What can I do if someone has copied my game?

What can you do if someone has copied your game? First, “copied” can mean a lot of things. Is this a clone game? Is it an unlocked .apk or drm-free install file? Did they take your art, sound, music and other visual assets and copy them into their own attempted-cpoy of the code? Each of these can affect the strategy.

DMCA take-down notice

One easy option is to report copyright infringement to the host or service providing it to end-users. If a studio has created an original work or piece of intellectual property and itscopyright has been infringed upon, the studio can report an alleged violation and request a take-down on the platform it’s hosted on. This is assuming that the platform complies with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) – many platforms already screen and select submissions for their platform so a DMCA take-down notice may not even be necessary, but this is typically a first step.

We’ve got an overview of several DMCA contacts with some of the top platforms in the video game industry here.

Where the game is a clone game that copies the mechanics and style of the studio’s title, but not any literal elements, platforms are often hesitant to remove the content. In fact, because game mechanics are not protectable by copyright, the studio may not be able to do much to stop mechanics clones. Often, a studio is left working against these on a trademark basis – that is, working to ensure the clones do not use similar names and consumers can easily spot the unofficial copy.

Studios can also submit notices to Google and other search engines in order to get pages hosting infringing content removed from search results, though this can have mixed results.

Issue a cease & desist

If the site is hosted by the infringer or the infringement is not online or a DMCA take-down request is not getting the job done, you can send a cease and desist letter.

As we talked about in this post about video game artwork being used without permission, cease and desist letters are similar to sending a shot across the bow. They say, “hey there, I see what you are doing and I don’t like it. Knock it off or I will really do something about it.”

File a lawsuit

If the take-down notice doesn’t work and/or the cease and desist is ignored, you can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement. Sometimes, a lawsuit is a better option than a cease and desist letter. If a studio has filed a DMCA notice, and there has been a counter-notice, the counter-notice includes a consent to jurisdiction in federal court. At that point, the lawsuit might be the next logical step. Or, if a studio believes a cease and desist will cause bad publicity or simply provide the infringer a warning that leads them to entrench, a lawsuit can be more effective.

Contact us if you’d like to talk more about any of these options.