Startup and video game law, from a Canadian and U.S. perspective
Game or App Ripped Off? Here’s what to do:
Whenever a developer discovers a copied version of their app/game, their immediate concern is how to remove it. This post aims to outline the process for removing content that infringes your copyright from major app/game stores.
All major stores operated by U.S. companies (and often foreign companies) comply with the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”). Simply summarized, the DMCA provides a notice-and-takedown procedure whereby a notice of copyright infringement sent to a DMCA Agent leads to the take down of infringing content.
STEP 1. DMCA Notification
The DMCA Agent should be your primary contact as the DMCA specifies a procedure for copyright infringement claims and major stores will follow the procedure. Here are links to the DMCA Agent for each major store:
You must complete and send the notice of copyright infringement contained in these forms to the DMCA Agent in order to initiate the DMCA process. After you send notice, the DMCA Agent should remove, or disable access to, the allegedly infringing app/game and send notification of such removal to the infringer.
DMCA Agent response time varies. Indeed, U.S. courts are currently determining what period of time constitutes a reasonable response!
STEP 2. Utilizing Connections and Social Media
After sending the notification, feel free to contact anyone you know at the app/game store or use Twitter and other social media to push your cause. Often a campaign will cause a quick response from the DMCA Agent.
STEP 3. Cease and Desist
Consider sending a cease and desist letter to the infringer as well, requesting that they remove the infringing content from the store (perhaps also request sales proceeds). Where the store or website does not comply with the DMCA, this may be the first or second step.
STEP 4. DMCA Counter Notification and Lawsuits
The infringer may respond with a counter notification claiming that the allegedly infringing content was removed as a result of mistake or misidentification. The DMCA Agent, upon receiving counter notification, will let you know about the counter notification and will put the content back on the store in 10-14 business days, unless (before the content returns) you seek a restraining order against the alleged infringer and inform the DMCA Agent of the order.
In reality, the DMCA Agent likely will not receive a counter notification in the case of a blatant ripoff of your app/game. Nonetheless, it’s important to know the steps that follow DMCA notification.