Developers & Fans Still in Copyright Cat and Mouse Game

Using Lawrence Lessig’s book Free Culture as quasi- guide, the blog Press Start to Drink takes a look at the current state of copyright law and enforcement within the game community.

Cease and Desist: Games Culture and Copyright Laws begins with Lessig’s assertion that current copyright laws are nothing more than “protectionism to protect certain forms of business.”  This, the author writes, is what has led to, in some cases, “an immense tension between IP holders in the games industry and the IP fans who consider some games part of their personal culture.”

The author details a pair of incidents where game development companies stopped fans from infringing on their copyright: a Gears of War fan that modified a toy to resemble a character from the game and the quashing—by Square Enix—of a community-made Chrono Trigger add-on.

On the other side of the fence, one company (at least) appears to be demonstrating Lessig’s “free culture” ideal: Valve Software. Valve exercised restraint when a group of community members undertook Black Mesa: Source, a project that uses Half Life 2’s source code to reconstruct the original Half Life game.

While Valve did not “openly encouraged the mods development, they have not taken any legal action to stop it.”

Also touched on in the article is the more radical example of when a developer lifts content from a fan-developed project. The author cites the book Play Between Worlds, by T.L. Taylor, who wrote, “several astute MUD developers noticed early on that EQ (EverQuest) appeared strikingly similar to a type of MUD called DIKU.”

The blogger notes that, “…ironically, in the Everquest case, the DIKU developers thought of the situation as a compliment, not a copyright infringement.”

Closing with a quote from Lessig, “The opportunity to create and transform becomes weakened in a world in which creation requires permission and creativity must check with a lawyer,” the blogger adds:

…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 reimagine their favorite gaming universes.

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  1. DarkSaber says:

    Nope. Straight from their own mouths.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  2. DarkSaber says:

    God damn I’ve been looking forward to Black Mesa for years, and they are "comitted to a 2009 release" and we are in December now! Roll on December 31st release 😛


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  3. 1AgainstTheWorld says:

    I keep hoping Valve will hire the Black Mesa team and include their work in an "Orange Box 2".  Possibly with HL2 Episode 3, a 360/PS3 port of Counter-Strike, and maybe even some form of multi involving Portal guns.  How awesome would that be?  (Answer: Very.)

  4. Torven says:

    Basically, VALVe’s response to Black Mesa: Source was to ask they remove ": Source" from the title, as they did not want it confused with their trademark.  Other than that, they really had no problem with it.

  5. SimonBob says:

    It would’ve been distributed as a patch file, which in and of itself isn’t illegal but would require a ROM to attach to.  Still, the whole case left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths — the project was reportedly quite close to being finished, but one letter from SE was all it took to get them to drop everything.  They had time to explore their options and explain their position rather than acquiescing immediately.


  6. Neeneko says:

    Hrm.  I never heard of Diku developers in particular feeling EQ was ‘like’ thier branch specificly.

  7. Iron Curtain says:

     Also, keep in mind that I put a video of Still Alive on youtube, I asked Valve for permission (to resolve all copyright inquiries. Also, I asked JoCo first, and he told me to refer to Valve, if it were cool with them, it would be cool with JoCo).This was Valve’s Response:

    If it’s being distributed free of charge, it’s Ok by us. 




    This is one of many, many reasons why Valve is above and beyond one of the best game developers out there.

  8. jedidethfreak says:

    L4D was inspired by a Valve-created CS mod, not by any fan mod.

    He was dead when I got here.

  9. Dan says:

    This is why id and Valve have always been at the top of the PC gaming market. They allow and even encourage modding.

    Doom Master Levels

    Team Fortress

    Counter Strike

    all started out as fan created mods that got an official endorsment and were adopted by the devs for an official release.


    Also, it may be that L4D was inspired by the Zombie Rush mods.

  10. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Without a doubt proper acredation needs to be respected even more so if the CP/IP owner lifts ideas to sell in their own product, as far as anything else from clips to file sharing to fan projects if no money is being made and that it can be defined as either generating a profit or merely taking in money directly for the project  say if you own something like a vague parody image you can sell it on tshirts and such to gather funds but something you can claim under your own CP/IP has to be traded so you can make money to help your project. But you can not generate money in traditional ways IE ad rev or selling a service not without a license.


    Now people getting together and spending their collective funds from work/retirement,ect thats their money they are using, they just can not take in money directly but perhaps a charity can get money for them.My point being when you make it antiseptic and remove the greed aspect from it everything circling around fair use and file sharing and clips and such becomes highly marginalized because its fans being fans not hacks trying to shill wares.


    This of coarse means that most sites that are run on ad revenue can not file share,ect example youtube is limited to showing what CP/IP owners are aware of(what dose not fall through the cracks) and approve while you basic home page setup could file share,ect because the trade off,cheap free space that could be abused , is maddening and most will tighten up their free offerings more making it harder to do any real shearing without paying 60+ a year for your own server and domain and getting rid of the ads, which marginalizes things more.


    It goes without saying trackers, and sites that are run off ad rev and donations are a no no, its simple and to the point allows copy right to be less set in stone and less blocking consumer rights on a daily basis, if the system would focus on being like the above copy rights could last forever for all I care.


    And if a site is run as a charity dose all the paper work they can freely file share as long as their ads are charity driven, either doners or other charities. This would be a boom to the connection big biz to lesser beings like fans and such as big biz can build packages and plans that that get money from from the fan site or chairty selling a service or item (soemthign cheap and crappy that makes some money like cds/dvds or plushies trade marked tshirts they sell the crap big biz gets them and can generate a bit of cash for themselfs and big brother at the same time) Its win win.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  11. Kajex says:

    I agree, with only one exception, and that only applies to creative aspect of copyright. I personally feel that if a person wants to be credited for inspiring a work within a game, they should be credited. But other than that, yes- the moment no profit is made is the moment it should end.

    Besides, there are numerous examples of higher sales being attributed to modding such material, and only a few people have actually taken advantage of that- look at Counterstrike, for example.

  12. ZippyDSMlee says:

    IMO copy right ends the moment no profit is made from it, you heard me if it dose not run on ad’s,donations or direct sale there is no way copy right should be applied to it, the free market of supply and demand will weed out what is and is not profitable anything else is free advertising and legal discussion for the CP/ IP. You can not stop people from criticizing ,parodying and begin Gdamn fans the media mafia has to realize this and focus on selling crap better more efficiently (take 50-70% of the profit made from sold items via new digi based licensing and give retailers the power to sell an item at whatever they wish the market will grow weed out the bad sellers and the CP/IP mafia will always take in money without doing much to earn it its win win for every one! )than trying to up keep  their monopolies!

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  13. Borislav says:

     Paradox Interactive makes their games endlessly moddable and actively encourage the creation of many and unique community mods. In return, PI often introduces new features in their games based on ideas present in the mods. It’s a fantastic example of developer-consumer symbiosis.

  14. DarkSaber says:

    Not to mention games like Neverwinter Nights which have thriving and developer encouraged mod communities, as well as games like STALKER, with fan mods like the Complete 2009 one giving it Crysis-rivalling graphical upgrades.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

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