Take-Two slaps GTA VR modder with vague DMCA takedown notice

In context: Virtual Reality games can be fun, but there are not many AAA titles with VR modes. Half-Life Alyx comes to mind as a big-budget VR exclusive. Other developers have officially added support to existing significant titles like Resident Evil 7, Doom (2017), and Skyrim. With an endless supply of first-person games already out there, it’s not surprising to see the modding community has been busy actively creating mods to give AAA titles the VR treatment.

A modder named Luke Ross (pseudonym), who has been making a decent living by creating mods that allow regular games to run through VR, has received a cease and desist from Take-Two Interactive. The game publisher recently filed a copyright claim with Patreon demanding that Ross remove content related to Grand Theft Auto V, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Mafia Definitive Edition.

The problem is that T2 did not specify which content violated its copyrights. Ross has several items related to those games, including images, guides, recommendations, and tutorials. Even though he does not use any proprietary code to give the games VR support, those might be what the publisher is going after. Either way, it is unclear to everyone but Take-Two what content violates the DMCA.

“We recently received a copyright claim for works you are making available on Patreon,” Patreon’s Trust and Safety Team wrote. “Specifically, the claim comes from Take-Two Interactive Software … who owns the rights to Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Mafia Definitive Edition being utilized in your posts on Patreon. We ask that you remove all copyrighted works from your Patreon page.”

The letter also says that he has to take down the content regardless of whether he decides to file a counterclaim or not. Ross said he would remove everything despite the ambiguity because he doesn’t want to start a legal battle with T2 lawyers.

[I]f left in the dark I can only err on the side of caution, and I will not risk other games being involved in the purge in case Patreon elects to shut down my page. That means that all posts, images, guides, recommendations, tutorials, and above all my VR mods for GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mafia: Definitive Edition, Mafia II: Definitive Edition, Mafia III: Definitive Edition will be taken down and will no longer be accessible to download.

I refuse to believe that is what Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. wants because that would be an extremely anti-customer and anti-gamer move on their part. But I am not getting in a legal battle with them. If what they want is to assert their corporate dominance with gamers’ interests as collateral damage, I have no power to stop them.

On the one hand, Ross says the VR mods don’t affect Take-Two’s bottom line. In fact, it might even boost sales of these aging games since players still have to own or buy legitimate copies to use the VR modifications.

On the other hand, T2 might see the mods as a threat to future VR ports of those games. After all, Rockstar has already announced plans to bring GTA: San Andreas to VR. So the mods might very well be Take-Two’s only beef with Ross.

Fortunately, after contacting Patreon and explaining the confusion, the hosting site said it would try to find out more details and perhaps get Ross in direct contact with Take-Two’s legal team to clear up the mess.

“We very much hope direct communication between the parties will be productive,” a Patreon spokesperson told The Verge.

Ross is saddened that T2 has thrown the DMCA card for doing something they refuse to do. He believes that the main reason VR is struggling to catch on is that not enough publishers take the time to add support to big-name titles, leaving players with nothing but short mini-games that feel more like demos than real AAA games.

In his eyes, he is doing a service to publishers by adding something that players want, bringing more attention and possibly more sales to their biggest games.

“In the battle to spread the message that it’s only the studios’ and publishers’ will (or lack thereof) that stops AAA games from being ported to VR, this is probably a sad but necessary step,” Ross said.

It’s worth mentioning that Ross has VR mods for several other games, including Cyberpunk 2077, Dark Souls: Remastered, and Elden Ring, that remain unscathed by the takedown notice. Other modders in the community have provided VR support for games without getting hassled by publishers. Perhaps the main thing that T2 takes offense to is The Verge’s exposé revealing that Ross makes $20,000 per month from his Patreon page. But with a 66-percent retention rate, the takedown is not likely to affect that.

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