NotGTAV, which is not GTA V, was a hit when it released on Steam last week. Then it disappeared. The game is back now, a short-term victim of what seems to have been a bogus copyright claim.
Here’s what we know: NotGTAV, the cheap, funny parody game that was donating money to charity, disappeared from Steam. As developer NotGames wrote in a blog post, Valve apparently removed the game from Steam after receiving a DMCA copyright claim. Originally, they assumed it came from Rockstar. However, as it turns out, things are much more complicated—and stranger—than that.
I got in touch with NotGames, and they sent me the full message they allegedly received from Valve:
Valve received a DMCA copyright take down notice about your NotGTAV game on Steam, at [infringing Steam Link].
Andrew Youngs, on behalf of Rockstar Games, alleges that your game uses the Grand Theft Auto V acronym and title GTAV, and your game title infringes its copyright in http://store.steampowered.com/app/271590/.
As a result, we have unpublished your game from Steam.
NotGames told me they always knew something like this might happen, given the hallowed ground they were treading on. They did, however, find it regrettable given that NotGTAV is a parody game, and NotGames claims that they contacted Rockstar about its existence a year ago. “We made sure we’d taken all reasonable steps from our side to let them know what we were doing,” NotGames’ Emma Kendall told me.
In the wake of NotGTAV’s removal from Steam, NotGames came up with a quick contingency plan.
“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.”
“After a reasonably frantic meeting, we decided that the priority was to get the content back up on the store for all the disgruntled players and people who’ve got in contact asking how the can buy the game. The easiest way to do this was to remove all references to GTA V in our content, branding, sound, and music. We’re therefore currently going through every asset and re-branding using a different acronym: NotDMCAV.”
Rockstar declined to comment on the record about what was happening.
According to NotGames, Valve decided to investigate the possibility of a fake DMCA claim, as opposed to one filed by an actual GTA V rights holder. And, sure enough, apparently someone pulled a fast one on Valve. Less than an hour after I got in touch with NotGames—and only a few hours after NotGames first posted their blog about NotGTAV’s removal from Steam—Valve apparently reversed their decision. NotGames explained in a frantic Steam post:
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.
Phew. What a ride. As of a few minutes ago, NotGTAV is back up on the Steam store. Still, questions remain: who did file the DMCA claim, and why? Was it just for shits and giggles, to see if they could stick it to The Man (The Man in this case being Valve and a small, well-meaning charity parody game)? Or did they have something more purposeful/malicious in mind? And why did Valve fall for it? Why didn’t they do a more thorough check on the person who submitted the complaint before yanking NotGames’ magnum opus full of hand-drawn magnums that look kinda like octopuses from their store?
Clearly, some processes broke down here. Let us hope that everybody involved takes the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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