[MUD-Dev] Re: Black Snow Revisited

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Mon Apr 1 13:53:36 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002

From: "Fred Clift" <fred at clift.org>

> I happen to be very familiar with this analogy -- I do system
> programming for a large web hosting company,

There's one VERY significant difference between web hosting and
online game operation. A web host, by its very nature, actively
encourages its users to upload arbitrary data created by any means
they desire. An online game, however, generally FORBIDS its users to
upload ANYTHING except SOLELY through the facilities provided by the
online game's approved and unmodified client.

So while the web host may end up carrying information of
indeterminate ownership, and must therefore recognise the right of
the customer to retrieve it, the online game is *guaranteed* not to
carry information that is any more "owned" by the player than the
client and server permit. If the client and server effectively
prevent the user from creating anything persistent in which he could
conceivably claim copyright, then the user cannot own ANYTHING in
the game, and the game administration need not concern itself with
any IP ownership issues at all. This would not be an easy task, of
course, but it is still entirely possible.

While examining Richard Woolcock's post on IP rights to the product
of software, I came up with a rather shocking idea. It seems, on
consideration, that a character in any MMORPG starts out being the
property of the game's administration (a level 1 character is, after
all, pretty much like any other level 1 character) which is then
*modified* by the player under license. While we may call it
"creating" a character, it's NOT creation -- it's simple
alteration. Regardless of what the player does to it, his right to
do so exists exclusively under a license granted by its original
owner, which the original owner may of course terminate at any
time. This implies that there is at least some legal argument for
the case that the player NEVER owns his character in any MMORPG, no
matter how long or hard he works at it.

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