Have you ever heard of the Streisand effect? It’s when someone try to suppress the information, to end up spreading it even farther than it otherwise could have traveled.
For example: last week I might have been skeptical if you had told me that a podcaster had gotten hold of a casting script for the upcoming Tomb Raider game – a script that reveals that a Lara Croft older and lonely can dodge lasers in a “gravitational grave” and engage in a romance with another female character.
But if you too told me that the chief attorney for the Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics immediately sent a DMCA takedown notice – a notice in which he asserted under penalty of perjury that the podcast infringes the studio’s intellectual property – I absolutely think that this script and those details are completely, totally real.
This is exactly what has been going on for the past few days (via VGC). On Friday, Colin Moriarty’s Sacred Symbols podcast featured an unusual segment featuring part of an alleged casting script for British actors reading for the role of Lara Croft herself. “They’re looking for a female in her 30s, white, five-foot-six, athletic, and a prototype of Emily Blunt, Rosamund Pike, etc,” Moriarty read.
Then he went on to read a long passage describing a possible new tone for the new game:
Lara Croft is now at the top of her game. Gone are the days of the inexperienced young woman dealing with matters of inheritance and family reckoning, Lara abandoned her childhood and fully embraced a life of adventure and purpose. His storied career was hailed in print and tabloids, great adventure stories that inspired a new generation of Tomb Raiders to seek their fortunes in the world. And with this new phase of her life, Lara has fully accepted her place among the ruins.
For many years, Lara has plumbed the depths of forgotten places, played tag and game with many infamous adversaries, and worked to discover, preserve, and protect the world’s lost secrets lest they fall between bad hands. But over the years, Lara found herself at the top alone. The start of this next chapter introduces Lara to the mostly adult problem of dealing with something too big to handle on her own in this new adventure. Lara will encounter a challenge that she can only overcome with a team by her side. Collaboration is foreign to him. She has always succeeded alone. So in this situation she is a fish out of water.
After that, her co-hosts Chris and Dustin performed the two casting scenes, featuring Lara, a woman named Tanvi, and a man named Devindra (hope I spelled correctly). Finally, Moriarty reads a note stating that the wanted actress may have “romantic scenes with another female character”, but that “there is no nudity or simulated sex”.
All of this was apparently enough to push Square Enix’s Crystal Dynamics to send the DMCA takedown notice the same day – but not to Moriarty, but rather to the Patreon page where subscribers support his podcast, directly threatening his source of income.
On Monday afternoon, Patreon sent out the DMCA notice, and after spending $1,000 consulting with his own attorney and time with Patreon’s legal team, Moriarty says he decided to remove that specific segment from the podcast. – although he thinks it was probably an act of journalism. “I didn’t steal it, I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t buy it,” he told listeners in a follow-up video to the DMCA takedown. “I was acting on the understanding that this was fair use, it’s of huge public interest.”
I obtained a copy of the original DMCA notice from Moriarty. Although it’s vague on what exactly Crystal Dynamics is challenging, there aren’t many possibilities. Even the YouTube version of the mostly audio podcast has no visuals that would belong to Square Enix, no logos and no images of Lara, not even transformative images. It’s just audio. “I read maybe 2/5 of the cover, usually verbatim, and then we played the two scenes that were given to me,” Moriarty tells me. Removing that audio was enough to satisfy Patreon’s legal team, he says.
Moriarty also says he doesn’t blame Patreon for not wanting to push back. “I’m not mad at them in this situation, nor to blame them.” But neither does he want to be himself a “martyr of freedom of expression”.
“I personally think we could do a ‘fair use’ piece, both in topical awareness and in our interpretation of the script, but I don’t have the time, the means or the energy. to fight, and I don’t want to open us up to any more trouble. Easier to capitulate, unfortunately, which – if I may be conspiratorial – seems to be the point in these cases. I’m a person who runs a business at from my house; Square Enix is, well, Square Enix,” he tells me.
Richard Hoeg, an attorney who covers such issues on his own Virtual Legality podcast (and also has his own Patreon), joined Moriarty in the follow-up video. He explained that it is difficult to say what may or may not be considered fair use.
“If it’s the design document […] that you read aloud in your video, it will give the other party more leverage to sue for infringement,” Hoeg suggested, while retaining the idea that it might be fair use. . He concludes that you can’t really tell until there’s a verdict in court – and Sacred Symbols have made it clear they don’t want to fight to find out.
Still, the Sacred Symbols podcast doesn’t completely cave to what they assume are Square Enix’s demands. The original unedited version of the podcast will remain on YouTube and their free podcast feeds until Square Enix takes action there as well.
Square Enix did not respond to a request for comment.
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