Rockstar Games’ parent company, Take-Two Interactive, has spent the past week or so using DMCA takedown requests to remove old Grand Theft Auto mods. The publisher hasn’t explained why it has started this sudden removal of old mods.
Late last week, players and mod creators began reporting on Twitter and the GTA Forums that old Grand Theft Auto mods on PC were being pulled. On July 17 it became clear that something was going on. Numerous mods, including popular Vice City and San Andreas mods, were deleted and were now no longer available on ModDB.
Some of these mods are extremely old. GTA: Liberty City, a total conversion Vice City mod that ported GTA III to the Vice City engine, was first released back in 2005. It has now been deleted from ModDB. GTA Underground, a popular mod that was trying to merge multiple GTA maps into one massive game, was also removed on July 17. Its developers confirmed via a Discord message that the mod was deleted as a direct result of a DMCA takedown notice from Take-Two Interactive.
A community manager and editor from ModDB explained in a short tweet thread that the site reached out to Take-Two and tried to start a dialogue in an attempt to find a different solution than just yanking down the popular mods. Take-Two was unreceptive and ModDB was forced to take down the content after receiving the DMCA notices. He also warned modders to “tread carefully” because more DMCA notices might be coming for old GTA mods.
Kotaku contacted Rockstar Games about the recent DMCA takedowns but the developer and publisher didn’t respond.
GTA Forums user Ash_375 has put together a comprehensive and detailed forum post listing many of the mods that have been removed and some of the reactions from the community. Many modders and players are frustrated because they feel this is Take-Two going back on its word.
Previously, the publisher in 2017 had come under fire after it forced the popular GTA modding tool software Open IV to shut down. This led to a huge explosion of anger from the GTA modding community. It was so big in fact that eventually Rockstar Games and Take-Two changed its plans and allowed Open IV to return. At the time, the company provided a new set of rules that modders could follow to avoid DMCA takedowns. The main text was saved by PC Gamer in an article from 2017 and could be summed as simply “Don’t mod GTA Online, stick to singleplayer mods and don’t sell your mods.” Simple enough.
But in June 2019 these guidelines changed with this text being added to the rules:
This does not apply to… (iii) use or importation of other IP (including other Rockstar IP) in the project; or (iv) making new games, stories, missions, or maps.
Now, in 2021, it seems Take-Two is going after mods that violate this part of the rules. Though to be clear, these rules were changed with no heads up or warning, and many modders are now left scrambling as to what to do next. Though it should also be noted that the rules posted back in 2017 always stipulated that Take-Two could change the rules at any time or reject any mod for any reason at a later date. Still, this sudden surge in DMCA takedowns surprised many and angered even more.
Take-Two hasn’t been a fan of GTA modders for some time. Earlier this year, the publisher fought to remove Vice City and GTA III reversed engineered source code. Eventually, the developers behind that code were able to get their work back online. But it’s another example of Take-Two’s continued fight against modders. This is an odd stance to take in 2021, when video game mods have become a popular way to keep old games relevant and playable long past their initial release date.
It’s not clear why Take-Two is going DMCA wild now, years after these mods were first released. Some in the community have theorised it could be connected to long-rumoured GTA remakes or remasters. Others have speculated that it could be a result of the still not-officially-confirmed GTA 6. But this is all speculation. Only Take-Two knows what’s going on and so far it has remained silent.