For Second Time, Composer Files Copyright Claim To Take Down Game

Image Source: Conatus Creative

A copyright claim by a composer with a tendency to attract legal drama has led Steam to remove the game River City Ransom: Underground. The developers are disputing the claim and say they expect the game to be back on Steam at some point in the future.

On Friday, July 14th, Steam removed River City Ransom: Underground due to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim filed by composer Alex Mauer. In the claim, Mauer said that music she produced for the game was being used without her permission.

Mauer told Kotaku over the phone that she worked on the soundtrack for River City Ransom: Underground with two collaborators, Rich Vreeland and Dino Leonetti, but was "cut out of the deal." She says that her work is still in the game, and that Conatus Creative, the development studio, does not own the rights to it.

"The problem is that they haven't gotten my permission," she said. "They can easily get my permission, but they need to be transparent with me about whatever deal they made regarding the music." Mauer said that there is no documentation proving that she made this arrangement with Conatus but that the lack of a contract is "kind of my whole argument."

In a statement posted on Steam this evening, Daniel Crenna, founder and a producer at Conatus Creative, says that Mauer's claims the about the music in the game violating her copyright are false.

"She is a co-creator of the music, with Dino Lionetti and Rich Vreeland. Our written licence agreement is with Rich, who subcontracted Alex and Dino," he wrote. "When Rich offered to pay Alex an equal share of the music fee for her contribution to the game soundtrack, she emailed back: 'Oh that's awesome man I'm all for it thanks!' Rich has shown us the documentation that Alex was paid in full."

While Crenna writes that their lawyers have told them that there is no legal basis for Mauer's claims, they will be commissioning a new soundtrack for the game. "Being legally right is only half the story — as a practical matter, the costs of legal action would put console development plans on hold, perhaps indefinitely," he wrote. "We don't have any interest in spending our time and our energy dealing with this matter further."

Mauer has developed a reputation for filing copyright claims against video games she says failed to give her proper credit. In February, her claims led Steam to remove a different game, Starr Mazer: DSP. Mauer said she provided music and sound effects to Imagos Softworks' Starr Mazer, which were then used in that game's follow up, Starr Mazer: DSP. Mauer says they don't have the rights to use her music in Starr Mazer: DSP or its marketing materials.

"The problem is that Imagos did so much of their business with me without signing any contracts and they managed to create a situation where they owe me a large amount of money," she said. "So I started escalating the situation through the DMCAs." She took action against YouTube videos and Twitch streams containing footage of Starr Mazer: DSP, attracting the ire of critics like Jim Sterling and John "Totalbiscuit" Bain.

Mauer has also attracted a great deal of harassment, as various internet forums detail her every move and send nasty messages her way.

Imagos Softworks is currently suing Mauer. Last week, a Pennsylvania judge granted a temporary restraining order against Mauer that blocks her from filing more DMCA claims against that game and its related works.

Mauer has also filed DMCA takedown notices against YouTube and Twitch videos for River City Ransom: Underground. These copyright strikes are serious business on those video networks, where just one or two takedowns can make life hell for anyone who tries to make money by streaming and playing games.

Crenna told Kotaku over email that he expects River City Ransom: Underground to come back to Steam. The game is still available on GOG.


    Wait... Underground was out? How did I miss this? Is it good? Why is this the only coverage the game has received?

    Honestly, I think this takedown is possibly the best thing that could happen to them. The original RCR is one of my favourite games, and I had no idea that Underground had actually been released.

      Last time I remember looking it was only on Steam's Early Access, not a full release. (And had been that way for a while.) Maybe they officially 'launched' too close to the last big sale?

      Yeah it was out a little while ago. I have it. INSANELY fun, was playing it with some friends on the weekend while drinking. The animations are cool and each character feels good in their own ways (the boxer dude has some cool attacks)

    Alex Mauer is a cancer, that the asorted DMCA systems have to abide due to international copyright laws.

    This whole mess is a joke.

      Again with cancer? Using that language makes me not care what you are saying.

        That is a shame, however I am sure my argument still holds water if you have looked into anything about Alex Mauer. Soooo yeah, sticking by what I said.

          Actually, no. I have been following this matter since Sid Alpha broke the news and your original post is the same unhelpful kind of post that has dragged the discussion down and only credits Mauer's "victim" card.

          If you really are sticking to what you say then thank you; you are contributing to making the problem worse, not better.

            It only contributes to her victim card if you think context means nothing and subscribe to the idea of identity politics. I am sorry, but on this we won't agree.

            A whole lot of people that have nothing to do with the pettieness have been dragged under the bus and for what? So this parasite that had an agreement can do horrible things to people and then try to complain after the fact.

            I have zero sympathy for Alex.

        He didn't call her cancer. He called her A cancer. It's different. Alex is spreading out and latching onto ANYTHING she can. She's ruining peoples lives just because she couldn't read a contract. Nothing Alex Mauer says should be believed and I hope she gets absolutely demolished in court. It's what she deserves for messing with peoples lives to try and save face.

    How is it YouTuber SidAlpha is better at this journalism thing than actual, paid by media company journalists?

    Mauer's work for Imagos was on a work for hire basis, the contract is actually out there and available. All rights for the music Mauer did for Star Mazer is owned by Imagos, they can use it wherever they like. It's theirs. Important point, don't you think?

    Instead of lawyering up and raising a contract dispute with Imagos, she tried to turn other content creators into a weapon through illegitimate DMCA take downs against content clearly covered by fair use doctrine. She's also made death threats against SidAlpha and Leonard French for calling her out on her shit. Her actions go directly to her credibility and throw any other copyright claim she makes into doubt.

    Does she deserve the harrassment she's received? Absolutely not. Is she an innocent victim of unscrupulous devs? Victim? Possibly. Innocent? Hardly.

      I suspect it's because this only gained attention from the poorly written Destructoid article, which was then used as a source by ArsTechnica and has now spread to Kotaku.

      I also suspect if this was written by Kotaku Australia staff it would have been better researched and had more of the issues covered.

      If she made death threats and is making false claims then she Absolutely deserves whatever harassment she gets

        Wrong. If you sink to their level you're no better than they are, and surrender any moral high ground you might have.

          I don't feel I am wrong, and the moral high ground is just something to make people feel better, You act like that you can't cry victim. I understand you're viewpoint, but no I don't feel wrong

            Let them carry on, and observers will quickly determine who the asshole is. At the end of the day, harrassment like the type suffered by Alex, which you've defended, makes the situation worse, not better.

            You let people like that hang themselves, so to speak.

            You don't copy them and hang yourself along side them.

      Paid by media company journalists are much more vulnerable to defamation claims than YouTubers. In a case that includes a lot of takedowns already, you can't be surprised if they don't include information that can't be 100% verified.

        Truth is an affirmative defence to defamation. The text of the contract, which is publicly available, signed by Alex and Imagos, clearly demonstrates she was contracted on a work for hire basis. All works created by Alex, under that contract, are owned by Imagos. She's asserting a copyright she doesn't own.

        She's claiming she did not receive payment for her work. If she didn't receive full payment, she's still not able to claim copyright over the work, without having a court declare the contract void. At most she can claim whatever amount she wasn't paid under the contract.

        All of this has been made public by Leonard French and SidAlpha, there's video discussing and reporting on the matter. Most of it has come from emails back and forth between Alex, Imagos, Sid and Leonard, which has been included in those videos. How hard would it have been to watch those videos and follow any information gleaned up for confirmation?

      I really did not pick any sort of sympathetic vibe towards her from this article. Even the mention that she has been harassed was matter-of-factly, with 0 indignation.

      She deserves all the harassment she's received. She's playing with peoples' livelihoods.

        When has internet vigilantism of the type she has been on the receiving end ever made the situation better?

        In this case, there's a direct correlation between the harrassment she received, and her doubling down. It egged her on and led to interference with even more people's livelihoods.

        There's no question she has acted deplorably, acting deplorably in kind makes you no better.

    Sorry, should have clarified, I was more talking about the other claims on your post, less the contract stuff.

    Thankyou Gita for at least covering this element of the whole sorry sage.

    Especially how Destrutoid and ArsTechnica didn't even do basic research and basically put up articles that shone a good light on Mauer. Especially how Destructoid brand those covering the issue as ambulance chasers on a feeding frenzy.

    For those still new and wish to look at the primary sources, I give this advice. Make sure to wrap your head tightly in surgical bandage and wear a crash helmet with a full face visor.

    Mauer's actions is enough to make anyone's brain explode and the precautions above should keep the mess down and easier to piece one's head back together.

    I don't know enough about contract law to determine if her rights have been infringed. That should be a matter between her, the developers and the courts. However, from what I've gathered, she started sending out DMCA copy-right take down notices against a number of youtube channels featuring footage from Starr Mazer DSP.

    Now apparently she has been in contact with various youtube channels such as Jim Sterling's and from what I can gather, part of her rationale for issuing these takedown claims is to entice blowback from youtube against the developer. That's.... not right. If she has legitimate grievances with the developer, then she should raise those issues with the developer, and not rope in youtube channels that have nothing to do with this issue.

    She has been receiving a lot of death threats and other nastiness - that's not right either. I know that she has, herself, posted pretty horrible stuff to some people and even threatened a lawyer who lives in her area. That is also indefensible. I think it is high time for heads to cool - regardless of who *started* it, we are not children (presumably, that is - for all I know many children could be reading this). It doesn't matter who started it, you have to act like an adult, and threatening people is not reasonable behaviour. Regardless of how you feel about Ms Mauer's actions, do not send her death threats. Also, Ms Mauer, regardless of how she feels about this situation, does not have the right to send death threats to lawyers. In fact, her actions are probably worse. Death threats from anonymous internet users is terrible - but everyone knows that 99.999% of these threats are just the idle thumb or finger tappings of a bored malcontented teenager who has no intention of following through. Sending a death threat to someone specifically who is involved in a court case against you and who lives in your local area, as Alex has done, is far, far more serious as it is far more likely to be acted upon.

    Alex needs to take her claims to court and stop with the Youtube stuff. If she had a legitimate grievance, the court system is the way to go. Issuing copyright claims on youtube channels is pointless and earns you ire. She should also stop with the death threats.

    The internet needs to also stop sending her threats and harassing her. Let the courts deal with this.

    Just speculating here: but if she has a history of doing this kind of thing it strikes me as dubious in terms of her credibility.
    But on the other hand, does the industry have a culture of vague contracts and verbal agreements? If this is the case, the blame might be shared by all here.
    As I said just speculating

      If the release of the contract is to go by, Imagos does have the copyright to the music.

      Regardless, what is of interest is not the contract itself but Mauer's actions to basically force YouTubers to be her own army against Imagos and her later actions when they (the YouTubers) said no.

      Long story short (back when it still made sense) Mauer basically DMCA'd YouTubers and said she would only remove the claim if the users complained to Imagos.

      Needless to say, this was not accepted by the YouTubers and they even pointed out as she issued the claim, Imagos could do nothing and she would have to be the one to remove the claim.

      Her response was just to issue the claims and not offer the removal in return. And from there the sanity plummets.

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