[MUD-Dev] Banning Players for Off-Site Activities?

Dave Rickey daver at mythicgames.com
Fri Oct 6 11:21:51 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000


-----Original Message-----
From: Ananda Dawnsinger <ananda at winterreach.com>
To: mud-dev at kanga.nu <mud-dev at kanga.nu>
Date: Thursday, October 05, 2000 10:00 PM
Subject: [MUD-Dev] Banning Players for Off-Site Activities?


>Phew!  There's one heck of a stink brewing in the Everquest community after
>a player was banned for fan fiction posted to a non-affiliated (Vault
>Network) board:
>
[...snip the rest, I've read several hundred posts on this so far]

    Once you sort the substance from the shrapnel, what you've got is this:

    Mystere wrote a background story for his character.  It was a dark,
disturbing, and graphic story involving the rape of a Teir'Dal child (his
character, some argument over whether "14 seasons" means fourteen years old,
since "seasons" is a common fanfic device for describing levels) and the
victim's revenge on the rapist.  It was also written pretty well, as such
things go.  A few months later, he writes another story featuring off-camera
torture.  Both stories were posted on fansites in "RP fiction" forums.
Somebody got their knickers in a knot over it, and eventually manages to get
someone at Verant to read the stories.

    Somehow, this wound up on the table at a meeting where such issues as
bannings are decided.  I don't know who sits at that table these days, but
it used to be the senior CS people and the senior design staff.  They didn't
like the story, and decided to ban Mystere's account over it.  I happen to
know how you'd go about finding an account number with nothing but a
character name, and I have to say they took a chance on banning the wrong
person.

    All hell breaks loose.  Lum's site is known for its long threads with
lots of heat, but at this point over 500 posts have been made in 24 hours.
SOE presents the "Derivative Work" explanation.  That just makes things
worse.  Now it's spreading out, PlanetCrap has picked it up, FatBabies
probably won't be far behind, The Register picked it up from PlanetCrap.
Reaction is almost uniformly against SOE.  More than a few have pointed out
the fact that "Dark Elves" themselves are derivative from AD&D, making the
IP justification look a little thin.

    That brings us up to date.  And at the root of all this is one simple
question: Whose world is it?  SOE says the world of EQ, and everything in it
or associated with it, is theirs.  Characters, fictional background, the
works, it all belongs to them and if you use *any* of it in ways they don't
like, they can drop the hammer on you both in and out of game.  And they are
defining "ways we don't like" retroactively, you'll know you've crossed the
line when you can't log in or get a "cease and desist" letter.

    The basic argument is used for IP defense all the time, but there's a
few little catches here:

1) The embedded fiction of the game can get pretty gruesome itself, saying
that Mystere's story "harms the value and image" of a game that has a
dismembered dwarf in a troll butcher shop is quite a stretch.

2) The stated purpose for EQ is a roleplaying environment, it has got
"Roleplaying" right there on the box.  Mystere was roleplaying a dark elf
without the disneyfication.

    And there's one more thing, that goes a little further than I think most
are going to be willing to go.  We keep saying "The first amendment doesn't
apply to corporations."  There's an exception to that statement, when a
corporation is filling a quasi-governmental role, then it is fully bound to
respect all civil liberties just as a government agency would be (the result
of Supreme Court decisions involving "Company Towns").  Whether it has legal
recognition or not, the relationship of a game operator to the community of
that game *is* effectively governmental in nature.  Right now, it's a
feudalistic relationship, the company holds complete power over the
community.  They have only those freedoms the company allows, and when it
comes to mucking around with the storyline in EQ, that isn't much.

--Dave Rickey




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