New York Times Battles Wordle Clones

Developers say their games are at risk of being taken down
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 13, 2024 4:46 PM CDT
New York Times Battles Wordle Clones
A Wordle game is seen on a mobile phone, July 15, 2022, in Boston.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The New York Times is fighting off Wordle "clones"—arguing that numerous games inspired by the mega-popular word-guessing game infringe on its copyright protections, the AP reports. Hundreds of copycats have emerged since Wordle skyrocketed to internet fame less than three years ago. And now the Times, which purchased the game in 2022, is sending takedown notices to people behind some of the look-alikes. The Times has filed several Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, takedown notices to developers of Wordle-inspired games, which cited infringement on the Times' ownership of the Wordle name, as well as its look and feel—such as the layout and color scheme of green, gray, and yellow tiles. Many developers say their games are at risk of being taken offline as a result.

In a prepared statement, a New York Times Co. spokesperson said the company has no issue with people creating similar word games that don't infringe on its Wordle "trademarks or copyrighted gameplay." But the company took action against one user on software developer platform GitHub who created a "Wordle clone" project that included instructions on how to create "a knock-off version" of Wordle, and against others who shared his code. "As a result, hundreds of websites began popping up with knock-off 'Wordle' games that used the Times' 'Wordle' trademark and copyrighted gameplay without authorization or permission," the spokesperson said. GitHub gave the user an opportunity to alter the code and remove Wordle references, the spokesperson added, but he declined. (One professor says the infringement argument may be on "shaky ground.")

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