New York Times files copyright takedown requests against Wordle clones

The New York Times has filed several Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests against developers who have made clones of its Wordle puzzle.

According to a report by tech journalism site 404, the New York Times says it is doing so to “defend its intellectual property rights,” claiming ownership of the game’s features like the 5×6 grid and green tiles for correct guesses.

“The Times has no issue with individuals creating similar word games that do not infringe The Times’s ‘Wordle’ trademarks or copyrighted gameplay. The Times took action against a GitHub user and others who shared his code to defend its intellectual property rights in Wordle. The user created a ‘Wordle clone’ project that instructed others how to create a knock-off version of The Times’s Wordle game featuring many of the same copyrighted elements. As a result, hundreds of websites began popping up with knock-off ‘Wordle’ games that used The Times’s ‘Wordle’ trademark and copyrighted gameplay without authorization or permission,” the New York Times told 404.

Wordle is a popular web-based word game played by millions daily that challenges players to guess a secret five-letter word within six attempts. Created in 2021 by Welsh engineer Josh Wardle as a gift for his wife, it was later sold to The New York Times for $1 million. 

Now, it’s accessible through a subscription to the newspaper or can be purchased separately for $50 annually.

One of the developers who received a DMCA, Chase Wackerfuss, had created a Wordle-like game called “Reactle,” and its code was used over 1,900 times to create spinoffs of the game in multiple languages. Wackerfuss tells 404 that he decided to take the game down when he received the notice because he didn’t want to get into a legal battle with the New York Times.