Online Game Shutting Down All User Created Levels That Reference Someone Else's IP

from the IP-enforcement-gone-mad dept

Plenty of video games have the ability to create user-modification and user-made levels. Back in the 80s and 90s, this was made popular with games like Castle Wolfenstein and Doom. Many of these user-made versions involve famous characters. In fact, one of the first such cases was when some high school kids remixed the original Castle Wolfenstein to create Castle Smurfenstein, replacing all the Nazis in the original game with smurfs. In Matt Mason's book The Pirate's Dilemma, he talks about how these early mods helped shape and grow the video game industry.

But, apparently, some game makers either don't know their video gaming history, or are too afraid of lawyers preventing similar things from happening again. The makers of the game LittleBigPlanet, which allows users to create their own levels, have apparently started deleting any and all levels that include any mention of anything that might be construed as someone else's intellectual property. This seems both extreme and unnecessary. It's certainly not going to keep fans particularly loyal to the game.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Ajax 4Hire, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:04am

    Irritating your customers..

    Irritating your customers is never a good long term business model.

    Irritation may work in the short term (See Music Industry) to make you money.
    Even forms of government must follow this mantra. You irritate the customer or people with the power/money and they will go somewhere else no matter how much you try to lock them in. Whether that is communism or DRM, the results are the same.

    Irritation is never a good long term model for success.

     

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    Matt, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:35am

    ahh, watch littlebigplanet go poof

    This should be fun...I give them about a month of people going "where's my hard work?" before it shuts down. Maybe 2 months.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:44am

    Lost a sale of game and console

    well.. I was having trouble deciding between a PS3 and a 360, but this helped me decide. Little Big Planet isn't worth my time anymore and there aren't very many good games on the ps3 in the first place.

    360 here I come

     

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      Tom, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:43am

      Re: Lost a sale of game and console

      I have been a gamer all my life. I have owned ps, ps2,ps3 x-box, and x-box 360. Sony has more than twice the amount of games the x-box has and way more to come. The ps3 has 1/3 more processor power and speed as a x-box 360. I sold my 360 to my little brother, he loves Halo!

      What is with the red ring of death? One of the guys I work with has had to return his 360 4 or 5 times because they are made of crap but also sold for crap. Have fun with the clunker.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re: Lost a sale of game and console

        a few things that I need to correct you on (coming from someone who also has has been gaming their entire life and has nearly every gaming console, including an original Pong machine):

        1: this is not related to the actual conversation. I made a statement explicitly pointing out that Sony lost a sale due to their actions and implied that there would be other lost sales for the same reason. None of this deserved a fanboyish response that ignores the greater subject at hand.

        2: the PS3 does not have more exclusive games than the 360, and the multi-platform games consistently under perform when compared to the other consoles, mostly due to the difficulty and expense in programming for the Cell processor.

        3: many PS3 models aren't even backwards compatible anymore, further limiting the library to less than what the 360 has currently available

        4: bringing age into this topic is completely irreverent as I never stated either my age or what games I would be playing except that I decided I was no longer interested in LittleBigPlanet. Further, any good game can be enjoyed by anyone no matter how old they are, implying that the 360 only have juvenile games fit for little kids is specious argument at best (and I'm being generous there).

        5: Yes the 360s fried themselves a lot and it is one of the reasons I don't have one yet, but the hardware has gone through multiple redesigns and the failure rate is no longer a significant factor. additionally the warranty that the 360 comes with removes any remaining concern.


        You are of course free to prefer the PS3, that is your choice, but please don't spread misinformation or shove your views down other people's throats.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:51am

    Can't wait to hear what Penny Arcade has to say about this, if anything.

     

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    Ima Fish, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:56am

    God, I'll never forget the awesome Simpson's mod for Doom 2. Blasting away at Homer's giant floating head was hilarious.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:33am

      Re:

      I always liked the Barney mod for doom 1, it was so pleasurable shoving rockets up that stupid dinosaur's ass.

       

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      Phillip Vector, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:10am

      Re:

      Back in the early 90's, I found a full mod for doom called "Aliens True mod" (or something like that).

      This mod didn't just modify the weapons and monsters, it included soundclips from the movie, levels based on the movie and such.. It was truly one of the best mods for doom I had ever seen, hands down.

      I've been debating on buying doom and hooking it up to run on my system if I was ever able to find this mod again. Unfortunately, I think it has disappeared forever.

      It's a shame that software companies are forcing this same issue again.

       

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    Yakko Warner, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:05am

    Sad and stupid, but not surprising

    Between this and Guitar Hero WT deleting any songs that sound like "real" songs. It's really stupid. Aside from pissing off the fans, it's not like these things take away from the properties they're celebrating.

    In the case of Guitar Hero, the fan-made songs will never sound as good as the originals (especially since you can't include vocals; but even the instrumentals I've heard so far haven't been all that great). The smart thing to do would be to see what songs were getting made and what fan-based songs were getting the most downloads, and using that as a gauge for what "real" songs to license. If people are downloading a crappy fan-made version of a certain song, don't you think it's because they'd really want the real thing?

    In the case of LittleBigPlanet, there are "tribute" levels that, come on, really aren't any worse than fan-made web sites honoring the game. (Although I guess some companies try to shut those down, too.) And for games that try to recreate other games, you're not going to be able to create a perfect 1:1 reproduction of Super Mario Brothers in LittleBigPlanet, certainly not one that is going to make you think, "Hey, this is great, I have no need to pick up the original SMB." On one end, you'll create something that'll spark memories and generate interest in actually getting the original game; on the other end, maybe you'll create something that is based on the original, but actually brings something new and unique to the game. Progressive innovation. Go figure.

    (Nixing a level just because the title happens to share the title of an unrelated movie, though, e.g. the "Failure to Launch" level, is just profoundly stupid.)

    Then again, it's hard to blame Sony and Activision for just deciding it's easier not to get involved in the law suits that we all know would come from the IP holders. They already have the money from the fans who bought the games. Why risk losing it to the companies with the lawyers and the history of using them?

    What's interesting is comparing this to the apparent stance that Microsoft will be taking with their XNA Community Games. According to a 1Up podcast, an XNA spokesperson said they plan on letting the XNA community completely control what goes online and what doesn't, that they will not be doing any moderation of their own. It'll be interesting to see if they truly stick to that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:07am

    I too am like number 3

    Except I already had a 360 and was deciding whether or not Little Big Planet and MAG were a combination good enough to get me. Well, if I can't make shit and be acknowledged for it when other people love it, forget the first game. As for the second, Little Big Planet almost made me forget this is PSN (PlayStation Network) we're talking about. It's not like a game that epic will be playable on such a terrible service.

    So they just lost the sale of 2 games and a console, 360 here I stay.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:16am

    I buy NOTHING from sony since they infected my PC with SECUROM!

    Not 1 cent!

     

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    jonnyq, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:17am

    Well crap...

    Some of the best videos I've seen were the ones modeled after Mario levels and such.

    I'll still get the game... I love World of Goo on the Wii, and I love the cheapo online game Fantastic Contraption. I have hopes for LBP being the granddaddy of casual physics-based games. This will detract from the game.

    This is one thing bad about the trend of centralized servers. When you play Quake (or even OpenArena) online, you don't have this problem. If someone wants to create a level that looks like someone's IP, no problem, because it's not a centralized server, and ID can't do anything about it. That's why those older ID games got away with it, too. If people could set up their own WOW server, COH server, or LBP servers, or whatever, this wouldn't be an issue.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:41am

      Re:

      people do set up their own WOW servers, pretty sure there are COH servers too. just do a quick search for 'WOW Shard Server' or similar to find them. free to use, and some have changed the balance so it doesn't take a fricking eternity to level up completely.

       

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    Trevlac, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:22am

    Before I read this I thought they meant IP, Internet Protocol.

     

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    John Do, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:28am

    It is funny that everyone is blaming the game mfg. They are most likely doing it to avoid lawsuits from the IP owners. Face it folks, this is the world we live in where you can and will be sued for anything or nothing at all. If you were in the position that the game company is, you would do the same thing.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:47am

      Re:

      no, I for one wouldn't.

      If I was in their shoes I would rely on safe harbors and if someone complains of a specific level and files an actual take down, then I would point that the level falls well under a little something we call 'fair use'. then I'd publicize every time someone does something like that and get more attention based on a mix of standing up for users rights and saying "look at all these cool levels we have"

      most companies don't press a lawsuit if you look ready for a fight and fans/users/customers will love the who 'sticking it to the man' image you project.

      look at Pirate bay, that is almost exactly how they do it, but in this case it isn't illegal to keep the levels up.

       

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        Killer_Tofu (profile), Nov 11th, 2008 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re:

        Very well said AC #14.
        And that is the image us gamers love.
        It is quite sad that more and more manufacturers are bought up by the likes of EA or run somewhere along the line by idiots who crap on their customers.
        Why is it the bad ones that make it out on top?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 8:53am

    You know what else doesn't particularly keep fans loyal to the game? Having the site shut down.

    Seriously, lawyers. Think about them. They're running around shutting down fanfic sites (see the Chilling Effects site for details).

    Given a choice between annoying a portion of the fans by removing some content or annoying all of the fans by, you know, not existing because some Fox lawyers start screaming about IP rights and how they're owed a bizillion dollars, what's the rational choice?

    To mix metaphors, a company isn't going to throw itself on a sword while bending over backwards to please fans.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      you are missing a few things...

      first sites don't get shut down, the owners choose to take them down instead of fighting.

      second if a company dislikes something, they don't say 'shut down the entire site' they say 'remove all content referring to X'.

      third the one of the biggest and oldest fan fiction sites appears to still be up and running, with hundreds of thousands of stories in the harry potter section. Isn't Rowling a bit over protective of her IP? in fact looking at the site I can find fan fiction for anything I think of off the top of my head. the way you talk there should be at least one author on a crusade to stop fanfiction ready to sue that site into oblivion. that obviously hasn't happened and there is LOTS of content, and that site is the first to show up in nearly any search that has 'fan fiction' so it is a pretty big target. so it can't possibly be as black and white as you are trying to make it seem.

      speaking of fox that site has simpsons, family guy, and futurama stories.

      add to all of that the fact that sony is a big company and expects lawsuits, and you get a situation where the most benneficial thing to do would be to fight tooth and nail against the (usually toothless) threats that you may receive instead of incurring the people's wrath.

      to put it another way, which is better, telling your customers that you are preemptively covering your own ass at their expense or wait for a take down and even if you don't fight it you can point and say that the big mean bully over there made you take it down? the first option just pisses everyone off, the second earns you sympathy and turns the anger towards fox or whoever told you to take it down. neither results in a lawsuit.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:09am

    Why the hell would you expect them NOT to do this? Why would anyone expose themselves to infringment cases because some stupid 12 year old wants to put a logo from someone elses product in the game?

    Certainly you aren't so stupid to think that Sony would just let people include protected, copyrighted, or trademarked materials in the user created content? Why can't you seem to understand that if someone else makes something they have the right to determine how it is used? Why is that concept so hard for you to comprehend?

    It would be like me taking the content from TechDirt and republishing it without crediting you or your site. I don't think you would appreciate it. Or worse still, copying your comments and putting someone else's name on them. In fact that is what is happening, they are taking someone elses property, and in effect using it without their permission and further slapping them in the face and not even giving them credit.

     

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      Twinrova, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:22am

      Re:

      and in effect using it without their permission and further slapping them in the face and not even giving them credit.
      A few things about this remark:
      1) It's not as though users are selling these mods within LittleBigPlanet, so there's no harm done. As for the company who may complain, screw them on free advertising.

      2) MOST IP is recognizable. No one can mistake Homer Simpson, for say, "some fat dude". Recognizable IP is why these companies advertise, to make sure you KNOW the brand. In the few cases where IP isn't recognized, I highly doubt "up-and-coming" businesses/owners would complain as their IP is hitting more audiences.

      3) Many businesses don't even understand what copyright protection is, and instead, are turning around and suing the hell out of everyone "just because we can". Worse, businesses are now trying to encapsulate more into the whole "IP" bucket (such as facts from sports) just so they can claim ownership.

      You can whine about "protection" all you want, but given the status of IP issues in the past few years, companies only go to prove they don't care about consumers, only profits and will continue destroying options for us to the point in which we'll go elsewhere to get what we desire.

      If you're in a business where one of your CUSTOMERS takes it upon themselves to give you free advertising and you screw them over by suing them, guess how long your business will survive.

      I fully understand your argument if I were to take your copyright material and profit from it, but other than that, I will dismiss your position.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      you grossly misunderstand and misrepresent copyright and trademark laws.

      first, trademark doesn't come into it. there is nothing wrong with creating a level based off of any trademarked material. trademark applies only in limited settings, which can be summed up int he phrase "would an idiot in a hurry mistake this as the same thing being sold by XXXX?" but since the levels are not for sale and no one would mistake the nike swoosh level with the nike shoe, no problem.

      second, your analogies suck and don't represent the situation at all. a better analogy is if you saw a really awesome house that someone else made and you decided to paint the house as you remember it. only after you finish the museum where you had the painting hanging burns it without the maker of the house (who likely wouldn't care, or may have even been honored someone like it that much) even knowing the painting existed in the first place.

       

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      Mike (profile), Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      It would be like me taking the content from TechDirt and republishing it without crediting you or your site. I don't think you would appreciate it.

      Actually, we don't mind. We've said this so many times that this is getting ridiculous. I'll repeat it for you again, since apparently you're new:

      http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20070412/183135#c612

      ---
      And as we've said repeatedly, we have no problem with people taking our content and reposting it. It's funny how many people come here, like yourself, and assume you've found some "gotcha." You haven't. There already are about 10 sites that copy Techdirt, post for post. Some of them give us credit. Some of them don't. We don't go after any of them.

      Here's why:

      1. None of those sites get any traffic. By itself, they offer nothing special.

      2. If anything, it doesn't take people long to read those sites and figure out that the content is really from Techdirt. Then they just come here to the original source. So, it tends to help drive more traffic to us. That's cool.

      3. As soon as the people realize the other sites are simply copying us, it makes those sites look really, really bad. If you want to risk your reputation like that, go ahead, but it's a big risk.

      4. A big part of the value of Techdirt is the community here. You can't just replicate that.

      5. Another big part of the value of Techdirt is that we, the writers, engage in the comments. You absolutely cannot fake that on your own site.

      So, really, what's the purpose of copying our content, other than maybe driving a little traffic our way?

      So, if you really want to, I'd suggest it's pretty dumb, but go ahead.
      ---

      So, please don't create strawmen arguments that are wrong. You are wrong.

      Why the hell would you expect them NOT to do this? Why would anyone expose themselves to infringment cases because some stupid 12 year old wants to put a logo from someone elses product in the game?

      Because it will piss customers off and they'll go use other games.

      Certainly you aren't so stupid to think that Sony would just let people include protected, copyrighted, or trademarked materials in the user created content?

      Other games do it just fine, and it hasn't damaged anyone's brands. Is everyone just stupid then?

      Why can't you seem to understand that if someone else makes something they have the right to determine how it is used? Why is that concept so hard for you to comprehend?

      I would argue that I understand things just fine.

       

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    Phillip Vector, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    Why can't you seem to understand that if someone else makes something they have the right to determine how it is used? Why is that concept so hard for you to comprehend?

    Simple. They don't have said right.

    Besides the argument about the difference between "Rights" and "Legal ability to do something", you may want to look up "First sale" law. If Sony makes something that users can create things, they really have no say on what is created with the tools provided.

     

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      snowburn14, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:18am

      Re:

      First, in that context, it should be obvious the person meant "legal right", which is rather indistinguishable from "legal ability to do something". Don't split hairs, it looks petty (gotta love irony...)
      Second this in no way falls under the first sale doctrine. I'd suggest you look that one up yourself...
      And Sony isn't saying anything about what you can or can't create with their tools. They're dictating what they will host on their servers. They in fact have the ONLY say on that, thus their vulnerability - real or imagined, I wouldn't know - to lawsuits. I'm sure they could find a way to shield themselves similar to what youtube does, but considering their usual stance on these issues, I certainly wouldn't expect them to.

       

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    smeghammer, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Aliens doom TC

    @Phillip Vector

    That mod was awesome, and is available here:

    http://gzdoom.doomwadstation.com/class.html#atcud21

     

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      Phillip Vector, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:28am

      Re: Aliens doom TC

      OMG!!! I LOVE YOU!!! I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU AND I LOVE YOU!! THANKS! :)

       

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        smeghammer, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 9:40am

        Re: Re: Aliens doom TC

        No problem. ID released doom to the open source community several years ago. Since then, more modern clients have been released, with bugfixes, improved graphics(optional), better visual effects, mouse aiming, etc. You might want to look into the doomsday engine (originally called j-doom), it runs any doom engine wad (doom, hexen, heretic, custom wads) without the need to boot up a dos emulator.

        http://www.doomsdayhq.com/

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:33am

    Is the PSN ...

    the only way to get LBP levels? Can I transfer a level to a friend by flash drive? Or post to the web? If so, then let them censor for IP. It wont be long before you can find all the levels you could want on the web or news groups.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 10:43am

      Re: Is the PSN ...

      this occurred to me as well, if you can (and even if you can't any bets on how long it takes to have a utility that lets you?) then all this did is make sony look bad and piss of the fans while still letting the content roam free.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:05am

        Re: Re: Is the PSN ...

        You don't have to download themes from the PSN. A few Google searches and you have all the tools and instructions you need to design your own theme. And you don't need to DL it to a flash drive. You can DL directly to the PS3.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:13am

          Re: Re: Re: Is the PSN ...

          so can sony remove the content added in this fashion? if not then this whole escapade was less then pointless...

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:51am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Is the PSN ...

            They are be able to remove the ability to use custom themes and only allow themes DL'ed from the PSN with an update. Same can be said about LBP and it's custom content. It wont work unless it has been signed by PSN for example.

            And I don't think it would be pointless if then did allow levels DL'ed from the net. It's a good way to cover their asses in this lawyer driven world we have. If some other site is offering PSN "banned" content then it's not their problem.

             

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    ECA (profile), Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:00am

    You REALLY expect?

    Look,
    the console companies have been TRYING to get GAMES OFF the PC.
    With that they ALSO want control, OVEr HARDWARE and SOFTWARE.
    Hardware,
    CHANGE everything every 5 years to force you to UPGRADE to NEW units, that are at OVER INFLATED prices.
    Software,
    CONTROL CONTROL CONTROL...No one can take it away from you, and EVERY software company HAS TO go thru you to SELL their GOODS.. you get your 50% markup and the Maker gets SQUAT..
    (lookup Atari vs Activision)

     

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    Jeff Rife, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 11:56am

    "Castle Wolfenstein" really didn't get any user mods. It was an Apple II game with an overhead view.

    "Wolfenstein 3D" was the game by id that was one of the first to really allow (and promote) user mods.

     

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    james, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 1:57pm

    What a shock, the freetards at Techdirt complaining about not getting something for nothing.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 2:18pm

      Re:

      no, we are complaining about a company removing something that the average person created (with the express intent of sharing it with other people) for no reason.

      please go troll somewhere else.

       

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        Get over it, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 3:20pm

        Re: Re:

        perhaps the reason is copyright infringement? it does list in the eula a few things that will get your level pulled, it's pretty simple, if you want your level up, come up with something original and obey the eula, whats the problem??

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 4:08pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          maybe because it actually isn't copyright infringement? do you really know what copyright infringement is?

          making a level shaped like a PS3 isn't copyright infringement.

          naming a map "Failure to launch" is not a copyright issue,

          even if you create material that would be infringing it falls under fair use if you don't share it with anyone.

          yet all these examples and more were taken down.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 3:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That one was on his moon, was it even ever published?

            If people came up with their own characters/stories there wouldn't be a problem, use your own imagination people

             

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          Anonymous Coward, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 4:21pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          what's infringing about this level?

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nk3M7pwchB0

          one of the many MANY innocent things that sony deleted for no reason.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 3:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Maybe that one got grief reported for having golly wogs in it.... it's not always ip/copyright infringement

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Nov 12th, 2008 @ 7:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              what is a golly wog? I've never heard of that phrase before and wikipedia doesn't have it...

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 2:54pm

    You want to know of the biggest irony about this?

    The LBP people removed a level based around the PlayStation 3.

    That's right, they removed a level based around THE GAME CONSOLE THE GAME WAS EXCLUSIVELY RELEASED ON.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Andr, Nov 11th, 2008 @ 7:19pm

    "have apparently started deleting any and all levels that include any mention of anything that might be construed as someone else's intellectual property."

    The entire level itself actually IS someone else's intellectual property.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    justin, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 10:29pm

    wtf

    alright, i downloaded a online game called combat arms. once the program was downloaded i registered my account. well the screen comes up to login etc. as soon as i log in it shuts the whole program down. So the only thing i could think of was to uninstall and reinstall the program. well after that still the shutting down once logged in.

    If anyone can help me find out whats wrong with my computer plz let me know. ty

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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