NY Times Takes Action Against Wordle Clones

Even prior to the acquisition of the original Wordle by The New York Times in 2022, numerous Wordle imitations had flooded app stores. However, The Times seems to have started a crackdown against these knockoffs, employing DMCA takedown notices to petition their developers. According to 404 Media, The Times’ latest takedown attempt may not only impact the targeted game, but could also strike thousands of spinoffs and alternatives.

The most recent DMCA takedown notice from The Times was issued against Chase Wackerfuss who is responsible for a Wordle imitation called “Reactle.” The notice demanded that GitHub eliminate the unauthorized repository and all the hundreds of offshoot repositories originating from it. Wackerfuss dutifully removed Reactle’s GitHub page, stating to 404 Media that it wasn’t worth engaging in a legal dispute with The New York Times, hence opted to delete his repository. However, the publication reveals that the repository was forked 1,900 times before deletion, leading to the creation of Wordle versions in numerous languages and innovative spinoffs. These derivatives converted Wordle into crossword puzzles and two-player games, while some trasformed it into guessing games using emojis and symbols in place of words and letters.

The takedown notice sent to Reactle suggests that The New York Times asserts ownership over the Wordle name and its gameplay mechanics. The Times claims that its copyright includes unique aspects of Wordle such as the 5×6 grid, color-coded tiles indicating correct guesses or correct letters in wrong positions, and the directly placed keyboard beneath the grid. The takedown notice stated that these unique elements were replicated in the repository, which also offered instructions to clone the game and create identical word games. However, given the relatively simple concept behind Wordle, it could be assumed that the takedown request may not entirely eliminate its clones and alternatives. Even a basic programming class would suffice to create a similar, albeit simpler, word-guessing game.