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Classic Games (Games) Nintendo Open Source Games

Full Screen Mario: Making the Case For Shorter Copyrights 361

barlevg writes "A college student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute spent nine months meticulously remaking Super Mario Bros. based on the latest web standards. His project is open source and the code freely available through Github. The site recently gained widespread media attention, which unfortunately brought it to the attention of Nintendo, which has requested that the site be taken down. In a column on the Washington Post website, tech blogger Timothy Lee makes the case for how this is a prime example of copyrights hindering innovation and why copyright lengths should be shortened. Among his arguments: copyrights hinder innovation by game designers seeking to build upon such games, and shortening copyright would breathe new life into games who have long since passed into obsolescence."
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Full Screen Mario: Making the Case For Shorter Copyrights

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  • Innovation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:03AM (#45164915)

    How is making an exactly duplication of another game "innovation"?

  • Silly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Princeofcups ( 150855 ) <> on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:12AM (#45165029) Homepage

    There's no reason that the game has to use the character designs of the original. They are using the Mario name to gain attention. Of course they are going to be sued.

  • Re:Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:18AM (#45165125) Homepage Journal

    The original intention of copyright was so encourage people to build stuff, get benefit from the work, then release the work out into the public domain for this precise reason! It wasn't put in the Constitution so people could have cash cows for long periods of time, it was put in there so the work could could go out into the wild after a brief period of time and be built upon.

    So, in being a shill on this you've somehow managed to be completely right.

  • Trademark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:22AM (#45165165) Homepage

    Assume that there were no copyright violations. This is still a clear cut trademark violation. I'm not sure how this case is even questionable. The right thing to have done would have been to go to Nintendo and asked permission to license Mario to do a web based version. Nintendo might have been receptive, and have been willing to grant some sort of license as it is kinda cool. But heck yeah, they own Mario.

    This is like me releasing a soda called "old fashioned Coke" using 1970s style soda ingredients.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:27AM (#45165251) Journal
    If you torrent a film, shouldn't be a big deal. If you mass produce copied DVDs though...

    They're the same thing. In both case you are redistributing something to which you have no right to do so. That DVD was for your personal use. You can fold, spindle and mutilate it to your heart's delight so long as it's for your personal use. Not you and 10,000 of your "friends".
  • Re:Conflation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c ( 8461 ) <> on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:36AM (#45165359)

    Since when did copying an existing work become innovation?

    Ah, but it's not just a copy. It's a copy of something "on the Internet" and/or "in a browser", which according to the US Parent Office is almost certainly innovation.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @11:54AM (#45165587)
    Copyright shouldn't exist for SOFTWARE in the first place. (Yes not patents either).

    The entire purpose of Copyright is to benefit society by adding more creation to the public domain. By granting short term monopoly to the creator they are incentivised to create. The deal is a 2 way street, they get protection for 'a while' and then we get the content free and clear afterwards.

    The problem is that the game is never actually released to the public. Because the code is never made available, except in a few rare cases. So the 'contract' with the public that gave them copyright is now violated because we don't get ever get the content into the public domain. How about games that require activation servers? How in the hell will you get to play the game in 75 years when said servers are long since dead?

    This is exacerbated by the rapid pace of technology. Yes Mario Brothers is still copyrighted, but short of emulation you simply can't actually play it anymore even if it was free.

    There needs to be a repository where software code gets placed so that when it's copyright is expired it gets released to the public. Or something like that so we actually get the creators to honor their end of the deal.
  • Re: Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RyuuzakiTetsuya ( 195424 ) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:14PM (#45165833)

    Yeah but no one's handing out mass produced DVDs of a cam rip of Iron Man 4. They're being sold at sleazy electronics shops and god knows where.

    If you make money on breaking IP law, fuck you.

    If you're not, then eh, whatever.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wootery ( 1087023 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:31PM (#45166035)

    I never understood this line of thought that but it's just for personal use so that makes it ok. It doesn't. The copyright owners have the right to charge for their film, including 'personal use' (indeed, this is almost the entire point of releasing on DVD). Today's copyright law rightly grants them this prerogative.

    Your position boils down to copyright law should only protect intellectual works aimed at the non-'personal' level of consumption. i.e. that CAD/CAM software should get copyright protection, but Hollywood movies should not.

    I don't buy it.

    (To be clear, I'd certainly be in favour of reduced copyright duration (15 years would be generous enough, in my opinion), but I don't see any merit to the argument that copyright violation on the personal level shouldn't be considered a copyright violation.)

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:41PM (#45166141)

    I think that copyright law is too complex to burden the average person with. I don't think it is ethical to apply a law to the common man that cannot be fully described by lawyers who have spent their entire career studying it. Either simplify it greatly or make it apply to commercial trade only. Keep in mind that this would still close entities like Napster and isoHunt, since they are definitely in the commercial realm. Honestly I don't think it would change much at all, except the few poor souls who got burned at the stake by the xIAAs as an example to us all would still have their quality of life intact.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @12:46PM (#45166211)

    IP law is a socialist concept, and a tremendous interference by the government in the free market. The whole justification for IP is that it is good for society. Take that away and all you have is a blatant handout of a government-enforced monopoly.

  • Re:Innovation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @01:21PM (#45166671) Journal

    I've always wondered why there's so little real public outcry at the perpetual extension of copyrights and their increasing overreach. But now, after reading the comments on that story, it's no wonder corporations have yet again been able to run roughshod over the public, and it's the same reason as usual -- the public is willingly bending over for them:

    The reason why isn't what you think. The real reason is quite simple:

    It doesn't affect Joe Voter, so he doesn't give a shit - he's too busy with his job, his family, his favorite football team, taking that lifetime vacation to Disneyland, etc. Can't be bothered to look into the more insidious on his individual rights and freedoms, and most politicians always claim that this or that bill is a threat to something-or-other, so he ceases to give a shit about them too. He's bombarded by spam from every special-interest group on the planet who can reach him (be it by TV, email, online, whatever).

    End result? The stuff that doesn't generate drastic controversy at first mention just slides right through until it gets too obscene to not notice. See also copyrights, which went from their original 20-30 year limit to, well, damned near eternity. Patents are following right behind it (and if it weren't for a specifically-written time limit in the US Constitution, I bet they'd last for centuries by now as well).

    So, until Joe Voter discovers to his horror that he has to involuntarily jack out a considerable portion of his income to sustain the rent-seeking industry, he simply doesn't have time to care.

    Yep - it's a tragedy, but there it is.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday October 18, 2013 @02:50PM (#45167935)

    Fair point, but you've not responded to my central argument: one cannot simply allow personal consumption to be exempt from copyright law without demolishing whole industries

    I disagree. How will people get content if not through commercial distribution? Who is going to run a free server at their own expense, with no expectation of reimbursement? YouTube spent an estimated $300,000 just to stream "Gangnum Style" [].What selfless person is going to do this for free? Even completely free and open source P2P software would be limited by the same types of agreements that Comcast and Verizon and friends have today - what company wants to risk being sued for contributory copyright infringement?

    I'm not a copyright opponent. I think (though I cannot prove) that there is probably some value in letting people have a temporary monopoly on an idea as an incentive to create new content. I just think the current copyright duration is ridiculous, and in practice I think the laws are too complex to burden the common man with. I'm amenable to simplifying the rules, but I'm not sure it is possible to invent a whole class of property without complex rules.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 18, 2013 @03:28PM (#45168471)

    IP law is not a socialist concept, it is a capitalist one. The Intellectual Property you own is part of your capital, just as much as the physical property you own.

    You cannot have a free market without a goverment to regulate it, and without government regulation called copyright, nobody would ever spend money developing software, as it could just be freely copied and used, with little return on the investment spent developing it.

    In a socialist society, all software would be owned by the state and made available for everybody to use, a result that you seem remarkably keen on.

    That this ill-informed libertarian rant got modded as "5 - insightful" is a poor reflection on a section of the Slashdot community.

  • Re: Innovation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday October 18, 2013 @04:29PM (#45169329) Homepage Journal

    You never heard the phrase "no harm, no foul?" You're not going to hurt me for torrenting my book (out soon), on the contrary you're doing me a favor by giving me free advertising. As Doctorow says, nobody ever lost a dime to piracy but many have gone hungry from obscurity.

    The RIAA hates piracy because they don't need it, they have radio, TV, and movies. Your sharing indie files does harm them, because you might find a good indie band, buy their stuff, which leaves you less money to spend on RIAA tunes.

    OTOH if you sell copies of my book*, you are in possession of money that I should own. You have very literally stolen from me.

    * That is, if you're making copies and selling them, not reselling copies you bought.

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