Take-Two Interactive filed a copyright infringement lawsuit on September 2, 2021 against the developers of a GTA 3 mod that reverse-engineered the source code of wildly successful Grand Theft Auto 3. The source code, available on Github under project name Re3, makes GTA 3 available on unsupported platforms never released on: Nintendo Switch, Playstation Vita, and Nintendo Wii U. Additionally, these versions allow cheat codes. Both reverse-engineering and cheat codes violate Take-Two’s EULA.
Take-Two: “It’s Copyright Infringement.”
Are the developers of the Re3 mod liable for copyright infringement? Possibly. US Copyright protects the source code of software programs, including video games. (Here is a handy guide from the US Copyright Office on software copyrights.) This means that Take-Two reserves the right to stop others from publishing altered versions of the source code without their permission, which is exactly what the modders have done—and have publicly admitted to.
The claim states:
"...when Take-Two attempted to remove Defendants’ infringing source code from the Internet, at least three Defendants (acting in at least one instance with other Defendants’ participation and direction) knowingly filed bad faith counter notifications that materially misrepresented the legality of their content, apparently claiming that because they allegedly “reverse engineered” the Games’ source code, they somehow cannot be liable for copyright infringement. Yet while making this claim, Defendants also have bragged that their derivative versions of the Games are functionally and visually identical to the originals, and have even suggested they be used for unauthorized “modding purposes.”
In their claim, Take-Two states that the developers’ actions were “knowing, willful, and deliberate.” The game developer claims they are entitled to $150,000 in statutory damages for each infringed work (or damages determined at trial), a temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunction, and that Re3 hand over the modded source code.
Gamers, Mods, and the Rest of Us: “Yes, but… who cares?”
It’s no secret the gaming community loathes when a big, bad game developer swoops in and kills everyone’s fun. In August 2021, just weeks ago, Take-Two took action against a similar group, which Kotaku dubbed a “Grand Theft Auto Mod-Killing Spree.” There is speculation the crackdown is due to Rockstar Games’ rumored announcement of a Grand Theft Auto Trilogy remaster.
In July 2021, Take-Two Interactive filed a similar DMCA notice against one of the most beloved mods of GTA. The modder stated in a Twitter thread (embedded below):
"GTA modding scene has shaped generations of skilled people, either moving on to work on their own projects or in select cases even hired by Rockstar. This modding scene keeps these old games thrive years after release. Despite the fact modding was never supported, GTAs were always a test bed for those who wanted to challenge themselves and provide something cool for others. Rockstar used to acknowledge this, but now someone either in Rockstar or Take Two decided that they don't need modding anymore and are successively weeding it out, and no one knows how far they are going to take this."
Taking down re3 and GTA V map mods was not enough, now map mods for **GTA San Andreas** are being taken down. How long before this slippery slope kills all modding?— Silent (@__silent_) July 17, 2021
I think I'm just about done with GTA modding now. In 2014 modders' work would be boosted on Newswire… (1/5) pic.twitter.com/VFn9l6INlw
Are mods “bad”?
Depends on who you ask. Take Valve, for instance. The Seattle-based game developer and creator of PC game marketplace Steam, not only allowed mods, they embraced and ultimately bought them. Counter Strike: Global Offensive (colloquially known as CS:GO) started as a Half-Life 2 mod and Dota 2 started as a Warcraft III mod. Now, they are Valve’s most valuable assets with millions of players and a booming international esports scene. Valve reportedly makes billions alone in passive income from CS:GO alone through its internal ecosystem of buying/selling cosmetic items.
Complaint (Full Document)
Case: Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. v. Papenhoff et al, Docket No. 3:21-cv-06831(N.D. Cal. Sep 02, 2021)