from the sigh dept
We've talked often about how common it is for legitimate customers to get caught up in attempts to thwart piracy and copyright infringement. From DRM keeping legit purchasers from using what they paid for to Fair Use uses of content getting taken down by automatic systems on sites like YouTube, it's worth noting whenever this happens. After all, there is an expression in the legal system that goes something like: I'd rather set 100 guilty people free than imprison a single innocent. The stakes when it comes to copyright aren't as high as jail time, typically, but it's interesting how little this mantra penetrates with those who would enforce copyright via carpet-bomb rather than a scalpel.
Take the recent incident with Sega's Steam Workshop mod-space, for instance, where dozens and dozens of mods within the platform suddenly disappeared.
Earlier this year Sega opened a Steam Workshop section for their Sega Mega Drive & Genesis Classics Hub, allowing modders to tinker with emulated versions of games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage. On Tuesday, dozens of those mods were removed without explanation.
Modders asking why their creations were taken down have received a stock reply from Steam Support: “Due to reporting of content that violates the Steam Terms of Service, the content in question has been removed from the Steam Community.”
Now, some of the mods taken down did indeed violate Steam's ToS, including some that weren't so much mods as they were full uploads of classic Sega games. Those takedowns make perfect sense. But many other mods were exactly the type that Sega itself had allowed, if not encouraged, which certainly did not violate the ToS. These included game mods to make games easier, mods to mix Sega games with the original music from their PC counterparts, and even mods designed to help those with certain disabilities play classic Sega games. We've even noted recently that Sega has made it clear that it wants gamers to mod its games in this way, even poking at its competitors for issuing these kinds of takedowns. So what gives?
Well, in a later update, PC Gamer posts a response from Sega. It essentially acknowledges that a bunch of innocent mods were taken down by an automated system not intelligent enough to discern between what was allowed and not allowed.
"SEGA would like to reiterate how delighted it is with how the Mega Drive/Genesis Collection community has self-moderated content on Steam Workshop. We've seen some fantastic mods created and released on the platform and want to encourage the community's continued creativity by helping to curate a library of outstanding mods.
"However, due to some erratic user behaviour over the last few days, many mods which didn't breach Steam's terms of service were automatically removed from Steam Workshop. SEGA and Valve are working together with the affected modders to reinstate their work as soon as possible and have already reversed a number of removals.
"SEGA and Valve are not actively removing mods that do not violate the terms of service, only those that do. We appreciate the help of the community's self-moderation in removing illegal or offensive content to maintain the high standard of legal mods on the platform. If you feel your mod does not breach the Steam terms of service but was removed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and SEGA will investigate."
Which, fine, but why not just reverse the automated process, put everything back up, and use those same Sega investigators to only take down the infringing mods? Why does the human element always seem to be reserved for remedying the mistakes as opposed to preventing them? Why must innocent modders suffer, like a villager caught in a cluster bomb?