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ljmbgtns

Copyright "crowdinfringement"

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Hello,

 

I have a question that must have been asked numerous times before, but I wasn't able to formulate it right enough to get an answer.

 

Let's say, I have a multiplayer game with very powerful custom character creation tools for users and rich extensible mechanics/rules. All premade characters that come with this game are original and absolutely legal. However, it's totally possible for users to make virtually any copyrighted character and use her in an online match, visible for anyone interested. So, it's basically like torrents - service owner provides/charges for service only, while users take all copyright risks on themselves.

 

And here is condensed question - would making such game be more risky than running a torrent site?

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Hello,

 

I have a question that must have been asked numerous times before, but I wasn't able to formulate it right enough to get an answer.

 

Let's say, I have a multiplayer game with very powerful custom character creation tools for users and rich extensible mechanics/rules. All premade characters that come with this game are original and absolutely legal. However, it's totally possible for users to make virtually any copyrighted character and use her in an online match, visible for anyone interested. So, it's basically like torrents - service owner provides/charges for service only, while users take all copyright risks on themselves.

 

And here is condensed question - would making such game be more risky than running a torrent site?

 

I'd guess the risk is roughly the same. Just remember that you can be held responsible for what your users do with your service in some jurisdictions, plenty of torrentsites have been shut down and in some cases the owners have been thrown in jail, a game with user generated content is no different.

 

Get a lawyer and have him/her write up a clear terms of service agreement that enables you to terminate the service for users(even if they have paid for the service) who repeatedly infringe on the copyright or trademarks of others.

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I'm not sure how your Torrent analogy applies. One is about creating a character, the other is about distribution.

 

 

For creating characters, do you mean something like City of Heroes?

 

In CoH you could make your own superheros based on a bunch of factors. The developer intentionally blocked many well-known superhero characters and names (eg. Wolverine) but Marvel sued them for trademark infringement. It was an interesting case, especially since Marvel created some of the violating characters and then sued over them. The judge dismissed most of the charges, and sadly the remaining ones were settled under undisclosed terms. 

 

Another game with massive player-created content was Spore. People would generate fairly graphic and obscene things, dubbed "Sporn". The game developers were smart enough to see this one in advance and kept group of people to review the player-uploaded content. Even so, a lot of rather offensive Sporn made it through to public servers and the company had a constant battle to keep it in check.

 

 

The takeaway:  When dealing with publicly visible player-made content you absolutely need some good business lawyers involved. Plural.  You need to be prepared not only for those who violate IP rights, but also those who will do everything in their power to generate offensive and sexually explicit content.

 

Player-generated content can be fun, but it is also an expensive nightmare from a legal standpoint.

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I'm not sure how your Torrent analogy applies. One is about creating a character, the other is about distribution.

 

That was my question — is providing service which allows users to share, for example, Wolverine movie file(s) different from providing service which allows users to share Wolverine character file(s), and whether online status of the game makes any difference from single player one. 

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A great analogy seems to be Rock Band Network.  

RBN was designed to any band could take their original song, make a playable Rock Band track out of it and publish it for download.

 

IN the case where someone tries to upload music that they don't own, RBN has to take it down, if requested by the copyright holder.

There are numerous clauses in the RBN agreement that say you need to fully own the copyright of anything you submit to RBN.

 

A "from scratch" drawing of Mario done by a user using your character editor is still a copyright violation (technically, it is an unauthorized derivative work).

 

In your case, if someone made their own mario character and used that in your game, you would need to have in place a mechanism to take it down.

And as pointed out, make sure there is appropriate legal language in your end user agreement to prohibit the creation of copyrighted characters.

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