Hasbro Lawyers Stable My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic Fan Project

Since mid-2011 a small group of fans calling themselves Mane6 have been toiling away at a fighting game based on the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Working from a rudimentary knowledge of 2D Fighter Maker 2002, they built the fan project into a phenomenon unto itself.

They scouted sound-alike voice actresses, had composers create original music and painstakingly balanced and polished the fighting engine to a professional shine. Last month My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic was in the running to be featured at the 2013 Evo fighting game tournament.

Today Mane6 announced that they had received a cease and desist letter from Hasbro. They've pulled all content from their website, stripped their YouTube and Twitch.Tv accounts and closed up shop.

From the message on Mane6's front page (heartbreakingly titled "Not All Wonder is Endless"):

We have attempted negotiating with Hasbro for the continued use of the property in our non-profit, voluntary project, but so far we haven't received an answer. As such, we're complying with the contents of the C&D letter until we receive answer from their PR and/or Legal departments.

I've been following the game's development for the past year and a half and I figured this would happen sooner or later. The game did use the likenesses and names of Hasbro trademarks and despite there being no graphic violence in the game, showing popular cartoon characters battling each other isn't in keeping with the tone of the show.

The only real question here is why now? Perhaps the Evo tournament nod was a step too far for Hasbro. The company has been incredibly tolerant and even supportive of the show's mature fan base thus far, going as far as letting full episodes of the cartoon exist on YouTube without attempting to have them taken down.

With two members resigning over the past few weeks, even if by some miracle Mane6 and Hasbro came to some sort of compromise, it's likely the door has already closed on the two-year labour of love.

I had a chance to play Fighting is Magic briefly last year, and I have to say it was a damn good fighting game — probably too good to live.


    Well... on one hand, it's a shame that the hard work people put into the game has gone to waste, but on the other... it's a MLP game. It's kind of hard to feel bad for this game being shut down...

    What they really should have done was seek permission to undertake the project before they started, so they don't get into this kind of situation where they've lost 2 years of work when the inevitable cease and desist letter arrives.

      I've found that a lot of companies let you make fan games as long as you're not making any money from it. However, I think the whole EVO thing kinda set it off.

        Fan made or not, they still should have sought permission first before starting the project. When you are using someone else's intellectual property for anything, you are always running this risk.

          Actually, it could be argued they are technically within their rights to utilise the likeness of the ponies under fair use, specifically creating an artistic or satirical piece that is not intended for profit or commercial use in any way, that credits the copyright owners for the creation of the actual, and that is sufficiently different from the actual that it cannot be mistaken as being from the same authors. C&D letters are quite commonly issued by major companies to the creators of fan-based art and projects with very little legal backing, secure in the knowledge that the individuals cannot afford to defend themselves should it go to court. Often it is done by the legal teams without actual consultation with the copyright owner as the result of a contracted mission of attempting to be seen trying to protect the copyright. A number of my friends have received them, then contacted the company in question reminding them of fair use listing out the grounds for their non-compliance with the request. None of them have actually been taken to court to date.

      The sad thing is that even seeking permission isn't a guarantee. This is exactly what happened to the guys who were working on an extensive Streets of Rage project. They had gotten permission a couple of years earlier from Sega, but once the game was finished, they were told that they no longer had permission. The reason they were given for this? The person who initially gave them permission was no longer working with Sega. I'm sure that the mobile releases of the original games around the same time had nothing to do with it. :-P

    Surely now they just have to reskin it, though? I mean, I'm sure it won't be the same for them, but if they've already built a solid fighting game foundation Hasbro can't take that away from them. Build some original characters, free to release it.

      I was reading about this over at screw attack and apparently Lauren Faust has offered to help them with some new characters. Here's her twitter post https://twitter.com/Fyre_flye/status/300098640150687744

    that's sad, if hasbro was so against they should have asked them to stop much earlier, the game was close to finishing i believe...

    im not a MLP fan or a"broney" but i think its about time people who make stuff like this and the LOTR mod for skyrim turn around and tell the lawyers to go fuck themselves. the only a company should start sicking lawyers onto these things is when they try to make money off them.

      It doesn't really matter. While Hasbro is (as Mike said) pretty lenient about fans, they still need to be seen to protect their IP, even if the alleged offenders aren't making a buck off of it. I assume it has to do Hasbro having to fight bigger infringements upon their properties, and the potential for the weakening of their case if they let too many things slide. Of course, I'm no legal expert so I might be talking out of my arse.

      Currently, their Transformers brand is suffering from dudes in China and Japan making unauthorised toys based extremely heavily on Transformers characters. Basically, nobody would care about these toys if they weren't ripping off Transformers wholesale. Sadly, there are many, many manchildren fans who defend these "fan toy companies" because apparently if Hasbro doesn't make exactly what you want, right NOW, you evidently have the right to engage in bootlegging.

      Last year Hasbro lost a case against Asus over their Transformer Prime tablet. While it's true Asus' product trademarks were not in the same category as Hasbro's, it was rather cheeky considering the immense popularity of Michael Bay's movies in China and Taiwan, as well as the fact Hasbro currently produces an Emmy-award winning series called Transformers: Prime.

      You know what happens when one group of people turn around and do this? They get sued. And even if they had the financial means to attempt to fight such a thing, they wouldn't have a leg to stand on. They're creating something using someone else's IP WITHOUT PERMISSION, regardless of any attempt to benefit financially from it, and when asked to stop, chose to tell the IP owners where to go. Everything would end in the same way, except with those working on the project having much lighter wallets.

        You may want to research the term "Fair use" and how it applies to artistic work (and yes, the Smithsonian and the American courts have both recognised electronic games as a form of art) before you go throwing around comments like that. Most C&D letters are just bluff and nonsense from big companies that know full well they can outlast whoever they are directing the letter at should they actually try to take it to court, so regardless of the validity of their case for the C&D they will issue one. The primary reason for this is because if they aren't seen to at least try, some other douchebag will come along and attempt to profit off their work, or it will weaken an actually legitimate case that is presently in court because they supposedly failed to defend their IP, despite the fact the guy they just sent the letter to was quite within his rights to make a non-commercial, non-profit artistic work based on it.

          Not only am I aware of 'fair use' and what it entails, it also doesn't apply in any way here. And what point is it that you're trying to make, good sir/ma'am? It appears you wish to pick a fight, while at the same time filling your post with points that back up what I've just said.

            Actually it can be argued that it does apply. It is a fan-created artistic work, not for profit or commercial purpose. The fact it is a game does not make it not art, as my above post clearly states. In that case, the owner of the IP doesn't actually have the authority to demand they stop, unless there is some other law that applies of which I am unaware. If you have evidence to back up your claim that Fair Use does not apply, however, I would be interested to read it, because as far as I'm aware, there are no actual successful cases of this being prosecuted since games were declared an art form. So in fact my argument is against your claim that in court they wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

              It seems that you misinterpret what Fair Use entails. While I certainly agree with you in that video games can be art (and are classified as such), a derivative work having artistic merit does not classify it under Fair Use principles.

              Fair Use allows LIMITED use of copyrighted material without requiring express written and/or verbal permission from the rights holders under certain circumstances (assuming that it also falls within a four-factor balancing test). Some of these circumstances include (but are not limited to) research, news reporting, teaching, reviews (such as you would find in newspapers, websites such as Kotaku, etc.), internet search engines, and parody. Using My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic as an example, not only is utilising Hasbro's characters and settings in a fan-created project (regardless of artistic, financial or commercial intent) not a LIMITED use of Hasbro's copyrighted material, but it also doesn't fall under any of the circumstances covered under Fair Use. While Fair Use allows some leeway in whether something is classified as being covered by such based upon factors such as purpose and character, the nature of the derived work, the amount of copyrighted material within the derived work, and the effect it has on the rights holders' work's value, My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic is not covered due to it not being one of the circumstances covered under Fair Use.

              By virtue of My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic not being covered under Fair Use principles, it infringes on Hasbro's copyright. Therefore, the team who put it together would not have a legal leg to stand on if they chose to take the matter to court.

                the thing is though, how were Mane6 affecting the value of the original series, they were giving Hasbro FREE advertising
                so frankly you, sir are full of shit!

                  Hasbro doesn't really need this sort of "free advertising". This sort of game would mainly appeal to the "brony" crowd and any other adult who is into the internet fad, and as Mike said, having the characters fight each other is not in keeping with the tone and message of the series. First and foremost, My Little Pony is a kids show, and the fact that 20-30 year old dudes suddenly latched onto it is entirely unintentional. And in some cases, possibly unwelcome.

                  Trivia: Lately at BotCon (the official Transformers convention) and SDCC, whenever there's a Hasbro or Hasbro-related panel, some "brony" charges up and un-ironically demand they:

                  A. Make show-accurate Ponies, because the ones with brushable hair are apparently for babies.
                  B. Make a Transformers-Ponies crossover.

                  (Sadly, I am not exaggerating.)

                  Hasbro has been lenient, but as Mike said, this game being showcased at an event just pushed things too far. To those not in the know, the game rising to such prominence may have seemed as though Hasbro gave this project their official blessing.

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