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One Developer Gets GTA3 And Vice City Source Code Un-DMCAd On GitHub

from the rockstar dept

The strange flip-flop by Rockstar Games on being open and cool with its fans continues. By way of context and a bit of throat clearing, recall that Rockstar is both the company that whipped out the ban-hammer on Grand Theft Auto 5 players over the use of mods, and the company that paid out money to a modder that fixed that same games long loading times. In addition, Rockstar is both the company that happily used intellectual property to try to silence a documentary while also being the company that enthusiastically embraced gamers making short films out of GTA footage.

In other words, when it comes to being open with the gaming and modding community surrounding its games, Rockstar has something of a dual personality. The restrictive side of the company is the one that showed up early in 2021 when a bunch of GTA fans managed to reverse engineer the source code for GTA3 and GTA: Vice City.

Deriving the source code through reverse-engineering was a huge milestone for the GTA hacking scene. Players would still need the original game assets to run either classic GTA title, but with accessible source code, modders and devs could begin porting the game to new platforms or adding new features. That’s exactly what’s happened this past year with Super Mario 64.

A week after the code went public on GitHub, Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive, issued a DMCA takedown claiming that the reversed-engineered source code contained “copyrighted materials owned by Take-Two.” GitHub pulled the fan-derived code and all its related forks.

Entirely too often, that would be the end of the story. Modders and enthusiasts go out and try to do something cool with a Rockstar game, get their hands slapped, and give it all up. That didn’t happen in this case. Instead, one developer out of New Zealand, named Theo, issued a counter-notice to GitHub. Theo’s notice explained that, no, the code that had been produced did not contain the original work done by Rockstar. Instead, this was all brand new coding done by these fan-developers to produce essentially the same game. As Theo explained, this new code functions like the original source code, but is not identical.

As of now, Theo’s fork has been restored to GitHub. And, now, everyone waits to see if Rockstar wants to turn this all into an actual legal battle or not.

While it’s possible Take-Two could challenge Theo’s counter-claim in court at a later date, this is still a nice win for the Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City modding scene. It’s also another reminder that modders, pirates, and fan developers are often the only ones doing the work to keep old games around in an easily playable form.

One would hope Rockstar would see the wisdom in letting this go. It seems hard to imagine how this reverse-engineered code and it allowing modders to try and do new and interesting things with two games that are 20 years old at this point could somehow be a serious threat to Rockstar. More to the point, this is an opportunity for the company to instead embrace and encourage its fans to do these new and interesting things, potentially keeping alive the interest in these games and the franchise as a whole.

As to whether Rockstar will see the wisdom in that, well, for now we wait.

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Companies: rockstar

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Comments on “One Developer Gets GTA3 And Vice City Source Code Un-DMCAd On GitHub”

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11 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Works alike, but is NOT the original source code

Sounds familiar:

"Instead, one developer out of Finland, named Linus Torvalds, issued a counter-notice to BullyBoy Incorporated. Torvald’s notice explained that, no, the code that had been produced did not contain the original work done by BullyBoy. Instead, this was all brand new coding done by independent developers to produce essentially the same outcomes. As Torvalds explained, this new code functions like the original source code, but is not identical."

By the way, is Rockstar running on fully licensed Oracle Unix?

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Historical Precedent is our guide

Precedent is pretty solid on this one. Reverse engineered code is not copyright infringement, as set forth in the landmark Atari versus Nintendo. Reverse engineering code is listed as needing to be fair use, otherwise it breaks the Idea/Expression dichotomy.

Otherwise known as the Tengen case, a pretty clear precedent exists. Assuming the source code was developed with "clean hands", and the github only hosts the code, not the still under copyright assets, it is not infringing.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Historical Precedent is our guide

Let me walk you through this, since you managed to read the article and not understand.

The article title tells you this article is about the DMCA. The DMCA is a US Law. You should assume US Law applies to the statements from the developer I was responding to.

Seriously, every time a DMCA case with a a foreign connection comes up one of you chucklefucks comes around and drops the childish "Why does US law apply" troll despite the entire article centering around US Law, because the DMCA is entirely US Law.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Historical Precedent is our guide

I don’t think you explainrd that very well James, you should have mentioned that the Github is controlled by an american company (Microsoft), and therefore subject to dmca. If the servers were controlled by a non-american company, then yes, the dmca wouldn’t necessarily be valid.

David says:

One would hope Rockstar would see the wisdom in letting this go.

That’s not how companies work. If a company employs a gardener, there will not be a front-facing unmowed lawn regardless of the botanical reasons that may lend a preference to that option.

"I don’t pay you to have that unkempt crap in my face." If it’s the fad of the year, there may be a botanically irrelevant fenced area of a few square feet with proper self-gratulatory signs. But it will go once the novelty expires.

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