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GTA modders behind re3 and reVC fire back in court

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The ongoing saga of modders versus Take-Two continues on, after some people behind the Grand Theft Auto fan projects "re3" and "reVC" got their work taken down from GitHub and then sued.

With the two projects, the developers recreated the game engines used for Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, which were done through reverse engineering. There was a bit of back and forth as Take-Two sent a DMCA claim to have the projects taken down, a counter-claim was filed that put both back up and then Take-Two formally sent in the lawyers with the lawsuit to get payments in damages.

As expected here, the developers in question who are in the firing line have decided to attempt to fight back as reported by TorrentFreak who shared the PDF. A lot of it is just plain outright denials of what Take-Two are accusing in their argument. The main defence is trying to get it "constituted fair use under the Copyright Act" and that any copyrighted material included was to "allow for interoperability of software and fixing 'bugs'" and also that it was "transformative use".

Part of the counter-argument might not hold as much weight now though, as it mentions "for video games released over fifteen years ago". Recently, Take-Two put out the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. As it turns out, it's a true hot mess of bugs. Still, they're not the same versions and sold separately so it likely can still count.

Continuing, the defence does clearly mention how anyone using it would need a copy of each game (the projects did not include the data files). To that end, the defence mentions how it would "not affect the market for the complained of software" and in fact "would positively affect the market for the complained of software" and goes on to mention how previously Take-Two "showcased" some mods and even "released portions of its software" to the devs of Multi Theft Auto.

What a shame, can you imagine what they could have achieved if they worked together?

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31 comments
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F.Ultra 18 Nov, 2021
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Quoting: ElectroDDStore the project on EU servers.
There was a recent ruling saying that fixing bugs was not a case of copyright infrinment.
Reverse ingeneering is protected under a law in itself to allow interoperability of software on hardware and under this law you can even break DRM to a certain extent.
At least, that's what I understand...

Not applicable here. Fixing bugs are you creating patches for the game, this is not what re3 did. Neither did they re the code to see how to work around a DRM or make it work on new hardware, they re:d the code to use as the base for their own code and that is the problem that opened them up for this lawsuit.

And before anyone says that they did no such thing, there are entire series on YouTube where the lead re3/reVC developer show how you use a disassembler to convert the gta binaries to source code and how you then clean up that code to get it into a workable state.

The EU law is there to allow you to patch and modify the existing software to make it work, not to create a distributable version of said software. Before that law both things where seen as violating copyright, now only the latter is.
metalinux 19 Nov, 2021
Thanks for the link to the PDF Liam, I had a read through it and all I can hope for is that they win in court. More projects like this need to thrive and they are unable to due to potential litigation from corporations.
I applaud them for standing up to Take Two.

If they require donations for their legal fees, I'll certainly be adding money to the pot.
TheSHEEEP 19 Nov, 2021
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Quoting: MordragIs there any way to support them ? Given the situation I definitly think many would happily pay to support this ...
I'm not sure if them earning money with the project wouldn't actually hurt their position in court.
Unless you mean like a fund raiser for lawyer costs.
Purple Library Guy 19 Nov, 2021
Quoting: Guest
Quoting: psy-q
Quoting: NeoTheFoxAFAIK the repo contained nothing owned or copyrighted by Take-Two, the reverse-engineering effort is clean room [...]

It wasn't clean-room, unfortunately, the team decompiled Take Two/Rockstar's binaries to get there.

In a lawsuit Take-Two has to prove that the ones that uploaded the content actually decompiled the binaries or were aware of it (code being decompiled from binaries).
If X decompiles the binaries, send the code to Y without telling him/her that, Y publish it on, how exactly is Y guilty of something when X only told Y that he/she can do whatever he/she wants with the code received...
Y can't check a copyright claim in the case of a closed sourced code unless Y receive the code. And if X was smart enough to rename some easy to rename things (done with a simple search and replace) you end up in a situation where it's debatable if the code is stolen or not (history show us that more than one person discovered the same thing in same way).
Now if the decompiled code has been patched to fix bug situations changes dramaticaly because it's no longer looking like the original and it's no longer acting like the original... This can easily be explain by the fact that 2 people can think and code in a really similar way, but it's not identical way...
Take-Two has to prove some not easy to prove things and without providing their own code there is no real way to prove things. Once you provided that code in court things can easily go into even more similar situation showing up.

There is also another problem. What % of the code has to match to be considered breaking the law.
There are particular things that are coded in exactly same way (declaring variables, even variable names (some prefer a,b,c; others names, other a1,a2; but you will find code with same variable names doing the same blody thing), that part can't really be considered as breaking the law.
In fact it's open sourced code that you will be surprise to find out that can be found inside products that are being sold and nowhere they admit that they used open sourced code (breaking the license for that open source code. (I've found a browser game that used open sourced code and they were so dumb not to change the hardcode admin password; the admin page was exactly like in the open source code, the hardcoded admin password was the same. Illegal access if someone was going to troll delete players accounts or breaking the open source code license?)
Frankly, that all sounds kinda weak. I don't think I'd buy it if I were a judge. And there's discovery, which could require them to hand over stacks of emails and such which might well totally prove they knew all along.
They would have been amazingly better off going clean room and I think they were utter fools not to. To be honest, I think the reverse engineering thing leaves the defendants with two chances, neither all that great:
1. Rely on lack of prior case law and some impressive arguments to get a groundbreaking ruling that actually, reverse engineering code can under the right circumstances be fair use. But most judges probably don't want to be this activist.
2. Get a ruling that yes, it was copyright infringement, but because the resulting project requires one to buy copies of the game from the publisher in order to use it, and for that matter results in the creation of a community of enthusiasts of the game which would improve the publisher's reputation, all the publisher's damage claims are false and so the defendants should have no or minimal penalties.

I would figure their chances for (2) would be way better than their chances for (1). Although US copyright laws like the DMCA are pretty vicious and may have minimum penalties.
STiAT 19 Nov, 2021
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: Guest
Quoting: psy-q
Quoting: NeoTheFoxAFAIK the repo contained nothing owned or copyrighted by Take-Two, the reverse-engineering effort is clean room [...]

It wasn't clean-room, unfortunately, the team decompiled Take Two/Rockstar's binaries to get there.

In a lawsuit Take-Two has to prove that the ones that uploaded the content actually decompiled the binaries or were aware of it (code being decompiled from binaries).
If X decompiles the binaries, send the code to Y without telling him/her that, Y publish it on, how exactly is Y guilty of something when X only told Y that he/she can do whatever he/she wants with the code received...
Y can't check a copyright claim in the case of a closed sourced code unless Y receive the code. And if X was smart enough to rename some easy to rename things (done with a simple search and replace) you end up in a situation where it's debatable if the code is stolen or not (history show us that more than one person discovered the same thing in same way).
Now if the decompiled code has been patched to fix bug situations changes dramaticaly because it's no longer looking like the original and it's no longer acting like the original... This can easily be explain by the fact that 2 people can think and code in a really similar way, but it's not identical way...
Take-Two has to prove some not easy to prove things and without providing their own code there is no real way to prove things. Once you provided that code in court things can easily go into even more similar situation showing up.

There is also another problem. What % of the code has to match to be considered breaking the law.
There are particular things that are coded in exactly same way (declaring variables, even variable names (some prefer a,b,c; others names, other a1,a2; but you will find code with same variable names doing the same blody thing), that part can't really be considered as breaking the law.
In fact it's open sourced code that you will be surprise to find out that can be found inside products that are being sold and nowhere they admit that they used open sourced code (breaking the license for that open source code. (I've found a browser game that used open sourced code and they were so dumb not to change the hardcode admin password; the admin page was exactly like in the open source code, the hardcoded admin password was the same. Illegal access if someone was going to troll delete players accounts or breaking the open source code license?)
Frankly, that all sounds kinda weak. I don't think I'd buy it if I were a judge. And there's discovery, which could require them to hand over stacks of emails and such which might well totally prove they knew all along.
They would have been amazingly better off going clean room and I think they were utter fools not to. To be honest, I think the reverse engineering thing leaves the defendants with two chances, neither all that great:
1. Rely on lack of prior case law and some impressive arguments to get a groundbreaking ruling that actually, reverse engineering code can under the right circumstances be fair use. But most judges probably don't want to be this activist.
2. Get a ruling that yes, it was copyright infringement, but because the resulting project requires one to buy copies of the game from the publisher in order to use it, and for that matter results in the creation of a community of enthusiasts of the game which would improve the publisher's reputation, all the publisher's damage claims are false and so the defendants should have no or minimal penalties.

I would figure their chances for (2) would be way better than their chances for (1). Although US copyright laws like the DMCA are pretty vicious and may have minimum penalties.

You'll very likely be doing reverse engineering, even if your implementation differs then using a green field approach. If you base it upon the assets of the original game, you'll need to load them, you'll need to reverse engineer missions etc.

The mistake was to actually use decompiled code. But in any case they'd have to do reverse engineering, and you always put a target in front of you doing a reimplementation. Some studios accept this, some don't.

However it's played, you're using some kind of their technology, even in a green field approach you write code to load their assets.

I'd argue the more intelligent studios/publishers just ignore those things, the potential market for this engines is limited - how many users actually do know about it, use it or know how to use it or want to put up the effort? Especially if you still need the original game data files (which you could pirate of course, but you could do that with the original games too if that was your intention), and if you have the game already it does not make a difference on which engine you run it financially.

If people were enthusiastic enough to use those engines to play the game they own, they'd very likely go for the definitive edition too. Hell, I'd have done that (and I still have a copy of those engines, I do own the original games on steam) if this definitive edition was not a steaming pile of ****. I'd have bought it once I knew I could run them on wine or proton and if they were actually any good.

I think that there were no previews and was no media coverage or pre-tests by selected gaming media should have told us that this release is going to be bad.


Last edited by STiAT on 19 November 2021 at 9:37 pm UTC
emphy 19 Nov, 2021
Quoting: psy-q
Quoting: NeoTheFoxAFAIK the repo contained nothing owned or copyrighted by Take-Two, the reverse-engineering effort is clean room [...]

It wasn't clean-room, unfortunately, the team decompiled Take Two/Rockstar's binaries to get there.

Clean room or not is irrelevant. Since it requires the original game files, it should fall under fair use.

If it doesn't, it is time to ask pointed questions to the respective law-makers on why it doesn't.
Grogan 20 Nov, 2021
Quoting: TheSHEEEPYes, but then how could you make money with it?


(I know the answer, and that open source doesn't exclude selling a product, but many bored lawyers and clueless executives have no intention of ever understanding this)

By continuing to sell copies of an old game because people still need the data files? That's pretty much how it is right now with some titles. For a recent example, I bought Doom 3 BFG edition on Steam because I needed the data directory for RBDoom-3-BFG which I compiled. It's not the first either, the original Doom 3 had a similar project, "Dhewm 3"

They are still selling Quake because of this too.
F.Ultra 21 Nov, 2021
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Quoting: emphy
Quoting: psy-q
Quoting: NeoTheFoxAFAIK the repo contained nothing owned or copyrighted by Take-Two, the reverse-engineering effort is clean room [...]

It wasn't clean-room, unfortunately, the team decompiled Take Two/Rockstar's binaries to get there.

Clean room or not is irrelevant. Since it requires the original game files, it should fall under fair use.

If it doesn't, it is time to ask pointed questions to the respective law-makers on why it doesn't.

Fair use does not cover this, the project does not fulfil the four statutory factors.
F.Ultra 21 Nov, 2021
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Quoting: Guest
Quoting: psy-q
Quoting: NeoTheFoxAFAIK the repo contained nothing owned or copyrighted by Take-Two, the reverse-engineering effort is clean room [...]

It wasn't clean-room, unfortunately, the team decompiled Take Two/Rockstar's binaries to get there.

In a lawsuit Take-Two has to prove that the ones that uploaded the content actually decompiled the binaries or were aware of it (code being decompiled from binaries).
If X decompiles the binaries, send the code to Y without telling him/her that, Y publish it on, how exactly is Y guilty of something when X only told Y that he/she can do whatever he/she wants with the code received...
Y can't check a copyright claim in the case of a closed sourced code unless Y receive the code. And if X was smart enough to rename some easy to rename things (done with a simple search and replace) you end up in a situation where it's debatable if the code is stolen or not (history show us that more than one person discovered the same thing in same way).
Now if the decompiled code has been patched to fix bug situations changes dramaticaly because it's no longer looking like the original and it's no longer acting like the original... This can easily be explain by the fact that 2 people can think and code in a really similar way, but it's not identical way...
Take-Two has to prove some not easy to prove things and without providing their own code there is no real way to prove things. Once you provided that code in court things can easily go into even more similar situation showing up.

There is also another problem. What % of the code has to match to be considered breaking the law.
There are particular things that are coded in exactly same way (declaring variables, even variable names (some prefer a,b,c; others names, other a1,a2; but you will find code with same variable names doing the same blody thing), that part can't really be considered as breaking the law.
In fact it's open sourced code that you will be surprise to find out that can be found inside products that are being sold and nowhere they admit that they used open sourced code (breaking the license for that open source code. (I've found a browser game that used open sourced code and they were so dumb not to change the hardcode admin password; the admin page was exactly like in the open source code, the hardcoded admin password was the same. Illegal access if someone was going to troll delete players accounts or breaking the open source code license?)

Except of course that in this case X did all the steps (and bragged about it). X is Angelo "aap" Papenhoff that published the GitHub page and here is a YouTube video (he have since changed his username there to X) where he spends 1 hour decompiling a part of GTA and cleaning up the code: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22BeuOOERLo. Take Two would have zero problems bringing up evidence like this once the case enters discovery.
Mordrag 23 Nov, 2021
Quoting: TheSHEEEP
Quoting: MordragIs there any way to support them ? Given the situation I definitly think many would happily pay to support this ...
I'm not sure if them earning money with the project wouldn't actually hurt their position in court.
Unless you mean like a fund raiser for lawyer costs.

Yes that is what i meant, I can imagine Take Two has some advantage with the amount of money the can throw at their lawyers
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