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Legal Action on the Horizon: New York Times Targets These Games

StoriesLegal Action on the Horizon: New York Times Targets These Games

On GitHub, The New York Times has sent DMCA takedown requests against Wordle spinoffs and clones, including the open-source clone known as Reactle. The newspaper has taken action against unapproved copies of the game and is defending its intellectual property rights in Wordle.

The New York Times has filed many DMCA takedown requests against developers on GitHub in an effort to stop Wordle clones and spinoffs. The newspaper claims ownership of the Wordle name and its distinctive gaming characteristics, such as the 5×6 grid layout and the usage of green, yellow, and grey tiles to represent guess accuracy. The newspaper purchased the well-known web-based word game in 2022.

A recent DMCA notice was directed towards Chase Wackerfuss, the creator of the open-source Wordle substitute known as “Reactle.” There could be thousands of Wordle-inspired games affected by this notification. The code for Reactle was written before Wordle was acquired by The New York Times, and it has about 1,900 forks on GitHub. Numerous spinoffs that are developed in different programming languages and have distinct themes and visual styles have been inspired by this code.

Wordle’s community just wants to play it on their own terms

The Times claims in the takedown request that the gameplay is an identical replica of the original and that it is “bad faith” for these spinoffs to use the Wordle name. Since then, Wackerfuss has taken Reactle down from GitHub, saying he doesn’t want to go to court with the newspaper.

Prior to the Reactle lawsuit, The New York Times had sent DMCA complaints in January targeting unofficial versions of the game in Bosnian, Korean, and other languages as well as “Wirdle,” a version made by the dialect group I Hear Dee in an effort to promote Shaetlan. The New York Times made it clear in a statement to 404 Media that it had no problem with people making word games that are comparable to Wordle and do not violate any copyrighted gameplay or trademarks. The newspaper says it’s just protecting its intellectual property rights from anyone using its trademark and copyrighted content without permission.

“The Times has no problem with people making word games that are similar as long as they don’t violate the copyrighted gameplay or The Times’s “Wordle” trademarks. In order to protect its intellectual property rights in Wordle, The Times launched legal action against a GitHub user and others who shared his code.” It says in the statement. “The user made a project called “Wordle clone,” which provided instructions to others on how to make a copy of The Times’s Wordle game that used many of the same copyrighted components. Thus, imitative “Wordle” games that used The Times’s “Wordle” trademark and copyrighted gameplay without consent or authority started to appear on hundreds of websites.”

Paradoxically, Wordle has drawn flak for seeming too similar to the 1980s game show “Lingo,” in which contestants identify five-letter words on a grid whose colors change.


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