In 2021, a group of Grand Theft Auto enthusiast programmers released ‘re3’ and ‘reVC’, a pair of reverse-engineered modifications for GTA 3 and Vice City.
These projects breathed new life into games that while still fantastic, benefited greatly from significant enhancements that helped to wind back the years. Fans loved ‘re3’ and ‘reVC’ but Take-Two and Rockstar Games most definitely did not.
The companies’ first move was to file a DMCA notice that ordered GitHub to take the projects down. The programmers’ response came via a DMCA counternotice which restored their projects on GitHub but left them exposed to a potential legal response by Take-Two.
Take-Two Files Copyright Lawsuit
In September 2021, Take-Two filed a lawsuit against the programmers, claiming that the aim of the projects was to create and distribute pirated versions of GTA 3 and Vice City.
The company’s claims included damages for “willful and malicious” copyright infringement due to the illegal copying, adaption and distribution of GTA source code and other protected content. For good measure, Take-Two also demanded damages for alleged misrepresentations in the defendants’ DMCA counternotices.
The lawsuit listed 14 defendants, just four of which were named: Angelo Papenhoff (aap), Theo Morra, Eray Orçunus, and Adrian Graber. In their November 2021 answer to the complaint, the four men denied the copyright infringement allegations and cited fair use among other affirmative defenses.
One Year Later, Limited Visible Progress
The first five months of 2022 were relatively uneventful, at least based on information made available to the public. The parties did participate in an ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) session but according to the mediator’s report early May, the case did not settle.
No further entries appeared on the docket until December 2022, when the parties informed the court that since disclosure and discovery in the lawsuit was likely to involve the production of confidential, proprietary, or private information, special protection from public disclosure may be warranted. The court had no problem with granting the request.
As part of this process, Take-Two served an expert report on November 17, 2022, leaving a deadline of December 15 for Papenhoff, Morra, Orçunus, and Graber to disclose their rebuttal expert witness. What followed was a series of requests for time extensions and a note to the court on February 6, 2023, indicating that a settlement had been agreed in principle.
Take-Two Dismisses Claims Against Four Named Defendants
Following the news of the potential settlement, the court granted a 30-day extension until March 19. When that date disappeared into history with no further docket activity, the court issued an order for the parties to file a status report by April 3. The parties responded on the day of the deadline with a joint stipulation of dismissal.
“In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(ii), by and between the
undersigned counsel for the Plaintiff, Take Two Interactive Software, Inc., and counsel for Defendants Angelo Papenhoff, Theo Morra, Eray Orçunus, and Adrian Graber that all claims asserted in the above-referenced action against the Named Defendants are dismissed with prejudice,” the parties informed the court.
In these circumstances, the dismissal does not require the court to issue an order, since the signatures of the parties who have appeared in the case will suffice. Take-Two and the developers will bear their own costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees.
What prompted this meeting of minds and subsequent agreement isn’t mentioned, but for the four men, the lawsuit is over and cannot be refiled in the future.
On Monday, the lawsuit appeared set to continue against the remaining defendants – Doe 1 (a/k/a Ash R. and ASH_735) plus Does 2 through 10 inclusive – whoever (and wherever) they might be. An update filed Tuesday clarified the position.
“Plaintiff, Take Two Interactive Software, Inc., hereby voluntarily dismisses Defendants Doe 1 a/k/a ASH R. and ASH_735 and Does 2-10, without prejudice,” the company informed the court.
It’s possible that a fresh lawsuit will be filed in the future but, realistically, not anytime soon.
The joint stipulation of dismissal can be found here (pdf)