Adventure games will need to start being careful with their choice of words. Four game pages on the indie game storefront Itch.io were taken down yesterday after store-runners received emails from Chooseco, requesting takedowns over use of the trademarked phrase "Choose Your Own Adventure."
If you weren't aware, the phrase Choose Your Own Adventure is trademarked by the book publishing company Chooseco, which makes all those nostalgic page-turners. The company has issued lawsuits to companies like Netflix over the use of the CYOA tag-line. Now, it seems like the company is enforcing its trademark on indie games as well.
warning to any devs using the phrase "choose your own adventure" to describe their games, Chooseco is issuing takedown notices to @itchio for trademark infringement. Example game page they went after: pic.twitter.com/YG0JGUoHAA- leaf @ itch.io (@moonscript) December 9, 2019
Itch founder and CEO Leaf Corcoran tweeted about the issue yesterday, giving a heads up to other developers on the platform to be careful in the future. Speaking to USgamer, Corcoran says he assumes that once the phrase is removed from the game's pages, they can be reinstated to the store. He's reached out to Chooseco for clarification, but hasn't heard back.
We've reached out to Chooseco ourselves, but did not hear back by time of publication.
Corcoran told USG that both he and Itch are neutral on this issue. "We're only sharing what happened to educate developers," Corcoran says over direct message.
And while it might be difficult for the indies who have been taken down, trademark and copyright law can be a tricky thing for independent game developers to navigate. Some indie devs are well aware of the issues with using known copyrights, like makers of Nintendo fan games or mods. But fair use becomes an interesting question as well, as "choose your own adventure" has become an easy catch-all over the years for the sorts of text-heavy games about choices and consequences.
In fact, a cursory search of the Itch store brings up several games that also explicitly use the phrase "choose your own adventure," so it's unclear why these four were singled out in particular. But for right now, you should probably not use the phrase "choose your own adventure" in your advertising.