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Nexon America Inc., A Delaware Corporation v. Gurvinder Kumar

April 3, 2012

NEXON AMERICA INC., A DELAWARE CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GURVINDER KUMAR, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Otis D. Wright II United States District Judge

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT [41]

I.INTRODUCTION

Currently before the Court is Plaintiff Nexon America Inc.'s March 22, 2012 Motion for Default Judgment against Defendants Gurvinder Kumar and Jessica Kaplan (collectively "Defendants"). (Dkt. No. 41.) Having carefully considered the papers filed in support of the instant Motion, the Court deems this matter appropriate for decision without oral argument. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; C.D. Cal. L.R. 7-15. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion.

II.FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This action arises out of Defendants' alleged wrongful appropriation of Plaintiff's intellectual property for use in Defendants' for-profit venture "UMaple." Nexon is the copyright owner of the "massively multiplayer" online role-playing game MapleStory, in which potentially thousands of users simultaneously interact with each other and explore the fictional "Maple World." (First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 1, 2.) MapleStory has 6 million registered players in North America and 92 million registered players worldwide. (FAC ¶ 2.) While MapleStory players may register for and play MapleStory free of charge, Nexon generates revenue from its copyright by allowing players to purchase "virtual goods" from Nexon's "Cash Shop" using virtual currency known as "NX Cash," which players may purchse using actual currency. (FAC ¶ 19.)

To play MapleStory, registered players must download and install the MapleStory "client" on their computers. (FAC ¶ 20.) The MapleStory client contains an executable ".exe" file used to launch the MapleStory game program, as well as multiple files containing individual elements of the MapleStory game. (Id.) Once the MapleStory client has been installed, players must connect to Nexon's MapleStory Server online to play the game. (Id.) Nexon's MapleStory Server provides players access to the copyrighted MapleStory gaming environment and connects MapleStory players with each other. (Id.) When operated as Nexon intended, MapleStory cannot be played without both the MapleStory client and an active online connection to the MapleStory Server. (Id.) To prevent unauthorized access to, exploitation and modification of, and profit from MapleStory without its consent, Nexon has implemented a number of access-control security measures to control unauthorized access to the copyrighted elements in the game client. (FAC ¶ 30.)

Defendants are the creators of the for-profit venture "UMaple." UMaple is a network of servers, websites, and related products and services that enables users to copy, access, and play MapleStory without Nexon's consent. (FAC ¶ 3.) To create the UMaple Network, Defendants allegedly copied MapleStory, altered aspects of the game for use on the UMaple servers, and distributed the adapted version to others. (Id.) Defendants induced members of the public to download and copy Defendants' version of MapleStory in violation of Nexon's copyrights and Terms of Service. (Id.)

Plaintiffs contend that in doing so, Defendants also circumvented Nexon's access-control security measures and trafficked in devices intended to circumvent those measures in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act ("DMCA"). (Id.)

To play MapleStory on Defendants' UMaple servers, a user must register for an account with UMaple and obtain a copy of Defendants' modified version of the MapleStory client designed for use on the UMaple servers. (FAC ¶ 43.) Plaintiff's discovery revealed that at least 17,938 people have created UMaple accounts. (Mot. 8.) Plaintiff avers that each of these people necessarily downloaded one or more of Defendants' modified MapleStore clients for use in connecting to the UMaple Servers and playing MapleStory without Nexon's authorization. (Id.)

According to Plaintiffs, the UMaple servers are designed to enable game play entirely separate from the authorized MapleStory environment, thereby depriving Nexon of profits it otherwise may have earned through players' purchase of virtual goods from the MapleStory Cash Shop. Defendants allegedly profit from their infringement of Nexon's MapleStory copyrights by encouraging their UMaple users to make "donations," for which UMaple users receive certain in-game enhancements in Defendants' version of MapleStory. (FAC ¶ 49; Mot. 19.)

As a result of these infringements, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Pardeep Kumar on August 23, 2011. (Dkt. No. 1.) Subsequent discovery revealed that Jessica Kaplan and Pardeep Kumar's neighbor, Gurvinder Kumar, were the proper defendants in this action. (Mot. 10.) Accordingly, on December 22, 2011, Plaintiff filed a notice of dismissal as to Pardeep Kumar and an Amended Complaint naming Gurvinder Kumar and Kaplan as defendants. (Dkt. Nos. 24, 26.) Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserted seven claims against Defendants for (1) copyright infringement;

(2) inducement to infringe copyrights; (3) contributory copyright infringement;

(4) vicarious copyright infringement; (5) violation of the DMCA; (6) breach of contract; and (7) intentional interference with contractual relations.

On February 7, 2012, the Clerk of the Court entered default against Kumar and Kaplan. (Dkt. No. 38.) Plaintiff now moves for ...


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