Samsung filed a DMCA copyright infringement claim with YouTube over footage of a video game mod that turned the sticky bomb in Grand Theft Auto V into a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, the device best known for literally catching on fire.
Shortly after the device was released in August, it began to be plagued with reports of the battery exploding while charging. There were a number of recalls before Samsung pulled the smartphone off the market completely and discontinued the model. The Federal Aviation Administration has even made getting on to an airplane with a Galaxy Note 7 a federal crime.
With all these problems you’d think Samsung would have more important things to do than file spurious DMCA claims against video game mods on YouTube. But the DMCA process has made it so easy. Nevertheless, the owner of the video, YouTube user Modded Games filed a counterclaim and YouTube restored the video.
The practice of modding video games itself has been in a “legal gray area” despite its increased popularity, as the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review noted. While modders argue their mods, as derivate works, fall under fair use, video game modifications largely exist insofar as they are tolerated by the intellectual property rights holders of the underlying games being modified—even as some modders see the success of their mods turn into career opportunities in the gaming industry.
But Samsung is not the copyright owner of Grand Theft Auto V. While copyright law has become ever more restrictive in the U.S. over the last half century, it has not yet gotten to the point where device manufacturers can claim a copyright on any depiction of their products. There are certainly lawyers who would like to try.
Watch the YouTube video in question below: