[MUD-Dev] Participatory Content (was Opinions (even harsh) on Castle Marrach by Skotos?)

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 20 20:49:20 New Zealand Daylight Time 2000

On Friday, November 17, 2000, Christopher Allen wrote:
> KevinL wrote:

>> (Still debating whether to sign up for playing or not - I'm not
>> even qualified to know whether "
>>        You hereby grant Skotos a perpetual,
>>        irrevocable, non-exclusive, sub-licensable,
>>        worldwide, royalty-free license to use, reproduce,
>>        modify, adapt, publish, distribute, publicly display
>>        and perform any and all of your Participatory
>>        Content in all media now known or later
>>        developed.
>> " would mean they can harass me for taking ideas I've had on
>> Marrach and building my own mud areas or not.  It's almost
>> getting so a prospective game developer shouldn't
>> play anyone else's games, for fear of legal ramifications.)

> Travis Casey wrote:
>> Since it's non-exclusive, that means that you can grant rights to it
>> to others as well.  Nevertheless, I find this license *extremely*
>> offensive and heavy-handed.  By this, if I login to Skotos and create
>> an interesting character, they have the right to publish books, make
>> movies, etc., etc., with my character, without ever paying me a dime.
>> Depending on what they're defining "Participatory Content" to be, it
>> could be even worse.

> As we say in the Terms of Service: "Participatory Content. As part of our
> interactive approach, Skotos provides you with certain opportunities to
> submit your own ideas, text, graphics, plots, characters, feedback and other
> materials while you participate in the Games, bulletin boards, chat rooms
> and other activities in the Site or Services (collectively, "Participatory
> Content")."

> The problem that we are trying to deal with in this section is that you as a
> player are creating a character amidst other people who are also creating
> content, in an environment where we have created content. Punzel is writing
> poems about Viola and Martel, and other characters that are not her own.
> Tara is creating sketches and portraits of people on her web site.

All fine, IMHO.  These are things that players should want to do.
However, what's wrong with requiring Punzel to ask Viola and Martel
permission to publish or circulate poems featuring them, or for Tara
to ask people's permission to create sketches and portraits of their

In every mud I've been on, people would be begging others to write
about them or draw their characters -- especially if the people doing
it have any talent.  I don't see a good reason why Skotos needs to
step in and *require* people to give their permission for others to do
such things.

> How do we accept such content into the game, build plots around them,
> incorporating ideas suggested in poems that we never thought of before,
> etc., without some rights to that content? As the game grows in popularity,
> what if someone wants to write a book based on Castle Marrach and publish
> it? We obviously invested in the creation of Castle Marrach and have the
> right to allow or disallow such a derivative work, but to do we have to tell
> the author to leave out all the personalities of all the players in the
> game?

Here's another question for you, since this document is meant to
protect you -- what if I create a character (let's call her Black Mary)
and run her as a somewhat roguish, freewheeling sort?  Someone else
(let's call him Togrish) decides to write a story in which my
character is a slut who throws herself on everyone around.  His story
becomes popular, and people start reacting to me in the game as if I
were the character in his story -- which is only loosely based on me.

I, getting fed up with this, decide to contact a lawyer to see what
can be done.  The lawyer decides that Togrish has libeled and
slandered me, through his publication of an untrue version of my
behavior.  Now, Togrish turns out to be some 14-year-old kid who
doesn't have a dime to his name... but *Skotos* licensed Togrish to
use my character, and therefore, might potentially be held responsible
for what he chose to do with it.  And Skotos does have money to
possibly gain from a libel and slander lawsuit...

By not claiming the right to sub-license my character, Skotos could
have protected itself from this -- then it would simply be Togrish who
wrote about my character without permission.  But by claiming a right,
Skotos must also take the responsibilities that come with it...
including overseeing what its licensees do with those rights.  Do you
really want to do that?

> As it says in our banners, we are an "online storytelling community." This
> doesn't mean we are the only one telling stories, every player is a
> storyteller as well. It is our game, we created the world, however, we are
> willing to let the world grow and change based on what happens because of
> player actions. Isn't that what every player dreams of, to change the world?
> With participatory content, we can be less proprietary and selectively allow
> ideas from outside grow and strengthen our own.

> That is why we have the concept of "Participatory Content" in our the Terms
> of Service.

Yes, it is what most players dream of... which is why I don't think
you need to claim as extensive a set of rights as you have.  The vast
majority of players are going to be happy to allow you and others to
use their characters.

Simply taking out the "sub-licensable" part would go a long way
towards making me feel better, since it would prevent Skotos from
selling rights to my character to others.

You seem to have lawyers you're working with -- use them.  Don't let
them just foist off a boilerplate legal agreement on you -- think
about what you need, and work with them to create something that will
give you that without making it seem like you're trying to hijack the
whole kiboodle.

I don't believe that you have any intent to defraud anyone or to try
to make money off of characters people create without their permission
-- but the agreement that you have allows you to, and, as a potential
player, I can't be sure that ten years down the road, Skotos won't be
bought out by someone else who might do such things.  That's what
makes me worried.

       |\      _,,,---,,_    Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-'
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_)      

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