Monday, December 12, 2005

Great News for Game Fan Programmers!

One of the common arguments made against strong intellectual property rights is that it limits creativity and the growth of a given media area. This argument is frequently made my DJs and was the cornerstone argument for why "Disney is evil" in Bob Levin's The Pirates and the Mouse. Levin argues that some characters have become a part of the cultural tapestry and that artists should be allowed to manipulate these characters in the creation of a kind of patchwork art. This would be similar to sampling that DJs do, but visual rather than aural. Levin doesn't point out that the case law created by Disney's agressive protection policies has created a legal history which is very helpful to the small fry, but he does make some compelling arguments against IP in perpetuity. The intellectual property protection in the Constitution is supposed to foster the public good by providing financial incentive for the creator while also allowing others to "stand on the shoulders of giants" and advance the arts.

From Article 1 Section 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;


We can debate what "useful Arts" means or what "limited Times" means, but that is unnecessary as Congress passed copyright laws very early and they are a well established part of American law.

What is amazing is that Vivendi Universal has shown that the marketplace can allow for the protection of IP while also allowing for fans of a given intellectual property to create new versions of existing IP. Vivendi Universal has decided to allow the fan created King's Quest IX to be created by the current fan only public creation team. According to the agreement, "Vivendi Universal Games (hereafter VUG) granted a fan license to Phoenix Online Studios to continue work on the KQIX project. As part of the negotiations between the two companies, VUG required a change of name of the project. As a result, "King's Quest IX: Every Cloak Has A Silver Lining" will now adopt a new name: "The Silver Lining"."

Mods, minor program modifications, have become somewhat the norm in the game fan community, but this marks a new high point for the industry and leaves open the possibility that companies may make available more IP which is financially not viable but has a loyal and talented fan base.
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