Moderators and administrators, while I know that this could cause a lot of heat and trouble for you, I do think that this needs to be discussed. If you think I need to add anything to this post or remove anything in the main article then, hell, please let me know. I just don’t want this removed and I especially don’t want to be breaching anything I’ve agreed to.
This is not an attack on the Complex team or their mod, nor a cry for help from Gearbox (unless modding teams would actually like assistance with this from them), I just want everybody to know what they’re doing so that people can decide what should happen; and whether or not they’d like Gearbox to get involved.
Whether you see this as an attack really does depend on how you look at this thread.
I’m using Complex as a reference, as proof in fact, that this is happening and has happened.
The only reason I’m using Complex is because they are the biggest and most influential group doing this.
I’d like to think that everybody already knows about the, ModDB Terms & Conditions breaching, the fact that they’re now breaching the Terms & Conditions/Agreements of the Stream Workshop, as well as a breach of Intellectual Property (the former depending on which legal authority you live under) that the Complex development team has been practicing. (The theft of assets from other mod teams without permission, and in a lot of cases, without credit being given.)
As far as I know, mods and other creative works (and in fact any artwork created at any time, digital or not, including coding and other development assets), unless otherwise stated, automatically have a Legal All Rights Reserved License applied by default, at least in most countries around the world (some obscure countries may not, pretty much all the world does this). Also, to repeat myself, ModDB itself and the Steam Workshop does restrict & condemn this.
What do I, personally, want this discussion to result in?
I’d like Gearbox Software to create a formal policy regarding mod developers, content creators, and their rights.(Which I absolutely hope is based on the input given below. Mod developers and mod players alike are discussing this. I would be a shame if their opinions weren’t accounted for when these decisions are made.) I, as a mod developer, want to know what kind of creative control I have over the assets I create. The scripts I write. Etc. Etc. Following the latter, I would like Gearbox to enforce this, especially on the Steam Workshop. (Which, in regards to mod policy, should not conflict with the Steam Subscriber Agreement which I will quote below.)
Section 6, subsection C of the Steam Subscriber Agreement: Representations and Warranties:
“C. Representations and Warranties
You represent and warrant to us that you have sufficient rights in all User Generated Content to grant Valve and other affected parties the licenses described under A. and B. above or in any license terms specific to the applicable Workshop-Enabled App or Workshop page. This includes, without limitation, any kind of intellectual property rights or other proprietary or personal rights affected by or included in the User Generated Content. In particular, with respect to Workshop Contributions, you represent and warrant that the Workshop Contribution was originally created by you (or, with respect to a Workshop Contribution to which others contributed besides you, by you and the other contributors, and in such case that you have the right to submit such Workshop Contribution on behalf of those other contributors).”
"Make an opt-out agreement for modification developers.
With permission for said developer or development team to create a modification being withdrawn if they opt-out; with developers consenting to be placed in an “opt-out” status if they violate said agreement.
“You are required to have full rights of ownership for, and or full permissions to use any and all, assets in your published modification. Publication referring to the act of distributing said modification to other individuals by any and all means.”
Make an opt-in agreement for modification developers.
Similarly to the opt-out agreement, modification developers will automatically agree to this agreement if they begin to create a modification and publish said modification, with a similar situation occurring to the above if a violation occurs.
Create a community team of volunteers to enforce the Steam Subscriber Agreement in the Steam Workshop.
This is the simple solution which would involve the least involvement from Gearbox Software as possible, once the initial set of moderators and administrator are granted the relevant permissions, of course.
This suggestion would, simply put, involve the creation of a community team which would moderate and administrate the Steam Community Workshop. (Did I just repeat the title? Ooops…)
Let me expand on this. Moderators in this team would have the relevant permissions to edit, remove, and archive content. Administrators, including the latter, would be able to also appoint new moderators and administrate the community team; as well as have the ability to take complaints about moderation and resolve any disputes in regards to the actions of moderators and other administrators.
But, of course, Gearbox Software would have the final say in any disputes created by the above suggestion."
From Alex Drake, James Morris-King, mod developer:
“As a mod developer whose work was incorporated into the earliest versions of Complex (Dogfighting AI), I can say that there was indeed a lot of furor in the community surrounding this project from its earliest stages. The developers were always a bit cavalier in mining other projects (Advanced Mod, etc.) and it is unfortunate that things spiraled out of control as they did. One of the reasons I decided to develop the AFF total conversion was the amount of inter-mod theft that was going around between the vanilla expansion teams (even the two Star Wars projects wound up beefing).”
“I wrote a lot of the early primers on AI modding, missile physics, and CIWS. Point-Defense Subsystems and Advanced Mod borrowed a lot from my work, but they asked and in general I didn’t mind other projects incorporating my AI work. The problem Complex (and some others) had was that there was a shortage of good mesh/texture assets to do Homeworld-style expansions and a lot of the ships were just kitbashes.”
From Nakamura, Bálint Marczin, mod developer:
"Having been a balancing associate of Complex I can confirm.
When I ended being a part of Complex, I became the founder and project lead of Complex Enhanced, a re-balance and re-design mod of the original Complex mod, where our team attempted to find and eliminate missing crediting points as well.
This is includes but is not limited to:
•High budget original movie soundtracks
If Complex Enhanced (it’s on steam workshop) has any of these, please let me know via PM and it will be taken care of. It’s a shame really, and it certainly should not be ignored. I think every modder should answer this.
As the Rebirth mod will not rely very much on borrowing assets, except for a few items, given the fact that our team is already over 20 members, I would be very upset if anyone took our original assets without the permission of the creator of the asset AND myself. Even if we gave permission for usage, we would probably ask for some minor thing in return, eg improving a texture or any other small job, or even a similarly valuable asset would have to be traded for it, if it’s a major asset.
I think mods that infringe copyrights or do not give credit to content creators have to be taken down by Gearbox if those issues don’t get fixed after warnings, simple as that."
From Pouk, mod developer:
“Well the situation around the Complex mod is a complex issue. That old Complex issue…
I don’t want to pour oil into the fire, I’ll just confirm that yes, there has been a rather big fight around it and that the Complex creator’s understanding and definition of ownership and authorship is, let’s say, conveniently very broad and lose.”
[In response comments about content creator’s rights]
"It almost sounds like you say that something isn’t yours unless you plan to make money of it.
Douglas made a great point about free indie games. If I make an indie game, its assets are a fair game to anyone just because my motivation is creation itself instead of a financial income?"
From LeviathansWrath, Mike Zimmerman, mod developer:
“I never once put anything into HWU without permission, i actually got lucky and was able to track down all of the mod authors for the stuff i wanted added in and mind u i practically worked without a viable team for over 7 years and HWU is among the top 5. Thou with that said the mod was only possible thanks to scripting done by people before i came along on namely, mikali for his special fleet mod which chris adopted and modified to expand to created the unlimited race script. Getting permission to use assets is a must, no one has the right to just up and take something without consent.”
From EatThePath, Siber, mod developer:
"Legally speaking, (I am not a lawyer, this is my understanding as an interested layperson) if you make something and upload it online, you still own all copyright to it. It is only public domain if you declare it as such. You may not be able to enforce it, but you still own it. Now in the case of modding, I believe you generally implicity surrender the rights to use your work to the owner of the game you modded, but not to everyone else.
In my view, it’s a strange position to take to use someone else’s work, the base game in this case, as a platform for your work, then turn around and deny people the right to use your work the same way. And I do believe that the community is the richer for any sharing that happens. But I do believe that it’s each modder’s choice to share or not, whether or not I agree with the decisions they make."
From Shaunuss, mod developer:
"Myself and a few friends are interested in making a mod, and have already discussed ideas for it. Here are my thoughts, and you other people in the modding community with strange, mixed opinions on ownership and sharing of work better get this straight:
When such time as actual content and assets are created, I will own any 3d models and textures I create, as will my team members own any of their own work. I have no idea what mlr321 is on about, but he is absolutely 100% wrong. If I spend the hours, effort, and electricity to model and texture something on my computer, in my home, then it absolutely belongs to me, and is not to be stolen/borrowed/used by anybody else unless I grant explicit permission to do so. Even if I upload it to the internet, the aforementioned conditions still apply. I made it, therefore I call the shots, and if you think otherwise, you will be called out for it in a big way.
With that said, I’m the type of person who is happy to share my work if someone wants to use it (and have done so in the past), but to assume that my work isn’t mine, but actually belongs to the public domain/greater modding community…"
This is the public comment section on Beghins’ ModDB profile page. It contains a lot of relevant comments in regards to the Mod Developer’s Rights discussion:
Evidence that the Complex team is selling their mod through the following page:
I will be adding more statements from modding developers regarding this topic. I will, of course, add statements from the Complex team if they’d like to make any.
Please. Discuss your opinions - But do not breach the rules, Terms & Conditions of this forum, and generally do be nice to each other; as well as respectful! As for mod developers, please, if you have any input on this (or know that your work was stolen by the Complex team) then please speak up!
From Erayser, Thibault Testart, ModDB editor and mod developer:
Erayser here, ModDB Editor. I noticed the impressive amount of comments on this subject. First of all I’d like to clarify some points on our own policy as some people get confused with it. Our policy is important, as mod and game developers must respect it. It is fundamental for them to have their original content protected, and by the way to know the rules they need to follow to respect the work of the others. Hope my answer is not too long.
For people who knows what ModDB’s terms of service are, you don’t need to read it, but since a lot of mod developers out there have ModDB pages, they are concerned.
First of all, it makes sense and it’s more than logical than any audiovisual content exclusively created by yourself and/or your development team is your property. It belongs to you. Mod developers sometimes don’t understand it, but creating some scripts in LUA for Homeworld (as an example) doesn’t mean that it’d the property of the game’s developer. This is your content and when it comes to intellectual property you’ll always be considered as the author. That being said, you can’t sell it of course, cause you’re not the owner of the game for which you are making modifications.
When a game supports modding such as Homeworld, mod developers have to respect the copyrighted content. You’re not allowed to do whatever you want, and and you’re not allowed to make profit of your content.
Indeed, there’s a slight difference between an original content, and stuff inspired from commercial IPs such as Battlestar Galactica (as an example). The problem is that while your creations belong to you, the latter ones are inspired by copyrighted content. So, the content is somehow divided in two different parts, as you have the content made, textured, composed (whatever you want) by the mod developer and the content who is, in fact, heavily inspired by a protected and copyrighted franchise.
For example if you model/texture the Battlestar Galactica, the model and texture belong to you, whereas the universe and the original idea behind it don’t. In that sense, mod developers have two possibilities to make sure their project is at least “not forbidden”:
Contact the original owner of the copyrighted franchise (Can I make a fan non-profit mod for “blabla” based on your IP “blabla”. This would be a free modification of course. No profit.) which results most of the time in positive answers. Let’s quote the example of Mass Effect: Reborn who contacted BioWare, Halo Homefront with Microsoft or a Stargate fan-game called Stargate Network who contacted MGM. Once it’s done, you make sure your mod/game is at least legally authorized and/or recognized by the owner of the franchise. Why studios often allow free mods and games ? Because they are considered as good publicity.
Don’t contact the owners but take the risk to receive a Cease&Desist later (not that common though). I can quote the example of Middle Earth Roleplaying project from Skyrim. Two years ago they received a Cease&Desist from Warner Bros who told them to close their project. Now, their project is closed, unfortunately. Pretty much the same with NBC Universal and BSG. They don’t care about free fan projects unless there is a financial disadvantage for them. Guess what, MERP received a C&D because Shadow of Mordor was in prevision, and BSG Mods had a C&D because of BSG:Online.
So basically, creating content inspired by a protected IP is very complex. Of course you can quote and use the Fair Use act you have in United States, but it is still a difficult point. For example, I’m going to imagine a mod. Let’s pretend there is a mod for Homeworld: Remastered called “Star Empire” and that the later one is inspired by a famous license called “The Star Empire” (it doesn’t exist yes, but this doesn’t matter). If the owner of the original IP contacts us (ModDB staff) saying “I want this mod to be removed” we have to do it. But if they don’t, we won’t remove the modification. It’s that simple. The amount of incredible mods based on protected licenses will probably represents 60% of ModDB. And guess what, the licenses owners don’t want them to be removed, because they are some kind of good publicity. The mods, indirectly, in a certain way, promote the respective licenses who inspired them.
Content from other mods/creators
You can’t use, in any way, content from other mods, games and/or creators that are not yours without permission. If you don’t have the permission, don’t do it. I will take two different examples. Recently a mod called Arma3 Life for Arma 3 has been removed from ModDB because the content used in the mod is stolen from other ones without any permission and any credit. Every mod on ModDB that doesn’t respect such rules can be removed for these reasons. There’s no exception. The Workshop rules are similar to ours in this case.
For example, some mods are using content from games. Mass Effect: Reborn (Homeworld mod) is using content from BioWare’s Mass Effect with permission. Another Mass Effect mod (called the Ultimate ME mod) made for Star Wars: Empire At Wars has been removed by BioWare because the developer behind it didn’t contact them to get the permissions. It’s how it works. Always ask permission. When you have it, always credit. This is the way to go, and once you follow this rule, you make sure your mod won’t have problems with authorship.
If you have other questions, I’ll be pleased to give you an answer, but keep in mind at ModDB we do not support mods that are using stolen content from others. Intellectual property is a fundamental right for artists and developers."
The official response from Gearbox developer @BitVenom:
"Given the comments leveled at the HOD and related tools stuff (which I’ll posted about in the proper thread) - I’d suggest this (suggest, not require, and this isn’t Gearbox policy - just something to consider from somebody who has had much time to consider it)…
Gearbox is NOT ModDB or Steam (or any other host) - we made a product, reserved our rights to it, and put it up for sale. We are not (nor are likely to be) community police. That is almost entirely besides the point of how people should conduct themselves in this space. We are fish in a creative sea. There are whales called the DMCA and Safe Harbor Provisions.
ModDB and other hosting sites have to respect certain rules or they risk being taken down. C&Ds/DMCA requests are no joke. If somebody says ‘that’s mine and I don’t want it where it is’ - they have to act. It is really easy to file a DMCA.
Steam and similar hosts have this issue as well, and as hosting and sale of materials is their core business, they take this stuff very seriously - they really don’t have a choice.
ModDB will be a great place to host your mods. BUT - There is a future where the stuff up on Steam Workshop carries information that the game needs to operate (details of what’s in the Mod package, if it’s safe for MP or not, dependencies, install and format instructions, etc) - and at some level the bindings between Workshop and Launcher will make skipping the Launcher hard if not unworkable. At that point ModDB becomes a great place to talk about and develop your mod - even maybe host the ‘loose’ versions - but Steam is still where it goes to be seen and supported by the overall engine. None of this is set in stone - but if you think about how the scene will mature (and how MP mods will be known to be safe and not cheat/sync busting) - the mechanism for loading them will change. Loose files will always work, but probably only over LAN.
If you, as a Mod author/coordinator or artist work to create the most amazing mod ever, and it takes years and dozens of people - how would you feel if on day one it was pulled and considered poison by either host? All because somebody can point at a bit of content inside your Mod that they had first? Maybe even just a small script or FX texture?
As a Mod author you want to be safe and know that what you are using is in the clear. You need that validation. Just saying, as a group that it’s all free to use isn’t really enough - somebody can choose not to play by loose rules later and still take you down.
This is why things like Creative Commons exist - to allow creators to say ‘Hey, use my stuff!’ and still retain some rights (like credit given, a so-called CCA license).
So really, instead of claiming as a group (which can’t include members that don’t exist yet and may disagree) that it’s a free for all - prove it. Post your stuff with a CC or CCA designation. ONLY bash and borrow from stuff with a CC/CCA. You’ll enjoy freedom, and no fear that you’ll get knocked offline. If you post CC/CCA content - post your source materials - HOD files are no longer ‘edit these’ assets, and their format is not set in stone.
The alternative isn’t safe nor smart. Your opinion of the rights of others doesn’t change their rights.
‘Credit of Authorship’ is NOT responsible borrowing. Saying ‘I used X’s car’ isn’t enough if they didn’t give you permission to do so. It is a key step to responsibly borrowing the car, yes - but it has to start with clear permission to do so. Please don’t spread this idea - it’s toxic and will get people in trouble.
Again, I haven’t said what you must do, I’ve stated an opinion about how modern hosting sites have to work, and people using them should work to enjoy the freedoms of distributing their work. I imagine our esteemed ModDB leaders (@Erayser, etc) and virtually anyone who’s ever had their stuff taken down due to a C&D or DMCA request will agree.
On a related note - if you’ve ever seen how Youtube works (people posting stuff with music they don’t own, etc) - you know that it is oddly often tolerated. BUT - That’s because they respect DMCA requests (so enjoy Safe Harbor coverage) - and because it actually makes them money (they identify the music, link to it for sale, get a kick back). At the same time they also allow content creators to sign up for this kick-back (or alternatively auto-kill anything that violates the licensing). So if you made a track, and a bunch of people used it - and you were under contract with Google - they find the songs, and cut the $ with you. What you may not know is that a recent change was attempted to basically tell authors ‘if you don’t sign up, we won’t police for your stuff anymore’ - forcing them to DMCA on their own. It was not exactly this (there are many sides to that story), but it highlights the idea that some large hosts change the rules because it benefits them. What is A-okay today can change very fast. Starting off in the clear ‘just because’ is not the same as being in the clear because you took the correct legal steps to be safe."
“Brilliant. That’s a great response!
I would like to add specifically that, similarly to ModDB and the other sites, Steam/Valve will also act in a professional and quick manner in regards to content on the Steam Workshop as well. If you don’t want your content on the workshop in somebody else’s work, report it and claim to be the author, and Steam/Valve will resolve the matter.”
“Exactly! And because of this, people should be really careful to consider how they want to work. If they want their own works to be shared and used - plainly put them in the Creative Commons - it’ll take you 5 minutes to google it and attach the logo/text. Then everyone can use your stuff (and give you credit if you so wish) - and people know it is ‘safe’. If you don’t want to share, don’t attach a license. And counter to what anyone says, that’s your call, period - making a Mod doesn’t subtract from your rights in general, even if posting it subjects you to ‘usage’ rights by Gearbox/Steam - I dunno for sure. Mods that borrow stuff cover their backs by watching for the right license (or hell, asking the author to add one when unclear) - and everyone works in a way that’s got zero drama.”
“The points I was making about placing stuff in CC are more about the community at large actually understanding copyright law and working in a way that acknowledges it - something that provides protection for authors and consumers of that content (which can include other authors). You (collectively) will do what you want - and probably a sizable portion of You (collectively) will ignore the advice. Then, when/if the drama starts - instead of having protected yourselves, things will get pulled down, and people will be unhappy. None of that, at all, has anything to do with Gearbox - it has everything to do with the policies and requirements of being a content host, aka ModDB and Steam.”
A step-by-step guide created by the staff over at RelicNews and adapted by @novaburn for use in future by mod developers:
"It" refers to a model, a texture, an effect, or some other intellectual property that you want to put in your modification.
Did you make it?
YES: The property in question you have full ownership of to do whatever you wish with it. You may choose how the distribution and others may make use of your intellectual property.
NO. Proceed to step 2.
Do you know who made it?
YES. Proceed to step 3.
NO. You are unable to use the property. You do not know who is the owner of the creation, and do not know what restrictions they have placed on third party usage of their material. Using the property would put you in violation of their copyright ownership and in potential legal trouble.
Do you know how to contact the person who made it?
YES. Contact him/her or the organization and ask for permission to use the property and in the context that you will be using it, and then proceed to step 5.
NO. Do your research and look up the creators(s), organization, or others familiar with the property through reliable means to make contact, then proceed step 4.
Were you successful in contacting the person/organization to use their property?
YES. Proceed to Step 5.
NO. You cannot use the property. A lack of a response or failure to respond does not automatically give you permission to use their property. You must wait until they give their approval before using it.
Did they give you permission to use their property?
YES. Congratulations. You are able to use the property in your modification, however you do not have free reign or creative control over what you do with the property. You MUST follow the owner’s guidelines on what you can and cannot do with the property within the context of your modification. These restriction will not be universal and will vary between owners and it is your duty to determine what those are and follow them. Violation of those usage guidelines can potentially have your access to the material removed.
NO. If you have contacted the owner of the property, asked for permission to use it, explain in which the content you will be using it, and they say “No” then you cannot use the property in question in any shape or form until the original owners change their position. Violation of this may result in legal action or violation of your local, state, or federal copyright laws."