Having been thinking about player generated content lately, I found a recent article on The Register to be of interest:
"A pair of Second Life entrepreneurs are suing the game's creator, Linden Lab, for allowing other players to sell "knockoffs" of their virtual sex organs, erotic poses, designer clothing, and other trademarked items."
The tricky part for Linden will be the fact that they are profiting from the sale of these counterfeit virtual goods. Were that not the case I think they could easily get away with claiming some kind of neutral carrier status which most websites and games like that do. From my understanding of it Linden have a clear financial motive for turning a blind eye to these activities and that could be what gets them into trouble. Definitely will be interesting to see what happens though. Scott Jennings has some interesting commentary on it here.
In this case I think there's a big difference, Linden itself is being sued as the ones violating the copyrights and trademarks. Not the individual users. If it's true, then they lose their Safe Harbor protection under the DMCA because they are no longer simply content carriers.
I gave this some thought recently, even though my project is a long ways from having to deal with it. I decided that I'm only going to accept contributions under the Creative Commons Share-Alike license 3.0. This covers two major concerns – random builder meltdowns and insuring that MUD admins always retain the right to make custom modifications.
In a MUD context, the worst that could possibly happen here is that one player could demand that you take down a zone created by another player on the grounds that it breaches the first player's copyright.
With regards to copyrights, IP, etc. etc., what do you think the difference is between building an area for a MUD via OLC (where you simply enter in descriptions and set options via commands) and writing the entire, formatted area file in a text-editor and e-mailing or FTPing it to the MUD?
The latter seems more like something an individual could claim ownership over, as its entirely written by the author against some specification and is merely displayed by the game. The former, however, while still the original content of the author, is just information being re-formatted and applied to a database.
I can definitely see an admin refusing to send somebody the hard-copy of an area crafted in OLC under the argument that their content was modified and expanding on by the MUD software and the format is proprietary or some such business. I would definitely feel more cheated if I'd actually written all of the non-descriptive elements myself and was denied a copy than if I can merely used the OLC.
Is one more "yours" than the other, and would it/should it affect the legal bits 'n pieces of a contract and/or legal dispute?
I don't think there's a difference Asylumius. Does your work have any less protection if you write it on a forum during forum RP, compared to writing the text file locally then attaching it to a forum post?
I guess the distinction I see is that in one case, the builder actually creates the entire final work that is inserted or attached to the MUD, where as in the other case, the builder is providing only certain pieces of the whole area which is created by the game or game owners software.
So my question is, "Is there a difference between handing someone a working copy of your area for inclusion onto a MUD and using the MUD itself to make someone which is, under the hood, a very different thing than a word document full of descriptions?"
To answer your question, I don't know, does it? I imagine most people would still feel as though they are/should be just as protected, but should they be, really?
Obviously the answer would depend on the MUD and what licenses, contracts, and disclaimers the owner/business entity/administrators have implemented, which is why I'm more interested in personal arguments and opinions than armchair-lawyering, since no specifics have been made up.
It's definitely a nitpicky scenario, but hey, that's what we do here.
21 Sep, 2009, quixadhal wrote in the 10th comment:
I wouldn't think there could be any difference.
If entering segments of text via an interface was different than writing and uploading a file, all the MUD admins would need to do to lay claim to your IP is to copy/paste the uploaded file and enter it into OLC themselves (or the other way around, save the OLC data as a complete file and then re-add it).
AFAIK, copyright is not limited to any particular size or format. If I scribble an idea on a napkin at the bar, that's still copyrighted by me.
I would say in both scenarios, you are entitled to a copyright on the work you have done, which means in the first scenario you would not necessarily be entitled to a copy of the area file.
In the second scenario, you would of course have your own copy of the area file, but there's a grey area regarding the digits and letters entered on their own lines. You can't copyright unoriginal work, and it would be hard to claim, "No one's ever used this combination of flags before!"
Personally, I think writing an area or scripting for an online game, despite there being no reward, generally falls under the province of 'work for hire', in which case the work is the property of the employer. My reasoning rests on the fact that the work is done for a specific environment, and usually is not a 'stand alone' product. Further, while the current law grants automatic copyright, this streamlining is a labor saving device and historically the creator has been required to take action to protect himself. That is, unless you specifically make clear your rights from the start, a MUD owner has the right to presume ownership of any content your provide for his game. Again, this is my personal belief, and I don't think it's necessarily substantiated by precedent.
Perhaps an 'area raw text export' type solution? So that builders could get room name, room description, exit/extra descriptions etc etc. (mobs objects as well). My own game's rules are that we get it, and you get it if you want etc (even the .are file). No touchbacks ;p. Although, my area files aren't backwards compatible. But someone could cut/paste etc.
Half tempted to toss up a SmaugFUSS for builders to come use that will email a copy of the area file on demand so folks can build without the fear of losing the work. Would be interesting to see if others would put up similar ones for Rom/Circle/etc.
Personally, I think writing an area or scripting for an online game, despite there being no reward, generally falls under the province of 'work for hire', in which case the work is the property of the employer. My reasoning rests on the fact that the work is done for a specific environment, and usually is not a 'stand alone' product.
(1) a work prepared by an employee within the scope of his or her employment; or
(2) a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas, if the parties expressly agree in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire. For the purpose of the foregoing sentence, a supplementary work is a work prepared for publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes, and an instructional text is a literary, pictorial, or graphic work prepared for publication and with the purpose of use in systematic instructional activities.
A compilation is a work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that are selected, coordinated, or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship. The term compilation includes collective works.
It would seem that you are correct in this sentence.
US law does not carry over into the IP laws of other countries (except by treaty) so I still feel it best to inform the contributors (be they players or staff) of the intended usage before they enter your game and provide any content.
Further, while the current law grants automatic copyright, this streamlining is a labor saving device and historically the creator has been required to take action to protect himself. That is, unless you specifically make clear your rights from the start, a MUD owner has the right to presume ownership of any content your provide for his game. Again, this is my personal belief, and I don't think it's necessarily substantiated by precedent.
This part I disagree with.
(Disclaimer: Not a lawyer. I don't even play one on TV.)
Personally, I think writing an area or scripting for an online game, despite there being no reward, generally falls under the province of 'work for hire', in which case the work is the property of the employer.
It can, but I doubt your staff would qualify as employees under the common law of agency, in which case you'd require a written agreement drawn up in advance explicitly specifying that the work is a work made for hire. For more information, see here: http://www.bitlaw.com/copyright/ownershi...
Further, while the current law grants automatic copyright, this streamlining is a labor saving device and historically the creator has been required to take action to protect himself. That is, unless you specifically make clear your rights from the start, a MUD owner has the right to presume ownership of any content your provide for his game.
The owner could perhaps claim an implied licence to use a copy of your work, but they wouldn't own the copyright.
Please, I wasn't speaking as a lawyer, but as a judge or legislator. As I own several thousand copyrights I'm relatively familiar with the law, or at least used to be, and I did specify the lack of precedent. :smile:
My point is a sort of reverse engineering of existing decisions due to the expectations of MUD owners and Builders. That is, while too often no discussion takes place, MUD owners do expect to use the Builder's work as if it were work for hire as you can't advertise 'original areas' if they aren't, and thus it is reasonable to assume if they understood the laws and the discussion did take place, then they would specify rights to exclusive use. Hence, if I were in a position to do so, I would be inclined to amend the current statutes to favor MUD owners.
In practice, myself, I never do work for hire, would never expect a Builder to do so, and once upon a time we had more contributions to ROMlama than any other MUD. :wink:
Thinking a bit more about this, I'm specifically talking about DIKU style MUDs. On a MUSH, I believe the rights should default to the Builder, but that's a completely different scenario where the Builder may include sophisticated code in his area because the owner was too clueless to make it globally available.
1. Once the area is in game, it will stay there and modifications will be made to it. 2. They can get their original work sent to them in .are fashion anytime they want it.
(If it's not saved then I would send them the full modified file)
I think that's a pretty fair way to go about things.
I think this is the best method. People get far to worked up, in my opinion, on these issues, specially areas. If someone builds an area and wants a copy, why NOT give it to them? Add your name to the credits so at least future muds know where the origional comes from. Maybe the next mud will change/edit for the better, and write you an email with ideas?? Its all about sharing folks. Thats why muds are free. <_traditionally for the most part_>
If someone builds an area and wants a copy, why NOT give it to them?
I don't see why this question is so hard to answer. If a game is built on its areas, meaning that those areas are what gives the game its originality and character, then for those areas to be elsewhere removes from the game's value. I don't think that exclusivity should necessarily be asked for, but depending on the MUD I don't think it's entirely unreasonable.
Particularly if the codebase is stock, the areas are all that the game has to distinguish itself.
True, i guess in the end everything we argue about is all dependent on the mud we're refering too. I'm in school for "Tool and Die Machinist", and if i make a part off a blueprint thats classified, im not allowed to take an extra part or the blueprints home :P Still, in the end if another mud wants your area bad enough they can go on it, map it out and copy/paste it into another .are change some things and its theirs. *shrugs* I guess in the end your right, make sure the builders understand what they're getting themselves into before they agree to build.