Update: SidAlpha previously said in regards to an email Mauer sent to Temmie Plays! saying that she had a list of videos to take down that he was of the opinion that Mauer was trying to set up an insanity plea for when she’s taken up to court. SidAlpha told Heavy.com via email that although the insanity plea was part of discussions he had on Twitter in the past and that he does worry about Mauer’s mental well-being, he now does not think she is doing this for any form of insanity plea.
Alex Mauer, the composer behind 2D shooter Starr Mazer: DSP as well as Need for Speed: Undercover and other projects, has had a dispute with the developers of Starr Mazer: DSP and has subsequently issued copyright takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on over 100 videos of YouTube and Twitch content creators as well as issued death threats and harassment.
Don Thacker of Imagos Films doing business as Imagos Softworks, the developers of Starr Mazer: DSP, will be taking the issue to court after the situation caused Imagos to lose credibility, developers, financial support, potential and existing film clients, and stress. Attorney & Counselor at Law Leonard French, Esq. confirmed that he will be representing Thacker. French said that the goal of the lawsuit is to “establish Imagos’ rights and the community’s rights to publish Starr Mazer and Starr Mazer: DSP content.”
While I expect to include monetary damages against Alex, it is secondary that we recover any funds from her.
Our desired outcome is for Imagos and its partners to be able to resume full development on Starr Mazer and Starr Mazer: DSP, affirm and restore the rights of the community, minimize any damage to Alex, and, if possible, support her in getting whatever help she may need.
You can view the initial complaint filed by French as well as the written agreement between Mauer and Imagos here.
Because Imagos and Thacker are experiencing financial difficulty due to the situation, they set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the lawsuit.
French served Mauer the initial court summons, asking her to respond within 21 days. She told YouTuber SidAlpha that she will be representing herself in the case. She later posted on Twitter that she was going to try and find a lawyer.
French confirmed that Mauer will be receiving some of the help and attention she needs.
YouTuber TotalBiscuit (aka John Bain) relayed French’s confirmation that Mauer was taken into custody for an involuntary mental health evaluation (a 302 hold) for her and others’ safety after sending threats to channels and attempting to issue a claim through YouTube’s Legal Support that TotalBiscuit’s video on her was illegal due to the alleged harassment she received as a result of it. TotalBiscuit said that his video has no incitement or call to action for harassment.
After the 302 hold, she cut ties with her entire family because she believes they “sided with my opposition.”
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Mauer Was in a For-Hire Contract for Starr Mazer: DSP
Thacker met Mauer several years ago at gaming convention PAX East after asking her to work on one of his films. They quickly became friends and they worked on several titles together.
According to the initial complaint filed by French, since at least 2010 Mauer has worked on and off as an independent contractor for Thacker and Imagos and has always worked for them in a work-for-hire arrangement. This means that while Mauer composed the music, the music would be the property of Imagos.
Since March of 2015, Mauer worked on the Starr Mazer franchise under a written agreement that was executed by Imagos and Thacker, which specifies that she works for them within a work-for-hire arrangement.
In an earlier statement by Thacker, he explained that her progress on the music was halted by medical issues and she left the team in the middle of last year. Imagos paid for the work that they received from her as well as paid “in good faith for work that was not received.”
Mauer then made claims to outstanding pay, the “amount of which has fluctuated,” according to Imagos. Mauer’s claim has changed over time, from “not being paid for time worked to not being paid for the right project to the supposition that there was a plot to defraud her from the very beginning of the project to a handful of other versions of this narrative,” Imagos said.
Imagos tried to make a deal with Mauer, offering shared universal rights to the game’s soundtrack as well as an equity share of the game’s revenue. They say that an agreement was proposed, agreed to, but then dissolved by Alex.
Imagos paid around $40,000 to Mauer for her work, according to the contract.
2. Mauer Started Issuing DMCA takedowns on Videos of Starr Mazer: DSP With Her Music
Mauer started issuing a wave of DMCA-style takedowns on YouTube videos of Starr Mazer: DSP featuring her music as well as sound effects she claimed to own as well. This includes six videos made by TemmieNeko (now known as Temmie Plays!). Her channel is still up and has a video of Starr Mazer: DPS inviting Mauer to hit it with a DMCA strike. Multiple streamers on Twitch have also been issued temporary bans by Twitch thanks to claims made by Mauer.
If a YouTuber is hit with the claim on one of their videos, they can dispute it. Then either the claim is taken to court or, more likely, the people who issued the strike exhaust the 14 day limit on refuting counter claims and the video is put back up. Some videos are protected via YouTUbe’s copyright protection program. If a YouTuber receives three strikes, their channel is shut down completely.
Mauer has taken down 42 videos so far and is going after another 30 for a total of 74 videos and 62 YouTubers affected, according to an email forwarded to SidAlpha sent from Mauer to Temmie Plays! with Mauer’s list of YouTUbe videos to take down. That list has since then risen to over 100 videos according to a Steam forum post from Mauer. That There are two YouTubers, MrSirXch and Rogue Justice, already receiving or are set to receive three or more strikes on their channels. Popular Twitch Streamer HyperRPG received a 24-hour ban during E3 because of Mauer, causing a large amount of damages due to lost ad revenue and sponsorships. The number of Twitch streamers affected has yet to be determined but unconfirmed reports say that it’s near the same amount of YouTube channels affected.
She also took down a video from Musical Anti Hero containing his text interview with her even though it didn’t contain music or even visuals from Starr Mazer: DSP. She took it down because it contained an old photo of her from before her gender transition and since the photo came from her camera she claimed to own it. She also said that she asked Musical Anti Hero to take down the photo and he said he would. She reported the video when the photo was still up for over 12 hours.
SidAlpha on behalf of the channels affected by Mauer’s takedowns asked her if she would be able to come to a compromise. This was her response:
The fact that TemmieNeko is directing her complaints to me instead of the developer is a problem. This seems to be the general response of those who were hit with DMCA strikes. I did suggest to some who complained to me that I would reverse their DMCA strikes if they were willing to redirect their complaints to the developer/complaints about the developer. No one was willing to do so, and I no longer want to offer anyone the possibility of having their DMCA strikes reversed. Thank you.
So as SidAlpha explains, Mauer has been issuing these takedowns to force public pressure on Imagos in order to get them to pay her the money she demanded in order for her to stop or reverse her actions. She believes, falsely, that because Imagos owes her money she owns the copyright to the music. The reason people were complaining to her was because she was the one that issued the takedowns, not Imagos.
SidAlpha also explained that once the affected YouTubers process a successful counterclaim, they would be able to file a civic lawsuit against Mauer. This is because filing a fraudulent DMCA claim is considered perjury and she would be tried in the state the Youtubers live in. In addition, because the videos are transformative, they are protected by the Fair Use Doctrine which renders the DMCA strike spurious. Also, she doesn’t own the music in the first place because it was made as part of a for-hire contract with Imagos. Imagos owns all content related to Starr Mazer and Starr Mazer: DSP.
“You had best hope that you pray and win this battle against Imagos, because what you have done is open the door wide for YouTubers to be able to set a legal precedent when it comes to these DMCA strikes,” SidAplha said.
SidAplha also offered help to those affected by the DMCA strikes. Linsay, a representative at Imagos, said that any channels affected can email her to receive a copy of Mauer’s contract to aid in their counterclaims (email@example.com).
Linsay has been seeing a lot of hate mail sent to her by people believing her to be Mauer. SidAlpha also received an email from someone believing him to be Mauer telling him (her) to go kill herself and that she was deserving to be raped. SidAlpha said that the harassment was completely unacceptable and does not condone nor support the sharing of these statements. He also asked those who feel that this is acceptable behavior to unsubscribe from his YouTube and social media channels.
To act in such a fashion is to surrender the moral high ground which, once done, can never be undone. Not to mention, it is completely abhorrent in every conceivable sense.
People like that are not welcome in my channel or in my life. If I see you acting in such a way you will be blocked and I will do whatever I can to make sure your toxic behaviors and actions do not become a normal state of things in my comments, my social media, or anywhere else I have any form of influence.
Alex Mauer has been lashing out to people threatening her as well as other YouTubers on the Steam forums. She has responded to the death threats on the forums of Steam, blaming Temmie Plays! for helping to incite them and saying that they are “literally ruining my livelihood, as in, whether or not I am alive.” Mauer deleted her comments but Temmie Plays! archived them beforehand.
Here are some samples of her responses:
I reached out to TB [TotalBiscuit] and that motherfucker didn’t give two shits about me so fuck you Annabella. I am getting death threats and now Leonard French is representing Imagos. I was trying to hire Leonard and he decided to politically choose a client to further his own cause. The world is a [unintelligible] place where you can work insanely hard for your dreams and someone can steal it from you. Then when you call them out on it they still win anyway. So fuck you Annabella.
Fucking playing video games is NOT a job! If there was a way to DMCA punch you in the face through my computer screen I would. You and your fucking friends do not have the right to post videos with my music! The DMCA system exists so I can say no when the creepy fucking people like you are trying to [unintelligible] my music. Fuck you!
What makes anyone think I wanted sympathy or good will? I just expect for former clients to not disclose copies of paperwork containing my contact info, redacted SSN, and signature. For all I know, you creepy fucking scumbags might photoshop my signature from the document into other things to sign me up for shit like credit cards or god knows what the fuck.
Go ahead. I dare you to fucking do that, and see how long Don Thacker remains out of jail.
Oh, and if you could all stop threatening my life that would be good.
For all I know, someone is going to be standing outside of my house waiting for me and actually do one of the things they’re saying like “hoping I die an excruciatingly painful death,” etc. I may as well go buy a gun for protection. Let’s see your doxxing fucking faces meet me outside of my house with that shit now. I guess that’s part of the job description for YouTube now? Death threats and meeting people outside their doxxed fucking houses?
Mauer later sent an email to SidAlpha saying that she wants to “literally kill” him. She also referred to him as a “cyber bully 100000 percent” and called him transphobic in reference to how he reported on her taking down Musical Anti Hero’s video containing her old photograph.
You are transphobic. Seriously. You think your fucking cis gender world is all that exists. You think I don’t own a photograph of myself? Then you’re a fucking robot. I want to kill myself but I have to kill you first.
SidAlpha said that he sought out people to check on her and make sure that she was being looked out for and safe prior to receiving the email. He also said that he wasn’t going to back down from covering her and the situation even with the death threat.
He got in contact with the authorities and they said that there was no credible threat as Mauer lives over 3,000 miles away from him meaning that Mauer has no realistic way of carrying out her intentions. Because he is concerned that Mauer is becoming a danger to herself and others, he is reaching out to authorities in Mauer’s local area to inform them of the situation.
When it’s all said and done, damage can be recovered from, insults can be forgotten, old grudges can heal over time and make way for better things, but a life is singularly important. It is quite literally irreplaceable and once gone, it can never be recovered.
French has also been receiving death threats from Mauer, who said that she was going to break his windows, burn his building, and more. She also said that there was a knife to her neck but that wasn’t a suicide threat, it was “something else.”
TotalBiscuit is attempting to expedite the DMCA takedowns with YouTube Gaming and is inviting those affected by the strike to email him proof that their videos were taken down (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Some of the strikes have been reportedly getting counterclaimed on their own without any action from the YouTubers involved. SidAlpha believes that YouTube Gaming along with aid from TotalBiscuit and Imagos Softworks are working towards resolving the strikes.
TotalBiscuit relayed an update from YouTube Gaming saying that the counterclaims issued have been escalated by YouTube, which means that staff are reviewing them for approval. He sent them about 80 channels and are updating them with more info as it comes. He also encouraged people affected to counterclaim if they have not done so already and that it will likely take longer to resolve now.
All of the DMCA takedowns, death threats, and general harassment by Mauer have were set to cease at 9:30 PM EST, June 29. However, she is threatening a second wave of DMCA strikes. She attempted to issue a DMCA takedown of River City Ransom: Underground on Steam claiming that the game has her music, but it has been blocked by Valve. She then told the game’s developer, Conatus Creative Inc., that she will start issuing DMCA takedowns to YouTube videos of the game if they don’t take it off steam. She has already begun to take down videos, according to screenshots forwarded by her to SidAlpha. Conatus declined to comment to SidAlpha as they are currently seeking legal council.
Mauer was sent an email from YouTube (which she forwarded to SidAlpha) in regards to another 10 videos across multiple channels, saying that some of the info in her takedown request may be fraudulent and that abuse of the takedown process could result in the termination of her account. The videos are currently still active according to SidAlpha.
She attempted to issue a copyright strike against SidAlpha’s video above.
However, the video is still up.
Mauer sent an email to Musical Anti Hero that she withdrew the claims.
3. Mauer Extended the DMCA Takedown Wave to Two Other Games and Is Sending a Cease and Desist to Turner Boradcasting
Mauer responded again to SidAlpha saying that she’s not attempting to weaponize anything yet expressed her contempt towards YouTubers.
It’s not an attempt to weaponize anything. I don’t have to give anyone permission to have any music be in their videos. I told people to contact Imagos because Imagos is responsible for releasing a game that violated a copyright.
Also, I don’t think that video recording yourself playing video games is a realistic job. Creating video games is, and it is a very risky business to be in.
In addition to Starr Mazer: DSP, she has also started sending DMCA takedowns to videos of Death Road to Canada containing her content as well as videos containing content from the “Live Quacktion” trailer of Duck Game including the original trailer.
She also sent a Cease and Desist letter to Turner Broadcasting, the parent company that owns Adult Swim Games which publishes games including Duck Game. You can read the letter sent to SidAlpha as well as Turner Broadcasting below.
Mauer claims to practice law as she said in a statement sent to YouTuber Jupiter_Hadley whom she sent a copyright strike to. However, SidAlpha found no evidence that she’s a registered bar member in Pennsylvania, the state she lives in.
Mauer is also attempting to obtain documentation from YouTubers, going so far as the call them directly. SidAlpha advises people to not give her the documentation as Mauer is in a conflict with Imagos and giving her your documentation would make you involved in a dispute you don’t belong in. He said to instead force her to go through official channels.
4. Mauer Had Starr Mazer: DSP Taken Off Steam & Sold the Soundtrack on Her Website for $1,000
Mauer issued a DMCA takedown request to Valve, forcing Starr Mazer: DSP off of Steam’s storefront. Imagos is removing Mauer’s music from the game and is replacing it with temporary music while a new music partner Arcade High composes a new soundtrack for both Starr Mazer: DSP and Starr Mazer.
Mauer sold the music she claims she owns on an album on her Bandcamp page for $1,000. The album containing the music also contains material suggesting fans to boycott Starr Mazer: DSP.
Overdrive was originally going to be the soundtrack for a video game called “Starr Mazer: DSP”. The developer of the game, Imagos Softworks, and publisher, AGM Playism, have failed to sign a license agreement for permission to use this music and are currently using it in violation of the copyright. Please do not support “Starr Mazer: DSP”.
If you have already purchased a copy of “Starr Mazer: DSP”, you may want to take a stand against copyright violation by asking the Steam store for a refund.
Valve, the owner of the Steam store, has been notified and chosen to side with the copyright violators.
She threatened to have her fans boycott the game to Imagos and their publisher, Playism, if her demands are not met.
Imagos sent Bandcamp their extensive log of data refuting Mauer’s allegations as well as their registered copyright and DMCA claim and Bandcamp removed the album.
Mauer is trying to get the attention of video game news outlets like Kotaku, Hardcore Gamer, Destructoid, and IGN. She also claims to be sending an email to Robert Khoo, the former president of website Penny Arcade, asking if he can get her in touch with a “real actual game journalist,” to help her side of the situation.
“You ‘nobodys’ [sic] literally are the only ones who care about Starr Mazer: DSP or Imagos Softworks,” Mauer told SidAlpha via email. She also said that Imagos Softworks isn’t a registered company, which is false as their business license exists as found by SidAlpha.
Imagos offered to release the rights of the music in exchange for Mauer to release her claims. She has declined the option.
Thacker said that the whole situation has been a “personal nightmare.”
I have been pretty much ended, emotionally, by this scenario. I understand that Alex, as well, is suffering. I have made, and am wholly willing to uphold, numerous documented attempts to resolve this in a manner that enriches Alex for her amazing work and maintains the clear chain of rights established in our well documented working experience.
Both SidAlpha and TotalBiscuit are concerned that Mauer might be mentally unstable due to her actions and emails. Here’s TotalBiscuit’s response:
As Alex Mauer continues to publicly post bizarre things and send strange emails to people I am genuinely concerned that this is a serious cry for help from somebody who may be in danger of harming themselves. I can’t process the idea that somebody would so publicly and persistently self destruct their career and credibility without doing so on purpose, out of some deep-seated problem. It excuses nothing but ultimately the well-being of a person is and always should be the priority. If anybody knows her IRL, please try and make contact, check on her. These posts of hers that she made just a few hours ago on the steam forums are so utterly bizarre, the contradictions in them, the utterly delusional nature of what’s being said, I can’t helped but be worried for this persons safety. I just can’t rationalize the notion that somebody would keep saying these things without there being some severe underlying cause for it. Is that naive? Better to be thought naive than miss a cry for help from another human being. Her Despicable actions are not in dispute, but I hope somebody is able to make sure she is ok before something unthinkable happens. I really hope I’m wrong about this.
Starr Mazer: DSP is still in active development and is slated for a summer release. Starr Mazer is also in active development.
5. Mauer Isn’t the First to Abuse DMCA-Style Takedowns
As SidAlpha explains, DMCA, or the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, was established to copyright owners a way to protect themselves from copyright infringement and was created to prevent the upload of entire movies and music tracks on the internet. However, over the years it’s been abused by many people big and small.
Back in 2012, SEGA of Japan forced Youtubers to remove videos of Shining Force III or risk having the channels shut down. TotalBiscuit was hit by two of the claims and has only recently lifted his personal boycott on covering their games. Many other channels were shut down.
One of the most notorious people to weaponize DMCA takedowns is video game developer Digital Homicide. In 2014, the developer mocked Game Critic Jim Sterling over a YouTube video of them playing one of their games and then issued a DMCA-style copyright takedown in a bid to censor the video. The developer then filed a libel lawsuit in March 2016 asking for $10 million in damages from Sterling. The case was raised to $15 million before being dismissed with prejudice last February.
Update: Since Sterling came out as nonbinary in August 2020, this article has been updated with their preferred pronouns (they/them).