Several mod developers for Grand Theft Auto V have allegedly been strong-armed into shutting down their mods and ceasing development, according to a new report from Ars Technica. Two separate groups of GTA V modders, responsible for the multiplayer mods FiveM and GTA: Multiplayer, claim to have been doorstepped by private investigators at their homes, demanding they cease development of their mods, after having their Rockstar Social Club accounts banned (preventing them from playing GTA V or any other Rockstar games associated with the account).
FiveM developer ntauthy described the experience on the sub-Reddit for the mod.
“So I just got a pair of PIs at my door claiming to be sent by Take Two, handing me a phone with a person somewhere in the UK or US or whatever to ‘discuss how to cease my activities with regard to Grand Theft Auto’, that ‘they know what happened before with Activision and want to not get the lawyers involved at this time’, however they ‘have tested their legal standing already and are quite certain of their point’ and ‘aren’t willing to accept any solution other than ceasing my activities’.
“Oh, they also ‘couldn’t disclose any conversations they’re having with other modification developers’, didn’t want to talk about general modification policy as ‘it was just about my case’ and admitted they ‘looked through my source code’.”
Rockstar released a statement at the time the Social Club ban was issued, indicating that the “FiveM project is an unauthorized alternate multiplayer service that contains code designed to facilitate piracy.” The modders continued to work on FiveM, and publisher Take-Two Interactive allegedly responded in the spirit of the GTA games.
Meanwhile, as Cinema Blend reports, the GTA-MP developers have been more philosophical about the situation following threats of a lawsuit from Take-Two. GTA-MP was allegedly ordered to shut down after causing a drop in microtransaction revenue for the publisher, and the GTA-MP devs have asked their community not to be upset about the situation, suggesting that they accept and dislike the idea that their mod was causing harm to GTA V’s profits. According to their statement, Take-Two sees GTA-MP, which offers an alternative to GTA Online’s centralized servers, as “a rival to their business.”
According to Gameplanet, the GTA-MP developers were also visited by private investigators, a claim that was confirmed by the mod developers on their own website.
FiveM worked differently from GTA-MP, reverse-engineering GTA V’s network code and redirecting it to a separate set of dedicated servers, which, as noted by Law of the Game blogger and attorney Mike Methenitis, is a clear violation of the Rockstar license agreement, not to mention the DMCA prohibition against workarounds for “a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work.” Given that FiveM circumvents GTA V’s network code to place players on a separate set of multiplayer servers, it’s hard to argue that it isn’t breaking that prohibition, or that it doesn’t facilitate piracy.
That said, FiveM doesn’t actually circumvent the Rockstar Social Club, and it doesn’t technically violate Rockstar’s mod policies (which expressly bans “online” mods, but FiveM doesn’t actually modify anything in the core online experience, simply redirects the connection). Given the almost cartoonishly-shady tactics that Take-Two allegedly chose to employ against the FiveM developers, it’s entirely possible that they’re not as confident of their legal position as they’ve said and don’t care to have it challenged in court. Although they’re not likely to lose, most companies in the gaming industry arguing a case based on terms-of-service prefer to avoid the courts. Gaming terms-of-service are still a legal gray area in many cases.
In any case, regardless of the actual legalities on either side, GTA V multiplayer mods FiveM and Grand Theft Auto: Multiplayer have both been shut down by GTA V publisher Take-Two Interactive, possibly in concert with developer Rockstar Games, with private investigators allegedly sent to the homes of several of the mod developers.
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