[MUD-Dev] Black Snow Revisited

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Mon Apr 1 07:57:11 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002


From: "David H. Loeser Jr." <daklozar at insightbb.com>

> I've been following this as much as I can (life is so hectic
> sometimes) and it seems to me that two sides are forming. Those
> that think BSI has the right to do what they are doing and those
> (me included) that think they do not.

There seems to be a very basic disagreement on *what* BSI is doing,
however.

It seems reasonably obvious that the transfer of an *account* is
outside the scope of Mythic's EULA and not permissible under the law
because Mythic has the right to make this stipulation. Whether the
player owns the character or not, we can boil the chain of ownership
down to something like this:

A player has an account represented by a character who carries
inventory.

Mythic has a very basic and very serious need to identify player
with account and maintain that link of the chain unbroken, for some
important security reasons. (If Bob gets banned from the game, and
Bob can just go buy an account from Joe, then Bob cannot really be
banned from the game.) The account, furthermore, is not a piece of
property -- it is a contract between Mythic and the player.

To use the generally-inappropriate car analogy, Mythic has what
might be termed an outstanding lien on the account (you pay a
monthly fee to Mythic for the use of the account). So the account
can't be passed on to someone else without Mythic's consent, because
it's important to them that the lien continue to be paid and it is
therefore their right to approve or disapprove of the new owner.

Everything on the other side of the account, however, is fair
game. If you follow Mythic's rules about what you can and can't
transfer between players inside the game, Mythic has no right to
complain about anything. When Mythic tries to say "you cannot go and
do this and that outside the game", they don't have a right to say
that. When Mythic comes along outside the game and tells other
people to stop you from doing things, they don't have a right to do
that. When Mythic goes around disrupting your life outside the game,
that is harassment and they do not have a right to do that.

They DO have the right to cancel your account. At no time does
Mythic lose that right. At no time do you have any right to demand
continued service from Mythic when they no longer desire to provide
that service. Nor do you have any right to any sort of redress for
grievances against their decision to stop providing the service. You
paid for the service, they took the money, once they stop taking the
money they don't have to provide the service. That's the way things
go. All of this has been addressed already by America Online, so
Mythic doesn't have to set any precedent here.

> The question regarding who "owns" the character; seems to be the
> seed question and with an answer to this question could we then
> cascade it to other questions regarding ownership?

Not really, because characters are a very distinct sort of object in
MMORPGs. Other objects can't really be productively compared to them
for several reasons; perhaps the most rudimentary description of
this would be that the character is directly controlled by the
player *and* significantly designed by the player. While you may
directly control a remote probe or something, you don't design it;
while you may design an in-game castle, you don't directly control
it. This combination of factors is reasonably unique to the
character in most games.

> My own answer to who "owns" the character goes like this: If the
> character can exist when I shut down the game servers, the
> database servers, then I no longer own the character. Meaning the
> character is "alive" and if the character is "alive" then can
> anyone really "own" it?

That is an absolutely unproductive angle that should be taken out
and shot before it gets to the children. I really do not want to
hear about how permadeath is murder and mob-hunting is animal abuse
and playing the game is slavery.

> At any rate, we really need to be careful with all of this... What
> if a writer using MS Word was charged by MS for using Word to
> write his novel? That would suck.

That's not even the issue. The issue here is what if the owner of
the computer on which the application is running *owns* anything
that gets done with that application? How many major corporations
*lease* their computers?  How many use network applications running
from servers that technically "belong" to their network management
company? How many allow workers to telecommute and use their own
computers?

Are we forgetting Application Service Providers, who will supposedly
provide a rentable-application system where people like me -- who
use something like 3DSMax twice a month -- don't have to pay full
price for an application, simply paying on a per-use basis? That
would certainly make a big difference for some game developers, I
think, since they wouldn't need to buy $50,000 worth of software
every three months... unless, of course, the ASP owned whatever you
made with the applications.

I think "suck" does not even begin to describe it.


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