We've seen plenty of ways in which the DMCA process has been used, and often abused, for purposes not intended by the lawmakers who crafted it. With everything from pure attempts to censor damning information to oblique fuckery heaped upon a competing business, folks have used the DMCA as a blunt tool. Given the context in which this is done, it is nearly always the case that you can't root for anyone issuing those sorts of DMCA takedowns
But perhaps we've found the exception that proves the rule. TorrentFreak has a fascinating story about a game developer that issued a DMCA notice to Steam... for its own game. Why? Well, because apparently that was the only way to wrestle back control over the game's distribution from a publisher the developer says skipped out on the publishing contract.
However, a takedown notice game developer Ammobox Studios sent to Steam recently is far from typical. The company asked the game platform to remove their own game “Eximius: Seize the Frontline” after it ran into trouble with its publisher. According to the game developer, the publishing partner, TheGameWallStudios, went dark and stopped making payments.
“Long story short, we had to file a DMCA against our very own game on Steam to wrest it off the Publisher. The DMCA has just kicked in resulting in the game being taken off the Steam Store Page,” Ammobox explained.
So the timeline goes like this. Ammobox gets a publishing contract for the game with TheGameWallStudios. TGWS puts the game up on Steam. TGWS then, according to Ammobox, goes silent on the payments it was to make to Ammobox, but still has the game up on Steam's store, generating sales and money. With the contract breached, TGWS has no right to publish the game, which suddenly reverts to being a "pirated" version of the game. Ammobox issues the DMCA to Steam and the game comes down.
To add just one more good guy to this story, Steam itself apparently was very helpful to Ammobox, even after receiving the DMCA notice.
The game was removed from the store for over a week. While it was no longer for sale, people who previously bought it could still pay it. Then, after nearly two weeks, the developers regained control of their own game, with help from Steam.
“The fraudulent publisher Thegamewall has been removed as publisher in our Steam store page. We would like to thank Steam for assisting us during this terrible ordeal,” Ammobox announced this week.
Now, Steam has a reputation, arguably deserved, of being far more friendly to publishers than developers. At some level, this makes sense, as publishers are generally the customer/partner of Steam's as opposed to the developers. For Steam to, in this case, recognize that the developer had been wronged and to work directly with the developer to get the game back up with payments flowing to the proper recipient ought to be getting the attention of developers all over the place.
Meanwhile, Ammobox still has to resolve the owed payments from TGWS. But at least they get a nod for a creative non-dickish way of using the DMCA process.