Coup d’Box – The usurpation of BoxTorrents

June 28th, 2009 | by OsoMarron |

In the internet anime scene, few sites have become iconic as a core source of material. In these few days, we’ve been witness to one of those not-so-unusual internet dramas developing around one of these sites: BoxTorrents.

Long story short, two staff members, who at some point in the existence of the site participated joined in and helped with code upgrades, became worried about how exactly Box handled the donations, and later, through some data mining, concluded that there might have been an misuse of the donation funds. At this point they thought the most sensible course of action was to secretly dump the entire site’s code and database contents and take it with them to establish it in another domain under their full control.

Based on what both parties have explained, the two staff members who took over the site (from here on known as the usurpers), and Box, the creator/owner of the site (from here on known as the owner), they are all willing to let things go and move on. Of course, this doesn’t exclude the rest of us, watching from the sidelines, to give our opinions about how things have been handled.

I’m not going to go into the discussion of the donation handling, since no actual numbers were ever disclosed by any parties, and instead focus on what the usurpers did based on their information gatherings.

There’s probably not much the owner could have done, legally, since the site nature itself was not something you’d want to bring to the authorities attention. So that’s something the usurpers probably feel relieved about after the usurpation.

In my opinion, the most reasonable thing to do as a staff member would be, talking to the owner about their concerns, or even face him with the hard evidence and demand an explanation. Expose the case to the community if necessary, and step down if a resolution was not achieved. The main point of discussion cannot be whether there was a fund misuse, since a discussion start regarding that was not even attempted, but what’s clear is the fact that the usurpers gave themselves an attribution they shouldn’t have, since in the end the site did not belong to them, no matter how much work they may have put on it (remunerated or not).

It’s sad to see the owner being pushed out of the scene in such an underhanded way, but his comments on the matter made him go as quite a gentleman, letting go of his creation, concerned more about the community, instead of a bunch of php files and sql scripts.

A little too many “end of an era” these past few weeks, if you ask me.

Some ideas I wanted to reply to at the cloned site’s thread, where the owner expressed his point of view (a thread later closed, by the way).

A staff member replies to a user’s comment:

HiddenJumper : It was WRONG however cause again you guys “stole” BxT. It was Box’s idea and now you guys are mimicing it, short of having the same title. You guys claim he stole donations, well you guys are “stealing” his website.

xchiamiov : His idea, yes. His code, no. Ideas are “stolen” all the time – usually, it’s called inspiration, but sometimes we just use that as a euphemism.

It’s not like “inspiration” includes hardcopying an entire database off someone else’s server and claim you are now in charge of the userbase.

A couple of points another user made:

enginarc : I didn’t quite get “the financials over the web” excuse, however Box’s attitude towards what has happened is definitely mature.

Apparently both sides are OK with the situation, which is actually interesting.

As I stated above, it’s more like it’s useless (and even risky) for Box to call the authorities over this clear theft case, because of the grey area the foundation the site itself rests on, so the best thing to do is to not let it get to him and move on with his life. He did the right thing for the sake of his state of mind.

enginarc : Nevertheless the community is in more eager hands. Again, it is not the name that matters but the intentions and its underlying foundations.

Good luck in this new journey.

I’d like to be that optimistic, but sadly, this isn’t the first time I see online community staff being so drunk in power, that they actually lose the capacity of noticing when they step over someone else’s rights. And now that they got away with this, they probably will feel confident enough next time they feel like doing as they see fit, without regards for others. So I say good luck, but to the userbase who will have their data handled by these people.

And finally, regarding the assortment of comments about code and script ownership, most represented by a long post by kyanwan, which I’ll link instead of quoting, because of the length, tries to describe the legal implications of taking code / deleting code from a site, and who’s the actual owner of the code. To this, I’d simply say that the code was just the least of the concerns here. Try to look past the database and the bytes stored in it, and realize that what really mattered was the community (the human group whose presence is expressed by this group of bytes) being forcefully relocated under the command of a few, with no consultation at all.

  • loeakaodas

    lol, this just makes me laugh. I remember a similar situation with overly concerned admins doing the good for all concerned…