Club Penguin Online, one of the largest Club Penguin fan servers, shut down Friday after The Walt Disney Company issued a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice earlier this week. According to BBC, a London man involved with the server was arrested on suspicion of child pornography.
Club Penguin Online, an unlicensed revival of the popular Disney-owned children’s social network, is one of the largest fan replicas of the game, accruing over 8 million users over the last two years. In a now-removed blog from this week, Club Penguin Online wrote that the game would no longer be running “after May 2020” as the result of a copyright claim. The notice, which is available in full through the nonprofit Lumen Database, says the site “is an unauthorized version of the Club Penguin game and contains infringing copyrighted content.”
Club Penguin appears to have complied with the order; as of publication, the website is no longer available.
“If anyone does try to revive the game, it’ll be extremely difficult now as you’ll have to worry about Disney, and in all honestly, it isn’t worth it,” the admin wrote.
A BBC investigation found that the Club Penguin Online game was not being moderated by staff, and it was littered with racist and anti-semitic content. A London man associate with the website was arrested for suspicion of possessing child abuse images by Metropolitan Police, according to BBC. That man was released on bail. It’s unclear if the child pornography arrest was related to the project’s broader moderation issues.
Club Penguin Online and Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment fro The Verge. However, Disney did tell BBC Friday, “Child safety is a top priority for the Walt Disney Company and we are appalled by the allegations of criminal activity and abhorrent behaviour on this unauthorised website that is illegally using the Club Penguin brand and characters for its own purposes.”
Disney continued, “We continue to enforce our rights against this, and other, unauthorised uses of the Club Penguin game.”
Disney purchased Club Penguin in 2007 and officially shut the game down in January 2017 after it had seen a dramatic drop-off in users over the years, according to TechCrunch. Soon after its closure, Disney launched Club Penguin Island, which received plenty of criticism from the old game’s fans for lacking popular features in the original game. By the end of 2018, Disney shut down Club Penguin Island, too.
Since the 2017 shutdown, people started launching their own unlicensed versions of the game like Club Penguin Online and Club Penguin Rewritten so fans could continue to play the games into the future.
As social distancing orders have gone into effect across the globe, old fans of Club Penguin, Minecraft, and Webkinz have returned to their former favorite games. This spring, popular artist Soccer Mommy played a live music set in Club Penguin Rewritten as part of a larger wave of in-game concerts during the pandemic.
“We would like to thank you all for making this journey a memorable and enjoyable one, despite the rocky ending,” Club Penguin Online’s blog post read.
Updated 5/15/20 at 2:29PM ET: Included new information revealed by BBC.