Content Licensing

CyanWorlds.com Engine Project Management
Post Reply
User avatar
branan
Member
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 pm

Content Licensing

Post by branan » Sat Sep 24, 2011 4:20 am

I figured this should be its own topic, so let's start with what JWPlatt said about it a little while back:
JWPlatt wrote:... maybe a Creative Commons license for the content. The criticisms about releasing the avatar content without licensing were really unnecessary. We were fully aware it would be a problem and that folks would still be frustrated. But it's all we could handle at the time. It's certainly not useless because folks can still privately learn and practice on the content, and maybe release such things as tutorials, to ramp up and prepare for when it is licensed.
If the PRPs we currently have are all that's going to be released, I'd say putting them under CC is an excellent option. If, however, Cyan intends to release all the Max files for the complete set of content, I think this might be one of those rare times it makes sense to put art assets under the GPL.

If the Max files are GPL'd, that would require anyone who modifiers a Cyan age and distributes the PRP to also distribute the Max file. Under CC, all they'd be required to do is license the resulting PRP under CC. Having Max files for every age would make it much saner* for shard owners to make modifications to the PRP format in their CWE branches, yet still integrate changes they might see on a different shard. Additionally, having a large pool of Max/Blender files available for new artists to look at can only be a good thing (and you'll see why the GPL helps with this further down).

GPL also would cause any age that borrows an asset from a Cyan age to be licensed under GPL, but CC (or at least the share-alike versions, which I'm going to assume are what's being considered) is similarly viral - all that changes is that the Max/Blender files have to be released in addition to the PRPs, which I personally think is a fine idea.

Under either GPL or CC, anybody who's age borrows a Cyan asset would have to allow modifications to that age. The only thing that changes between the two options is whether they have to distribute the Max/Blender "source" file. From what I've seen at the GoW, there are plenty of artists who aren't going to be stopped by not having the source files: they're going to go ahead and modify what they want to modify. Since both CC and GPL allow that modification, I don't see why we shouldn't make that easy (and give the other benefits stated above), and just go with the GPL.

If anybody wants their age to be closed-source, without any legal way for somebody else to mess around with it, the answer in either the case of CC or GPL is to simply not use any Cyan assets.

* by "Saner", I mean that instead of having to worry about decompiling ages, or keeping a conversion program up-to-date that can read/write every shard's particular PRP flavor, everybody can just keep their PRP changes in their local branch and run the exporter(s) when they want/need to change the format somehow.


Now that the business end of this is out of that way, I'd like to take a moment to defend my position regarding the avatar files: At the time, the last thing we'd heard publicly from Cyan about content licensing was that it would likely be under a more restrictive license. We felt it was prudent to warn people not to start any big projects that they might later be forbidden from finishing. Now that Rand has said at Mysterium that there's not much Cyan wants to hold on to, and now that JWPlatt is throwing around phrases like "Creative Commons" (which I hope he wouldn't do if there wasn't at least a reasonable chance of that happening), that changes the equation. We've definitely got some egg on our faces there. But I do think that at the time, with the information we had, it was reasonable to remind people that there might be issues down the road if they jumped in to things before the final license was announced; we made the best call we could based on outdated information. This is definitely one of those times where if Cyan had been more communicative about their changing goals and intentions, a bit of arguing and bad blood could have been avoided.

Now, perhaps hammering the license point home at every opportunity was a bit unnecessary.


I now return you to your regularly scheduled licensing discussion

User avatar
Mac_Fife
Member
Posts: 1229
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:38 am
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: Content Licensing

Post by Mac_Fife » Sat Sep 24, 2011 9:34 pm

Consider this post an exercise in "expectation management": It's based on reading between the lines and not hard fact, and my opinion may turn out to be wrong.

The sense I get from what conversations I've been involved in with folks at Cyan is that as far as "Uru content" is concerned, there will likely be no "content" released publically other than that which has already been seen i.e. the KI and Avatar files. That may well come as a disappointment to many, but in line with Branan's thought's on not having people go working on things they they can't ultimately use, it's maybe better to assume that we won't be able adapt Cyan's ages (much).

It's probably worth thinking about lower level "assets" like sound or textures as separate from age models: It would seem to me to be likely that Cyan will still offer use of those under FCAL type agreements. We'll need to wait and see.

Just my two cents worth, before people get too excited about content licenses.
Mac_Fife
OpenUru.org wiki wrangler

User avatar
branan
Member
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Content Licensing

Post by branan » Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:46 pm

@Mac_Fife: I definitely agree that expectation management is important, I've been quite vocal about it WRT the currently released assets ;).

But I do think that we should 1) figure out what ways shard owners might want to use Cyan's content and 2) figure out what Cyan's concerns are with releasing content, so that we can 3) try to get as many points from 1 achieved while still keeping to all the rules set forth by 2.

I think it's important to enable as much flexibility as possible for shard creators: allowing them to add higher-res textures and models, to modify ages for their own story progression, or to add new linking books to the Library. Whether that happens through a license that allows modifying the PRPs, or whether we get the actual source files doesn't make a huge difference - I do think the source files would be a huge asset (if you'll pardon the pun) to those learning to write ages, and they'll make updating the PRP format easier, but they're not essential. I think we should consider them a possibility, but not get our hopes up - it can't hurt to put together a pie-in-the-sky proposal alongside a more realistic one.

If Cyan is concerned with those sorts of modifications weakening their Uru-related brands, then perhaps a trademark guideline requiring shard owners with modified Cyan content to add a disclaimer to their TOS.txt if they want to use any of the Uru trademarks in the name of their shard would be sufficient - or even outright forbidding the use of those trademarks in such a situation.

I could probably keep speculating, but I think the best thing to do is for someone to try and get a list of Cyan's concerns with regards to assets, branding, etc., and then we can work from there to put together a proposal that addresses those issues but still gives as much flexibility as possible to the future shard owners and age writers. If Cyan says they'd rather sort it all out in-house, then at least someone can pass on the laundry-list of things that could be helpful for shard owners.

User avatar
Mac_Fife
Member
Posts: 1229
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:38 am
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: Content Licensing

Post by Mac_Fife » Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:02 pm

branan wrote:I could probably keep speculating, but I think the best thing to do is for someone to try and get a list of Cyan's concerns with regards to assets, branding, etc., and then we can work from there to put together a proposal that addresses those issues but still gives as much flexibility as possible to the future shard owners and age writers.
I'm in no position to answer for Cyan on what their specific concerns are, but at the risk of continuing with a line of speculation, I was party to discussion with Tony Fryman on licensing of assets, not from Uru, but another game in the Myst franchise: In that particular case it turned out that due to nuances in the way the rights had been let, the game rights had been returned to Cyan but the rights to the assets still lay with the publisher :? . So for Uru content, it may well be an issue of who was paying for development of the asset in question, and that might be difficult to establish. But I'm hypothesizing.
Mac_Fife
OpenUru.org wiki wrangler

User avatar
JWPlatt
Member
Posts: 1100
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 7:32 pm
Location: Everywhere, all at once

Re: Content Licensing

Post by JWPlatt » Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:11 pm

Branan, how do think, if at all, a Creative Commons license would hinder (or help) shard owners, artists and developers?
Perfect speed is being there.

User avatar
branan
Member
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Content Licensing

Post by branan » Sun Sep 25, 2011 10:47 pm

Mac_Fife wrote:I was party to discussion with Tony Fryman on licensing of assets, not from Uru, but another game in the Myst franchise: In that particular case it turned out that due to nuances in the way the rights had been let, the game rights had been returned to Cyan but the rights to the assets still lay with the publisher :? . So for Uru content, it may well be an issue of who was paying for development of the asset in question, and that might be difficult to establish..
If that's the case, it pretty much makes any of Cyan's other possible concerns moot, since there's no way Cyan would be able to even license the PRPs in a way that allows distributing and/or modifying them. I'm sure some grey-market shards with modified content would still pop up, but not having a license to modify/distribute would be a real damper on the creativity and variety of shards that we'd see. Of course, we don't know for sure how GT licensed things from Ubi, and how Cyan's licensed those things back from GT, so it's possible it's not something we'd have to worry about. Hopefully it won't be an issue
JWPlatt wrote:Branan, how do think, if at all, a Creative Commons license would hinder (or help) shard owners, artists and developers?
I'm just going to write down the list of pros/cons (as I see them) for a few different CC/GPL licensing possibilities. Hopefully that will paint a clearer picture than trying to piece it together from my prose. These are listed in order of least-awesome to most-awesome (as I see things, at any rate). I consider the lack of anything that's in a "pro" list to be a con for the previous options, but I'm not going to be redundant by listing those things. Anything listed under Pro/Con is something I personally consider to be a pro, but that someone else might see as a burden, or as impinging on the artistic integrity of their work.

For CC, I'm going to assume we're talking about CC-By-SA. This is what most people mean when they say "CC", and it's the license version that's closest to gpl-for-art. If we want to consider different CC variants, this chart will get a lot more complicated.

CC Licensed PRPs
  • Pros: Shard owners can update textures/models; add new content for their story; modify the PRPs for updated PRP formats. Artists can borrow textures/models for their ages (but see below). Developers can release modified PRPs to go along with whatever alpha/beta client's they're sharing.
  • Cons: Assets must be specially extracted from the PRPs before they can be used elsewhere
  • Pro/Con: Any fan age that borrows an asset must also be CC licensed
CC Licensed Max Files
  • Pros: As above, AND: Ages are easier to modify and re-export; Large pool of example ages for new artists to examine
  • Pro/Con: As Above
GPL Licensed Max Files
  • Pros: As above; code and content are both under the same license.
  • Pro/Con: Any fan age that borrows an asset must also be GPL licensed; Shards that use modified Cyan ages must share their modified Max files
EDIT: I should also say, for completeness, that using CC or GPL would allow artists to use the assets outside of Uru-related projects. If that's something Cyan wants to disallow then they would need to roll their own license.

User avatar
Mac_Fife
Member
Posts: 1229
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:38 am
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: Content Licensing

Post by Mac_Fife » Mon Sep 26, 2011 7:29 pm

branan wrote:EDIT: I should also say, for completeness, that using CC or GPL would allow artists to use the assets outside of Uru-related projects. If that's something Cyan wants to disallow then they would need to roll their own license.
That's probably an important observation, depending on how much more Cyan intend to release.

I think another thing to keep in mind about the differences between CC (and I'd agree that CC-By-SA, or possibly CC-By-NC-SA, would seem to be the most likely license from the CC stable) and GPL is that CC does not have the "viral" element that GPL has: It is permissable to create "collections" that include licenses other than CC (provided that the other licenses are not directly incomptible, e.g. containing a viral clause that overrides the CC license). Where this might be important is for the artist who doesn't want to have his work modified by others, but needs to make use of the assets provided by Cyan. The final "collection" that comprises the final published work could consist of the Cyan elements under, say, CC-By-NC-SA and their own work under CC-By-NC-ND.

I expect that most artists/age creators will be happy to allow derivative works, and GPL works for that, but in the interests of leaving creators "free" to restrict derivatives should they wish then CC is maybe a better choice.
Mac_Fife
OpenUru.org wiki wrangler

User avatar
branan
Member
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Content Licensing

Post by branan » Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:36 am

I'm not entirely sure where a "derivative" ends and a "collection" begins, and the CC FAQ is rather vague (and also unfortunately focused on audio and text, rather than digital art).

Certainly extracting a model or texture from a CC-licensed age creates a derivative work (the extracted asset). Whether incorporating that extracted asset into a new age is another derivative work or just a collection is the question, and I don't really have an answer to that. I've been working under the assumption that it's a derivative work.

The examples used in the FAQ for collections, like encyclopedias, have little inherent artistic value beyond the sum of the components (no offense meant to encyclopedia editors). An age has an artistic value beyond the sum of its parts. I don't know if that's actually a reasonable way to look at the question or not - it's possible that's a pattern in the FAQ that they didn't intend.

It's probably a good idea to ping a lawyer who's familiar with CC to get a more definitive answer about what's considered derivative in this sort of case. We've hit the edge of my understanding here - I'm not nearly as familiar with how CC is applied in practice as I am for the GPL.

EDIT: I missed another point in Mac_Fife's post: I'm personally not a fan of NC clauses in licenses, since I think that as long as somebody is contributing their changes back to the community, they should be allowed the opportunity to monetize whatever service/support they provide in conjunction with the open-source product. The CC NC would still allow such things as shard owners accepting donations to pay for server time (since that use isn't "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation."), so it's not necessarily harmful - it just takes a usage freedom away.

NC is definitely one of those cases where if Cyan wants to avoid commercial use it's not something I'd argue with, but if they don't have issues just putting it out there (as they did the code), it should be left off by default.

User avatar
Mac_Fife
Member
Posts: 1229
Joined: Fri Dec 19, 2008 12:38 am
Location: Scotland
Contact:

Re: Content Licensing

Post by Mac_Fife » Tue Sep 27, 2011 1:03 pm

branan wrote:NC is definitely one of those cases where if Cyan wants to avoid commercial use it's not something I'd argue with, but if they don't have issues just putting it out there (as they did the code), it should be left off by default.
Well, actually Cyan did have an issue with potential commercial use of the code - a big issue with that in fact: They wanted to be sure that they were gifting the code to the fans and not to someone who just wanted a free game engine (although there are plenty of those around anyway) to build into their own commercial product, and that's at least in part what drove them towards GPL: While GPL is completely permissive of commercial applications of Open Source, the viral aspects of the license and requiring that source must always be available with the same ease as the binaries and that anyone is free to redistribute the product, makes it rather unattractive commercially.

It's following on from that line of thinking that made me consider the NC option within CC for Cyan's material.

The SA (Share Alike) clause is possibly the more interesting one in this respect. Something like an age, consisting of Max models, textures, etc., that may come from various sources probably does constitute a "dervative work" rather than a "collection". Collection might apply to library of textures for use in other works. A collection can include items of various license forms including SA and non-SA without problem, however if any item in a derivative work uses a component released under a license with an SA clause, then the whole derivative work must conform to the SA, since otherwise it would create a conflict in the terms. So possibly CC-BY leaves more options open than CC-BY-SA, although it doesn't have the "comfort" of ensuring that any derivatives will have the same licensing terms as your original.
Mac_Fife
OpenUru.org wiki wrangler

User avatar
branan
Member
Posts: 84
Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2011 11:35 pm

Re: Content Licensing

Post by branan » Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:15 am

Mac_Fife wrote:
branan wrote:NC is definitely one of those cases where if Cyan wants to avoid commercial use it's not something I'd argue with, but if they don't have issues just putting it out there (as they did the code), it should be left off by default.
Well, actually Cyan did have an issue with potential commercial use of the code - a big issue with that in fact: They wanted to be sure that they were gifting the code to the fans and not to someone who just wanted a free game engine (although there are plenty of those around anyway) to build into their own commercial product, and that's at least in part what drove them towards GPL: While GPL is completely permissive of commercial applications of Open Source, the viral aspects of the license and requiring that source must always be available with the same ease as the binaries and that anyone is free to redistribute the product, makes it rather unattractive commercially.

It's following on from that line of thinking that made me consider the NC option within CC for Cyan's material.
It's kind of funny, then, that an MMO might be one of those few markets where having a GPL'd engine isn't really a problem: what people are paying for is access to the service and new content. Engine technology is /important/, but it's certainly not the be-all and end-all of the MMO genre.
Mac_Fife wrote:The SA (Share Alike) clause is possibly the more interesting one in this respect. Something like an age, consisting of Max models, textures, etc., that may come from various sources probably does constitute a "dervative work" rather than a "collection". Collection might apply to library of textures for use in other works. A collection can include items of various license forms including SA and non-SA without problem, however if any item in a derivative work uses a component released under a license with an SA clause, then the whole derivative work must conform to the SA, since otherwise it would create a conflict in the terms. So possibly CC-BY leaves more options open than CC-BY-SA, although it doesn't have the "comfort" of ensuring that any derivatives will have the same licensing terms as your original.
I figured since Cyan chose the GPL they had at least some interest in SA-like provisions; if not CC-BY is certainly an option, but of course that means that not only are fan ages not required to be released under CC, but modified Cyan ages aren't either. I'd personally not like to see bugfixes and enhancements kept locked to particular shards.

Post Reply

Return to “Management”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest