A legal dispute has emerged between the developers of River City Ransom: Underground and one of the game's composers.
Steam removed the title from its marketplace last Friday after composer Alex Mauer filed a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA), asserting that the game's developer Conatus Creative did not have her permission to use music she created for the game.
Speaking to Kotaku, Mauer clarified that she is one of three composers on the game - the other two being Rich Vreeland and Dino Leonetti - and while the lack of a contract makes it difficult for her to prove otherwise, she claims Conatus doesn't own the rights to the music she produced.
She also claims she was "cut out of the deal" and is therefore due payment, and has even filed DMCA complaints against YouTube and Twitch users that showcase footage featuring her music.
However, a statement by Conatus founder Daniel Crenna dismisses Mauer's allegations as false. The studio has even resorted to commisioning a new soundtrack to avoid "any negative associations with Alex Mauer's wrongful claim", adding that it threatened the studio's work towards console versions of the game.
He continued: "She is a co-creator of the music, with Dino Lionetti and Rich Vreeland. Our written license agreement is with Rich, who subcontracted Alex and Dino. When Rich offered to pay Alex an equal share of the music fee for her contribution to the game soundtrack, she emailed back: "oh that's awesome man i'm all for it thanks!" Rich has shown us the documentation that Alex was paid in full.
"Our lawyers advise us that there is no legal basis for Alex's DMCA take-down claims. That's undeniable by anyone except Alex. But being legally right is only half the story - as a practical matter, the costs of legal action would put console development plans on hold, perhaps indefinitely. We don't have any interest in spending our time and our energy dealing with this matter further."
Kotaku notes that Mauer has precedent with such claims. Having provided music and sound effects for Imagos Softworks' Starr Mazer, she filed complaints about the use of her work in follow-up Starr Mazer: DSP and its marketing. Again, she also took action against YouTube videos and Twitch streams featuring the title and her music.
Imagos is currently suing Mauer, with a minor victory last week in the form of a restraining order that prevents the composer from filing more DMCA claims against Starr Mazer: DSP and its related works.
Conatus Creative is confident River City Ransom: Underground will return to Steam soon. It is still available via GOG.com.