Modders Push Back Against Take-Two’s Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit

A man in a blue suit points a sub-machine gun at an off-screen target while riding a motorcycle.

Screenshot: Rockstar Games

Attorneys representing the four defendants in Take-Two Interactive Software’s copyright infringement lawsuit against a group of Grand Theft Auto modders recently responded to the video game conglomerate’s complaint, flatly denying several allegations of wrongdoing. They also argue that their clients’ work constitutes fair use under the United States’ Copyright Act.

This whole mess all started earlier in 2021 and quickly escalated. On February 13, the developers currently being sued by Take-Two released re3 and reVC, reversed engineered source code for Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City respectively. The code sought to improve lingering issues with the classic games and give fellow modders a foundation upon which to build cool, new things, like Switch and PlayStation Vita ports.

A week later, Take-Two enacted DMCA takedowns against the re3 and reVC repositories on Github, to which the code-sharing platform almost immediately acquiesced. The modders issued their own counterclaims shortly after, arguing that the removals were a mistake, which saw both projects again go live for public download. Take-Two then filed a lawsuit against the developers in September, arguing that it’s owed over $300,000 in damages. And now, the defendants are pushing back on those claims.

“Any complained of copying of copyright protected material that did occur, if any, was undertaken to allow for interoperability of software and fixing ‘bugs,’” reads the legalese-laden affirmative defense, which was filed on November 12 in Northern California’s court district (h/t TorrentFreak). “Such actions, comprising reverse engineering, are a transformative use.”

The legal document goes on to point out that neither Take-Two nor Grand Theft Auto developer Rockstar Games have released patches or bug fixes for the original, decades-old games in question, Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in years. In fact, neither game is even purchasable through legitimate means after having been pulled from both the publisher’s store and third-party platforms like Steam to supposedly make way for the much-maligned definitive editions released last week.

“Upon information and belief, any complained of copying of copyright protected material that did occur, if any, did not affect the market for the complained of software,” the response concludes. “Any complained of copying of copyright protected material that did occur, if any, was not undertaken for profit or commercial purposes.”

Take-Two’s action against these devs, while shitty in its own right, comes at a time when the gaming community’s opinion of the company is already at an all-time low. The “enhanced” Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy is an unmitigated disaster of bugs and glitches that’s only worsened by the fact you can’t even buy the original games anymore. As usual, it’s been up to modders to fix the worst issues, but with the constant threat posed by Take-Two, it’ll be surprising if anyone wants to court the same legal issues.

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