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Copyright and the Games Industry 94

A recent post at the Press Start To Drink blog examined the relationship the games industry has with copyright laws. More so than in some other creative industries, the reactions of game companies to derivative works are widely varied and often unpredictable, ranging anywhere from active support to situations like the Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes debacle. Quoting: "... even within the gaming industry, there is a tension between IP holders and fan producers/poachers. Some companies, such as Epic and Square Enix, remain incredibly protective of their Intellectual Property, threatening those that use their creations, even for non-profit, cultural reasons, with legal suits. Other companies, like Valve, seem to, if not embrace, at least tolerate, and perhaps even tacitly encourage this kind of fan engagement with their work. Lessig suggests, 'The opportunity to create and transform becomes weakened in a world in which creation requires permission and creativity must check with a lawyer.' Indeed, the more developers and publishers that take up Valve's position, the more creativity and innovation will emerge out of video game fan communities, already known for their intense fandom and desire to add to, alter, and re-imagine their favorite gaming universes."
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Copyright and the Games Industry

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  • by zalas ( 682627 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:43AM (#30321886) Homepage
    In Japan, you have a ton of people making derivative works (doujin) and selling them at low volume at various events, the biggest of which being Comiket [wikipedia.org], which half a million people attend. A lot of times, these derivative works are with the approval of the original creators, who set out guidelines as to what they consider proper and improper derivative works. The biggest content creator I can think of is Nihon Falcom (Japanese video game maker), who recently offered fairly liberal access to their entire library of music.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:46AM (#30321894)

    Would Valve be any more approving of, say, people selling Half-Life comic books as SE is of their properties? Especially with more risque contents?
    While Valve in particular may be relatively forgiving, it seems less of a single sliding scale between PC/free and console/not free and more of a dichotomy of PC devs smiling upon derivatives as long as they're games that reuse assets, and console devs smiling upon derivatives as long as they're not games and don't reuse assets.

  • Touhou (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @04:52AM (#30321928)

    I was reading about a series of Japanese games called the Touhou project a few weeks back. What was interesting is that while the single author of the franchise enforces his copyright to the games themselves, he doesn't on the characters and settings that games revolves around.

    This has allowed many groups to create works (primary comics, but also remixed music and other things) based off his work. He doesn't mind people even selling these things. All they're required to do, is to make sure that they state they're not an original work.

    This has made him and his franchise surprising successful, but it seems he is now worried that it'll grow beyond his control. After a project announced that they would produce an short animated film with some well known voice actors, he ranted in his blog that about it. Some people would argue that Touhou is currently better known for the community's work rather then the creator's original work, and unless he starts really enforcing his copyright, this may not change. On the other hand, if he did that, it would also kill off most his community.

    Stuck behind a rock and a hard place.

  • Re:Touhou (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:21AM (#30322044)

    To give perspective on the scale of popularity, there's a yearly event devoted solely to his games and it quite handily sold out the 35,000 capacity of its venue tin 2009.

    The issue with Maikaze's project didn't appear, also, to be so much control as worries that it would actively "fork the project" so to speak. ZUN has been glad to fold fanworks back in in the past, but animation as a completely new medium and a semicommercial project (backed by a partially foreign team and intended for overseas sales, too) definitely had potential to exist completely outside of the current oeuvre.

  • title goes here. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tei ( 520358 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @05:25AM (#30322064) Journal

    A mod, modificacion of a game, often have to distribute files of the original game modified. On some games this is allowed, so is not gray area, is white area, but on others theres not text that allow you to do that.

    Is sad, but mods that use a popular IP are... popular. Not all mods are based on movies, books, etc.. but there are big group of then. These mods are almost all gray area, very few have the authorization of the owner of the ip.

    Modding use to be something that add value to a game and the studio that created that game. People are more inclined to buy a game where there are a strong mod community and cool mods.

    But Microsoft changed this with the concept of DLC's. Now companies salivate with the idea to create these mods thenselves,... small amateurist modificatios that can be created in a hour of work, and sell for $10 or $4. As a result, modding is something that remove value from a game. DLC's is modding done by the original authors. It was created on the consoles, because consoles can't have modding, but now is leaking and poisoning the PC world. Games like Total War have started to encript the datafiles, to stop modding from flourish.

    Modders thenselves have changed. The original profile for a modder where Hackers, in the old sense of creative people that like to hack fun stuff. Thats what created these hacked wolfesten.exe's. Nowdays the modder scene is a hybrid of indie and amateur developpers. Amateur people that have a voice, and claim for quality in the SDK. Mods tend to be total conversions (everywhere but a few games, like the TES serie), made by people that invest time and maybe money, and some expect that to help then take a position in the game industry and get experience in game developping.

    So modding is more or less dyiing. And the companys will change his opinion and modders, and there will be some badwill.. and probably we will return again to the hackers, times, where to change the weapon speed on a MW2 server, you first need to hack the exe. So we hare returning to these wolfestein.exe times.

  • Bad example (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 04, 2009 @08:07AM (#30322524)

    Nah, the whole C&D thing was pretty much a fabrication on the part of the creators who had either lost interest in the project or were unable to finish it, because they wanted to be remembered in a positive way.

    Think about it, if they actually cared they could have easily continued working on it - there's hardly a lack of strong anonymizing systems available online today, Tor and Freenet being the best known examples. They could also have simple hosted the ROM on a server in Russia or China where issuing a takedown notice, let alone obtaining the required paperwork for a lawsuit, would have been nigh-impossible. Plenty of people who commit much more blatant violations get away with it that way.

    No, this was just a lame cover-up. I'm not saying they didn't recieve a C&D (many sites do, and the standard response is simply to switch hosting), I'm just saying that wasn't their real reason for cancelling the project.

  • Re:title goes here. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:22PM (#30325676) Journal

    I agree on some points but not all. Modding is still very prevalent in PC games but has taken a different path then it used to. It is true, that every mod to be released now-a-days is a Total Conversion, I haven't seen a simple "Mod" in a long time. But I think its mostly in part to more and more source code being available to change. The times when you would simply Modify weapon damage and speed and jumping have changed because NOW you have access to put in your own models and textures and even tweak some aspects of the engine itself. Those people who would spend a Month pumping out a mod will now spend 5 months pumping out a TC.

    But in recent developments, it has actually turned into a profitable hobby. Alot of these people would -LOVE- to get into serious game development, but simply don't have the time to start up a game themselves, they need to be hired by one of these large companies. Valve is an -EXCELLENT- example of a company who hires hobbyists. Counter-strike was developed by 1 man in his basement. The guy who made the Minerva Mod was hired on to make maps in upcoming HL2 games. The team who made Portal had a demo of Portal (Narbacular Drop I think it was called?) in an old quake/doom engine, and Valve hired them after it being demo'd at a fair. The lead developer behind the flash version of Portal created his own additional storyline content - and Valve purchased it and they worked with Microsoft to release it for profit on the Xbox Live Arcade version of Portal.

    Modding is no longer about modding the original game - but rather creating something of your own. It is NOT dying, the only sense of it dying is that the PC market is dying. But Companies that develop for the PC mainly (Like Valve, and Epic, and even Blizzard) tend to be a little more lenient with their IP because they know that when the community creates something amazing, they have an opportunity to add it to their assets.

    As long as there are PC developers, there will be a modding community, their motives just might change.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern