Activision Once Again Abuses DMCA To Try To Bury Leak Of New 'CoD' Content

from the this-again? dept

Back in February of 2020, we wrote about several odd attempts by Activision to use the DMCA takedown process to try to bury leaks of content in its Call of Duty game franchise. It all started with the company attempting to first take down Reddit posts that showed leaked cover art for Call of Duty: Warzone, before Activision then attempted to have Reddit unmask the poster of the image in an attempt to track down where the leak came from. While Activision certainly isn’t the first company that has attempted to bury leaks using DMCA notices, it was a fairly high profile attempt, which, of course, just meant that the Streisand Effect took over and suddenly tons of people were seeing the image in media outlets reporting on the matter, such as at Techdirt.

One would think the lesson learned from that episode would be that trying to unboil an egg like this through the DMCA process was futile. Instead, it seems that Activision thought the lesson was that it should go after media outlets. Recently, content for an upcoming map addition to Warzone leaked and VideoGamesChronicle (VGC) reported on it.

VGC can confirm that the work-in-progress live-action spot, which was first shared by Twitter account On Thin Ice, is authentic and shows snippets of the new 1980s Warzone map which we understand will replace the current Verdansk at the end of the season, with an in-game event marking the transition on April 22.

It appears that the new map will be an evolution of Verdansk, rather than an entirely new design. The leaked footage shows Cold War-era landmarks replacing Verdansk’s own points of interest, including an in-construction Stadium and an aqueduct replacing the Dam. Airport, TV Station and Downtown can also be spotted with a 1980s makeover.

So, content leaks, VGC reports on it. That’s about as straight a journalistic enterprise as there can be. And, yet, Activision went into its DMCA takedown mode, targeting not only the original leaked footage of the new map, but also the sites and social media accounts for outlets reporting on it.

While there’s been no official confirmation from Activision, the publisher has been cracking down on the leak: at least one video has been taken down from YouTube, and news site Charlie Intel says it has received a DMCA notice from Activision.

And the Twitter account for VGC itself was targeted and locked due to Activision’s actions.

It is one thing to target leaked footage itself. It’s entirely another to get hosts and platforms to take down journalistic content over that same leak. Once the genie is out of the bottle, to compound metaphors, it is flatly an abuse of the DMCA to target speech protected by the First Amendment over it.

And beyond that admittedly major component… what precisely is the point of all this? Once again we have a situation where Activision is supercharging the public’s knowledge of a leak it supposedly wants to suppress with actions that, at best, aren’t proper and at worst make it look like a massive corporate bully. Perhaps some will believe that this is some sort of marketing ploy and that Activision’s real goal with all of this is to get posts like this written.

But between Activision’s past behavior and Occam’s Razor… I think not.

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Comments on “Activision Once Again Abuses DMCA To Try To Bury Leak Of New 'CoD' Content”

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James Burkhardtsays:

Re: I don't get it...

Video Game companies are run by marketing executives. Every major game has a detailed marketing plan designed to drive hype to a boiling point at the games release, allowing them to maximize sales. An open secret of marketing is that you can over egg the pudding by hyping something too far out from release. (Serenity the movie was a notable victim of this in an attempt to create a low budget viral marketing campaign.)

Video game marketing is so tightly controlled because video games journalism is mostly little more than a mouthpiece for video game companies. They will actively parrot that leaks are lies, and not call it out when a week later the leak was proven absolutely true by the next marketing drop.

Laura K Buzz, games journalist, got a hold of a solid leak on either the Switch or the Wii U, i can’t remember which off hand, that reasonably accurately reported the new system specs and design, and was vilified by games media for irresponsible reporting when Nintendo denied it. No one apologized when The intended date for the release of that information hit and she was proven right.

Journalists are captured by an industry (video Games) that has successfully curated a market where journalists won’t investigate them or call them out by restricting access to pre-release review copies that are so valued by the journalists to journalists who give positive coverage. This has lead any leak ahead of the approved marketing release to be seen and treated as an attack on games and the industry itself.


Re: Re: I don't get it...

"Serenity the movie was a notable victim of this in an attempt to create a low budget viral marketing campaign"

Has there been some kind of reporting to that effect? I always thought the problem was that it didn’t really sell itself to mainstream audiences – everyone was talking about it as a Firefly movie, which didn’t translate into the mainstream who never saw the show.

"Laura K Buzz, games journalist, got a hold of a solid leak on either the Switch or the Wii U, i can’t remember which off hand, that reasonably accurately reported the new system specs and design, and was vilified by games media for irresponsible reporting when Nintendo denied it."

That doesn’t mean the buzz wouldn’t work as marketing, it just means that Nintendo didn’t want the press before it was ready. Which is a problem for Nintendo, not anyone else.

In movies, the real problem with releasing word too early is that quite often the industry depends on artificial format and region dates, so it massively encourages piracy if a movie is released in one country but you’re telling people in another country they have to wait 3 months. This is a little different from games, where there’s clearly problems in releasing too early as bugs are fixed even after release. The real problem with early hype is that by the time the game is completed focus has moved somewhere else, but I don’t think it’s a real problem unless there’s artificial delays. The problem there is that the public generally understand when there’s a real issue that causes a delay, vs. being delayed for marketing reasons or the completed game being released in one place but not another even though the end product will be identical.

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