Tech

Transgender Musician Abuses Copyright To Take Down Video Games, YouTube Channels

A transgender composer with a history of criminality and mental instability has whipped the gaming world into a frenzy after he issued a host of DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) copyright takedowns on many video games and YouTube personalities. The drama is currently unfolding across the gaming community with stories of doxing, death threats, and even a forced psychiatric hold.

Over the past few months, composer Alex Mauer issued over a hundred DMCA takedowns to dozens of YouTubers who uploaded recordings of their gaming sessions onto the service. It affects seven different video games, only two of which used Mauer’s music that was produced while under a “work for hire” contract with a gaming studio, Imagos Softworks for their title “Starr Mazer” in 2015.

In August 2016, a follow-up release to the game called “Starr Mazer DSP,” which uses the music he produced, was released. As with many new games, the title was widely broadcast on YouTube and Twitch who had been given the go-ahead by Imagos to do so.

In December 2016, Mauer was arrested on charges of theft, a crime to which he pled guilty in late March. Between the time of his arrest and eventual guilty plea, Mauer began issuing DMCAs over the sale of Starr Mazer DSP, prompting the game to be removed from sale multiple times. Mauer claims that he is owed an additional $10,000 “for unpaid music work” on the follow-up title.

Out on probation for a year, Mauer then took aim at YouTubers who featured Starr Mazer, causing their channels to be temporarily shuttered after hitting them with DMCA takedowns. When a YouTube channel is hit with a DMCA claim, it adds restrictions to what users can do with it until the sanctions are lifted. For YouTubers who make a living producing video content, copyright claims can spell the death of their livelihood.

Mauer also issued notices to five unrelated video games, including the popular “Death Road to Canada.” None of these titles are related to his work at Imagos.

In the United States, DMCA abuse is considered an act of perjury and opens false claimants to legal action. But thus far, no one has been arrested or convicted for misusing the copyright law.

According to YouTuber SirTapTap, Mauer attempted to extort channels into discussing his on-going beef with his former employer to have their copyright strikes lifted. The YouTuber claims that Mauer emailed a “pretend invoice,” demanding more money for work he’d already been paid for.

Speaking from the stance of a copyright lawyer, a practicing attorney named Leonard J. French gave his take on the situation in a YouTube interview, stating that his actions were tantamount to perjury. Following the interview, French took up the case against Mauer on behalf of Imagos in late June.

Mauer responded by allegedly sending the lawyer a death threat, which included a picture of a knife stabbing a box of cereal. The musician allegedly also sent death threats to SidAlpha, a YouTuber who had been covering the case on his channel, among several other YouTubers.

A few days later, French and popular YouTuber John “TotalBiscuit” Bain confirmed that Mauer was involuntarily committed for psychiatric evaluation over the threatening phone calls and emails. He was released from custody on July 3, but has not given up his crusade against Imagos, the YouTubers, and the unrelated gaming studios he issued DMCAs against. He has since added even more names to the list.

He issued a DMCA against “River City Ransom Underground,” another video game that he produced music for as a subcontractor with another musician named Disasterpeace. Disasterpeace’s crime was to refuse taking up arms against Imagos and joining Mauer’s crusade. Though Mauer’s claim was initially rejected in early July, the game was removed from sale on Steam today.

Per his own words, Mauer says that his intention of issuing DMCA takedowns to YouTube channels is to hit channels on a short leash, to force them to shut down.

Mauer’s actions have prompted French to apply for a restraining order against Mauer on behalf of Imagos, which was granted on the morning of July 13, 2017. It forbids Mauer from issuing any further DMCA takedowns against the company — at least for the time being.

Gaming websites covering the issue, like Destructoid (archive) and Ars Technica, have thus far only provided a one-sided narrative of the debacle, the former of which presented Mauer as a sympathetic victim of death threats and harassment. Mauer, who claims to be the victim of doxing, has been shown to have “doxed” (the revealing of one’s private information) himself, and even posted the personal information of a 15-year-old, among many other instances of mental instability.

It remains to be seen whether Alex Mauer’s persistent abuse of copyright law will have any consequences besides the misery of game developers and the people who play them.

Ian Miles Cheong is a journalist and outspoken media critic. You can reach him through social media at @stillgray on Twitter.