Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Video Games and The Law of Unintended Consequences

(There's FFXI material in this one, but only peripherally.)

An interesting (and perhaps, for some, ominous) story came out of Nintendo over the weekend.

Nintendo (on the surface, not surprisingly) has finally formally slammed the door on what is called the "Let's Play"-ers -- video gamers who use their expertise and/or personalities to gain money by streaming or uploading playing of certain video games to various video social media.

Basically, Nintendo has decided (in a move which has already largely ended most of the relevant Let's Play's of their content) to seize the videos, and, instead of taking them down, they get the ad revenue now by putting their own ads on -- effectively putting many of the Let's Play-ers out of business.

On the surface, not surprising at all.  Read the statement provided by Nintendo through Anime News Network on the subject:

"As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property."

OK, fine.  The game is the property of the IP-owner.

But what this decision means is, so is the gameplay.

In short, though I'm no lawyer, the statement is obvious:

An IP-owner of a video game not only owns the copyright to the code of the game and the trademarks, etc. of the distinguishable characters, but owns the copyright and rights to ALL GAMEPLAY of their intellectual property.

And, in fact, this is true on an a priori basis -- it's true BEFORE the material ever gets uploaded to YouTube/streamed on Twitch/what have you.  This basically means (and this will become more and more relevant in 8th-generation consoling) that the IP-holder of a game owns your gameplay.

Else, Nintendo would have no right to register their copyright material with YouTube and stop people from making money off of their gameplay.

Except, the gameplay itself is not the players' either!  It belongs to the IP-holder, as a condition of playing the game.

And, again, on an a priori basis -- no attempt to make money is necessary (though it is the issue here) for the IP-holder (in this case, Nintendo) to do this.

So what would this mean if it were extended?  The end of the charity streams?  The end of all IP-unauthorized tournaments, streamed or otherwise?

And THEN you get to an interesting FFXI issue...  Once again, on the Official Forums, one of the (S?)GMs has had to smack down (at least verbally) calls for people to use Parser, an illegal third-party program.

But if Square-Enix owns all gameplay to their intellectual property, would this not mean that, by extension and force, that all "third-party" programs become, by a matter of legal definition, first-party?

Does this mean Square-Enix technically (whether it wants to admit it or not) own Windower, etc.?

Something to keep in mind!

No comments: