Activision Issues DMCA Takedowns to Outlet Covering Call of Duty Leaks
Activision issued a DMCA takedown notice to the Twitter account of website Video Games Chronicle after it legitimately covered map leaks from Call of Duty: Warzone.
This resulted in the VGC account being temporarily locked (a standard Twitter process in response to DMCA claims, but one that can eventually lead to full account suspension), with the tweet in question also struck from Twitter. The DMCA also affected VGC editor-in-chief, Andy Robinson. Both tweets pointed to VGC’s coverage of the leaks – which Activision has seemingly not moved to take down.
Twitter’s policies say that it will “respond to reports of alleged copyright infringement, such as allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted image as a profile or header photo, allegations concerning the unauthorized use of a copyrighted video or image uploaded through our media hosting services, or Tweets containing links to allegedly infringing materials.”
Robinson has made clear that the tweets did not contain Twitter-hosted images of the leaked material. Twitter links do automatically pull images from their stories, which could appear to show a leaked image – however the image in VGC’s tweet (and story) appeared to be a screenshot from the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ mission in the Black Ops Cold War campaign, not a leaked image. Robinson confirmed to IGN that that image was the header from publish time onwards, and came from the existing game, not the leaks.
VGC’s coverage included only instances of the leaked material as embeds from other sites, and no leaked material was privately hosted. Many of those embedded, leaked images remain live at time of writing. Even if embedded images inside a news story were deemed to be a link to “allegedly infringing materials,” Twitter’s own guidelines on fair use make clear that copyrighted material can be posted or linked to if it is deemed transformative, including “educational explanation or additional context”, both of which could easily be said to be a part of news coverage.
Here comes Activision removing our legitimate coverage of their leaks from Twitter (I’ve never received a DMCA from any other games company) pic.twitter.com/y6ig52lO1Q
— Andy Robinson (@AndyPlaytonic) April 1, 2021
Activision has not publicly explained why it sought to pull down the tweets, and Twitter has not explained why they were deemed to infringe its policies despite fair use. Activision has also not explained why it seemingly only sought to pull down the tweets.
In a statement to IGN, Robinson confirmed that Activision has now been in touch, and is seeking to resolve the situation:
“It’s disappointing that this happened to a legitimate story about information that’s in the public domain.
“I’ve been a reporting on the games industry for nearly two decades, and I understand that companies are sensitive about leaks and need to police their IP. However, when taking action such as this, there’s the inherent risk that good faith reporting such as VGC’s can be caught in the crossfire.
“On that basis, and since tweeting about this issue, Activision has been in touch to explain what happened and promised to take action to resolve the situation, so I’m satisfied with the outcome.”
While Activision is by no means alone in its use of DMCA to approach leaked game industry information, this approach to the removal of links to news about leaks, rather than many of the leaked assets themselves – and Twitter’s seeming acceptance of it – could be seen to set a harmful precedent to taking action against legitimate news coverage. IGN contacted Activision Blizzard for comment, but received no comment.
At the very least, Activision’s approach to coverage of the leaks certainly seems to suggest that they are legitimate.
The leaks themselves originated with a clip of a live-action trailer of a new, 1980s-themed Warzone map shared onto social media by the account On Thin Ice, before being promptly taken down by Activision. The footage has since been shared across social media, on Reddit and YouTube.
In its coverage, VGC corroborated the leak, with its sources saying that Warzone was set to swap its current-day Verdansk map for a Black Ops Cold War-era revision on April 22 as part of an “explosive in-game event”. VGC’s report also says that the new map was supposed to launch in November 2020 alongside Black Ops Cold War, but was pushed out of that window by “several factors.”
In other recent Activision-Blizzard news, the company reportedly carried out layoffs affecting nearly 190 employees.
Jordan Oloman is a freelance writer for IGN. Follow him on Twitter. Joe Skrebels is IGN’s executive editor of news.