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Chinese ‘Developer’ Steals Game Engine, Sells it For Half Price

Recently we’ve been bringing you the saga of Cloudstone, a Western-developed indie game that was totally copied by Chinese “developers” and remains hosted on Tencent’s game platforms. Think that was just an isolated example? Think again.

Meet Impact, a Javascript game engine developed and sold by Dominic Szablewski that helps users make HTML5 games. Now meet Impact’s illegal ‘Chinese version’; an exact copy of Szablewski’s site and product that Szablewski has absolutely nothing to do with. The only differences are that the copied version costs way less, it comes with no after-sales support, and the money it generates is deposited into the bank account of a thief, not the engine’s real developer.

The real Impact site is on the left; the site illegally selling copies of Impact for half price is on the right

Szablewski says he first became aware of that someone in China was copying his website and illegally selling his game engine back in June. He told Tech in Asia:

I first tried to contact [the guy who stole my game engine] directly via email. Asked what he was up to and what it would take to make him stop. Obviously I never received an answer.

A few days later I emailed his hoster [the US-based Softlayer] with the request to suspend his account. Again, never received an answer.

On June 19th I registered an account on kilofox.net [the illegal Chinese copy's domain] to look at the site a bit closer. The response to this was a DOS attack on impactjs.com [the official Impact website] that brought the site down temporarily.

The copied site, kilofox.net, is registered to one Long Yang, and the address listed along with its registration is in Harbin, the capital of China’s Heilongjiang province, although the Kilofox site suggests Long may now live in Beijing. When contacted by Tech in Asia with an request for an interview, Mr. Long responded:

The website [kilofox.net] is mine, but the product is not mine. I don’t think an interview is necessary.

Further attempts by this site to contact Mr. Long have been ignored.

Interestingly, Long’s site is hosted by Softlayer, a US-based hosting company that one would expect to be more responsive to claims of copyright violation. But Szablewski says that Softlayer has not been helpful:

On July 5th I got someone from Softlayer on the phone who told me that they can only respond to DMCA takedown requests. So I prepared a DMCA and sent it via fax to Softlayer. I never heard back and finally gave up on the whole thing.

A Softlayer customer service representative confirmed to Tech in Asia that Softlayer does require a DMCA report to investigate copyright claims, but further requests for comment or clarification on this specific case went ignored by Softlayer. The copied site is still up and is conducting business as usual.

Needless to say, this whole incident has been quite damaging to Szablewski’s business:

The bottom line is: I don’t know how many sales I lost. Prior to all this, I sold about 3-6 licenses per month to Chinese customers. This has gone down to about 2 licenses per month, while sales for all other countries have gone up. With numbers this low, it’s hard to say if it’s a fluke or really a consequence of the Chinese clone.

Since kilofox.net went online, I received numerous emails from Chinese customers who were confused whether the site was legitimate. After I told them it was not, they expressed how disappointed and embarrassed they were that someone from their country stole my product.

It’s a tough situation really. It’s not so much the sales I lose because of this, but the reputation for the game engine. I.e. when someones buys it from the fake site and does not receive the service and updates they would get from me.

That’s all depressing enough, but here’s the reason why this kind of thing should be taken seriously by every single person doing business in China. Szablewski told Tech in Asia:

I had some very happy customers from China and I would love to continue selling it in China, but honestly, stuff like that makes it hard for me to see China as a viable country to do business in.

That attitude is pretty widespread outside China and, as this case and the case of Cloudstone illustrates, it’s not unfounded. Do the majority of people in China’s tech industry pull tricks this dirty and lazy? Of course not. But perhaps more could be done within the community to discourage this kind of copying because it is destroying China’s reputation as a good place for smart people in technology to do business.

It also seems like Softlayer should be taking this more seriously than it apparently is. Perhaps there was some problem with the DMCA report Szablewski submitted, but if that’s the case, Softlayer apparently considers itself above explaining that to us.

This kind of theft should be approached from several directions at once. China’s tech community needs to be more direct and more vocal about its distaste for this sort of behavior. Hosts — whether they’re American, Chinese or anything else — need to take copyright violations seriously and investigate and rectify problems swiftly. Ideally, the thieves would also be brought up of criminal charges or at least forced to provide financial compensation to the people they’ve stolen from. That last one may be more difficult to accomplish given the complex nature of international law, but the first two should be easy. Why aren’t they happening?



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