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Tetris Clones Pulled From Android Market 396

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-bears dept.
sbrubblesman writes "The Tetris Company, LLC has notified Google to remove all Tetris clones from Android Market. I am one of the developers of FallingBlocks, a game with the same gameplay concepts as Tetris. I have received an email warning that my game was suspended from Android Market due to a violation of the Developer Content Policy. When I received the email, I already imagined that it had something to do with it being a Tetris clone, but besides having the same gameplay as Tetris, which I believe cannot be copyrighted, the game uses its own name, graphics and sounds. There's no reference to 'Tetris' in our game. I have emailed Google asking what is the reason for the application removal. Google promptly answered that The Tetris Company, LLC notified them under the DMCA (PDF) to remove various Tetris clones from Android Market. My app was removed together with 35 other Tetris clones. I checked online at various sources, and all of them say that there's no copyright on gameplay. There could be some sort of patent. But even if they had one, it would last 20 years, so it would have been over in 2005. It's a shame that The Tetris Company, LLC uses its power to stop developers from creating good and free games for Android users. Without resources for a legal fight, our application and many others will cease to exist, even knowing that they are legit. Users will be forced to buy the paid, official version, which is worse than many of the ones available for free on the market. Users from other countries, such as Brazil in my case, won't even be able to play the official Tetris, since Google Checkout doesn't exist in Brazil; you can't buy paid applications from Android Market in these countries."
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Tetris Clones Pulled From Android Market

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  • Old news? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:01AM (#32373754)

    Tetris company doesn't like clones [arstechnica.com]

    iPhone users hoping to download the free Tetris clone, Tris, had better do so quickly: the game is being pulled from the App Store on iTunes tomorrow due to pressure from both Apple and The Tetris Company, which owns the rights to Tetris.

    - August 26, 2008

    To the developers: pick a different game. Tetris has quite a litigious history [wikipedia.org]
    Or, more to the point... if you're going to spend the time to make a game clone, couldn't you at least do a quick google for "[Game] lawsuits"?

  • DMCA compliance (Score:5, Informative)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:09AM (#32373816)

    Google has to remove the items in question to be in safe waters with the DMCA.

    You can choose to assert that you own the copyright for your app. Once you do that, Google must forward your information to The Tetris Company, LLC, and reinstate your app. It now becomes a matter between you and The Tetris Company, LLC, and Google cannot be held liable for damages.

    Then if The Tetris Company, LLC chooses to do so, they can file a court case. That's probably the tricky bit, as you seem to indicate, that you're in Brazil and not the US, where they are likely to file.

    But - ask a lawyer. I'm not one, the above is just how I understand the DMCA works.

  • You believe that gameplay can't be copyrighted. You cherry picked some unnamed and unknown sites that support your believe about gameplay and copyright.

    One web search [google.com] shows as the first hit a nice page [copyright.gov] from the US Copyright Office that demonstrates he's right. And that's not specific to the US (left as a web search exercise to the reader).

  • by TeXMaster (593524) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:22AM (#32373928)

    You believe that gameplay can't be copyrighted. You cherry picked some unnamed and unknown sites that support your believe about gameplay and copyright.

    Gameplay cannot be copyrighted. There are solid cases in international copyright case history to support this claim, the first that comes to my mind is the one involving Scrabble and the Italian variant Scarabeo. Mattel went after EG, and lost the case because the game mechanics were not protectable under any form (copyright, trademark, patent).

  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:37AM (#32374034)

    Yes, essentially. The procedure for content at another Google division is explained here [google.com]. A similar procedure should apply.

    In this case, the complaint seems to be primarily a trademark complaint which is probably easily addressed (you can say "Compare to Tetris(R)!" in a game description but you can't call your game "FreeTetris"). And a secondary, very vague claim that because the games are "similar" to the company's game that they use copyrighted material of the company. I don't know whether case law supports that or not, but according to what I've read in a quick Googling it probably doesn't.

    According to Wikipedia, this is standard operating procedure for The Tetris Company [wikipedia.org] and they've done the same with Apple's App Store. Not clear that The Tetris Company has ever won a lawsuit on these copyright grounds, but use it to beat small developers up.

    Additionally, they pressured a company Biosocia last year via lawsuit to take down their Blockles game. See the statement [tetris.com] on the outcome of that (it was settled, not litigated to conclusion - sounds like Biosocia got tired of spending money to fight the lawsuit and just agreed to take the damned game down while stating that they thought that Tetris Company was full of shit).

  • by cjp (624694) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:42AM (#32374100)
    Assuming I'm understanding your question correctly, I enjoy shiny things more when they're bought with money I got doing something creative rather than derivative.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:42AM (#32374102) Homepage

    WRONG!!!!

    That is not how the DMCA works. The DMCA was partly designed to enable a rights holder to get content removed from the internet at a pace faster than the courts system can provide. The process is "complain to the host. host notifies the client. host removes content. client counter-claims. host restores content." Now the issue is between the client and the rights holder and the host has done his due diligence to avoid being sued directly.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:47AM (#32374160)
    At least in the US you're allowed to use the trademark in referring to the original item. So regardless of what Apple might like you can use iPod, iPad, iMac all you like as long as you refer to their product. Likewise in this case regardless of what this outfit might think saying that something is a clone of the classic game Tetris is completely legal. It's not within the domain of trademark law to prevent that. At least not in the US.

    But that's trademarks, not copyright, how they think that they can use the DMCA to enforce that is beyond me. The DMCA only applies to the copyright not trademark.
  • by Francis (5885) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:52AM (#32374206) Homepage

    Google actually has permission from Namco, the owners of Pac-man, for a permanent Google/Pac-man logo/diversion :)

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-20005577-52.html [cnet.com]

    You can play that here:
    http://www.google.com/pacman/ [google.com]

    Fun extra: It actually works on mobile devices, including iPhones and Android :)

  • by samkass (174571) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:58AM (#32374266) Homepage Journal

    Yes. Here's a good guide on what to do. [newmediarights.org]

  • Re:shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:58AM (#32374268)
    And it's still there. [android.com]
    Look under "Top Free" and then "Brain and Puzzle" catagory.
    I don't know if Google already restored it or it never came down but it's definitely available.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:11AM (#32374390)

    I think that's a different version, it has a space in the name!
    If you try the link from http://mobplug.com/falling.html then it says it has been removed.

  • 17 USC 512(g) (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:15AM (#32374414) Homepage Journal

    however, the DMCA does not FORCE them to put it back up when you file a counter. They can choose not to put it back up

    If the service provider doesn't put it back up within 14 business days after its designated agent receives the counter-notice from the subscriber, its immunity under 17 USC 512(g)(1) [copyright.gov] expires, and the subscriber can sue the service provider.

    and since there is so little to gain by putting it back up.. no attorney would ever recommend that they do so.

    Where do you draw that conclusion? From the statute, 512(g)(4): "A service provider's compliance with [the counter-notification procedure] shall not subject the service provider to liability for copyright infringement with respect to the material identified in the [original takedown] notice."

  • Re:Could be worse.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Pharmboy (216950) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:16AM (#32374426) Journal

    hank your deity that Google doesn't have the same draconian control over their store as Apple.

    More fanboy trolls. Even Steve Jobs says that Google doesn't have the same "draconian control", leading him to the famous, "if you want porn, get an Android" comment. I can see why you posted this FUD as AC.

  • If I'm not mistaken, that's an article about board games. Not sure how video games translate into that

    More things to look up: idea and expression [wikipedia.org] (copyright), scenes a faire [wikipedia.org] (copyright), Lotus v. Borland [wikipedia.org] (copyright), functionality doctrine [wikipedia.org] (trademark), and Dastar v. Fox [wikipedia.org] (trademark).

  • by mr_mischief (456295) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:36AM (#32374610) Journal

    Actually, you can patent gameplay. You can't copyright it. In fact, games ranging from Monopoly to Magic: The Gathering have been patented. A prior collectible card game patent was issued in 1904. There really is nothing new under the sun. Random citations:

    Monopoly [about.com]
    Magic [wikipedia.org]

    However, Tetris isn't patented so the whole patent issue is moot. Besides, trademarks and patents aren't enforced by the DMCA.

  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:43AM (#32374664) Homepage

    As usual, slashdot missed the other informative story about how the Tetris Company never paid the real inventor anything.

    The Tetris Company *is* partly Alexey Pazhitnov's (i.e. the original inventor of Tetris). It was formed after he regained the rights to the game in the mid-1990s, long *after* the likes of Nintendo had released their uber-popular version of the game.

    So, on the one hand you could argue that Pazhitnov had the right to some payback through them. On the other hand, they don't (to the best of my knowledge) have the rights to Tetris-style gameplay in itself, only the trademarks, and it's pretty contemptible that they're using bullying abuse of the legal process to shut out Tetris clones, whether or not you believe those have the right to exist.

    It's also ironic that Pazhitnov invented a game was one whose appeal was its very simpleness, that isn't really enhanced by bells and whistles (which arguably detract from it), and that has little need for anything added beyond the archetypcal classic Game Boy version.... and yet the success of his Tetris Company depends on just that, i.e. selling endless new versions of that game which for the reasons given only ever end up being pointlessly bell-and-whistled bloatings of the original.

  • by sbrubblesman (871975) on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:03AM (#32374890)
    Somebody made another game called "Falling Blocks". Search for the one made by "MobPlug". You wont find it.
  • by I_Human (781026) <james.eric.powerNO@SPAMus.army.mil> on Friday May 28, 2010 @09:12AM (#32374996) Homepage
    Kind of off topic but the DS version added a ton to the game (not just multi-player modes.. which were also great), give it a try!
  • Re:shame (Score:2, Informative)

    by sbrubblesman (871975) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:44AM (#32376156)
    Its still on the website storefront, but it cant be downloaded to phones anymore.
  • Re:shame (Score:5, Informative)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:44AM (#32376924) Journal

    Under DMCA all you need to do is submit a Document declaring your work does not infringe anything, and the item MUST be put back up

    - If Google refuses, then you can sue them for breaking the law (the DMCA)

    - If they put it back up, then everything should be good. The only thing you need to fear is being sued, directly, by the Tetris Company.

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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