Monday, September 15, 2008

Whose game is it, anyway?

About a week ago, Angela picked up Spore. I've tinkered around with it. The character modeling and such is really cool. That's not what I want to focus on, though.

If you look at the Amazon link (above), you'll note that Spore has a lousy rating. It isn't because the game is bad (although parts of it seem very oversimplified), but rather due to the ridiculous level of DRM included. In particular, Spore requires an internet connection and periodic background authentication by the publisher. It can only be installed three times without contacting the publisher. The publisher uses things you create in your game (which should be - at least in part - your intellectual property) in other people's games. The game is devoid of resale value. If the publisher goes out of business (or stops supporting the game), the game becomes totally worthless and unplayable.

There is a End User License Agreement that is intended to seriously limit your rights to ownership of the game and make all of the above stuff OK.

It isn't OK. EULAs are, at best, legally questionable. Angela bought Spore at Target. She didn't license it from Target. There was nothing she had to agree to or sign at the point of purchase. She bought the game. It ought to be hers to do with as she wishes.

This is a trend that seems to have started with the music and movie industries - the whole MPAA/RIAA copyright fiasco. The thing is, it hasn't just remained in the world of digital media. It is invading our tabletop roleplaying games.

Last week, Geek Related reported on White Wolf's draconian fansite policy in which they attempt to claim that fan sites can't make money. This seems to be an extension of their previous position that ludicrously prohibited the collection of money at any White Wolf game. I'm sorry, but White Wolf has no more authority over what goes on at my game than my mattress manufacturer has over what goes on in my bed.

Not that I collect money at my bed...

The Wizard's OGL/GSL/d20 licensing issue is related. There is an underlying assumption among many that publishers need a license to publish things that can be used with 4e (or 3.5 or whatever). People can write (and sell) compatible material without a license. You don't need WotC's permission. If you want to use their copyrighted materials, you do - and that was the beauty of the OGL - but you can indicate compatibility without that. If I wanted to publish things for 4e, I don't know that WotC would be offering me anything with the GSL that would be worth the restrictions they'd be imposing.

Note: Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice.

1 comment:

Donny_the_Dm said...

Well said. I am in complete agreement on all points.

Stinkin DRM. It's ironic that the "lock" is what is fueling the thievery. One of the best games I have (Galactic Civilizations II) has zero DRM. It is conspicuously absent on most torrent sites.

I wonder how much of every unit is nothing but paying for DRM licensing...it's too much, whatever it is.

I am seeing that the future seems to be in the direction of "value added". Examples being, buy the dead tree publication, get a .PDF free. Or game is free, non-essential crap that makes game cooler cost small fees.

There is an information revolution in the making. The "old" ways just didn't see this coming. How can they possibly be expected to regulate that which they never imagined?