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Update III:

The ESA has apologized for erroneously issuing DMCA claims:

“ESA was notified this morning that potentially erroneous DMCA notices had been transmitted by one of its vendors,” the organization told Ars. “Upon further review, it was determined that the notices should not have been sent and retractions were issued immediately. We regret any inconvenience and have taken steps to avoid similar situations in the future.”

With Techland reporting that the issue was the unintended side-effect of stopping cheaters on its and now ESA confirming and rectifying the mistake with DMCA, it is safe to assume this controversy can be put to bed.

Update II:

An employee of Techland has issued a statement regarding the DMCA complaints. They are under investigation.

Update:

Techland has issued a statement regarding the controversy surrounding the modding of Dying Light. Apparently, it was an accident.

With the recent patch (1.2.1) on Steam we blocked cheating to make sure the game’s PvP system (Be The Zombie) would not be abused. This, however, had the side-effect of hindering mod-makers from making changes to the game.

There was no intention on Techland’s part to block modders and the company even stated their own success with mods in their previous game Dead Island as proof of their appreciation for modding. A ‘quick patch’ is in the pipeline to fix the issue.

No word on the alleged DMCA complaints, though as we stated, that maybe an issue taken up by Warner Bros and the ESA.

We will keep you updated on any further developments.

Original story:

If you are a Dying Light player and cannot stand the film grain, good news. There is a mod to remove it. The bad news? Techland, the developers behind Dying Light, think you are cheating.

The latest patch notes of v1.2.1, there is a statement:

• blocked cheating by changing game’s data files

As the Reddit post stated:

Among other things, we can no longer create or edit items for the single-player campaign.

You would think that would be a strong enough message to modders to seek the exit, but Techland has been using DMCA to further punish modders for taking advantage of the game they bought.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Techland, via their publisher Warner Bros (an ESA member), is using the ESA’s partnership with MarkMonitor to file DMCA claims against mods. Yes, they’re abusing the DMCA to fight modders. They’re not fighting software piracy; they’re fighting customers, enthusiasts, fans.

As the post further states, Techland was practically on the opposite side of the modding spectrum when it came to its Dead Island mods.

Remember when Dead Island mods were featured on PC Gamer and other major websites?

Remember when the Dead Island modding thread was stickied in the Steam forum?

Remember when Hellraid was just a weapon mod for Dead Island made by one of Techland’s own developers?

Why the sudden 180 degree spin? The answer may lie with the change in publishers. Dead Island was published by Deep Silver. Warner Bros may be calling the shots in this case. The ESA’s own stance on content protection sheds further light on what might the hand of the publisher involved and not necessarily Techland’s choice.

Q5: What are the rules for console modification?

A5: Copyright owners often use technological protection measures (TPMs) to control or manage access to their works by preventing the unauthorized copying or use of their games. TPMs play an important role in the maintaining the viability of the legitimate market for developing and selling video games, which in turn protects everyone who depends on that market for their income and livelihood (from game designers to retail store clerks). Congress recognized the importance of these technologies in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and outlawed the manufacturing and distribution of products or services that are aimed at circumventing these copy and access protections. Those caught selling such devices or services may be subject to criminal prosecution and/or held liable for civil damages resulting from such activities.

Q6: What types of infringement does the ESA Content Protection Program focus on?

A6: All types. ESA’s enforcement activities target both online and physical distribution of infringing game code and the sale of devices or services employed to circumvent TPMs. ESA works with websites, search engines, website hosting service providers and others to ensure that notices submitted by our organization adequately describe the infringement and its location and result in prompt removal of access to infringing material.

[Bold emphasis mine]

As an ESA member Warner Bros, and by proxy as their partner on the game, Techland, can technically make the case that film grain mods and even modding in general may be unauthorized uses of Dying Light by infringing on its code and intended use. In fact, that is exactly what one of those served was informed of by the ESA. What is interesting about the complaint is the statement:

…the attached list of titles is a “representative list” identifying a sample of the works infringed. The attached list is not by any means exhaustive of the ESA member works infringed by and through your website. As the law makes clear, a copyright claimant need not identify every infringing work on a site, but rather only a representative list of such works at that site. Having been so informed of the nature and scope of infringement being claimed, the site operator must act to address all infringement on that website, not merely the identified representative examples.

How an alleged violator is supposed to know what ‘all’ of his or hers infringements in order to avoid repeated DMCA complaints is anyone’s guess. However, from an owner’s perspective, it is a puzzling stance. If they are not selling the game and are upfront and transparent about their modding of said game for recreational use, then why the complaint?

Modding is among the most effective means of extending the life cycle of a product. The Skyrim mods over at Nexus are the gold standard example of that. If Techland and Warner Bros can give a substantive answer to why it is censoring mods, especially in light of its stark contrast to its past behavior, then perhaps  actions may be warranted. For now, this looks like an abuse of DMCA protocols.

What is your take on what Techland is doing? Do you think it is Warner Bros calling the shots? Do they have the right to do so? Does modding truly threaten copyright holders? Sound off in the comments below.


Nader Hobballah

I am the current manager of the video game review page The Murfreesboro Pulse. You can check out my work over there. I enjoy PC games in general. I also delve into consoles from time to time.