How Bungie Found the Sender of Many Fake DMCA Notices

Dave Harvard
Reading time: 8 minutes

Bungie filed a lawsuit in the US to get millions of dollars in damages after unknown people sent many fake DMCA notices to YouTube while pretending to be its anti-piracy partner. At the time, no one knew who the “Doe” defendant was. This is how a Bungie investigation followed digital footprints to find and name and address of that person.

This year, Bungie and its passionate group of Destiny fans experienced disruption because of this incident.

Using the DMCA’s “takedown” process as a weapon, unknown people were sending copyright notices to YouTube. They said the videos in question were breaching Bungie’s rights and should be removed immediately.

YouTube started getting rid of videos, even from some well-known Destiny content creators. Other messages went to Bungie’s channels, making the Destiny community confused and angry.

Even though Bungie supports fan-made content and lets fans post videos to YouTube, more and more fans started to think that Bungie was to blame. Since Bungie’s reputation was at stake, it did a lot of investigating and later found out that the takedown notices were all fake, and it wasn’t to blame.

Late in March, Bungie did something strange: it filed a lawsuit in a court in Washington. It showed in detail how two Google Gmail accounts pretended to be CSC, Bungie’s partner in combating piracy. The accounts then started sending fake requests to YouTube to take down videos.

The scale of the problem was enormous, and Bungie’s complaint didn’t pull any punches. In addition to the damages related to the fake notices, the company also filed claims for copyright infringement, false identification, business defamation, breach of contract, and consumer protection law violations.

The first problem for Bungie was that before filing the lawsuit, the company either didn’t know who did it or couldn’t prove it. This week, Bungie filed a first amended complaint. This complaint is a big step forward because it names a single defendant as the person responsible. It also shows how Bungie discovered that the person who came up with the DMCA scam was one of its customers.

Bungie Gets to Work

When Bungie first tried getting information from Google and YouTube, they encountered problems. The company tried to use the DMCA to obtain a warrant from Google. Still, the chosen method only let Bungie find an alleged copyright infringer, not the sender of allegedly abusive DMCA notices.

Google didn’t agree at first, but after some work, Bungie started getting the information it was looking for earlier this month.

On June 10, 2022, Google gave “significant information” about the accounts used to send fake notices. [email protected] (the Wiland account) and [email protected] (Reynolds account). Google also gave a list of every takedown notice sent from the account holders and copies of all correspondence between Google and the accounts, and a log of the IP addresses used to access them.

The logs revealed that a particular IP address (ending in .241) consistently accessed Wiland and Reynolds accounts, which was traceable to merged Communications, a residential ISP serving Rocklin, California. On March 22, the Reynolds account logged out of Google. Less than a second later, the Wiland account logged in, suggesting the same person was behind both versions.
But Bungie had more. Much more.

IP Addresses find the Offical Accounts and Physical Address

Same thing. The IP, as mentioned above, address 241, also used to send rude emails to CSC, the company Bungie uses to stop piracy. Even worse, two official Destiny 2 accounts were involved in this. One of these accounts bought the Destiny 2: The Witch Queen OST in hard copy. After that, it reached a physical address in Rocklin. With the purchase, the buyer got an email with a link to download an emblem as a bonus. When the person clicked the link, Bungie kept track of it. 241 IP number.

At this point, the net was complete, but Bungie kept looking for clues. [email protected] got a clickable emblem link, and a YouTuber named “Lord Nazo” received a fake DMCA notice from the Wiland Google account during the chaos of the hoax notice campaign.

Lord Nazo must have been upset by this unfairness because he sent YouTube a DMCA counternotice in which he criticized the wave of fake notices. He also stated that his video didn’t break the law because it was a “transformative case of fair use.”

Lord Nazo’s counternotice had his email address, [email protected], which connected him to the Bungie Destiny account. It also said that the person lived in Rocklin, California. Whether by accident or on purpose, it also revealed his real name, Nick Minor.

From Bad to Worse and Beyond

Bungie had problems with Nick Minor and his “Lord Nazo” YouTube channel as early as December 2021. At the time, they had no idea how bad things would get.

After the channel posted The Last Stand, a track from the Taken King OST, Bungie’s anti-piracy company, CSC, sent a DMCA takedown notice to the channel. On January 25, 2022, the video disappeared. On the same day, Minor made the Wiland Google account that eventually started sending some of the fake notices.

Minor started putting songs from the Witch Queen OST on his ‘Lord Nazo’ YouTube channel after he bought it and got it in Rocklin. Around March 2, 2022, CSC started a series of 41 DMCA takedowns, 23 of which were for Minor’s uploads. The next day, YouTube shut down his channel for breaking the rules repeatedly.

Minor went on Twitter and complained directly to Bungie. He asked the company to take back the copyright complaints so he could get his YouTube account back. On March 16, Minor sent out another tweet.

“This is getting out of hand. Bungie needs to rectify these copyright takedowns and lock down their brand management,” he wrote.

The next day, a bunch of fake notices started arriving from YouTube. Thirty-six came from Wiland’s account, one from [email protected], and another from a Google account (Averz account). Bungie thinks that Minor meant to send that notice from the Reynolds account because a similar statement was sent from the Reynolds account soon after.

No one knows if switching accounts had anything to do with it, but on March 18, Google labeled both notices as fake and asked Minor to show proof of his identity. Minor then switched to the Wiland account to send more fake takedown notices. When Google asked him to prove his identity on the Wiland and Averz accounts, Minor canceled the takedown notices in question.

Creating trouble, playing the victim, and making things worse

When Google asked Minor for documents, he sent messages to Bungie accounts from his “Lord Nazo” Twitter account. “It seems like it’s not just the music community getting hit. 2 non-music channels cannot be a mistake,” he tweeted. “Either someone is making fake copyright claims on behalf of @Bungie or their CSC is out of control.”

On March 20, Minor replied to a tweet from Bungie that said the company wasn’t behind the takedown campaign. I just knew it wasn’t you guys,” he tweeted back at Bungie. “I just couldn’t believe that you’d do this to us after 8 years. I’m so glad I was right.”

After three days, Minor directed a tweet toward YouTube. “@TeamYouTube People with Destiny 2 content on their channels have been getting hit with fake takedowns and even Bungie confirms the takedowns aren’t legit. My channel even got terminated because of all these fake takedowns. Is there anything you can do about this?”

Minor then tweeted again at Bungie to say that his videos were not restored. In another tweet to YouTube on March 26, Minor asked YouTube to bring back his videos because the DMCA notices were fake. They were real because Bungie had sent them before.

VPN Deployment Came Too Late

At this point, news of Bungie’s lawsuit started to show up online. This lawsuit led Minor to use a VPN to get into the accounts of Wiland and Reynolds. But VPNs can’t change the past, and in this case, even if Minor had used one from the start, it probably wouldn’t have helped him get away with his campaign.

For example, Minor has been using the same email address on many sites for a long time. As part of its investigation, Bungie researched the data that became made public after the hacking and cheating site after breaking into it in 2016. The company searched its database and found three email addresses for Minor related to a fake DMCA campaign.

For the OST to be sent to California, the first address, [email protected], was given. That address was the one to send the YouTube counternotice linking Minor to the “Lord Nazo” channel, revealing Minor’s real name and address.

The second, [email protected], was used by mistake to send a fake DMCA notice, and Minor used the third, [email protected], to sign up for his Destiny account at Bungie.

Dave Harvard Author

Dave Harvard is a symbolic persona representing an individual whose talents and expertise rival those of a Harvard graduate. Embodying this character, VPNipedia proudly delivers top-notch, Harvard-quality articles for our discerning readers.

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