With cease and desist letter, Hasbro has shut down an unauthorized online multiplayer game that featured the characters from their widely popular cartoon, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
ToastyJustice , the moderator of My Little Pony Online (found at MLPonline.net) stated on their website that:
Just over a month ago, we released our first episode of our game. After a year and a half since the outset of the project, we were happy to present our first Episode to you. Though our servers suffered, we were pleased with the response and the great feedback we received!
Shortly after that–exactly 4 weeks prior to now–we received a complaint about copyright and trademark infringement. We initially dismissed this it was most likely submitted by some trolls, as they could be submitted anonymously by anyone through our CDN. However, we continued to look into it, and by the following Monday, found it to be very real…
The matter was quite strict: there was little that we could do to work around it. We removed the download link and development was suspended. Discussions continued through the month, but it came down to one fact: MLP:Online had come to an end.
The MLP Online website now carries a disclaimer that they are not “affiliated in any way with Hasbro, Inc., Hasbro Studios LLC, MLP™, My Little Pony™, or My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic™.”
Hasbro is an American board game and toy company that was started by Henry, Helal and Herman Hassenfeld. In 1923, they started manufacturing school supplies and pencil cases. In the 1940’s, they moved on to making doctor kits. They gained momentum in the toy niche when they purchased Mr. Potato Head from its inventor in 1952. The brothers then produced the G.I. Joe toys. Hasbro has been producing the My Little Pony toy franchise since 1982.
The makers of the online game and curators of the online community and forum is a group of die-hard fans of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon. They have been dubbed “bronies,” and while they are usually thought to be older male fans, a “brony” can generally be anyone who is outside of the cartoon’s target demographic, which is geared toward a young female audience.
The online site came up in late 2011, and so did the development of the multiplayer game. The game was to be set in the same fictional world that is found in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cartoon, and also uses familiar characters, names and graphics from the show.
Though the owners of the MLP Online site seemed to be aware of the fact that their game was infringing on the Hasbro trademark, they went ahead and constructed the game anyway. However, they are not upset with Hasbro for issuing the cease and desist. The moderator of the online fan site stated that, “Hasbro is not to be blamed here. As per U.S. Trademark law, as soon as an infringement comes to light, they are obligated to defend the trademark, or they will lose it. They had no choice in the matter, regardless of what they thought of the project or how it benefited them. At this time, our game is no longer in development.”
In fact, about 75% of the developers of the game have formed a team that they call Starlight Studios and are working on another, unspecified project related to ponies. ToastyJustice writes: “While MLPOnline is officially dead and buried, the team is mostly sticking together. Some took their leave due to real-life considerations, but about 75% of the old team remains. We’ve officially changed our name to Starlight Studios, as per a team vote last week. We have selected a new project. It is pony related, but otherwise we’re keeping most of the details secret. It is our goal to have it completed by Bronycon 2013, though this may be ambitious.”
BronyCon is a convention held by and for fans of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and will be held in Baltimore, Maryland from August 2-4, 2013.
For a battle that could have ended with a big pony mess, this one ended rather quickly, quietly and nicely. For now, MLP Online seems to be abiding by copyright infringement laws in order to appease Hasbro. As far as whether or not the new project by the newly dubbed Starlight Studios will feature the actual characters from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic or if they will be granted permission by Hasbro to do so, only time, a group of brightly-colored ponies and fans, will tell.