A PROJECT promoting the Scots language has been threatened with legal action by the New York Times (NYT).

The I Hear Dee group, which works to reverse the decline of the Shaetlan variant of Scots, received a legal notice on Wednesday demanding they take down their Wirdle game “immediately”.

The game, a play on the NYT-owned Wordle game, had been launched in February 2022 and had more than 20,000 unique players from 113 countries.

In the wake of Wordle sweeping the English-speaking world, Wirdle was created as an effort to promote the use of the Shaetlan variant of Scots. It inspired many other minority language versions of the game.

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Languages professor Viveka Velupillai, who is based in Shetland, said: “This affects hundreds of small, community-run organisations, volunteers, and non-profits. They gave us all one business day, which we should note was by their time zone too.

“It seems not only counterproductive, but also like you're actively damaging your own image.

“It creates such an ugly image because, it goes without saying that there's no overlap, these are all different languages. It just doesn't make sense, especially since there's no one is cashing in on this.”

The National:

The legal notice, seen by the National, warns that the Wirdle game may have been a breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It focuses on an alleged copy of the Wordle game code which appeared on the website Github from a user called cwackerfuss.

The Shaetlan-language Wirdle game uses a similar but different code, it is understood, while other minority languages’ variants of the game may have been closer copies.

The legal notice states: “The owner ‘cwackerfuss’ is a bad actor that is willfully infringing The Times’s copyright and has been given opportunities to amend his code or make changes, but to date, he has refused.

“There is no recourse but to remove the entire repository in order to stop the spread of willful copyright infringement.”

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While the I Hear Dee group have complied and will not contest the claims, they believe they may have had grounds to do so.

Velupillai said: “It's questionable whether this is actually an infringement on copyright law since the code is actually not identical, the name is not identical, the languages are not identical, and there's no profit being made.

“The depressing bit about it is the usual: the muscles always end up silencing the small voices. It really is quite disappointing.

“It's not like it's harming anyone or bleeding any money from anyone. If anything, it makes Wordle more famous and more appreciated, so it really does seem a baffling move.

“You would think they would want to look like a progressive, inclusive organisation, but they're coming across as the opposite [by] spending time chasing after harmless minority languages.”

I Hear Dee will be taking down all versions of their Wirdle game at the earliest opportunity. They have been in contact with other minority language groups around the world who are doing the same.

A spokesperson for the NYT said: "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 authorisation or permission. GitHub provided the user with an opportunity to alter his code and remove references to Wordle, but he declined."