Fans of Club Penguin were elated when the shuttered Disney game was resurrected as Club Penguin Rewritten, a fan-made recreation of the popular original. This week, though, their digital dreams were dashed once again when the site was shuttered and three people were arrested for allegedly distributing copyrighted material in connection with it.
Club Penguin Rewritten was launched in 2017, the same year its forebear shut down. The copycat was developed to mimic the original game as much as possible while also adding new content so that players could continue exploring a delightful world of anthropomorphic penguins. But active players of Club Penguin Rewritten were greeted with a stark black and white message from the City Police of London on the game’s homepage earlier this week: “This site has been taken over by Operation Creative, Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU).”
City of London Police confirmed the arrests to Gizmodo. Detective Constable Daryl Fryatt from the London Police Intellectual Property Crime said, “Three people were arrested on April 12 on suspicion of distributing materials infringing copyright and searches were carried out. They have been released under investigation and to aid with the police investigation, they agreed to sign over the website to the control of PIPCU.”
The shutdown came as a surprise. Disney—the company behind the original Club Penguin, and no stranger to closing other Club Penguin knockoffs—is also involved in the investigation, according to Club Penguin Rewritten’s creator. The Club Penguin Rewritten team voluntarily handed over control of the website to police earlier this week. The City Police of London and Disney have not yet returned a request for comment.
Administrator Thorn, who runs the imitation game, wrote in its official Discord channel: “CPRewritten is shutting down effective immediately due to a full request by Disney. We have voluntarily given control over the website to the police for them to continue their copyright investigation.”
After Club Penguin Rewritten was released in 2017, it saw consistent development and growth from users who want to relive their childhood memories of playing the original game, which was officially closed that same year. It seems, however, that growth came with a price tag.
“Of course, running a game like this costs money,” in-game moderator BigChun told Gizmodo. “Therefore ads were placed on certain parts of the game. We, or at least I, assume that’s how Disney got us.”
Since Club Penguin Rewritten is based on Disney’s intellectual property, the placing of advertisements to increase the game’s revenue likely violated the original Club Penguin’s copyright. But according to BigChun, ads weren’t placed on Club Penguin Rewritten until the summer of 2020, meaning this investigation and subsequent shutdown didn’t occur for close to two years.