The New York Times is cracking down on Wordle clones

There have been plenty of Wordle clones even before The New York Times purchased the real thing in 2022, to the point that they had become a common sight on app stores. It sounds like The Times has been trying to cull the numbers of Wordle knockoffs recently, though, and has been sending DMCA takedown notices to their developers. As 404 Media reports, the latest notice the news organization sent could take out not just the target game itself, but also thousands of other alternatives and spinoffs.

The Times’ latest DMCA notice was filed against Chase Wackerfuss, the person behind a Wordle clone called “Reactle.” In its notice, the publication said that GitHub must delete the infringing repository and the hundreds of forked repositories based on it. Wackerfuss already took down Reactle’s GitHub page — he told 404 Media it wasn’t worth getting into a legal battle with The New York Times and just deleted his repository. According to the publication, though, it was forked 1,900 times before it was removed and was used to create versions of Wordle in dozens of different languages, as well as spinoffs with various twists. Some of those spinoffs turned Wordle into crossword puzzles and two-player games, while others transformed it into guessing games that use emoji and other symbols instead of letters and words.

Based on the takedown request The Times sent to Reactle, the newspaper is claiming ownership of the name Wordle, as well as its mechanics. “The Times’s Wordle copyright includes the unique elements of its immensely popular game, such as the 5×6 grid, green tiles to indicate correct guesses, yellow tiles to indicate the correct letter but the wrong place within the word, and the keyboard directly beneath the grid,” the DMCA notice reportedly read. “This gameplay is copied exactly in the repository, and the owner instructs others how to knock off the game and create an identical word game.” Seeing as Wordle has a pretty simple premise, though — I was easily able to create a simpler but similar word-guessing game when I took a basic programming course — this takedown request likely won’t spell the end for its clones and alternatives.

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