[MUD-Dev] Reality check ...(long) [was Re: Black Snow Revisited]

Caliban Tiresias Darklock caliban at darklock.com
Thu Apr 4 09:19:48 New Zealand Daylight Time 2002


From: "Jeff Cole" <jeff.cole at mindspring.com>

> In games, players are dealing with items acquired within the rules
> of the game.  Nothing is being copied.  The impact of in-game
> transactions incoprporating extra-game financial activities on a
> gaming company's income stream is moot rather than direct.
> Further, the degree to which such transactions do impact a
> company's income stream are arguably largely within the control of
> the company.

What we have going on here is an argument that actually has a
certain degree of validity under current IP law.

I don't think it's at all arguable whether a painter has the right
to demand that you not display his painting over a toilet. The
precedent and reasoning are well established: while the artist may
be perfectly willing to have his painting displayed by this person
in this location on that wall during this period of time, the
presence of the toilet alters perception of the work and infringes
on the artist's right to control the *presentation* of the work.
We've seen this case in many situations, including the demand that
one artist's work not be displayed next to another artist's work.

> All the posts expounding the detrimental effects of such
> transactions on the gaming company have been merely conclusory
> (completely begging the question).

And they are also irrelevant.

Whether the company suffers detrimental effect does not matter. The
purpose of IP law is not to secure financial return, and it never
has been. The possibility of financial return is a side effect of
the exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder. Who makes or
loses money is not the issue, and neither is who benefits or does
not benefit. This applies to virtually every facet of the law.

As Michael Moore once put it, if a company is allowed to do whatever
it wants to make a profit, why doesn't General Motors sell crack? 
It's a lot more profitable than automobile manufacturing. And the
answer, of course, is that GM cannot sell crack because it is
illegal, and it is illegal because it does Bad Things to our
communities. The government can and does make laws that are
detrimental to company profits, because the government's first duty
is to the welfare of the people and not the profits of the
companies.

> Nobody has yet put forth a solid argument as to how these
> transactions are detrimental to the gaming companies.

That would primarily be due to a lack of evidence. Currently, we
take for granted that these things MIGHT be detrimental and
therefore by Murphy's law they will be. We can certainly observe
that no matter what else may happen, the allowance of item sales has
a nonzero administration cost to the game company, which is then
unavailable for other administrative duties.

Now, whether this is a significant problem, I don't know. I can say
that there are many scenarios which are clearly bad if they extend
to the whole community. Because players can buy item X from other
people, they do not go on the quest for item X and run out of
structured entertainment options more rapidly. Because players can
sell item X to other people, they pillage the game for item X and
prevent players who are simply playing the game from acquiring it in
the normal fashion. The list goes on, and in fact goes on pretty
much forever.

But I *honestly* do not think anyone is going to encounter this sort
of thing, because -- bluntly speaking -- there are really not all
that many people who will buy the items in the FIRST place, and it's
certainly not because they're not *allowed* to. People pirate
software and steal music and scan photos and trade videotapes all
the time, knowing full well that they're not allowed to do any of
the above. The rule doesn't actually stop people. What stops them is
quite simply the fact that item farming is HARD.  It's not worth the
time or the effort, and especially not if everyone and his brother
is competing with you.

Chances are, if we just threw out the whole prohibition on sales of
game items, there would be a little flurry of sales that would then
calm down to a tiny little activity level which barely registered on
the radar screen.  We're just too afraid of being wrong to try it.



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