A Web3 platform was found to have stolen assets in both its design and content. W3itch.io claims it’s a “free-as-freedom open market” for games that focus on web3 technology like cryptocurrency and NFTs, but it appears to have stolen code from Itch .io and content from various creators.
What did W3itch.io steal and why?
The theft of Itch.io’s CSS by W3itch.io was first noticed by Itch.io owner Leaf Corcoran, who posted a screenshot of an exchange between him and the site yesterday. Corcoran accuses W3itch.io of “[ripping] off” his website and to steal content from RPGMaker.net “without the apparent consent of the creators”. He also posted a request on the W3itch.io Github project to “remove stolen intellectual property”, as the website is a fairly obvious scam of Itch.io’s interface. Corcoran also wants W3itch.io to change its name and “remove any resemblance” to Itch.io from the project. A quick look at the W3itch.io site makes it hard to disagree with Corcoran on this one as well. Not only is the name pretty blatantly just an abbreviated form of “Web3 Itch.io”, but the design is nearly identical. Here is a photo of the Itch.io Games page as it appears at the time of writing.
Now, for comparison, here is a photo of the W3itch.io games page, which is remarkably similar.
Remarkably, in light of these accusations, W3itch.io admitted to stealing CSS from Itch.io, which goes beyond mere design similarity. If the two websites had simply looked identical, we would be in the realm of trade dress law, which dictates how products look and feel. However, since the code is lifted in bulk, this dispute could potentially enter the world of copyright, which could have much more serious ramifications for W3itch.io. Website theft can be seen everywhere; the look and feel is identical and large swathes of text are outright stolen from Itch.io with just a few changes. An admission like this is highly unusual, as it could potentially give Corcoran reason to sue on copyright grounds.
It’s not just the code, though. W3itch.io is also accused of stealing games from famous creators RPG Creator RPGMaker.net repository, a claim supported by the website itself. Most, if not all, of the content on W3itch.io consists of games from the RPGMaker.net website, apparently hosted on W3itch.io without permission from the creators. Game creator AmonUK even filed a support issue on the W3itch.io Github page demanding the removal of one of their games, which the site does not have permission to host. It seems pretty clear that W3itch.io is, at best, a sleazy website built on stolen assets, and at worst, it looks like a naked attempt to scam people. Given Corcoran and Itch.io’s well-documented attitude towards NFTs, this should perhaps come as no surprise.
How did W3itch.io respond to these claims?
Since Leaf’s claims surfaced yesterday, the person responsible for running the W3itch.io Twitter account (since the corporate structure is a mystery) has been contrite, self-pityand occasionally strangely critical of the W3itch.io project as a whole, assuming they’re not being sarcastic. After being joined by the Itch.io community, W3itch.io asked if the redesign of the entire website and the redesign of all its content met with any approval, to which the answer seems to be an emphatic “no”. The site also seems to admit buy twitter account with pre-cooked subscribers and ripping off the Itch.io interface, though W3itch.io maintains that the code at the core of the site is different from Itch.io’s.
Regarding stealing content from RPGMaker.net, W3itch.io is trying to hide behind the excuse of preservation, saying many of the games hosted on its website are “in a dangerous state” and should be preserved like Flash games or DOS titles. The site says that most of the content on RPGMaker.net is in English, but there is “a global community” for RPG Creator 2003 and that many games fail to reach different communities due to translation issues. This is apparently why the site feels justified in hosting content over which it has no rights. In general, the W3itch.io Twitter account is a roller coaster ride of a reading; he veers wildly between emotional states and grievances, acknowledges theft and the need to start over, and attempts to elicit sympathy from what appears to be a very hostile audience.
It is not yet known how this situation will be resolved. W3itch.io expressed an intention to start from scratch and “clean up everything from the beginning to make it more legit,” but the site also said most of its users didn’t like its product and the site was “doomed.” It should also be noted that at the time of writing, the entire website remains accessible and none of the poorly hosted content appears to have been removed. We reached out to Itch.io’s Leaf Corcoran for clarification on this story and to ask if he intends to file a lawsuit against W3itch.io, and we also reached out to a W3itch.io developer. We’ll tell you more about this story as soon as we have it.