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Re: Alternatives to Creative Commons

On Thu, 2008-09-18 at 14:35 -0400, Arc Riley wrote:
> IANAL and am not presenting a legal opinion.  What I am speaking about
> here is based on numerous conversations I've had with lawyers in the
> "IP" (sic) field.
> On Thu, Sep 18, 2008 at 1:13 PM, Jamie Jones
> <hentai_yagi@yahoo.com.au> wrote:
>         How do you define an entire work?
> I've been told repeatedly that one game == one work.  Others have said
> that it was unclear and I'd have to research legal precident (case
> law) on the issue.  Nobody has said that it's a matter determined by
> the author or that they are more than one work.  In the end it comes
> down to a judge's decision on a specific case, but overwhelmingly
> judges favor the author(s) who's work is being extended/modified in
> copyright infringement cases, and because this is known it almost
> never gets to court.

So what your saying is, if you're unhappy with how the upstream author
has licensed their code and content, you want a Judge to tell the
upstream author that it must be released under a different licence ?

If your lawyers are unable to tell you, the author(s) of the works in
question decide what license they what to release their works under,
with respect to the licenses of any work they may have used in the
creation of their work, then I'd take anything else they say with a
large grain of salt.

> The issue of code and content is no different than the issue of
> patches or libraries.  Labeling one part "code" and another part
> "content" changes nothing, both are software and both are part of the
> same work - the game you're releasing.

That is your belief. I could release content (textures and level
geometry) that I have been creating for my game right now, and it could
be used by at least 6 other game engines, and a variety of utility

That data could be aggregated (redistribution permitting) with any of
those engines, and it would still be a separate work from the engine

In my case I have three works of data to be concerned with licensing -
1) data needed to pass the unit tests - that I'll explicitly license
under the same license as the engine, and would ship in the same tar.gz
and 2) other content, which will be in a separate tar.gz under whatever
license I deem suitable, and 3) documentation - which I'm favouring a
cc-by-nc-sa-au license for, and presenting it as a wiki.

All the quake engines have largely interchangeable content as well, and
if I'm not mistaken there is interchangeable content for vegastrike (a
space sim). I'm sure if I look around, I'll find even more examples of
games where the code and content are clearly separate works. I'm sure
other game content developers can point at other software that can use
their data too.

> Consider even on a technical level how arbitrary the "code" vs
> "content" labeling is; code is rarely (if ever anymore) direct machine
> code, it's compiled or interpreted instructions which are processed by
> other software and instruct that other software what to do.  Content,
> lets take a graphic for example, is processed by other software and
> instruct that other software what to do.
> Game engines, and more specifically game code, are not "game browsers"
> - at least I've not seen a modern one that is (ScummVM is not modern).
> The pieces of your content are usually labeled and have parameters
> specific to the game code you're running, ie FighterIcon1.  Of course
> you can swap out FighterIcon1 for another FighterIcon1 with the same
> requirements met and have it run, but you could also replace one of
> the program's FighterDamage function with a replacement that has the
> same arguments and return types in order to change that software's
> behavior.
>         As the copyright holder, it would be my prerogative to
>         license either how I see fit, and I see nothing in that
>         license that
>         states I must license my other works under it, just because I
>         choose to
>         distribute them together.
> You are correct, if you were the sole copyright holder there would be
> no issue.  The GPL does not restrict a sole copyright holder in any
> way because the copyright holder needs no special permission (a
> license) to do anything with their own work.
> However, this is almost never the case.  GPL licensed work often
> extends work held by several, sometimes even hundreds, of different
> copyright holders.  Any or all of them can challenge your right to use
> their work on the basis of license violation and thus copyright
> infringement.  Work is not licensed under the GPL in the spirit of
> allowing 3rd parties to make derived work effectively proprietary.

Would you consider my selling of GPL software, and not providing the
source until you purchase the binaries from me making your work
effectively proprietary ? As it stands the license allows me to do just

If someone else wanted to make alternate data for my game, I'd be happy
for them to do so - I'd suggest some licenses I think would be suitable,
but I would not force my choice of license down their throat. If they
want to make their content proprietary - they can. It's a separate work.

> I can tell you that if someone tried to pull something like this with
> our engine they would receive a notice of AGPL violation with a 30 day
> window to rectify the problem.

Your engine is special. I've looked at it, and your engine isn't AGPLv3,
it's AGPLv3 + additional clauses.

Quoting from your license
<-- start quote -->

In case "whole of the work, and all it's parts" is not clear enough,
every part of a PySoy-based game must be under the AGPLv3. Digital art
and music is as much part of the software as instruction code. It does
not matter if it's distributed in a single file or multiple files,
"regardless of how they are packaged", all parts of the game must be
licensed under the AGPLv3.

When your PySoy-based software includes the ability to present external
media to the user, such as the case of a video or music player, where
the media has no special configuration or orientation specific to the
PySoy, copyright law (and thus the AGPLv3) does not extend to that
arbitrarily loaded media.

Third party media, such as "clip art" textures and "free" sound effects,
may only be used in PySoy-based games if the license on that work is
compatible with the AGPLv3. In cases where the content is neither public
domain or an AGPL compatible license the author of that work may be
contacted to request it also be available under the AGPLv3.

<-- end quote -->

You have added the additional requirement that only AGPLv3 compatible
content may be used. That is an additional restriction on behalf of the
users of your code. It's something that would make me consider very
carefully if I want to restrict the right of my end users from creating
content with a different license to the code.

Trying to stay on topic, content authors using the cc-by and cc-by-sa
could probably be convinced that using the GPL would offer the same
protections. They may need to edit some of the content to display the
attribution they want perhaps at game startup. If they won't relicense
it, it's not a big issue, content is a separate work, and it would be
suitable for main anyway.

The cc-by-nd and cc-by-nc-nd choices are pretty clear - the authors
don't want them changed. They may require a lot of gentle convincing to
change to a license that allows modification, but it's unlikely. If they
wanted you to modify it, they would have picked a different cc license.

The cc-by-nc and cc-by-nc-sa choices are much like the above. I know I
often choose the cc-by-nc-sa-au license in particular for my
documentation for the non-commercial clause. I know, not DFSG free, bad
me, but I choose it so it doesn't get ripped off wholesale and come out
as foo for dummies or similar. If I was to change to GPL, the only
difference I could see would be foo for dummies would contain a cd-rom
with an electronic copy of foo for dummies to fulfil the source
distribution clause of the GPL.

Jamie Jones
Email: jamie_jones_au@yahoo.com.au

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