to Games Workshop. 

Games Workshop claims that they first attempted to resolve this dispute by sending a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to Patreon. However, Ghasemy filed a counternotice, saying that the works were already available freely on Cult3D and, since only the supports were different, he felt that his Patreon was non-infringing.

Games Workshop alleges that Ghasemy ignored the fact that whether it was freely available elsewhere isn’t relevant and that he was the one who uploaded the files to Cult3D illegally. 

They also sent a cease and desist letter to Ghasemy, which they say went ignored.

As such, Games Workshop is seeking the maximum damages, $30,000, for each of the cases.

Why Use the CCB?

All this raises two simple questions: Why use the CCB? And why file so many cases?

On the surface, this seems like a natural case for a federal court. Games Workshop certainly has the resources to file such a claim, and the company claims that Ghasemy is making around $5,788 per month from his Patreon alone. 

To make matters worse, the CCB cannot issue injunctions, so, even if the CCB finds in favor of Games Workshop and awards significant damages, they still can’t order him to stop. 

So why use the CCB? The answer is that Games Workshop, most likely, didn’t want to invest a great deal of money in a case that may have uncertain returns. Though filing with the CCB can still be costly, especially if you use a lawyer, it is still an order of magnitude cheaper than going through a federal court. 

Second, it’s likely that Games Workshop likely felt they could collect reasonable damages by breaking the dispute up into multiple claims. As it’s filed, there are 12 separate claims involving a total of 14 different works.

If they were to receive the damages they requested, that would amount to $360,000 in statutory damages. However, that is not likely to happen. 

The issue is that, while the CCB does have a $30,000 damages cap per claim, the CCB also has a damages cap that is based on each work that is infringed. That cap is only $15,000. Since ten out of the twelve cases only involve one work, the total damages that could be up for grabs is $210,000.

However, it’s unclear if the CCB will allow this case to move forward in this way. This is the first time that one claimant has brought so many cases against one respondent. As such, the CCB may move to combine the claims into one claim with fourteen works, further reducing the damages to just the per-claim cap of $30,000.

Simply put, this hasn’t happened before at the CCB and that’s going to make these cases important to watch. It could point to a path where rightsholders who are dealing with a large amount of infringement from one respondent may be able to claim extra damages through the CCB.

Bottom Line

To be clear, this isn’t the first time that a large company has used the CCB to go after a smaller respondent. Last year, we looked at Paramount Pictures filing a CCB claim that targeted a company that did pop up restaurants based on Paramount-owned films

That case is now stayed as settlement talks continue between the two sides.

That is likely the desired outcome for Games Workshop as well, to bring Ghasemy to the negotiating table to broker a settlement. However, the more damages that Games Workshop can legitimately claim, the better their position is during negotiations.

Still, it’s always worth noting when a large company files a case with the CCB, especially when they are taking an unusual strategy, as Games Workshop is doing here.

These will be claims to watch moving forward. No matter what happens with them, they will go a long way in determining if and how larger corporations use the CCB, in particular to deal with repeated infringements by the same respondent.

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