Universal Music Shoots Down 8-Bit DJ Hero De-Make

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Universal Music Shoots Down 8-Bit DJ Hero De-Make

Universal Music Publishing Group has served "8-bit de-maker" Eric Ruth with a cease-and-desist letter over Pixel Force DJ Hero, his take on the 2009 Activision release DJ Hero.

If the name "Eric Ruth" rings a bell, it's probably because you remember him from the Left 4 Dead "de-make" He released in January. He said at the time that he wanted to put out a series of 8-bit-style de-makes of current-gen titles under the Pixel Force name, but his latest step in that plan has run into a bit of a legal speed bump.

One of the more awesome aspects of Ruth's game is the chiptune mashups of 80s icons like Dead or Alive, Siouxie and the Banshees, INXS and Ray Parker Jr., but that's also what attracted the attention of one Jerrold Grannis, a manager at Universal Music Publishing Group. Grannis contacted Ruth and asked him to provide a "valid license" to use the various pieces of music in his game; Ruth wrote back and said he didn't have the licenses but noted that he was not charging for the game and hoped that the matter wouldn't end with a formal request to pull it.

You can probably guess what happened next.

"Under U.S. law, it doesn't matter whether the content is provided free to end user or for a charge. What matters is that content was distributed without the copyright holders express permission," Grannis wrote in an exchange posted on Piki Geek. "Further, I note that by 'mashing-up' multiple copyrights, you are making fundamental changes to the music that may be considered derivative works." He demanded that the game be removed immediately and that Ruth provide "metrics" on the number of copies that were distributed.

Ruth, to his immense credit, went above and beyond the call of civility in his response. He agreed to take it down but explained that with the number of mirror sites and possible torrents hosting it, he had no way to tell how many times the game had been downloaded. He told Grannis that he felt the C&D was "a dick move" by a huge, over-moneyed corporation, but added that although "it blows," he didn't take it personally because he knew Grannis was just doing his job. "Personally, I wish you all the best and hope your holidays are pretty rad," he concluded. "Send my best to the Grannis family."

Grannis got the last word in the exchange. "U.S. law is U.S law," he wrote. "If you think 'it blows,' write your Congressman." But he may also be getting a first-hand lesson in the "Streisand Effect" as gamers who previously either didn't know or didn't care about the game are now making a point of sharing links and spreading the word. "I hadn't heard of 8-Bit DJ Hero until this story," one Piki Geek commenter wrote. "Downloading now."

In an amusing twist, the FAQ included with the game includes the question, "Is Activision gonna sue you?" to which Ruth replies, "God, I hope not."

Fortunately, it doesn't sound as though this copyright mess will have any immediate impact on Ruth's next project, Pixel Force: Halo. He told Joystiq that work on the game is "well underway" and will hopefully be out sometime in January 2011.

Permalink

"THIS IS THE FUN POLICE. PLEASE STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING A DROP ANY FUN THAT YOU ARE CARRYING ON YOUR PERSON."

Yeah, why does copyright law have to be such a killjoy?

"US Law is US law, beep bop gnork gnork"

Translates from lawyer speak to,

"I don't understand what the fuck your doing, but I hate you, tra la la la la"

Idiot ass copywrite lawyers.

ENJOY THE TASTE OF YOUR NEWEST PR SNAFU.

This just in; businessmen and their lawyers are the cold-hearted enemies of art they don't control.[/slowpoke]

Wow, what utter killjoys there. I've gotta try that game... (Streisand effect at work!)

PS: Downloading now. Google is your friend. Suck it Universal.

http://goo.gl/GjHjD

...and now I'm gonna go youtube the ghostbusters theme.

I don't get it, he's not making a profit on it, he's not stealing any money from anyone.

But, copyright laws and the people who enforce them probably just exist to shut down awesome stuff like this... and suck the fun out of life.

Dear corporations and lawyers: Just because the law lets you do certain things don't mean you have to do them. If you want to actually survive the next 20 years, you might want to start looking at the direction that our culture is taking with regard to intellectual property, and ride with it rather than trying to stifle it. Your corporation may be large and powerful, and it might have the law on its side, but cultural movements are bigger than the law, and bigger than you.

Oh yeah, and "if you don't like the law, write your congressman"? Oh, you mean you want me to write the congressman that you bought to try to get him to overturn a law that you bought? Yeah fucking right. It's been decades since our government has actually acted for the benefit of its citizens against the corporations that fund their elections.

Aw man, that totally blows. It's sad to see something so well done, crushed in its prime. You'd think there'd be some leeway on using old, "8 bit" music on a non-profit program.

Fronzel:
This just in; businessmen and their lawyers are the cold-hearted enemies of art they don't control.[/slowpoke]

They do control the art. The art this guy illegally used in his game. He has the freedom to make his games as art. That freedom ends when using someone else's art. I'm missing why this is so horrible. Surely this guy knew that Universal and other labels would not stand for this anyway, and surely he knew this is against the law.

Zachary Amaranth:

They do control the art. The art this guy illegally used in his game. He has the freedom to make his games as art. That freedom ends when using someone else's art. I'm missing why this is so horrible. Surely this guy knew that Universal and other labels would not stand for this anyway, and surely he knew this is against the law.

Then that lawyer had better start going after every schmuck on youtube that creates AMV's, picture mash-ups, and come to think of it most of the stuff that's on youtube set to music.

I respect that the lawyer is well within his rights to do this, but what does it accomplish for him? The glee of adding another notch to his belt for hosing the fun of yet another nameless person? Yeah cause let me tell you this guy was seriously going to cut into the profit margin by taking 8-bit versions of 80's music and attaching them to a relatively unknown fan project.

GG Mr.Lawyer, the industry of 8-bit 80's music lives to make money another day.

Woah, did NOT know about this game, downloading now! :D

Ok, I'm not getting DJ Hero then. Additionally, I'm gonna hunt down that 8-bit version. Streisand Effect ftw!
Also, dear lawyers: you are a cancer on society, and kindly die. Or better yet, would you jump off a building if I promised to give you a million dollar and to light kittens on fire?

TsunamiWombat:
"US Law is US law, beep bop gnork gnork"

Translates from lawyer speak to,

"I don't understand what the fuck your doing, but I hate you, tra la la la la"

Idiot ass copywrite lawyers.

ENJOY THE TASTE OF YOUR NEWEST PR SNAFU.

Calm down. His response was perfectly reasonable.

How about a murderer who considers himself an artist? Perhaps paints with his victim's blood. If he gets caught and cries out "I am creating art!" And it is responded by "The law is the law, you can't murder people." Is that being an idiot ass lawyer?

That being said, I disagree with this action and I do think they making a mistake, but I think the automatic reaction of pretending that they're not real people or that they're somehow retarded for following the law is ridiculous.

Good ol' Activision, whenever someone does something innovative they swing the Copyright hammer until all the thumbs, and digits mistaken for thumbs, are a bloody mess.

Hexenwolf:

How about a murderer who considers himself an artist? Perhaps paints with his victim's blood. If he gets caught and cries out "I am creating art!" And it is responded by "The law is the law, you can't murder people." Is that being an idiot ass lawyer?

What an absolutely ridiculous arguement... Hope you didn't spend too much time on that.

@ everyone else.... really? you didn't see this coming?

Anyway until you all decide to actually get involved not one of you deserves a voice in this matter.

It's universal for god's sake.. you want to hurt them, or send them a message, then practice some restrain.

Buying music.. DON'T buy anything from any of Universal's 'artists'. If you are buying a game.. DON'T buy one that says Vivendi or Universal. Going to the movies.. DON'T pay to see one by Universal or any their shell studios. Simple.... but none of you will actually 'deprive' yourselves of their shiny, bright, distracting for an hour crap, so none of you actually deserve to moan about it.

Shit, or get off the pot.

KeyMaster45 makes a good point. I'm not too in depth with how copyright laws work, but considering this is completely non-profit it seems like a ridiculous idea. Hell, I didn't even know about this game (downloading now by the way.) What bugs me is how pointless this is, DJ Hero actually looks like a fun game. I'm going to want to play the normal sounding version, with the shiny graphics. 8-bit is fun, but I would love to pretend DJ scratch a Daft Punk song than a crappier 8-bit version.

Besides, if I wanted that I would just DJ scratch the Kanye West remix of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Zachary Amaranth:

Fronzel:
This just in; businessmen and their lawyers are the cold-hearted enemies of art they don't control.[/slowpoke]

They do control the art. The art this guy illegally used in his game. He has the freedom to make his games as art. That freedom ends when using someone else's art. I'm missing why this is so horrible. Surely this guy knew that Universal and other labels would not stand for this anyway, and surely he knew this is against the law.

Overprotecting art is just as bad as under-protecting it. On one hand, he never claimed to own this music. He credited the names of the songs to their rightful owners, even though he went to the work of remaking them in 8-Bit AND mashing them together. He also didn't plan to make a profit from it.

So, what is it that Universal has to gain by going after him? Licenses are prohibitively expensive, so he wouldn't have been able to get them anyway. And since they made such a big deal out of it, the game is probably going to get much more popular than it ever would have before. All they've done is wasted a bit of their money and bought a bunch of negative PR because of it.

I think there is easily an argument made against the statement, "Further, I note that by 'mashing-up' multiple copyrights, you are making fundamental changes to the music that may be considered derivative works."
It's not as if he is taking the original works and distributing them for free. The point of that copyright law is to keep people from plagiarizing and making money off that work.
It's not as if people are going to go "holy shit, check out this 8-bit version...why would you listen to the real thing?" If anything it'll get people interested in the real version of the song...and for that matter the ACTUAL FUCKING GAME that didn't do that great and needs all the (positive) publicity it can get.

If that was truly an issue, we wouldn't see any amateur musician on youtube playing their covers or mashups or whatever, as it would be far too damaging to the real thing.

I... don't see him getting very far with that Halo project either. Maybe M$ couldn't bring down the hammer if Bungie still had the IP but I have a feeling it'll suffer the same fate.

I'm a law student, and I have to say copyright laws are by far the most annoying juridic guarantee there is. Not that there shouldn't be copyright protection, but some lawsuits are plain silly and the interpretation given to the law is just too strict...

Awexsome:
I... don't see him getting very far with that Halo project either. Maybe M$ couldn't bring down the hammer if Bungie still had the IP but I have a feeling it'll suffer the same fate.

Maybe.
image
Maybe not. We will just have to wait and see.

008Zulu:
Good ol' Activision, whenever someone does something innovative they swing the Copyright hammer until all the thumbs, and digits mistaken for thumbs, are a bloody mess.

Activision has nothing to do with this; No one from Activision has sent him a C&D letter for making an 8-bit DJ Hero.
Universal Music though, sent him a C&D letter for making 8-bit versions of one or more of their songs and distributing them in his game.

Fucking copyright laws, another great example here of why they need to be changed.

Mr.Tea:
Activision has nothing to do with this; No one from Activision has sent him a C&D letter for making an 8-bit DJ Hero.
Universal Music though, sent him a C&D letter for making 8-bit versions of one or more of their songs and distributing them in his game.

Huh, how about that. I just read Activision in the title and assumed the worst. I suppose I owe Activision an apology. They wont get it, ever, but I owe them one.

again, it wasn't whether he could have and did have this shut down, it's whether it is actually going to do either the music company or the artists involved any good either in terms of image or finances.

Sometimes they should really stop, take a breath, decide 'is this going to cut the number of mp3's legally sold, or is it an interesting diversion that will probably draw more people than ever in to listen to music they previous had no interest in?'

In effect, is this piracy, or free advertising, and if it's a grey area, to which end of the spectrum does it lie?

I STILL for the life of me don't see an ECONOMIC reason for shutting down music videos, which are adverts for bands and artists, and people are not going to hold a party and queue up 3 hours of youtube clips instead of owning some cds or itunes tracks.

I personally hope this spreads like wildfire and hits a good 100 million downloads, compared with the couple of thousand it may have got without legal intervention. Not out of malice of course, I just want those 80s artists to get more free advertising and sell a few more compilation cds to prove me right :D

Laywers, no-one is listening to chip music because they don't want to buy the originals.

Honestly does anyone go into law with the aim of doing some good in this world, or were they just too much of a **** to be selected as a reality show judge and had to go train as a lawyer?

Of course, I know there's good lawyers out there defending people in need and trying to get bad guys locked up, but damn, it does seem every time you read the word lawyer, it's some big corp crapping on a little guy because they can afford better lawyers, rather than thru any of that 'justice' stuff.

Downloading now.. whislt listening to this just for shits & giggles

Now just wait. One. Second. Heow.

That thing about mashing up copyrights and therefore being able to be sued on the grounds of derivative etcetc?
Does it really work that way? I mean, people can just get away with remixing whatever they want can't they?

Correct me if I'm wrong but wouldn's this fall under fair use?

Particularly because this is a tribute/parody that isn't being charged for,
Weird Al yankovic legaly doesn't have to ask if he can alter a song and he earns money from it, to be blunt I'm fairly certain that this is bullshit and they are merely trying to scare him in to giving up a project they have no actual right to stop.

Kinda like thoses copywrite lawyers that are suing a lawyer that is telling people how to defend themselves in court.

Fumbleumble:

Hexenwolf:

How about a murderer who considers himself an artist? Perhaps paints with his victim's blood. If he gets caught and cries out "I am creating art!" And it is responded by "The law is the law, you can't murder people." Is that being an idiot ass lawyer?

What an absolutely ridiculous arguement... Hope you didn't spend too much time on that.

@ everyone else.... really? you didn't see this coming?

Anyway until you all decide to actually get involved not one of you deserves a voice in this matter.

It's universal for god's sake.. you want to hurt them, or send them a message, then practice some restrain.

Buying music.. DON'T buy anything from any of Universal's 'artists'. If you are buying a game.. DON'T buy one that says Vivendi or Universal. Going to the movies.. DON'T pay to see one by Universal or any their shell studios. Simple.... but none of you will actually 'deprive' yourselves of their shiny, bright, distracting for an hour crap, so none of you actually deserve to moan about it.

Shit, or get off the pot.

Spent about two seconds on it. You know what hyperbole is right?

Other than that, I agree with everything else you said.

Hexenwolf:

TsunamiWombat:
"US Law is US law, beep bop gnork gnork"

Translates from lawyer speak to,

"I don't understand what the fuck your doing, but I hate you, tra la la la la"

Idiot ass copywrite lawyers.

ENJOY THE TASTE OF YOUR NEWEST PR SNAFU.

Calm down. His response was perfectly reasonable.

How about a murderer who considers himself an artist? Perhaps paints with his victim's blood. If he gets caught and cries out "I am creating art!" And it is responded by "The law is the law, you can't murder people." Is that being an idiot ass lawyer?

That being said, I disagree with this action and I do think they making a mistake, but I think the automatic reaction of pretending that they're not real people or that they're somehow retarded for following the law is ridiculous.

Well that's not true at all, a murderer is totally morally wrong. Someone speading 8 bit versions of songs, is morally grey.

The way I see it, the 8 bit versions distributed would generate revenue towards the artist, not take away from. This is why the lawyer is an idiot. He is shooting the company he works for in the foot.

/Downloaded.

Stupid people thinking they can stop the internet.

Activision=Cunts

Though it's not like we didn't know that already.

Whats that Activision? Community led aprication and extension of your products? We can't let that happen can we.

Activision understands so little about the current gameing enviroment, especially on the PC, it phsyically pains me. Do they think this 8bit hommage to their game will damage sales? Are they REALLY as stupid as to kill every sign of creativity not only in their own company but in the community at large?

Bobby Kotick:
"The goal that I had in bringing a lot of the packaged goods folks into Activision about 10 years ago was to take all the fun out of making video games."

Well you are doing a good job Bobby, and yes this is a direct quote and yes he did literally turn 'his' company (Bobby.k. Activision is really just riding the name) into literal box factory. Bravo. You fuckwit.

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