Jump to content

Why the draconian copyright restrictions?


Orions_Stardom

Recommended Posts

I've noticed alot recently just how many mods are released under increasingly draconian copyright. That is, they use copyright in a way that, while it is currently (unfortunately) legally enforcable, it doesn't realy make sense.

I'm talking about statements like this in the various mod readmes:

This mod may not be sold, published, compiled or redistributed in any form without the consent of its authors.

The question then becomes - why? Why restrict my freedoms so?

 

I think one of the major reasons is a (fairly common) misinterpretation of copyright. But, even so, surely mod authors care somewhat about their users?

I notice that this seems to be limited to the mods themselves - alot of the tools we use do not have such draconian statements with them, and are infact Free Software by gnu.org's defintion. WeiDU is GPL. Near Infinity is LGPL. I beleive that DLTCEP is GPL. So, these ideas aren't completely foreign to this community.

 

And so again I ask, why? Why do mod authors choose to use a morally obselete law to enforce power over me? Ok, people are inherently selfish I know - but, your use of copyright in such ways restricts me in many fundamental ways (why should I have to bombard you with email simply to mirror your work, or give you another user?), and yet I can't see what you get out of it. And so I ask, can't this community excercise some morals, and stop unduly restriction my rights?

Link to post

Authors have rights too, you know. For instance, the right not to have someone else make a profit from their work, not to have someone else claim to be the author of their work, and not to have someone else distribute modified versions of their work. If anything is "morally obsolete", it's not giving any respect or consideration to the people who created the work you're using.

Link to post
For instance, the right not to have someone else make a profit from their work

And yet, this is allowed everywhere else - I buy a spade, I can sell it to you for a profit, and noone would raise an eyebrow. Why is this any different in software?

 

not to have someone else claim to be the author of their work

This one I have no real argument over, since it doesn't *only* benifit the author. Infact, this is benificial to everyone except the middle-men (the public deserves not to be mislead, after all).

 

and not to have someone else modify their work.

And here is where I ask, why? What good does it do anyone, in this day and age, if we can't make something better? What good has it *ever* done anyone? The answer is none. Shakespear's works are based on that of earlier authors. The only reason copyright ever existed was to promote mass-distribution, and increase the amount : something which is much easier now, and so the old copyright laws can't still apply.

 

If anything is "morally obsolete", it's not giving any respect or consideration to the people who created the work you're using

The reason I call copyright morally obselete is exactly what's covered in "Misinterpreting Copyright" (which I linked in my first post). Essentially, copyright never has any grounds in morals to start with (the extra rights are, much like patent law, a way of having people's behavior change). The 'rights of authors' you mention come purely from and because of this (except perhaps that right to attribution), and so are - in effect - exactly what I'm arguing against. And, as RMS mentions in 'Misunderstanding Copyright', copyright does still have some use, but realy shouldn't have the exact effects it does - and nor should it apply equally across all media. Remember this, as you look at the history of copyright: to enforce it in the information age takes measures like digital rights management. Surely that in itself is evidence that this is no longer a good system?

 

EDIT: And my intention isn't to forgoe any consideration or respect an author deserves. Rather, it is to make sure that this is limited to respect for good people, and to lessen the effects that sheer greed can have - there are people in this world who see nothing more than revenue and fame trickling in, and those people devalue the work the rest of us do. I seek to attempt to remove any opportunity for such to happen, and thus protect everyone else's interests as much as is possible. The problem with copyright at the moment, and with how it is applied to mods in particular, is that it favours the author's interests over anyone else's, and puts more emphasis on the greed in people than the quality of the work. And this alone is why I call it draconian.

Link to post
And yet, this is allowed everywhere else - I buy a spade, I can sell it to you for a profit, and noone would raise an eyebrow. Why is this any different in software?

Because you cannot buy a spade, make as many copies of it as you like, and sell each copy (perhaps for more than you bought the original for), thus reducing the original manufacturer's profits for not just one spade, but a countless number. You should not be entitled to make profit from selling multiple copies of another person's work.

 

And here is where I  ask, why? What good does it do anyone,  in this day and age, if we can't make something better? What good has it *ever* done anyone? The answer is none. Shakespear's works are based on that of earlier authors. The only reason copyright ever existed was to promote mass-distribution, and increase the amount : something which is much easier now, and so the old copyright laws can't still apply.

No, copyright also exists to promote originality, i.e. to encourage people to actually come up with new ideas instead of simply copying existing ones. Also, for a player the modding scene is confusing enough as it is; if there were dozens upon dozens of variations of the same mods floating around, it'd be chaos. Just look at the Big Picture and Baldur's Gate Trilogy versions debacle for proof of that.

 

The reason I call copyright morally obselete is exactly what's covered in "Misinterpreting Copyright" (which I linked in my first post). Essentially, copyright never has any grounds in morals to start with (the extra rights are, much like patent law, a way of having people's behavior change). The 'rights of authors' you mention come purely from and because of this (except perhaps that right to attribution), and so are - in effect - exactly what I'm arguing against. And, as RMS mentions in 'Misunderstanding Copyright', copyright does still have some use, but realy shouldn't have the exact effects it does - and nor should it apply equally across all media. Remember this, as you look at the history of copyright: to enforce it in the information age takes measures like digital rights management. Surely that in itself is evidence that this is no longer a good system?

If authors knew that they would have no control over the work in which they had invested countless hours and vast amounts of energy (and possibly their own money), that other people were free to make a profit from that work (quite possibly at the expense of the author's own profit), that the ideas, prose and characters they were so fond and proud of could simply be copied by anybody who felt like it, that no-one could care less about the author's feelings or respect his talents... well, to put it bluntly, not many authors would actually bother to come up with something new. If you and your creations are not going to be given any respect, if you actually create works as part of your job (e.g. a professional singer, novelist, director, or whatever) but are hardly making any money from it, why even bother?

 

Instead of the literally millions of unique novels, films, music, games, etc, etc that exist, we'd have perhaps a few thousand unique works, and billions upon billions of variations of those unique works. Personally, if I buy f.ex a new novel, I'd much rather it be one I've never read, rather than one I already own only tweaked so that two formerly hetrosexual women are now lesbian lovers.

 

I'm sorry, but someone's rights regarding another person's work should be of far less consequence than someone's rights regarding their *own* work.

Link to post
Why do mod authors choose to use a morally obselete law to enforce power over me?

The obvious answer would be, because they don't consider that to be what they're doing.

 

Your phrasing is very unlikely to incline anyone who doesn't already agree with you to feel any desire to cooperate with you. Just a thought.

Link to post
And yet, this is allowed everywhere else - I buy a spade, I can sell it to you for a profit, and noone would raise an eyebrow. Why is this any different in software?

Because you cannot buy a spade, make as many copies of it as you like, and sell each copy for more than you bought the original for.

And if the technology suddenly came into existance that you could? If anything, the nature of software being that it is so easy to redistribute is argument for *allowing* that, not preventing it.

 

No, copyright also exists to promote originality, i.e. to encourage people to actually come up with new ideas instead of simply copying existing ones. ...Personally, I'd much rather read a new novel than one I've already read, only tweaked so that two formerly hetrosexual women were now lesbian lovers.

That is both true, and exactly why I say copyright still does have a use, but needs to apply differently to different media. What constitutes a new piece of software is often very different from what consitutes a new novel. In software, the slightest change to make a program infinately more usable is incredibly useful. In a novel, as you say, changing a small detail about a couple of characters does not a better novel make. I fight primarily for the change in software, since it is much more clear to me where to draw the line there - with a novel, nothing is clear except that the current system is too over-imposing. Also, software documentation is more prone to change than a novel.

 

Also, for a player the modding scene is confusing enough as it is; if there were dozens upon dozens of variations of the same mods floating around, it'd be chaos.  Just look at the Big Picture and Baldur's Gate Trilogy versions debacle for proof of that.

Granted that that could be a problem, but how likely is it that exactly that would occur? Look at real-world applications of this system - how many versions of Linux (that is, forked kernels - not various distros) are about? None that haven't come through kernel.org. How many slightly different implementations of WeiDU are out there? Not overly many. Now look at Mozilla/Firefox/Thundebird: they *do* have forks about (or, other apps based on the same code base) but all of them serve a good purpose (Epiphany, for example, serves as a browser to integrate well with the GNOME desktop environment). This can be seen infact as a *good* thing - that that code can find a use in different contexts and work equally well.

 

If authors knew that they would have no control over the work they invested countless hours and vast amounts of energy (and possibly their own money), that other people were free to make a profit from that work (quite possible at the expense of the author's own profit), that the ideas, prose and characters they were so fond and proud of could simply be copied by anybody who felt like it, that no-one could care less about the author's feelings or respect his talents... well, to put it bluntly, not many authors would actually bother to come up with something new.

By your logic, the existance of Fan Fiction should have destroyed the novel industry, while ideas without Fan Fiction would be more unique. Dan Brown, anyone?

 

Instead of the literally millions of unique novels, films, music, games, etc, etc that exist, we'd have perhaps a few thousand unique works, and billions upon billions of variations of those unique works.

What about Shakespeare's works? A creative mind will try to create, no matter what obsticals are put in it's path. A greedy person will try to do the least work they can to get the most gain. Current copyright favours the latter - I'm pushing for something that favours the former. And while it may seem that this doesn't apply to the current modding community (as far as I can tell, the mods made for greed and selfishness are incredibly rare :)), what I'm saying specifically in this context is that the only reasons for these restrictions are purely selfish - and that since this commuinty doesn't appear to stand for that in any other way, I question the goals it achieves.

Link to post

An author of fan fiction normally doesn't take an existing story and rewrite parts of it to his own liking; he uses an existing story (or multiple stories) as the inspiration for a new one. That's a pretty enormous difference :).

 

There's nothing to stop a mod author from creating a new mod which does more-or-less than same thing as an existing mod, just so long as he either writes his own code, or asks the other author's permission to use his code. I mean, what's the 30 seconds or so it takes to write an e-mail or a PM compared to the hours upon hours it took to write the mod?

 

As I said, most people who knew they would have little or no rights in regards to their own creations (and in the case of professionals, that there was a large chance they would make little or no money from it) would most likely not even bother to create anything; or at the very least, they wouldn't publically release their work.

Link to post
Your phrasing is very unlikely to incline anyone who doesn't already agree with you to feel any desire to cooperate with you.  Just a thought.

In retrospect, you're entirely right - I could have phrased that first post a hell of a lot better. Hopefully I won't make that mistake again as this discussion (hopefully) goes on :)

Link to post
An author of fan fiction normally doesn't take an existing story and rewrite parts of it to his own liking; he uses an existing story (or multiple stories) as the inspiration for a new one.  That's rather an enormous difference.

You specifically mentioned 'characters', which is why I mentioned fan fic. :) But this is again what I mean about copyright on a novel being different to copyright on software - a version of MS Windows without the security holes would be a good thing, as would another system that can use NTFS properly. And yet, those might only constitute minor changes to MS-made code - or taking that same code and putting it in another context. Should we need to ask MS for permission to do that? A novel on the other hand, taking a passage verbatim from it and putting it straight into another novel probably wouldn't make for a better novel. Hence, I say - copyright shouldn't apply for software as it should novels, because the implications of the two are different.

 

There's nothing to stop a mod author from creating a new mod which does more-or-less than same thing as an existing mod, just so long as he either writes his own code, or asks the other author's permission to use his code.  I mean, what's the 30 seconds or so it takes to write an e-mail or a PM compared to the hours upon hours it took to write the mod?

But then, what about the mods that fall into dismaintenance? What if the author isn't around anymore? Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could take up maintanance of an unmaintained project?

What if the premise of a mod is excellent, but the direction ruins it? Who's rights should trump who's then - the author's right to restrict the idea, or the community's right (and desire) to have a high-quality mod?

 

As I said, most people who knew they would have little or no rights in regards to their own creations would most likely not even bother to create anything - at least, they wouldn't publically release it.

Then why to many of those same people already sign away those rights to middle-men? Generally, they do so because their main goal is to contribute something to society - and the idea of not having exclusive rights (or, as the case often is now, *any* rights - they often have to waive their copyright, but only to these middlemen) isn't necesarily an issue for them.

Link to post
But this is again what I mean about copyright on a novel being different to copyright on software - a version of MS Windows without the security holes would be a good thing, as would another system that can use NTFS properly. And yet, those might only constitute minor changes to MS-made code - or taking that same code and putting it in another context. Should we need to ask MS for permission to do that.

But if other people were free to make their own versions of Windows and sell them, that would greatly reduce's Microsoft's profit... and Microsoft being Microsoft, if they weren't making enough profit, they'd stop making new versions of Windows. Depending on your point of view that could be a good thing or bad thing, but the point is that someone else's actions would be the direct cause of the original author no longer updating or creating "sequels" to his work.

 

Also, you seem to be forgetting that the majority of Infinity Engine mods involve the author doing far more than writing code; a large number of them (probably even the majority) involve vast quantities of written text as well. Likening NPC and quest mods (and even item and spell mods, if the author put a lot of work into the descriptions) to novels is an entirely accurate and justifiable comparison, IMHO.

 

But then, what about the mods that fall into dismaintenance? What if the author isn't around anymore? Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could take up maintanance of an unmaintained project? What if the premise of a mod is excellent, but the direction ruins it? Who's rights should trump who's then - the author's right to restrict the idea, or the community's right (and desire) to have a high-quality mod?

The author isn't preventing anyone else from using the idea, he's preventing anyone else from using his code and text. As I said, someone else could create their own mod which does pretty much the same thing, just so long as he wrote his own code and text from scratch.

 

Then why to many of those same people already sign away those rights to middle-men? Generally, they do so because their main goal is to contribute something to society - and the idea of not having exclusive rights (or, as the case often is now, *any* rights - they often have to waive their copyright, but only to these middlemen) isn't necesarily an issue for them

See the edited post - it's what they do to earn a living. If people are legally allowed to sell multiple copies of another person's work for their own personal profit, there wouldn't even be a point in new artists signing away their rights, so they would experience even greater difficulty finding someone to publish their work than they already do. Worse yet, if record companies/film companies/book publishers weren't allowed to have the exclusive right to anything, the ability of such companies to make a profit would be severely hindered, and they would quickly cease to exist. After all, what is a company which pretty much exists entirely to make profit without any actual profit?

 

Once such companies no longer existed, it would no longer be possible for anyone except the extremely rich (so rich they don't care about losing large amounts of their own money) to publish anything en-masse, other than via the internet. This would obviously severely restrict authors/artists/etc in their ability to make profit, so professional authors, professional musicians, professional game developers, etc would also quickly cease to exist. They'd be forced to get other, non-creative jobs in order to actually earn a living, since even the most creative person on the planet needs money in order to live.

 

The only new books, films, games, pieces of music, etc that the general public would receive after all would be amateur creations made as a hobby. As mentioned, they might be released via the internet, as an extremely limited local distribution, or simply performed exclusively in gigs/plays/bookreadings. Whatever the case, there would be far, far fewer new original works, and those which did get made would often be of average or low quality. I'm not sure about you, but I for one would not wish to live in such a world... which sounds suspiciously like the pre-renaissance middle ages to me.

 

There seems to be an idea in many peoples minds that if a job involves a great deal of creativity, then it's not a proper job at all, and that if the person doing such a job is actually interested in earning money then he's evil, selfish, a sellout, etc. I disagree with this entirely. If only there were more jobs which involved creativity rather than mind-numbing repetition and tedious tasks, IMHO the world would be a far more enjoyable, far more intellectual place.

Link to post

Thanks for bringing up a very interesting topic--it's not something I've seen discussed before, and it's probably long overdue. As the aforementioned draconian copyright notice is boilerplate on my readmes I feel compelled to respond. :band: I'll go ahead and state outright that I am, from a a perspective of ideals and especially their applications to software, more in line with O_S's point of view than anything.

 

To be honest, it's not something that much thought went into. It's a holdover from CamDawg's Tweaks, way back in the day, and is likely a cut-and-paste from another mod of the time. I've never viewed it as restrictive, but in light of your comments, it's time to re-examine my assumptions. I'm speaking here from a personal standpoint, so please don't assume this constitutes any sort of Official Policy. (We've never had any of those, and we're not about to start now. :) )

 

I started modding (and a modding site, for that matter) because I had played and enjoyed the mods of others. I felt that I, too, could contribute and make mods that others could enjoy. I learned to mod by reading the WeiDU docs, digesting the available tutorials, and by looking through the code of other mods. There was always the feeling--even at the height of the pointless forum pissing contests--that code was open and that we should be encouraging new modders. This may have been my own naivete and optimism, but I do feel that the modding community, at its core--and in some cases, we have to go really deep to find this. :party: --has been about enabling folks to go and be creative. Open code allows for more writers, artists, and other folks to produce new mods with less of a technical barrier. I have 15 tabs in my Firefox 'Forum Crawl' bookmark that I hit anywhere from 5-20 times a day, looking for folks that might need technical help. I try and write as many tutorials as possible. I try to comment my code as best as possible--even the monster, thousand line patches--in the hopes that someone will go through the code and have a Eureka! moment that helps them with their mods. I believe it's my responsibility to try and help new modders--one that I take very seriously--and open code is a key component of it.

 

I really have two concerns that I wish to protect when releasing mods, and both really revolve around hosting. I don't think I've ever denied a request for someone to use something I've coded, and I've freely contributed to just about anything that asked. (I can't think of any time I've said no, but the qualifier is there just in case I missed a request. :party: ) I think I'm one of the few folks who contributed to both Tutu and the original BGT, mainly because the aims of both projects were something I found interesting.

 

The first concern is maintenance--this encompasses everything from timely and effective response for bugs to providing an outlet for criticism and feedback. Multiple, unknown hosts sow confusion in centralizing support. It's widely believed, and well supported, that readmes are typically ignored. This often results in players returning to the place of download for support. I think this is suboptimal. I feel the best way to provide these outlets to players is a centralized public forum. Players can see if others have experienced the same issues, if the devs have fixed it (or are even aware of it), and a place to debate the merits of the mod itself and try to improve upon it. Keeping these issues in one location, in a transparent and open fashion, benefits both the players and the devs immensely.

 

The other relates more to the long-winded spirit aspect that I mentioned. I am very concerned that folks may try and mirror mods in a way that violates this spirit, or worse, try and profit from it. Modding to me is a hobby. I give my time and funds freely to support it, not because I hope to win fame or fortune or adulation, but because I enjoy doing it. There are others, winthin and without the community, who do not share these goals. Frankly, I have reservations about freely letting my mods be hosted by anyone because of the danger from folks who would wish to turn them into a profit center or for their own less-than-noble reasons.

 

These are the reasons why I wish to have a copyright notice. From a practical standpoint, as O_S has already mentioned, the idea that I would actually try a legal challenge--much less prevail--is somewhere between laughable and ridiculous. I would love to know what sort of alternatives, provided I can still safeguard my concerns above, there are available.

Link to post

I have yet to see someone explain what the benefit, to "society" as a whole or to the authors individually, is to providing their mods under less "restrictive" terms.

 

The problem with copyright at the moment, and with how it is applied to mods in particular, is that it favours the author's interests over anyone else's, and puts more emphasis on the greed in people than the quality of the work.

 

That's right. I derive more personal utility from publishing the fruits of my labors under "Yes, it's mine, and while you can have it for free as in beer, you cannot have it for free as in speech" terms. I derive more personal utility from spending a lot of time on work that I can at least put my foot down and declare "Thou shalt not go in and fiddle with this and re-release it as Orions_Stardom's Mod" even if, as Cam points out, the likelihood of any legal consequences ever being brought to bear is pretty slim.

 

But, again, how do you benefit from an open source banter pack? You want to go in and change my banters and re-release them? Tough shit. Write your own.

Link to post

While I'll not get to deep into the discussion, I'd gladly state my so-called opinion. :party:

As modders we "by definition" produce something which contains (to a various degree) work of others i.e. game makers. I've yet got to hear of a modder who asks gaming company for permition to change their work. In fact there are plenty of mods out there for games whose licenses explicetly prohibit modding. Some things some IE mods do does break "end user agreements" of those games. Due to that it seems silly to me that modders think they can hold any "rights" to their "work". I've always said that anybody can use/modify parts of my mods without asking me. It happen to me (especially with Rome: Total War) that mods based on my mod overshadowed my creation, it happened to me once that a person released my mod with slight moddifications as his own without stating my name in the credits. Yet still I say I do not feel that I have any "right" to my "work". I make mods to make games more fun for me, that's basically it, the rest does not matter. Of course I believe in "decency" and crediting those whose work you use... but "may not use without permission", come OI! We're not corporations! We shouldn't go about suing each other... should we? :)

Link to post

In the majority of cases, a modern WeiDU mod shouldn't need to contain much (or in some cases, any) content from the original game. The only major exception I can think of is for changing item and spell descriptions.

Link to post

Under ordinary circumstances, yes, modding games is illegal according to copyright law. The copyright holders of all IE games have released official permission for anyone that wishes to modify their games to do so. This permission does not extend to emulators that would make the game free for anyone. For example, if you created an emulator for BG2 that also comes packaged with all the items, dialogue, and so on for BG2, that is illegal.

 

My reason for restricting the mirrors of my mods is one of technical necessity. I don't want people telling me about bugs that they are having that have long-since been fixed because they downloaded an outdated version from a mirror. Weimer is pretty adamant about not allowing anyone to mirror his work for the same reason.

Link to post

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...