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Legal risk in editors, and giving players freedom to edit

5 posts in this topic

How much legal risk does it mean to allow players to create/modify certain things in a game?


Possible scenario: player modifies something. It is defamatory/infringes on someones IP. Player makes a video of the game, it ends up on YouTube. IP holder sees it. IP holder sues.


-I guess allowing them to change 3D models and changing textures is not a good idea. AFAIK, Im responsible for whatever content they create. Right?

-What about smaller things like names, color templates, etc.

-What about a map editor? Edit the heightmap/tiles, place the built-in objects etc.

-Is it any different when the game is single-player/online multiplayer?

-What if they create a mod for your game? Are you still responsible for its content?

-What if I dont explicitly allow them to change things like textures, sounds etc, but they can change the files in the game`s data folder?

-What if I do protect the files with checksums or something, but someone hacks it?


I would like do things by the book, but I dont want to take away the player`s freedom to edit things as they like when I dont have to.

Links to court cases are welcome.



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That about sums it up. Lots of programs allow people to create new and custom content. The exact details differ wildly. Sometimes lawsuits result, but I'm not aware of any major game-related suits that have made it all the way to a final ruling about legality involving user-created content.

When the OP asks "how much risk is there", I'm really not sure how anyone could answer that. Quantifying risk is hard. Should we say, "That is risk level 7, beware!" or something similar?

There is risk in everything you do. People can make legal threats and sue you for just about any reason they can imagine. The more money you have, the more creative people are at imagining up how you harmed them. After a series of increasingly-expensive legal posturing ranging from C&D demands through protracted court proceedings, ultimately the decision about the legitimacy of the accusations and any penalties involved falls to the opinions of judges. Because of the cost it is fairly rare for them to even reach the courts, and when they do they are usually quickly settled for a bit of money and possibly with an agreement not to do something in the future. The risk of EA or Activision or another multi-billion dollar company being sued over custom content is much greater than an unknown studio with no money. They also have legal departments that deal with threats and legal posturing every day.

If you are engaged in business you need a business lawyer for occasional work. Have a chat with your lawyer, especially when you have concerns about that. They know your exact situation and can help explain, understand, and mitigate the risks based on your personal situation. If you are concerned enough about it, your lawyer should be able to help you build a safe wording in to your EULA, or if you are even more worried about it, help you figure out what to remove from your game.

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