Alex Mauer, the composer behind 2D shooter Starr Mazer: DSP as well as Need for Speed: Undercover and other projects, has had a dispute with the developers of Starr Mazer: DSP and has subsequently issued spurious DMCA strikes to many YouTube and Twitch content creators.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Mauer Was in a For-Hire Contract for Starr Mazer: DSP
In a statement by Don Thacker of Imagos Softworks, the developers of Starr Mazer: DSP, they explained that Mauer was brought in to be the music director for point and click adventure game Starr Mazer, Starr Mazer: DSP, and other projects via a for-hire contract. This means that while Mauer composed the music, the music would be the property of Imagos.
However, her progress on the music was halted by medical issues and she left the team in the middle of last year. Imagos paid for the work that they received from her as well as paid “in good faith for work that was not received.”
Mauer then made claims to outstanding pay, the “amount of which has fluctuated,” according to Imagos. Mauer’s claim has changed over time, from “not being paid for time worked to not being paid for the right project to the supposition that there was a plot to defraud her from the very beginning of the project to a handful of other versions of this narrative,” Imagos said.
Imagos tried to make a deal with Mauer, offering shared universal rights to the game’s soundtrack as well as an equity share of the game’s revenue. They say that an agreement was proposed, agreed to, but then dissolved by Alex.
Imagos paid around $36,500 to Mauer for her work.
2. Mauer Started Issuing DMCA takedowns on Videos of Starr Mazer: DSP With Her Music
Mauer started issuing a wave of DMCA-style takedowns on YouTube videos of Starr Mazer: DSP featuring her music. This includes two videos made by TemmieNeko, who risks having her channel shut down completely if she gets another copyright strike. Multiple streamers on Twitch have also been issued temporary bans by Twitch thanks to claims made by Mauer.
If a YouTuber is hit with the claim on one of their videos, they can dispute it. Then either the claim is taken to court or, more likely, the people who issued the strike exhaust the 14 day limit on refuting counter claims and the video is put back up. Some videos are protected via YouTUbe’s copyright protection program. If a YouTuber receives three strikes, their channel is shut down completely.
YouTuber SidAlpha on behalf of the channels affected by Mauer’s takedowns asked her if she would be able to come to a compromise. This was her response:
The fact that TemmieNeko is directing her complaints to me instead of the developer is a problem. This seems to be the general response of those who were hit with DMCA strikes. I did suggest to some who complained to me that I would reverse their DMCA strikes if they were willing to redirect their complaints to the developer/complaints about the developer. No one was willing to do so, and I no longer want to offer anyone the possibility of having their DMCA strikes reversed. Thank you.
So as SidAlpha explains, Mauer has been issuing these takedowns to force public pressure on Imagos in order to get them to pay her the money she demanded in order for her to stop or reverse her actions. She believes, falsely, that because Imagos owes her money she owns the copyright to the music. The reason people were complaining to her was because she was the one that issued the takedowns, not Imagos.
SidAlpha also explained that once the affected YouTubers process a successful counterclaim, they would be able to file a civic lawsuit against Mauer. This is because filing a fraudulent DMCA claim is considered perjury and she would be tried in the state the Youtubers live in. In addition, because the videos are transformative, they are protected by the Fair Use Doctrine which renders the DMCA strike spurious. Also, she doesn’t own the music in the first place because it was made as part of a for-hire contract with Imagos. Imagos owns all content related to Starr Mazer and Starr Mazer: DSP.
“You had best hope that you pray and win this battle against Imagos, because what you have done is open the door wide for YouTubers to be able to set a legal precedent when it comes to these DMCA strikes,” SidAplha said.
SidAplha also offered help to those affected by the DMCA strikes. A representative at Imagos said that any channels affected can email her to receive a copy of Mauer’s contract to aid in their counterclaims (email@example.com).
YouTuber Totalbiscuit is attempting to expedite the DMCA takedowns with YouTube Gaming and is inviting those affected by the strike to email him proof that their videos were taken down (firstname.lastname@example.org).
3. Mauer Extended the DMCA Takedown Wave to Two Other Games and Is Sending a Cease and Desist to Turner Boradcasting
Mauer responded again to SidAlpha saying that she’s not attempting to weaponize anything yet expressed her contempt towards YouTubers.
It’s not an attempt to weaponize anything. I don’t have to give anyone permission to have any music be in their videos. I told people to contact Imagos because Imagos is responsible for releasing a game that violated a copyright.
Also, I don’t think that video recording yourself playing video games is a realistic job. Creating video games is, and it is a very risky business to be in.
In addition to Starr Mazer: DSP, she has also started sending DMCA takedowns to videos of Death Road to Canada containing her content as well as videos containing content from the “Live Quacktion” trailer of Duck Game including the original trailer.
She also sent a Cease and Desist letter to Turner Broadcasting, the parent company that owns Adult Swim which publishes games like Duck Game. You can read the letter sent to SidAlpha as well as Turner Broadcasting below.
Mauer claims to practice law as she said in a statement sent to YouTuber Jupiter_Hadley whom she sent a copyright strike to. However, SidAlpha found no evidence that she’s a registered bar member in Pennsylvania, the state she lives in.
Mauer is also attempting to obtain documentation from YouTubers, going so far as the call them directly. SidAlpha advises people to not give her the documentation as Mauer is in a conflict with Imagos and giving her your documentation would make you involved in a dispute you don’t belong in. He said to instead force her to go through official channels.
4. Mauer Had Starr Mazer: DSP Taken Off Steam & Put Sold the Soundtrack on Her Website for $1,000
Mauer issued a DMCA takedown request to Valve, forcing Starr Mazer: DSP off of Steam’s storefront. Imagos is removing Mauer’s music from the game and is replacing it with temporary music while a new music partner Arcade High composes a new soundtrack for both Starr Mazer: DSP and Starr Mazer.
Mauer sold the music she claims she owns on an album on her Bandcamp page for $1,000. The album containing the music also contains material suggesting fans to boycott Starr Mazer: DSP.
Overdrive was originally going to be the soundtrack for a video game called “Starr Mazer: DSP”. The developer of the game, Imagos Softworks, and publisher, AGM Playism, have failed to sign a license agreement for permission to use this music and are currently using it in violation of the copyright. Please do not support “Starr Mazer: DSP”.
If you have already purchased a copy of “Starr Mazer: DSP”, you may want to take a stand against copyright violation by asking the Steam store for a refund.
Valve, the owner of the Steam store, has been notified and chosen to side with the copyright violators.
She threatened to have her fans boycott the game to Imagos and their publisher, Playism, if her demands are not met.
Imagos sent Bandcamp their extensive log of data refuting Mauer’s allegations as well as their registered copyright and DMCA claim and Bandcamp removed the album.
Imagos offered to release the rights of the music in exchange for Mauer to release her claims. She has declined the option.
Thacker said that the whole situation has been a “personal nightmare.”
I have been pretty much ended, emotionally, by this scenario. I understand that Alex, as well, is suffering. I have made, and am wholly willing to uphold, numerous documented attempts to resolve this in a manner that enriches Alex for her amazing work and maintains the clear chain of rights established in our well documented working experience.
Starr Mazer: DSP is still in active development and is slated for a summer release. Starr Mazer is also in development.
5. Mauer Isn’t the First to Abuse DMCA-Style Takedowns
As SidAlpha explains, DMCA, or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, was established to copyright owners a way to protect themselves from copyright infringement and was created to prevent the upload of entire movies and music tracks on the internet. However, over the years it’s been abused by many people big and small.
Back in 2012, SEGA of Japan forced Youtubers to remove videos of Shining Force III or risk having the channels shut down. TotalBiscuit was hit by two of the claims and has only recently lifted his personal boycott on covering their games. Many other channels were shut down.
One of the most notorious people to weaponize DMCA takedowns is video game developer Digital Homicide. In 2014, the developer mock Game Critic Jim Sterling over a YouTube video of him playing one of their games and then issued a DMCA-style copyright takedown in a bid to censor the video. The developer then filed a libel lawsuit in March 2016 asking for $10 million in damages from Sterling. The case was raised to $15 million before being dismissed with prejudice last February.
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