Grand Theft Auto IV removing some soundtrack songs

Rockstar have confirmed that they need to cut a number of songs from Grand Theft Auto IV due to music licenses expiring, though they will shuffle in new songs to replace at least some. Probably expect a new patch to cut the old and whack in the new. The Russian pop station Vladivostok FM will take the brunt of the cuts, which will also affect GTA 4’s Episodes From Liberty City standalone expansions. Rockstar have needed to do this with GTA before and it’s still weird to cut up old copies of games, but at least this time they’re taping it back together afterwards.

Kotaku UK first reported a rumour of impending cuts on Monday, and Rockstar yesterday confirmed it’s true. Kotaku UK’s source said the cuts would happen on April 26th, though Rockstar have not confirmed that detail and don’t say when the change will happen. Rockstar explained:

“Due to music licensing restrictions, we are required to remove certain songs from the in-game soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto IV and its Episodes, in particular a large portion of the Russian pop station, Vladivostok FM. However we are replacing some of those songs with a new set of songs on that station. We will update our customer support website with new information as soon as it is available.”

They don’t say exactly which songs are being removed. I always enjoyed cruising to Glukoza’s Schweine so I hope that’s safe. Songs can be key parts of how we remember games, setting a tone and tied to particular experiences, so it’s always a shame to have that futzed with.

While Rockstar are patching the game, maybe they could consider removing Games For Windows – Live, Microsoft’s loathsome abandoned DRM. The wonderful PCGamingWiki can help you get it running if you want one last cruise with the original radio.

When expiring licenses made Rockstar remove some songs from GTA: Vice City in 2012, on Steam they left the old version available for people who already had it, then created a new version without the expired songs for new purchasers. That was a nice solution. However, when licenses expired in GTA: San Andreas in 2014, they just removed the affected songs for everyone. I would be unsurprised if Rockstar just cut the expiring songs from all copies again, but at least they are adding some replacements this time.

Disclosure: I know several folks who worked on GTA IV, including my own flatmate (and former RPS columnist) Cara Ellison. I know she also voiced some random crowd lines but I’ve never heard her. She’s out there, somewhere, in Liberty City.

57 Comments

  1. DatonKallandor says:

    The idea that they “need” to do this is absurd. They simply want to save money so instead of renewing the licenses (costs money) or making a new version of the game without those songs to keep selling (costs money) they just go with the cheapest.

    • Nelyeth says:

      I don’t think you’ve read the article. They literally are “making a new version of the game without those songs to keep selling”, heck, they’re even adding some new songs to replace part of what was lost.

      • thenevernow says:

        They need to do this to keep selling the game (fair enough), but they don’t need to remove the songs for existing owners, like they did with SA but not with VC.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      And to think this is the company that operates literally the most profitable piece of entertainment media in history (if recent viral news is to be believed).

    • fish99 says:

      And obviously the game isn’t selling enough anymore to justify that expense. There can’t be too many other games that have as much licensed music as the GTA titles so it is somewhat understandable.
      The fact that they still haven’t done a GFWL-free version though, is not.

  2. dethtoll says:

    Don’t worry. People will patch in the old songs anyway.

  3. int says:

    They can add some of the music from GTA2. “TAXI DRIVERS MUST DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE!”

  4. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    So idiotic. Could you imagine this happening to any other medium? Has a film ever been recalled and re-cut to have different music to get around licensing issues? It’s like games don’t get no respect when it comes to these things… (or rather the people making these deals don’t feel the need to get a proper license)

    This reminds me I have a giftable copy of GTA Vice City with (afaik) the original tracks, cause that game was re-issued too at one point, been sitting in my Steam inventory for years. Anyone want it?

    • Cybernetic Barry says:

      I know of at least one TV show that had different music when it aired on TV to the DVD release, so it’s not just games.

      • RaveTurned says:

        Even before the DVD release. Some shows licence music for credits in the country they’re initially broadcast in, and then use sound-a-like alternatives when they export it to other regions.

      • G_Man_007 says:

        Still Game?

    • Da5e says:

      ‘Has a film ever been recalled and re-cut to have different music to get around licensing issues?’

      This is *really* common between festival appearance and theatrical release, actually.

    • Barchester says:

      It happens in other media as well. The home video release of the television series Quantum Leap comes to mind with certain tracks being cut because of licensing issues, but I’m quite sure there are more examples of this.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        Yup. Red Dwarf uses different music than the original air for George McIntyre’s funeral, and House MD has different I trouble music than the excellent Massive Attack song it used to have. Come to think of it, quite a lot of stuff on Netflix is like that.

        • Canazza says:

          Top Gear used to use the A-Team theme for a lot of their build montage bigs, but syndicated repeats have a sound-a-like song instead.

          This stuff is all over the place in TV

        • KevinCilantro says:

          “The Wonder Years” on Netflix has some cover of ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’ instead of the iconic Joe Cocker version.

    • MajorLag says:

      It actually happens a lot when TV series go to DVD. The DVD version of Mission Hill is objectively worse for it.

      What is really, really weird about this is that they’re retroactively removing music from already purchased copies. As far as I’m aware, that’s unprecedented. You already bought the game with licensed music, there is no legal reason to do this.

      I suspect they’re just lazy. They need to make a new version with different music, and they’d have to maintain two separate products and patch sets instead of one to keep the old music on the old version.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      It does happen in other mediums, all the time. It just hasn’t happened to you.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      OK well I stand corrected on this not happening in other media. Still, it seems more common in games.

      I believe with most digital games if you’ve already bought it, they often don’t patch the music out of that version so you get to keep that, but you can’t buy it with the old music anymore.

      • malkav11 says:

        I think games have generally been treated as more temporary and disposable than other media so the idea that it’s worth investing in a “life of product” license has not been taken as seriously.

        I wish everyone would do that, though. There’s no excuse in this day and age for deliberately creating a specific experience with a specific song (or other licensed audio) and then having it arbitrarily disappear and destroy that intended experience because the license ran out, when the work itself will be preserved for decades or centuries longer. (Or at the very least, ought to be!)

      • SaintAn says:

        Didn’t see anyone mention the digital version of a movie people own being changed though.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          link to reddit.com

          This list is for Scrubs alone. There are hundreds of examples on Netflix.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Wow, really? The use of music is one of the best things about Scrubs. What a crying shame.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            I know man, it really is a bummer. Another prime example is House getting rid of the excellent Teardrops from the intro for Netflix. Nearly fell off my bloody sofa.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Seriously? Wow. I’ve only ever used Netflix to watch things I’ve not seen before, guess I should stick to that (and hang on to my DVD collection).

      • KevinCilantro says:

        Hitman: Contracts was impossible to find for sale anywhere for a few years because of a rights issue with the song that played in the biker bar in the level “Rendezvous in Rotterdam.” It must have been fixed because after I waited and waited and waited it’s been available on sale on GOG and Steam for awhile now. I own a copy but actually haven’t gotten around to play that level to see if the music is different that the original release, I imagine it is.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      Films and DVD’s are a great example actually, because once you buy a copy it stays the way it is. Companies don’t reach into your DVD player and take out songs at an arbitrary point after you’ve already bought the DVD.

    • tomimt says:

      It happens. These days Married… with Children has a crappy generic title muzak instead of the original Sinatra’s Love and Marriage.

    • dethtoll says:

      Two words: Return of the Living Dead.

  5. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I’m similarly bewildered about the lack of GFWL patch. Last time I tried to run GTA4, I had to pirate it, because my own Steam copy told me to suck it.

  6. Halk says:

    Let’s hope science never catches up with Men in Black technology. Lobbyists would push to have a mandatory memory wipe after each watched movie, listened song and played game.

    • iviv says:

      I don’t know, I can think of a lot of TV shows and movies that I’d love to remove from my memory for both reasons. Some so I can experience watching them without knowing what’s going to happen. And some because I want to purge them from my mind.

      • UVtears says:

        This is how I feel about LOST. I actually quite love that show, beginning to end, and have rewatched it countless times.

        But I know it inside out now, most early episodes memorized and all plot twists burned into my skull that… I always want a memory reset to watch this show again. To get excited about LOST again.

    • KevinCilantro says:

      I actually wouldn’t mind if somebody memory wiped my experience the first time playing the original Deus Ex.

  7. mepto says:

    I’m more astonished that nobody mentions the core moral and, at least regionally, legal problem here: They’re STEALING content you paid for that was essential in the product, which the product has probably been advertised with, and which was expected to be in the product. I don’t get why we’re this only industry with consumers naive and manipulable enough to accept THEFT. Rockstar are STEALING your stuff. No, it doesn’t matter that you indefinitely rented it even though you clicked a “buy” button, it’s your stuff and ROCKSTAR ARE STEALING YOUR STUFF.

    Take-two, you’re A THIEF and you should be SUED out of your sharkcard and DLC billions.

    • Asurmen says:

      What?

      • SaintAn says:

        They’re reaching into something we paid them money for and taking stuff out of it and changing it around. Paradox deserves to be sued for this too because of Stellaris 2.0.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          If you’re joking, lol.

          If you’re not, go read your fucking EULA.

        • Asurmen says:

          What?

        • JimRyanor says:

          You can play roll back Stellaris to any of the major patches. Right click in library, properties, go to betas tab, then take your pick.

        • lordcooper says:

          1. Sort your fucking head out.

          2. Just opt into an older version on Steam…

    • Mongward says:

      You didn’t pay for the songs. You paid for the game, where these songs are featured. There’s a reason why, unless the game comes with a separate soundtrack, you can’t easily extract licensed songs from game files.

      • mepto says:

        You know I think there’s a certain skill that people like you have, to be able to wrap your perception of reality in any way you like; it’s just too bad nothing good ever results of it for the general population.

        EDIT:
        If we were to follow your, ahem, “logic”, nobody ever pays for a game itself because executable files can’t be easily decompiled and so, really, you pay for a name only and they have every right to take away the whole game post-sale.

        • Mongward says:

          You own a copy of the game. Rockstar can’t, technically, take it away, but they can block your ability to play it online. And that’s assuming you’re using a physical copy, because on Steam you’re pretty much just buying the right to access any given product. That’s why GOG is a big deal.

          However: you don’t own any of the assets in the game. Much like the game itself, they belong to the developer/publisher, or, alternatively, an external creator who licensed them to the developer for a specific use for a specific (or unspecified, depending on the deal) period of time. Just as well Rockstar could replace all the textures with low-res version, and all models with low-polygon blobs… and they would have every right to do it. You wouldn’t say that they are “stealing” the models or images from you, would you? At best they would be reducing the value of their game, perhaps creating a reason to apply for a refund.

          The songs aren’t a separate soundtrack you buy for use with the game, like a DLC. if that were the case, the situation would be much different, because you would be paying for specific music to be used in the game. and perhaps the licenses would be extended from the creators to you with the publisher as an intermediary. maybe. But the way it is, you don’t own anything beyond your copy of the game, and even that is more nebulous on Steam.

          • jonahcutter says:

            And one of the reasons I buy on GOG whenever possible now.

    • ColonelFlanders says:

      I mean you’re entitled to your opinion, but everything you’re babbling about is completely, objectively and wholly wrong. Rocks tar aren’t stealing anything. They are removing music they no longer have a license to. Music which you paid for a (non-indefinite) license to when you “purchased” the game. If you don’t like it then bitch at the music industry not Rockstar, because despite their avarice they aren’t doing this out of greed.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        They are 100% doing this out of greed. They don’t have to remove the songs. They have lost the right to continue selling the game with those songs in them, but they are not forced to remove them. They only have to remove them if they are too cheap to renew the licenses and want to continue selling the game.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          Like thousands of other businesses who face prohibitively expensive licensing costs. Again, it isnt greed, it’s pragmatism. If you don’t like it then bummer, but that is kinda how the world works.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Ethically, he is correct. They sell you the game. You buy a copy. You click a “buy” button.

        Whatever the legalese of only “renting a license”, the entire transaction’s structure and presentation is of purchasing a copy as property you then own. And at the time of purchase it included those songs.

        It’s true it’s perfectly legal for them to change the license agreement you actually did agree to. But that doesn’t make it ethical or moral after its entire presentation is of purchasing it as property.

        I’d be interested to see what would happen if the vendor was legally required to change the “buy” button on Steam or GMG to “rent indefinitely, maybe”. Which would be a more accurate description of the terms of the transaction.

        • Mongward says:

          Sure, but “stealing” isn’t really a moral thing. It’s a factual and legal matter. Entity A takes for themselves something entity B owns. Licenses and user agreements aren’t a moral thing. It sucks, but it’s too true.
          Technically, Rockstar could just take away these songs and be done with them, but they are actually *replacing* some percentage of them with new content. So what they are doing is closer to updating content, rather than creating a glaring hole in a previously whole object. They aren’t taking away something a figurative You bought from them. They are changing it, removing things that don’t work and replacing some of them with things that do work. This is how patches work, too.

          Legalese or not, you don’t buy games in Steam, by their own legal mumbo-jumbo you’re “Subscribing” to “content and services”. It’s probably like this on any other DRM platform, Origin, Uplay, you name it. I don’t know for sure, because like 99,9% of people I skim these things at best.
          GOG is an exception, so are certain games in Humble Bundle.

          And it’s not like it’s hidden, either. We all accept the rules upon registration, and Valve is legally required to update us on any changes to the agreements.

  8. Addie says:

    That PCGW page is crazy – there’s Win 95 games on there with fan patches and wide-screen mods that take about 1/10th the steps to get running well on modern machines. Well done everyone who’s contributed to it, though – it’s the first site I check when playing either the classics or shonky console ports.

    Feel the whole GTA series has been on a downhill slide since Vice City, though. Rockstar nowadays seem more interested in unfun time-wasting mini-games, ugly photo-realism and uglier protagonists than they do in actually making entertaining games. Would rather be playing GTA2 than faffing about with getting this or San Andreas working again.

  9. WJonathan says:

    “The Russian pop station Vladivostok FM will take the brunt of the cuts”

    As it’s Russian, I assumed all the songs were stolen anyway.

  10. RobX says:

    Nooo! I need Glukoza on the radio!

  11. DukeMustard says:

    Han shot first? Digital age blasphemies. I’m still not over the Michael Jackson zombie scandal so this in no good news.

  12. Vanderdecken says:

    Glad I’m not the only one who was most concerned about Schweine.

  13. neonhy says:

    So, does this means we are getting a partial refund? This is absurd and this is why one thinks twice before “purchasing” video games. Clearly, the term “purchase” has become merely an adjective which states: “We will be taking your money and give you something in return which will be later cut, shaved and modified, thus, diminishing its value.” Thought this was about videogaming, not stock exchanging.