Question About Copyrights to Custom Material

RobS

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I have a question to which I think I already know the answer, but will ask it anyway.

When people make any kind of custom material for the Civ games, do they acquire any copyrights or distribution rights to that material?

As a longtime player of computer games (since 1985), I'm pretty sure the answer is "No".
Although I've never read the EULA for any of the Civ games, I would guess, based on past experience with all other computer games (save one*), that the developer and/or publisher retains all rights to anything made for the game(s) by players. As a 30-year-long player of the Civ games, I think I would have heard about it if this weren't so, although I've never particularly dabbled in customization.
To put it another way, everything custom made for these games by its "community of players" are labors of love and are in the public domain for almost all intents and purposes, the only exception being Firaxis' ownership rights to all of it, if they chose to exercise that right.

Am I correct in assuming this?
Am I also correct in assuming that this is pretty much the "industry standard" way of doing things?

(*Battlefront's original trilogy Combat Mission games deliberately gave copyrights to third party scenario creators for their scenarios, although I don't know if this extended to other custom material for those games - and Battlefront made sure to let players know.
Edit: In the end, this made no difference to anyone. No one made any appreciable money off their scenario designs that I'm aware, and all scenarios eventually ended up at two or three websites that contained literally thousands of user-created scenarios, all downloadable for free.)
 
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timerover51

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I am pretty sure that the creators of material such as mods of the game, along with graphic modpacks do not retain copyright, although some of Delta Strife's work might qualify for copyright. Firaxi i the ultimate copyright holder for all of their material.
 

RobS

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I am pretty sure that the creators of material such as mods of the game, along with graphic modpacks do not retain copyright, although some of Delta Strife's work might qualify for copyright. Firaxi i the ultimate copyright holder for all of their material.
Thanks for your response.

That's always been my understanding as well, as I said in my OP.

The reason I bring this up is not because I have any issue in this regard with any of the Civ games, but because I have an issue with the way this issue is handled by a community of players of a totally unrelated game, by another developer/publisher. I'm thinking of starting a topic for that in the All Other Games forum because I'm looking for opinions from other long-time computer game players such as myself.
There probably won't be too many people interested in such a discussion, especially since the game in question is not a strategy game, but I might give it a try.
 

Quintillus

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My understanding is that the creator of a work inherits the copyright, whether it's literature, artwork, etc. etc. So let's say I create some artwork for use in my Civ mod. A couple years later, I decide I want to re-use it in an Endless Legend mod. Maybe I have to convert the formats because Endless Legend probably doesn't use the PCX format, but I'm 99.8% sure Firaxis would have no ability to prevent my from re-using my own work in an Endless Legend mod just because I'd used it in a Civ3 mod.

The one exception might be if I were using licensed material in my work. Let's say I wanted to add a Mickey Mouse unit to Civ3. Maybe I strike up a deal with Disney to license Mickey Mouse, and Disney agrees in exchange for having the copyright on it.

In practice, most work created for most games isn't easily transferable to another game. My hypothetical Civ3 mod is not going to just work with Endless Legend. Even then, however, if Endless Legend's developers wanted to add the ability for Endless Legend to play Civ3 mods, it would be the equivalent of LibreOffice being able to open Microsoft Word documents, which is allowed. Microsoft doesn't have to help them read Word documents, but they can't prevent them either.

That example also is instructive in that Microsoft does not have any copyright claims to something you create in Microsoft Word. Firaxis doesn't have a copyright claim to your Civ3 save games, and I can't see how they would for other third-party content, either. Though they have copyrighted "Sid Meier's Civilization", "Civilization", and the game itself.

I think where it can get muddied is commercialization. E.g. some publishers don't take kindly to monetizing YouTube videos featuring their game, and they may well be able to legally prevent that just as a book publisher could prevent you from monetizing an audio recording of their book. Could you commercialize a Civ3 mod, by selling the files on your website? As long as you don't distribute Civ3 or any of its assets with your mods, I'm not sure that Firaxis could prevent you from a legal standpoint, but they might not be happy about it. They might be able to stop you from using "Civilization" to advertise it. Another example is: if you created a nice high-res image and started selling copies as postcards, and then decided to put it in your Civ3 mod, I don't think Firaxis could stop you from continuing to sell postcards just because you added it to a Civ3 mod.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer (IANAL). Also, the EULA (which may or may not be enforceable) may be different in Civ3 than Civ6, and I haven't read them all.

---

I should also note that standard community practice here has been that any work you share here is considered to be in the public domain. If I create some Civ3 art, share it here, and you use it in your mod, you don't have to ask me for permission to do that. You could even use it for your own Endless Legend mod, even though I created it for Civ3. It might be nice to say, "hey, your art is really cool, it's part of my new mod XYZ!", but it isn't required.

Although I'm having trouble finding a citation for that beyond, "it's longstanding community practice". It's probably in an old thread that used to be a sticky somewhere...
 

RobS

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Thanks for your response, Quintillus.
My understanding is that the creator of a work inherits the copyright, whether it's literature, artwork, etc. etc. So let's say I create some artwork for use in my Civ mod. A couple years later, I decide I want to re-use it in an Endless Legend mod. Maybe I have to convert the formats because Endless Legend probably doesn't use the PCX format, but I'm 99.8% sure Firaxis would have no ability to prevent my from re-using my own work in an Endless Legend mod just because I'd used it in a Civ3 mod.
This gets more into an issue of consumer rights versus developer/publisher rights, which isn't the issue in the game I speak of. In the game I'm speaking of it is actually a question of the rights of consumer versus consumer, as dumb as that sounds.
I guess I need to start my topic in the All Other Games forum so people can see what I'm getting at.
As simple as it may seem, your next to last paragraph actually gets to the heart of the matter I speak of, quote:

I should also note that standard community practice here has been that any work you share here is considered to be in the public domain. If I create some Civ3 art, share it here, and you use it in your mod, you don't have to ask me for permission to do that. You could even use it for your own Endless Legend mod, even though I created it for Civ3. It might be nice to say, "hey, your art is really cool, it's part of my new mod XYZ!", but it isn't required.
Of course. The whole point of creating custom mods is so the community of players can customize their games to make them more enjoyable. This is obvious to you and me and anyone else with at least half a brain, but it doesn't seem to be the case within the "community" of players of the game I'm referring to.
What I'm getting at will become much clearer when I start my thread in the All Other Games forum sometime this weekend, and I will provide a link in a follow-up post here in this thread.
 

B-29_Bomber

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Also, the EULA (which may or may not be enforceable)
It certainly isn't legally enforceable, meaning the power of the government can't be used to enforce it, however, a company could enforce a EULA within certain limited parameters, so long as they aren't breaking any laws (in theory at least).

So basically a EULA has the same enforceability as the rules for the Civfantics. Basically the admins and Mods of this site can warn, kick, or ban you from this site for being in violation of the forum's rules, but they can't have you be arrested by your local police department for doing so.

Mind you, that's just my personal take on the matter... I ain't no lawyer, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
 

Quintillus

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Thanks for your response, Quintillus.

This gets more into an issue of consumer rights versus developer/publisher rights, which isn't the issue in the game I speak of. In the game I'm speaking of it is actually a question of the rights of consumer versus consumer, as dumb as that sounds.
I guess I need to start my topic in the All Other Games forum so people can see what I'm getting at.
As simple as it may seem, your next to last paragraph actually gets to the heart of the matter I speak of, quote:


Of course. The whole point of creating custom mods is so the community of players can customize their games to make them more enjoyable. This is obvious to you and me and anyone else with at least half a brain, but it doesn't seem to be the case within the "community" of players of the game I'm referring to.
What I'm getting at will become much clearer when I start my thread in the All Other Games forum sometime this weekend, and I will provide a link in a follow-up post here in this thread.

Ah, I see, you are talking about some modders being upset with other modders for circumstances that you may mention in the future thread later. Without knowing the specifics of that community, it's hard to comment on their norms. But I know that norms can differ somewhat; there are some games (mostly in the MMORPG community as I understand it) where modders can create, e.g., character skins and make them available for sales, in some cases even in-game. The game developer/publisher usually gets a cut, and the creator can in some cases make a sustainable income, and in those cases the modder probably would not want someone re-modifying the skin. But it sounds like you are referring to something causing more controversy.

It certainly isn't legally enforceable, meaning the power of the government can't be used to enforce it, however, a company could enforce a EULA within certain limited parameters, so long as they aren't breaking any laws (in theory at least).

So basically a EULA has the same enforceability as the rules for the Civfantics. Basically the admins and Mods of this site can warn, kick, or ban you from this site for being in violation of the forum's rules, but they can't have you be arrested by your local police department for doing so.

Mind you, that's just my personal take on the matter... I ain't no lawyer, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Mods being able to have someone arrested by the local police... that would indeed change the significance of that moderator badge. I think I'm glad that doesn't come with the job description - "8 infraction points and your local police officer will be sent to give you an in-person warning, and if you get two bans within three months that's one week in jail." It might cut down on trolling somewhat, but I'm glad that isn't how the ship operates.

But I see your point; League of Legends's developer could ban you from their servers for violating the EULA, but cheating in online gameplay isn't going to result in law enforcement showing up at your door.
 

B-29_Bomber

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But I see your point; League of Legends's developer could ban you from their servers for violating the EULA, but cheating in online gameplay isn't going to result in law enforcement showing up at your door.

Exactly!

Mods being able to have someone arrested by the local police... that would indeed change the significance of that moderator badge. I think I'm glad that doesn't come with the job description - "8 infraction points and your local police officer will be sent to give you an in-person warning, and if you get two bans within three months that's one week in jail." It might cut down on trolling somewhat, but I'm glad that isn't how the ship operates.
But let's carry this little thought experiment to it's logical conclusion:

Keep in mind, I've run into a LOT of abuse of power from Moderators (not necessarily on this forum, BTW, for clarification), where people have been banned because the Moderator didn't like them. Hell, I've been banned from various subreddits, that I neither belonged to nor posted much in at all, not for anything I did on their sub, but because I happened to belong to another sub the mods of the sub in question didn't like. Keep this concept in mind: volunteer mods are, on the whole, unreliable. Some are decent, but others are down right terrible.

Now, on the hand, if forum rules had to be legally enforceable, moderation would have to be curtailed to some degree because a number of rules would have to be removed, such as anti-hate speech rules because in the US* there aren't any anti-hate speech laws (SCOTUS would likely find them in violation of the 1st Amendment anyway if they were tried).

On the other hand, you would likely see the cost of maintaining a forum go WAY up because you wouldn't be able to utilize free volunteer mods (remember: volunteer mods are, on the whole, unreliable.) and would be forced into maintaining a moderation team made up of actual paid legal professionals and those don't come cheap. Due to this introduced cost floor, a lot of small forums that aren't maintained by companies (who already likely have a legal team available and an income to support it and would only need to scale up a bit) would necessarily wither and die, leading to the corporatization of the Internet. Of course, there would likely be a law passed where in order for a forum to count towards the above, they would have to be a minimum size. However, this comes with its own problems. Just because a forum meet an arbitrary size minimum doesn't mean the owner of the forum has the income to pay for the size of moderation team actually needed to maintain minimum moderation standards. I could see small forums maintaining an "invite only" system in a bid to maintain their small member count.

Over all, you would see a much less free and open Internet. Quite the dystopia over all.

*Keep in mind, I basing all this on the US legal code. Things get WAY too complicated when you try to take this global. Also, I'm more familiar with the US legal code anyway. But if you tried to take it global... I mean, there are countries where LGBTQ+ stuff is illegal, so how do you work around that? How do you work around the Great Firewall of China?
 

Quintillus

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Oh, indeed, the dystopian aspect is the top reason I'm glad that's now how things work. And I'm not sure exactly how it works vis-a-vis the Communist Party of China if you want to start a web forum there, but a similar system is to a fair degree already in place there. You might not get in legal trouble for trolling (although if it's trolling Xi, you may well be), but not only do they have the well-known legal system, but more recently a "social credit" system, where if you have too many demerits, you can't do things like buy airline or high-speed rail tickets. I don't know whether they've integrated the social credit system with online monitoring, but wouldn't be at all surprised if at least to some degree they have.

CivFanatics is based on the U.S., so thankfully that does not apply to us here.
 

B-29_Bomber

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CivFanatics is based on the U.S., so thankfully that does not apply to us here.
For now at least. There have been those with power and influence who show admiration for the current Chinese System. I feel like, if they had their way such policies would implemented post-haste.

Good thing they probably won't have their say.
 
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