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River City Ransom: Underground taken off Steam due to DMCA claim

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[Note from the Editor: Destructoid is a multi-author blog. This story in particular was an opinion piece that should not have appeared on our home page, but instead on Mr. Holmes's personal blog. We stand by Holmes in that he should always write from his gut, but that doesn't mean Destructoid endorses any part of this editorial. There's two sides to every story, and that's become very apparent here as more sources come forward. This is a story that is still developing and requires more investigation. -Niero]

[Update: I've gotten a lot of people telling me that the line about "ambulance chasing Youtube pundits" in the original post was personally insulting to them, so I want to apologize. Specifically, I apologize to SidAlpha and Musical Anti Hero. I heard from Twitter user Fury283 that you were insulted by that statement. I was not referring to you directly when I said that, so I'm sorry that it came off that way. 

Regardless of if who that was directed at, that statement was a stupid and hypocritical thing to say in general. It only served to stir up drama, which was the exact thing I was calling others out for the first place. I thought it was an offhand comment buried in a much larger story about a game being taken off Steam, but it doesn't matter what I thought. What matters is how it was interpreted by our readers, and it was interpreted as a direct insult. That means that I failed, and pledge to do better in the future. I am sorry. 

But that's not all. I also have to apologize to Leonard J. French, who initially asked me to specifically point out that he and his client have also received death threats from Ms. Mauer. In further discussion with Mr. French, I thought we were in agreement that delving into the threats she may endanger Ms. Mauer's mental health, who according to hearsay, is currently in a very fragile state. Apparently I misunderstood that exchange, as Mr French is clearly not happy with how the story was originally reported. 

To that end, I add these original comments from Mr. French ~ "We have also been the recipient of threats from Alex directly. We condemn the sending of any threats whatsoever. We just wanted to note that she's not only receiving threats but also sending them to us and others as well." and that evidence of the threats"...were included as exhibits to the TRO. Let me know if you want additional copies."

So to be clear, I was not looking to take any "side" in this story, but I see how that it appeared that I did, and again, apologize. I sympathize with Ms. Mauer, who seems to truly believe that her copyrights were infringed on, but I also sympathize with the people that she has threatened, who I hope have taken appropriate legal action in the face of being threatened. I also sympathize with Youtubers who's channels were taken down, and of course, the developers who's work, which took years to create, is being put at risk by all this. It is an ugly situation, one that you'll note that most game blogs have refrained from covering. That's not only because it's so ugly, but also because it's a minefield of inescapable he-said she-said drama. 

I do not want to get involved with the drama, but it's too late for that. So instead, I'll again say that I hope that the legal system sorts this situation out fast so that any parties who have engaged in criminal behavior meet the appropriate consequences, the Youtubers can get their channels back, the games can go back up on Steam, and everyone can go on with their lives.

 

[Update #2Siliconera did some good reporting on this story. They found comment from Conatus Creative on the game's Steam discussion board, stating 'We are aware that RCRU is down on Steam. We have contacted Valve’s copyright department, and will let you know when access is restored.' and 'Alex Mauer produced, in collaboration with others, works for RCRU as a sub-contractor, and Conatus believes that it possesses the legal right to use those collaborative works in the game.']

River City Ransom: Underground was removed from Steam yesterday. No reason for the takedown was given, and when asked, the game's developers declined comment. 

Some digging around Twitter revealed a rumor that the game was taken down by composer Alex Mauer, who reportedly worked on some of its music. When asked for comment, Ms. Mauer confirmed that she had issued the DMCA orders, stating 'Conatus [River City Ransom: Underground's developers] never got my written permission to use my music in the game.  As far as I know, they have Disasterpeace's [one of the game's composers] signature and are trying to act like that alone is enough to have secured rights.'

 

When asked if there was something that Conatus could do to have the DMCA retracted and their game put back on Steam, Ms. Mauer said 'Imagos Softworks successfully got their DMCAs retracted by bringing me to court and getting a restraining order. Conatus could do the same. These companies think that acting like they have secured rights is the same as actually having secured rights. Neither Imagos nor Conatus have, but the public is quicker to believe them over me, just because they are game developers.'

Ms. Mauer is referring to a similar situation from earlier this year when she had Starr Mazer DSP removed from Steam with a DMCA order. Imagos Softworks, the developers of Starr Mazer, have outlined their comments on the situation in great detail on their Go Fund Me page, where they are working to raise money for continued legal fees. Their lawyer, Leonard J French, has been quite transparent with his side of the process, having posted the restraining order in full as it was granted, and holding multiple live stream events explaining the situation to interested parties.  

Mr. French has also taken great care to not demonize Ms. Mauer in his statements, reminding people at every turn that she is a human being and deserves respect, despite their legal disagreement regarding who holds the rights to the music for Starr Mazer DSP.  Mr. French and his client made it clear to Destructoid that they '...condemn the sending of any threats whatsoever.'

Unfortunately, not everyone has been so empathetic. Since word got out that Ms. Mauer had issued the DMCA orders against the two games, a sadistic feeding frenzy has formed in certain pockets of the internet, leading to Ms. Mauer receiving multiple online death threats, and opportunistic video game pundits demonizing her in long winded, fruitless YouTube rants. 

I happen to know both Bannon Rudis (artist and designer on River City Ransom: Underground) and Don Thacker (creator of Starr Mazer) personally, so I know how damaging it must be for them to have their games taken down like this. I also happen to love both of their games, so it pains me as a fan to see their work removed from the marketplace. That said, I also wish Ms. Mauer well in the pursuit of her legal rights. Hopefully there is a way everyone can walk away from this situation with a fair and mutually beneficial outcome

 

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About Jonathan Holmesone of us since 4:12 PM on 12.04.2007

"Where do dreams end and reality begin? Videogames, I suppose."- Gainax, FLCL Vol. 1

"The beach, the trees, even the clouds in the sky... everything is build from little tiny pieces of stuff. Just like in a Gameboy game... a nice tight little world... and all its inhabitants... made out of little building blocks... Why can't these little pixels be the building blocks for love..? For loss... for understanding"- James Kochalka, Reinventing Everything part 1

"I wonder if James Kolchalka has played Mother 3 yet?" Jonathan Holmes



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