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The legal obligations of supporting user-created content

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TheArtifex    682
Howdy, folks! I'm currently in the early planning phases for TREBL3, the sequel to a Flash rhythm game I published a couple months ago. I'm really trying to take this series to the next level, and one of the biggest features I'd like to implement in the next game is support for user-generated content. I do intend to contact my lawyer before too long, but I want to ask as many questions as I can ahead of time, so I know what questions I still need to ask before I shell out for an extra hour of consulting. I have tried my best to adhere to intellectual property right laws with the TREBL series. It seems that today's Flash gaming scene is littered with an utter disrespect for copyright law, and I don't want to reflect that image. Most of the music I have used up to this point is Creative Commons - BY licensed. The rest has either been licensed through sites like Jamendo/Pond5, or used with explicit permission from the artist. I know that I will not be able to maintain this same level of legal quality when I open the game up to user-submitted content. I do want to protect myself as much as I can, though, and I have done a lot of research on the topic (fortunately for me, there are plenty of other people curious about the same thing all over the internet). Temero's guide is one of the most concise lists of recommendations I have found (although their grammar leaves much to be desired):
-If wanting to use content submitted by users it's best to have lawyers create your Terms of Use. -Ensure users accept the terms and know they have done so - having to tick a checkbox or some other action before they can load creative content. -If you plan to re-use or distribute user's own creative content, make sure they know the details of the licence and agree to it first - for example, if running a photo competition. -Act promptly to take down any potentially infringing material as soon as you hear about it. -Take care when using content under Creative Commons - it's not a license to use everything for free.
Currently, the game loads all of its songs from a remote server - my server. An XML playlist containing these songs is also loaded from my server (the URL for this playlist is hard-coded into the game). I have considered a couple of ways to support user-created content. The simplest (but perhaps the most costly, legally risky, and time-consuming) method is to let users submit the required materials (an MP3 song file, a low-quality preview MP3 file, an album art JPG, and an XML note file), and I will host them on my servers, and update the songlist XML. This could all be automated. The second method I had considered is to let the players browse from a list of servers, each of which will host their own playlists and song files. The only thing I would need to do is add new servers to the server list (and again, this could probably be automated), and then each server would manage their own songs. From a gameplay design point-of-view, the first option is vastly superior. In addition to making it easier for individuals to submit content, having everything stored centrally makes it easier to manage and allows the users to see everything all at once, without having to dig around through several servers to find a song they want to play. My question is: does having the content stored on my machines expose me to more of a legal risk than simply referencing files stored on other servers by other people, or am I exposed to the same legal responsibilities either way? Also, aside from the responsibilities outlined earlier, are there any other pertinent legal obligations I should be aware of? Thanks in advance for the help. I'm really looking forward to expanding the TREBL series, and I want to make sure I'm doing things by the book. :]

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kdog77    229
You should research the requirements of the DMCA safe harbor for ISPs. The EFF or similar sites may also be able to give you detailed information for compliance with respect to caching, transmitting and publishing infringing files to avoid possible secondary liability. Remember that you need a clear TOS/EULA that allows you to remove allegedly infringing materials to be eligible for DMCA safe harbor. Then speak with your attorney regarding protocol and necessary TOS/EULA.

Good luck!

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