Halogen, a RTS based on Halo, has been shut down. This has caused the usual response from people watching the mod ... which is "if I'm not making any money off of it why should you care?"
A Bungie employee with the forum handle of "Shishka" responds thusly:
There are two common misconceptions about intellectual property rights that you see amongst fans almost any given game:
1. I'm not using the assets directly from the game, so I'm not stealing intellectual property.
2. I'm not trying to make a profit, so I'm not stealing intellectual property.
The first is a misconception, in that it only takes the second half of the term "intellectual property" into consideration. The word "intellectual" implies that the ownership extends beyond merely the literal assets themselves, but to the idea (for lack of a better word) tied to the assets. If I say "The Master Chief is copyright for Microsoft and Bungie," I'm not referring to just the model and textures. I mean the Master Chief, the character written to be the protagonist of the video game series Halo, and everything that makes him who he is."
So, before the usual "omg, so, if I make a guy with green armor Microsoft can sue me" complaints arise, let me point out that "a guy in green armor" is not "Master Chief from Halo." There's a difference.
The second item I mentioned is the issue of profit. Generally, people believe that, so long as they're not trying make money by selling their work, they fall within the bounds of fair use. This is, in fact, not true. Ultimately, regardless of whether you are selling your work or not, you're still distributing someone else's intellectual property. Whether or not it is in their best interests to stop you is entirely up to the owner of said property.
And for the record, Shishka is 100% on target. This myth that you can use any intellectual property you wish as long as you don't expect to charge for it really needs to be squashed. I have gotten into countless forum debates on this subject and at one point even served as an intermediary between a mod group and an IP holder. There is no grey zone here.
If you plan on releasing work based on someone else's IP without a license - you are breaking the law. It's illegal. Is that plain enough to understand?
The real sad thing is that so many mod groups feel the need to steal intellectual property in the first place. And yes, it's stealing - so sit down and hush. Thinking of it in terms of fan fiction or tribute is what got you in trouble in the first place. Mods have gotten into this trouble because of the Valve effect. People aren't interesting in modding gameplay anymore - they just want to make games. Preferably as close to boxed versions as possible (which, imo, is rather antithetical to the original idea of modding). Considering how many games are franchise driven, why should it be a surprise that so many mod teams try and make mods based on movies, shows and existing games?
As someone else pointed out - if someone had tried to take the Halo engine and make it an RTS ... they'd be within their license. Plus, it would add an enormous amount of code to the Halo mod community. Course, that assumes the team would share their code ... which was another thing becoming more rare when I stopped modding.
tagged: modding, gaming