The statement came from a financial earnings call (as spotted by PCGamesN), when an investor asked about previous DMCA takedown efforts.
“In terms of takedowns, we’re pretty flexible, frankly,” said Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick in response. “That said, if the economy is threatened, or if there’s bad behaviour, and we know how to define that, then we would issue a takedown notice.”
Zelnick’s comments may strike some players as strange, considering that in July 2021 the company ordered the takedown of mods that had been available for over a decade. That wave of takedowns included some for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a title originally released in 2004.
Take-Two’s relationship to the modding community has been a convoluted one. In 2005, the infamous “Hot Coffee” mod – which revealed a hidden sex scene that was normally inaccessible to players – landed the company in hot water, including lawsuits from the city of Los Angeles and civil class actions. In 2009, Take-Two settled one class action for $20m (£12.37m at the time).
In 2017, per a thread on the fan-run GTA Forums, Take-Two relaxed its stance somewhat, allowing modding so long as creators didn’t port assets to older games, or attempt to mod online content, such as Grand Theft Auto Online. However, the “agreement” was supposedly changed in 2019, leading to an escalating series of takedowns, even of historical content.
While Take-Two has not clarified what criteria it uses in determining which mods to issue DMCA takedown notices to, Zelnick’s examples of mods which hurt the “economy” or encourage “bad behaviour” don’t seem to apply to many of the recent removals.
However, given some of the affected mods include high definition texture packs, some players speculate the company may be planning remasters of its older titles. Others wonder if it somehow relates to the development of the still-unconfirmed Grand Theft Auto 6.
In related news, fan-made projects that reverse engineered Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City were made available again, as the mods’ creators claimed “we believe that any code in this repo that is similar to code or other content owned by Take-Two is either unprotected by copyright or is permitted under fair use.”