NY Times Targets Wordle Clones on GitHub

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The New York Times Actively Pursues Copyright Infringement of Wordle

The New York Times, known for its acquisition of Wordle in 2022, is currently seeking out copies of the popular word-guessing game. In an effort to protect its intellectual property, the media organization has issued takedown notices to eliminate approximately 1,900 versions of the game hosted on GitHub.

Background of the Situation

At the core of this issue lies a game referred to as “Reactle,” a Wordle imitation developed by Chase Wackerfuss using React JavaScript. After the Times contacted Wackerfuss with a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request for infringing on their Wordle copyright, the situation gained attention. Despite not explicitly mentioning Wordle, Wackerfuss described Reactle as an “open-source version of the word guessing game we all know and love,” and shared the code on GitHub. This led to numerous developers forking Reactle’s code to create their own variations of the game.

Some developers crafted versions of the game in different languages such as Hungarian and Persian, while others tailored their versions to specific themes. For instance, one offshoot named “Birdle” required users to guess the name of a specific bird. The Times expressed dissatisfaction with Reactle and its various derivations due to the game’s significance within the organization. As Wordle stands as one of its most prominent successes, the media outlet aims to establish itself as the primary puzzle subscription service, charging $6 a month for game-related content.

The Times’s Copyright Claims and Actions

In its takedown notice, the Times argued that its copyright encompassed the distinctive elements of Wordle’s gameplay, alleging that Wackerfuss had mimicked these elements in Reactle. Unique features like the 5×6 grid, green and yellow tiles, and the keyboard layout were specifically cited as protected components. The Times further requested GitHub to remove all instances of Reactle forks, emphasizing the replication of their game’s gameplay in the repository.

Reactle’s visual resemblance to Wordle, evident in an archived version viewable on the Internet Archive, prompted Wackerfuss to remove the game from GitHub upon receiving the takedown request. Despite declining to provide further comments regarding the situation, Wackerfuss maintained that his actions were not malicious, equating Wordle to universally recognized games like Tetris or playing cards.

When questioned about Reactle, the Times issued a comprehensive statement emphasizing its intent to safeguard its intellectual property rights in Wordle. It clarified that individuals were allowed to create similar word games as long as they did not infringe on Wordle’s trademark or copyrighted gameplay. The Times’s proactive stance against the proliferation of unauthorized Wordle clones online underscored its commitment to protecting its unique game elements and gameplay.

As the fate of the 1,900 Wordle clones tied to Wackerfuss’s code remains uncertain, GitHub refrained from commenting on any potential actions regarding the Reactle forks. The platform assured that it meticulously reviews all DMCA takedown requests, affording affected users an opportunity to rectify any infringements before taking action.

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About Post Author

Chris Jones

Hey there! 👋 I'm Chris, 34 yo from Toronto (CA), I'm a journalist with a PhD in journalism and mass communication. For 5 years, I worked for some local publications as an envoy and reporter. Today, I work as 'content publisher' for InformOverload. 📰🌐 Passionate about global news, I cover a wide range of topics including technology, business, healthcare, sports, finance, and more. If you want to know more or interact with me, visit my social channels, or send me a message.
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