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September 29, 2020, 01:32 AM

Author Topic: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?  (Read 2567 times)

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Offline CyberShadow

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WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« on: February 28, 2020, 07:53 PM »
Hi all,

There is an important problem that, as a community, we need to solve probably sooner than later.

After a map author uploads a map to wmdb.org, the map is then made available for viewing, downloading, and playing through services such as HostingBuddy (!map, !wmdb).

The problem: we (wmdb.org and other service providers) are not actually allowed to do any of those things with any maps uploaded ever. Why? Because the map authors never gave us permission!

Pragmatically it is obvious - why would someone upload a map to wmdb.org if they didn't want people to download and play on their map? However, pedantically, that's how it is.
In most jurisdictions, every creation is copyrighted by default, and no copies (this includes transmission over network) may be made without the author's permission.
As such, technically speaking, there is nothing preventing someone from uploading their map on wmdb.org, and then saying "Why are you distributing my map? I never gave you permission!" and then taking legal action against us.

Another reason for why we should try to solve this problem is that at some point wmdb.org may be succeeded by a better service, which integrates directly into the game.
For this to become a reality, we need to have all our paperwork straightened out and be sure that we are legally allowed to redistribute uploaded maps.

So, there are two parts to this topic:
  • We need to decide on a set of licenses, and make authors of all new uploads to WMDB choose one of these licenses.
    This will give wmdb.org the legal right to redistribute them (i.e. make them available for download),
    and for players to actually use them (host games with the map, or save them in replay files and then upload said replays online).

    This will also be a good opportunity to allow map creators to choose how exactly they are OK with people using their maps, specifically for example if they want to allow remixes.

    For this purpose, Creative Commons has a good set of licenses we can use: https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/

  • What to do about already uploaded maps?

    The extreme but definitely legally correct approach would be to delete everything and ask everyone to re-upload their maps under a license of their choice.
    Obviously we would probably lose a huge % of maps if we were to do this, so it would be much more preferable if we could solve this in another way.

    An alternative would be to relicense the maps uploaded so far, as follows:

    • We implement part 1 as above, so all new uploads past a certain date are under a proper license.
    • We begin a transition period of some duration, such as 1 year, for converting uploaded maps to a proper license.
      We will need to make this transition as public and obvious as possible (i.e. affected maps will have a banner on their pages, and we will try to contact the authors by email about it.)
      After the transition period expires, we assume that the authors have had reasonable time to be notified and take action, and through their inaction, they allow us to distribute the map under the new license.
      Of course, if authors disagree, we will remove the map, or look into additional licensing options if none of the ones we will have at the time will be agreeable.
    • After the transition period expires, all maps are either at the new license or deleted due to the authors' wishes (which we hopefully will minimize).
      If any authors change their mind after the transition period and want their map down, we can follow standard DMCA procedure.

    Changing the license of content without each author's explicit approval is legally iffy, but fish much bigger than us got away with it:


    The license itself that we choose for this would probably have to be as restrictive as possible while still allowing wmdb.org and related services to redistribute the map in all implied and technical situations.
    If authors wish to grant the community more rights, they can always pick a less restrictive license later.

The remaining elephant in the room is maps which have a large amount of copyrighted artwork (from other games, cartoons/anime, etc.). I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't think it qualifies as fair use.

Any thoughts / opinions on the above? Especially if you are a map maker or are familiar with IP law.

By the way, I think TUS has the same problems, but it's not up to me how TUS wants to address them.

Offline Kradie

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2020, 11:04 PM »
The remaining elephant in the room is maps which have a large amount of copyrighted artwork (from other games, cartoons/anime, etc.). I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't think it qualifies as fair use.

Any thoughts / opinions on the above? Especially if you are a map maker or are familiar with IP law.

By the way, I think TUS has the same problems, but it's not up to me how TUS wants to address them.

I am not an expert on licensing but as longest author doesn't profit from the source material, it shouldn't be an issue? They are after all in low quality of 112 colors. Inferior to its intended purpose.

Offline CyberShadow

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Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2020, 12:10 AM »
They are after all in low quality of 112 colors.
This is a temporary technical limitation of the current versions!

Offline XanKriegor

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2020, 06:59 AM »
None makes profit from making maps nor playing them. When someone uploads a map, the whole purpose is to make it possible for others to have them and play them. Who can complain about profit and distribution?

Offline Cleroth

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2020, 03:51 PM »
The remaining elephant in the room is maps which have a large amount of copyrighted artwork (from other games, cartoons/anime, etc.). I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't think it qualifies as fair use.

Any thoughts / opinions on the above? Especially if you are a map maker or are familiar with IP law.

By the way, I think TUS has the same problems, but it's not up to me how TUS wants to address them.

I am not an expert on licensing but as longest author doesn't profit from the source material, it shouldn't be an issue? They are after all in low quality of 112 colors. Inferior to its intended purpose.

Common misconception. Whether you profit or not is irrelevant. Copyright violations are copyright violations. You're not allowed to use someone else's copyrighted work.
Quality is also irrelevant. It's derived from the original work or bears enough resemblance.
Generally this kind of stuff would fall under fair use. So long as you comply with DMCA requests, it should be fine. Minecraft and such games also have loads of copyrighted works that can be downloaded.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2020, 03:57 PM by Cleroth »

Offline Korydex

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2020, 04:21 PM »
Maps like this will be licensed too? :D

Offline Sensei

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2020, 06:39 PM »
Maps like this will be licensed too? :D

I just hope dulek hosted a chally on this? If not - he should!


there is nothing preventing someone from uploading their map on wmdb.org, and then saying "Why are you distributing my map? I never gave you permission!" and then taking legal action against us.

Isn't there a choice for authors, after uploading the map (tus or wmdb), to decide whether it'll be private or public?
If author puts public, there's no legal action he can take against you to win the case, I believe.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2020, 06:42 PM by Sensei »
Collection of twitch interviews, league clanners and CWT matches.



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Offline TheMadCharles

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2020, 11:55 AM »
does wmdb have any terms of service? if not, there should be and it should include a clause that says something like "you agree that any maps that you set on public can be used for online games including hosting bots like HostingBuddy"


Offline Chicken23

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2020, 08:16 AM »
does wmdb have any terms of service? if not, there should be and it should include a clause that says something like "you agree that any maps that you set on public can be used for online games including hosting bots like HostingBuddy"

This is a good point.

Also maybe something about that once submitting a map to wmdb you agree to giving up your IP and the property becoming WMDBs?


Cybershadow - alot of this stuff usually becomes an issue if someone does sue and complain about maps being shared, is this really likely to happen as they would have uplaoded the map in the first place?

Offline CyberShadow

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Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2020, 10:04 AM »
does wmdb have any terms of service? if not, there should be and it should include a clause that says something like "you agree that any maps that you set on public can be used for online games including hosting bots like HostingBuddy"
This does not permit other users to download and use maps in their games. An agreement between WMDB and the uploader is insufficient - the content must be licensed to allow it to be used in any applicable way by anyone.
Also maybe something about that once submitting a map to wmdb you agree to giving up your IP and the property becoming WMDBs?
We definitely do not want to assume copyright of uploaded works. Usually that requires the previous owner to sign a document which passes ownership. See e.g. https://www.gnu.org/prep/maintain/html_node/Copyright-Papers.html

Cybershadow - alot of this stuff usually becomes an issue if someone does sue and complain about maps being shared, is this really likely to happen as they would have uplaoded the map in the first place?
Whether it's likely or not, and whether it goes as far as legal action or just vague threats to take it, having our ducks in a row will help avoid trouble later.

Offline Anubis

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2020, 10:13 AM »
My maps were actually uploaded without my permission on TUS, I created them but didn't upload them myself. I think it's time to sue TUS... xD

Offline TheKomodo

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2020, 12:17 PM »
Whether it's likely or not, and whether it goes as far as legal action or just vague threats to take it, having our ducks in a row will help avoid trouble later.

Agreed.

Growing up, I always thought(about condoms), it's better to have one and not need it, than need one and not have it :/

Offline Xrayez

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2020, 04:01 PM »
I raised a similar question 2 years ago about TUS maps as well, so as a game developer I'm also concerned.

https://www.tus-wa.com/forums/maps/what-is-the-license-of-uploaded-maps-31692/msg266349/

Having ability to load any kind of map is likely a serious legal issue in and of itself. How can ensure that those maps are not actually distributed by me? For W:A it's not much problem because, well, the activity is quite low and nobody is really aware of such a feature in my opinion. It's a matter of time before someone could take legal action against you... I might be paranoid though. ???

Offline MonkeyIsland

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2020, 07:08 AM »
My maps were actually uploaded without my permission on TUS, I created them but didn't upload them myself. I think it's time to sue TUS... xD

The W:A starter mappack has over 8k maps, which was originally uploaded by Mablak. If something happens I'm gonna blame it on him xD

By the way, I think TUS has the same problems, but it's not up to me how TUS wants to address them.

TUS does have the same problem. (it also extracts maps from replays uploaded) I'll follow your footsteps on the licensing.
Due to massive misunderstandings: MonkeyIsland refers to an island not a monkey. I would be a monkey, if my name was IslandMonkey meaning a monkey who is or lives on an island. MonkeyIsland is an island which is related to monkeys. There's been a legend around saying MonkeyIsland is a game. So please, think of me as an island or a game.

Offline Chicken23

Re: WMDB's licensing problem - any lawyers in the house?
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2020, 08:33 AM »
If there were some legal documents written up (requiring some kind of solicitor service I'd imagine..), could something like DocuSign be using in an uploading process which covers the terms and consent of the map rights to the community/website owner?

It would make uploading maps a bit of a pain in the arse but could be a necessary process? Perhaps in time could be as effective as GDPR/cookie policies?