NotGTAV And The Strange Ways Copyright Screws With Everyone
from the stealing-the-show dept
If you pay any attention to Valve’s Steam platform, you’ve probably already at least heard about the hot-selling game NotGTAV. The game, just to be clear, is not Grand Theft Auto 5. It’s actually not even close. It’s a parody game, built to play more like a clone of Snake or something similar. But it is most certainly not GTA5. And nothing in the game is GTA5 either. Here’s how the developers of the game explain themselves:
This game is a parody. It is definitely, positively and (hopefully) legally, not the game Grand Theft Auto Five. Sure, it’s called NotGTAV, but those letters stand for Great Traffic Adventure and the V is silent. Like the one in “lawsuit” (which, you’ll notice, is also invisible).
This short tour of the glories of the UK’s M4 corridor is easy to play, hard to master, addictive, very funny, and cheap. 100% of the profits from this game go to young people’s charity Peer Productions. Without Peer Productions the NotGames team would never have met. By buying this game you can help us pay something back.
Now, a parody game would be protected as fair use and going legal on a game that is built specifically to give money to charity would be a public relations nightmare. Not that any of that kept the game from being removed from Steam over a copyright claim, of course. The inevitable claim came and Steam took the game down from the marketplace. Everyone immediately thought that Rockstar games had been the one issuing the takedown, even though the fact that the GTA series essentially relies on parody to exist and survive the lawsuits idiotic celebrities have levied against the company. Indeed, when Steam informed the developers of the takedown, its notice named an employee of Rockstar as the complainant. And so the developers put their plan B into effect.
“We’re currently in the process of getting our game back on Steam, by re-branding to NotDMCAV,” Kendall said earlier today, shortly after NotGTAV’s removal from Steam. “The issue that Rockstar took was with the usage of ‘the Grand Theft Auto V acronym and title GTA’—apparently you can now own a series of letters, even it’s already a police crime in the first place. Our initial reaction was—and remains—that we’re protected under parody protection laws, and we’ve made it clear that we’re not accepting in any way, shape or form that we’ve infringed copyright, we’re just trying to be as compliant as possible right now.”
While I love some good snark as much as anyone, it turns out this good snark was wholly unneccessary. As the team worked to rebrand their hot-selling game, which involved a hell of a lot of work, they were also working with Steam to figure out just what the hell was going on. Turns out, Steam put the original title back in the marketplace having found that the complaint from “Rockstar” was actually “bullshit.”
In what has quickly become the weirdest day of our lives, and one of the most hectic, we’ve just received news from Valve that the plaintiff of our DMCA is now being treated as a false complainant.
We’re half-way through rebranding the game as NotDMCAV, and the store page we’ve designed gives us a huge giggle, so we’re leaving you some of our new artwork (you may be able to tell it was done in a bit of a hurry) for a couple of days but, as we’re not being sued, the name and game will be remaining the same.
So good on Rockstar for not filing this complaint and great for the developers, but all this shows is why the permission culture and takedown-first attitude make d-bags out of everyone else. The summary here, should you lose sight of it due to the NotGTAV folks’ awesome attitudes, is that some nobody put in a copyright claim that took their work off the market, caused them to begin work rebranding, even though that work wasn’t necessary, and then Steam put the game back up. In other words, the mere existence of the claim is all it took to keep the sales from rolling in, even if only temporarily. That’s bullshit. It’s a wonderful example of how copyright laws and the way that platforms like Steam choose to interact with those laws is a clamp on legitimate speech and art, not to mention tools for jerks to screw with content producers.