The story of a new game by an independent developer that received an unfavorable review has escalated all the way to yet another case DMCA abuse.
The DMCA system is supposed to protect the rights of digital copyright holders, but is routinely abused by a variety of actors thanks to the way major online platforms implement its provisions, allowing for immediate removal of content.
This practice has become so widely used and well-known that more and more people seem prepared to turn it into a weapon against criticism and use it on other grounds not actually covered by the legislation.
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This story starts on May 31, when the developer, Kyle Ransford, sent an email to the Christ Centered Gamer website asking if they were interested in reviewing his game, Starclaw: Battle of Starspace Nebula, giving them a Steam key to allow access to the game.
We learn this from a series of emails provided by the Christ Centered Gaming to the YouTube channel SidAlpha after things between the two parties went south.
And that happened when on June 13, the site emailed back to tell Kyle that the review was up, but that the game’s score was low – while “the morality score was 95 percent.”
Apparently unimpressed with the “morality score” success but shaken by the bad review, the developer quickly responded, complaining that the negative review was in fact slanderous.
On June 14, the developer threatened to abuse the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and submit a copyright takedown notice to Google in order to remove the review which he said was defamatory – unless the site’s owners did it on their own.
The developer also threatened legal action as the next step, again on copyright grounds. But he then admits that the unfavorable review may have been warranted, by saying it was now irrelevant, since “any issues were fixed and my game design aspects were explained.”
In somewhat of an apology article, the developer Kyle wrote: “I have not done anything evil or try to destroy anyone’s business or livelihood. The worst the Takedown request could’ve done is remove the review URL from Google Search. Not from the web or even force the review to be deleted. People could still go to the URL if clicked on it else ware. I have sent an email to Google Legal Support asking them to remove the Copyright Removal Request.”
Covering the case, the SidAlpha channel provided a similarly scathingly negative take on the game itself, noting that the developer had no right to abuse the DMCA system by claiming the review represented slander (libel) since the legislation in question concerns copyright.
On the other hand, if the website suffered harm and sued the developer, they would likely win, as we’ve seen from cases in the past where others have abused the DMCA as a tool for censorship.
Update 6/16: An earlier version of this article referred to “Christ Centered Gamer” as “Christian Centered Gamer”. It has now been corrected.