Copyright Claims Board Consolidates Games Workshop Claims

In September, Games Workshop filed 12 claims with the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) against Eamann M Ghasemy, also known as EmanG online.

According to the claims, Ghasemy extracted models from video games and converted them to a format that could be used by 3D printers, allowing others to print those models. He posted his ripped models for free on the website Cult3D and shared altered versions with extra support elements on his Patreon.

Games Workshop filed 12 different claims. All the claims were the same, except for the specific work(s) involved. Each claim requested the maximum damages of either $15,000 per work or $30,000 per claim.

At the time, it was an unusual move for a large company to use the CCB to target such a high-volume infringement. This was especially true given the CCB’s lack of injunction authority, meaning that it couldn’t bar Ghasemy from continuing.

However, in January, Ghasemy shut down his operation. In a farewell post, he announced that he was taking all his models offline and that he would “likely have to file for bankruptcy” with the damages being sought.

Despite the closure, the case has continued. In late January, Ghasemy registered with the CCB and appointed a representative. With that, the cases entered the “active phase” and a response from Ghasemy is due by April 15, 2024.

In the meantime, the CCB has consolidated all the cases between the two parties. This is a first for the CCB in its nearly two years of operation. It also has significant impacts that both watchers of this case and followers of the CCB need to be aware of.

What Consilidation Means at the CCB

Consolidating similar cases is a fairly common practice in regular courts. When similar cases involve the same parties, it’s not uncommon for courts to combine them to save time and resources.

However, this practice has been much less common at the CCB. Simply put, most cases at the CCB have been one-offs. Even cases involving the same claimant, such as those filed by Joe Hand Promotions, have distinct facts that must be examined individually.

In that regard, the Games Workshop claims were unique. Filed back-to-back, the parties and the facts of the different claims were identical. The only thing that changed were the specific works in question. As such, the CCB felt it was appropriate to combine the cases.

Combining the cases means that only one of the claims, namely the first one, will be used for all the claims. For the purposes related to “discovery, written testimony, and hearings”, only the first claim will remain active.

However, the consolidation does not impact determinations or damages. This means that, if the claim does reach a final determination, each claim will still get its own determination and damages award.

For Games Workshop, this is the best of both worlds. They get a streamlined process where only one claim is active but can still collect damages on all 12 separately. This is very important because the CCB restricts damages to either $15,000 per work or $30,000 per claim. If they were all one claim, the most Games Workshop could ask for is $30,000. This raises that cap to $360,000 (though it’s actually less because not all claims have two works attached).

This also benefits Ghasemy, though admittedly not as much. He doesn’t have to respond to or manage 12 separate claims, but still faces the same mount of damages. Still, this decision streamlines his defense and likely lowers his legal costs.

In the end, the move helps both sides, but ultimately gives a bigger benefit to Games Workshop.

What’s Next?

What’s next for the case, most likely, is a settlement. The case has already been postponed once due to settlement discussions. Given the nature of the case, a settlement seems to be in the best interest of both sides.

Simply put, Ghasemy’s infringement is clear, and he likely can’t pay the damages that Games Workshop wants. With the operation shuttered, both sides just need to agree on the details to reach a settlement.

If that doesn’t happen, Ghasemy’s response to the claim is due April 15 and discovery will take place after that. If a determination is made in the case, it likely won’t be until fairly late this year.

However, I see that as fairly unlikely given the facts of this case. While it is always impossible to predict where a case or a claim goes, all signs in this case point toward a settlement.

Bottom Line

The CCB’s rules have allowed combining or consolidating proceedings since the beginning, but this is the first time we’ve seen it happen. Interestingly, it wasn’t Games Workshop that pushed for the consolidation, but the CCB itself.

While nothing about this would be unusual in a regular court, it’s a highly unusual move for the CCB. This opens the possibility of using the CCB for cases like this where each infringement is a small claims case, but there are many infringements to deal with.

However, those cases are rare for the CCB. The vast majority of CCB cases involve either just one or two works, meaning that one filing is more than enough.

In short, stories like this one are edge cases for the CCB and aren’t representative of how it’s being used most of the time. Still, it is interesting to see, and it opens up the CCB to uses that others might not have thought of.

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