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Once again, Riot Games is taking a Chinese mobile gaming rival to court over claims that it’s illegally copying intellectual property from its popular “League of Legends” franchise.
In recent years, West Los Angeles-based Riot has grown increasingly frustrated with a competing game developer called Moonton, which Riot claims is stealing IP and promotional tactics from “League of Legends” to use in a competing mobile title called “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.”
Last year, Shanghai-based Moonton was acquired for $4 billion by ByteDance. Yes, that ByteDance—the Chinese tech firm that owns video-sharing giant TikTok, whose Culver City offices are not far from Riot’s Sawtelle headquarters.
The latest legal spat, now playing out in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is part of a larger battle between ByteDance and Tencent—the rival Chinese tech conglomerate that took control of Riot Games in 2015—for control over what’s become a lucrative mobile gamer base. According to digital research firm Sensor Tower, games like “Mobile Legends: Bang Bang,” which fall into the mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) category, generated more than $300 million in average monthly revenues globally last year, up 14% from 2020.
In its lawsuit, Riot alleges that Moonton’s “Mobile Legends”—which counts 500 million downloads on Android since its release in 2016—rips off the aesthetic, characters and even the title of Riot’s “League of Legends” franchise, which was created in 2009. The complaint claims that since 2015, Moonton has engaged in a “deliberate and sustained campaign to free ride on Riot’s highly valuable rights” for “League of Legends,” calling the situation “blatant copying.” Riot actually sued Moonton in the same court in 2017 making the same argument—but a judge dismissed the suit, arguing that it should be heard in China instead. Now, Riot is trying its case again.
This time, Riot is taking issue with Moonton allegedly lifting from its newest “League of Legends” title, “Wild Rift,” which was released in the U.S. early last year. “New characters, settings, and objects are regularly copied from ‘Wild Rift,’” Riot notes in its new lawsuit, which was filed May 9. “Moonton often copies the modifications and updates, such that both games look and feel highly similar to gamers.”
In its complaint, Riot requests that Moonton return any profits it gained in the U.S. from copying its “League of Legends” games. “[Monday]’s filing follows years of serial copying,” a Riot spokesperson said in a statement to dot.LA. “This copying must stop.”
Representatives for Moonton and ByteDance could not be reached for comment. — Samson Amore
Executives at Netflix told staffers that they aim to introduce a cheaper subscription with ads during the final three months of 2022. The streaming giant plans to start restricting password sharing around that same time.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is set to become the Philippines’ next president. His campaign paid social media influencers to publicly support him. Researchers say TikTok’s lack of transparency regarding its algorithm and misinformation on the app influenced the election.
On this episode of Behind Her Empire, the founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers discusses how she built a successful company without investors, a degree or background in the industry she chose to focus on.
What We’re Reading Elsewhere...
- Zooey Deschanel talks about launching ecommerce platform Merryfield.
- L.A.-based EVgo partners with Portland, Maine on its electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Unagi launches its venue-based micromobility sharing network in L.A.
- Activision subsidiary Raven Software prepares for a union vote.
- Indoor agtech startup Smallhold opens a facility in L.A. focused on organic mushrooms.
- L.A.-based "healthy light" startup Korrus acquires LED company Circadian ZircLight.
- Santa Monica-based My Code, an agency focused on building brands more diverse audiences, acquires Spanish language media giant Impremedia, the publisher of La Opinión and El Diario.
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- Riot Games Investigating Esports Team Founder Andy Dinh - dot.LA ›
The digital copyright management system Pex scored a $57 million investment as it attempts to become a larger player online.
Chinese conglomerate Tencent and its subsidiary Tencent Music Entertainment participated along with investing firms the CueBall Group, NextGen Ventures Partners, Amarinthine and others.
Pex has built what it calls its "attribution engine" — free for rights holders and creators — to identify, attribute and license content on the internet.
The volume of music and video on the internet has grown exponentially with the popularity of social media and other online channels. In 2018, for example, 621 hours of content were uploaded to YouTube every single minute, said Pex Head of Business Development Wilson Hays.
Pex, founded in 2014, would not say what platforms it works with but said that its service helps these companies remain in legal compliance and limit the need to take down unlicensed material. Last year Pex bought Dubset, a rights management platform for music used on streaming services.
Governments across the world are rethinking what responsibility platforms should have for the content they publish. In the EU, for example, a new law coming into force this summer will effectively shift the burden of copyright compliance to platforms, and add new guidelines asking rights holders to make greater efforts to license music and other content that appears on its site. In the U.S., Congress has floated making illegal streaming a felony as part of its stimulus bill discussions.
"We don't see that there's a way to do that currently without some sort of underlying infrastructure that can tie multiple sides together," Hays said.
Beyond working with the typical stakeholders, Pex partners with law enforcement agencies to help them identify and prevent toxic content from appearing on user-generated content platforms, Hays said.
"It's not just enterprise software," said Hays, "It's really becoming more of a marketplace," adding that new partnerships and customers the company plans to announce in the coming months will show that in a new light.
- The EU's Article 17 Is Already Changing Digital Music Deals - dot.LA ›
- LA's Music-Tech Startups Are Poised to Reshape the Industry. - dot.LA ›
- Parallel Systems Emerges from Stealth with $50 Million - dot.LA ›
A consortium including the Chinese-based music platform Tencent Music Entertainment announced Friday it has bought another 10% stake in Universal Music Group, which values the company at 30 billion euros. It bumps the consortium's total stake in the L.A.-based music giant to 20%.
The move will help TME's parent company Tencent broaden its reach as a leading player in music and gaming across China.
"Tencent owns the three largest digital music services in China and has been investing in other services and music-based content around the world," said Larry Miller, a professor music business at NYU Steinhardt. "It provides a view of what is happening on the supply side at the world' largest music company."
The transaction is slated to close in the first half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals, TME said.
UMG's parent company Vivendi SA also said Friday it has plans to sell additional minority stakes in Universal ahead of a listing in 2022.
The French media conglomerate said it would use cash from these transactions to reduce financial debt and finance share buyback and acquisitions.Last month, Tencent acquired a minority stake in the L.A. virtual concerts company Wave and it also owns stakes in Spotify and Warner Music Group.
- Where Is the Investment in New Music Technology Going? - dot.LA ›
- LA's Music-Tech Startups Are Poised to Reshape the Industry. - dot.LA ›
- Warner Music Partners with Virtual Concert Platform Wave - dot.LA ›