Jimquisition: Piracy Episode One - Copyright

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THANK YOU JIM! Metal Arms is my all time favorite game ever made, and yes, it was destroyed because of copyright.

What's more: I've actually emailed Steve Ranck to tell him my love of Metal Arms. Let me post the actual exchange I had with him. Take a look escapists!

Dear Steve Ranck,

Hello. My name is Giando Sigurani, and I just wanted to tell you that Metal Arms: Glitch in the System was, and remains, my favorite game.

I discovered it when I was in high school. I just couldn't believe that such a high quality game COULD exist. It was so full of heart, the lines of dialog were gut-bustingly funny, the environments were as diverse and expansive as the available weapons, and, of course it was incredibly fun. My favorite thing about it was the final boss; no game I have ever encountered has done a final boss fight so well. It was the only one I've ever played since the old NES days where you can only win after expending all your best weapons, grenades, and healing items, and by the time General Corrosive finally keels over, you've only got an eighth of an inch left on your last health bar and Glitch is smoking like a Cuban cigar czar on his day off.

Now, ten years later, I'm playing games that just don't have nearly the same amount of soul. Every game company seems to be required by law to hold down imaginative people and force them to draw space marines until all their dreams and hopes float out the window. Games like gears of war have the EXACT same environment throughout the whole game, heck, throughout TWO whole games, and they have twice the processing power at their expense! If Metal Arms can take you through a junk yard, military trenches, a desert base, a space ship and a mining town in the space of ten hours, then WHY can't anyone else?

So I just wanted to say: Good job. You've made a game that has a special place in my heart, and always will. I know that the only thing stopping you from making another Metal Arms is that you just don't know who you sold the rights to, be it Blizzard, vivendi, Sierra, or whomever. But it would mean a lot to me to see another installment of such a brilliant franchise in my lifetime. Iron Star still remains one of my favorite game worlds to visit for reliable thrills; I'd like more than anything to do so again!

Sincerely,

Giando

Steve's Reply:

Hi Giando,

Thanks so much for writing. It means a lot to hear how much you enjoy Metal Arms. As a development team, we had a blast working on the game. Hard to believe it's been nearly 7 years since it hit the shelves and we're still getting fan mail.

Although Swingin' Ape no longer exists and the team is scattered about, I appreciated your comments so much that I forwarded your email to the senior development staff, all of whom still stay in touch. They wanted me to pass along a heartfelt thanks.

As you mentioned, I tried to acquire the IP several years ago but Vivendi had no interest in selling it. Now that Activision is involved, I just don't see it ever happening.

Thanks again for writing and for the kudos!

Steve

You heard it straight from his mouth: His own creation was stolen from him.

METAL ARMS: Relevant in all things.

Giandroid:

You heard it straight from his mouth: His own creation was stolen from him.

Escapist piracy apologist logic:
Copying without permission from the owner, i.e taking something without paying for it - not stealing.
Buying an idea from somebody else, i.e. taking something and paying for it - stealing.

He wasn't paid for it. You see, with books, which I write, you don't have to give up your IP in order to get your work published. Not so with video game publishers. That's the entry fee. You're actually paying them, and the price is the right to your own idea. You HAVE to give up your idea If you want to get your game published with a big publisher like Vivendi. You don't get the option of publishing it somewhere else later, even if you're unhappy with your publisher. It's no longer "yours."

Maybe it's not stealing legally, but it is ethically questionable.

And maybe game creators have more options now, but they didn't back in 2004 when Metal Arms came out.

Sober Thal:

newdarkcloud:

Sober Thal:

Creators have a choice to sign these contracts. Are we implying that these people who make games don't know how to read?

Publishers won't even look at a developer if the developer wants to keep the majority share of the rights to the IP. The only exception is when the developer has already become well known enough to have publishers compete for them.

What's wrong with that? Are publishers just supposed to gamble away money on possible crap product?

What, are consumers supposed to gamble their money away on possible crap and marketing hype? Because that's what we do with every release right now since we can't return it!

JMeganSnow:

Bostur:

Korten12:

... snip ...
But shouldn't there be the option to only allow some people to edit or expand on the works or none at all. For like, ever?

I don't think authors should have that power from beyond the grave. Art is for the living, not the dead. I think it's reasonable to try to make sure that the original author is credited for the original work. So for instance no one else than Tolkien can take credit for LOTR. I think it's also important to try preserve those original works of art so they can be compared to later interpretations and spinoffs.
But new artists needs to be able to renew these stories in a contemporary context. Maybe that results in a holo-deck version of LOTR where Boromir lives, thats the choice of the coming generations.

Authors should have some power from beyond the grave, but it should be *strictly limited in duration*. Otherwise, you'd have a problem where an author sells a novel or work of art, only to die a week later. It can't immediately go into public domain because then the person or persons who paid for the work have no chance to earn their deserved profits.

Now, I don't like the *current* time limitations. To me, they seem excessive. At *most*, it should be author's lifetime + 18 years, which is enough time for any of the author's minor children to reach adulthood. This should pertain even if the author retained no rights whatsoever to their work. Same expiration date. It doesn't necessarily even have to be that long--after all, IP creators can buy life insurance just like everybody else.

The principled thing to do, in my mind, would be to make the copyright last until the owner takes it out of production. If they want to keep printing new copies or maintaining the website where you can download it, they still own it. If the book is out of print or the video game servers are shut off, that seems like as good a time as any to have the copyright expire. It'd also make IP owners think long and hard about whether they're truly done with it before they shut down their site or whatever.

It'd also be a great thing to distinguish between copyright and trademark or brand. The copyright should expire. Maybe the trademark/brand should function differently. No, it SHOULD function differently, because it IS different.

In my mind, in this day and age of information sharing technology and know-how, copyrights should only be allowed something like 5 years (or some other short amount of time). You can "extend" this 5 years, by continuing to produce something from your original work for another "X" amount, up to a limit. And that limit should be low.

The point of this is for a creator to make something, make their buck off it, and then that content passes into public domain, so everyone can benefit from creating with it, and within their lifetime (mainly so they can draw upon their own experiences and learnings to create something). This way human society can grow and change with the times, rather than stagnate indefinitely...

Awesome. Between you, Yahtzee and MovieBob, I get more enjoyment (and thought-provoking entertainment) from The Escapist than from any other media outlet lately.

Jim is a bad enough dude to save the internet!

Today on the news I saw on the bottom of the screen that a Canadian record label got pissed at someone for using their song in a marketing campaign. This supports Jim's views on copyright law.

Lord_Jaroh:

The point of this is for a creator to make something, make their buck off it, and then that content passes into public domain, so everyone can benefit from creating with it, and within their lifetime (mainly so they can draw upon their own experiences and learnings to create something). This way human society can grow and change with the times, rather than stagnate indefinitely...

this. a thousand times

Commenting purely for the fact Jim used the coverart of the Nine Inch Nails album, The Slip.

Trent Reznor of NIN had a falling out with his record label over fans downloading songs that he himself had released freely during the ARG for the Year Zero album. After the album was released, he cut ties with Universal Music Group [and even went as far to tell fans at concerts to illegally download his music instead of giving UMG their money]

Since then he released NIN's last two albums for free download via the band's website under the Creative Commons license, as their own record label, The Null Corporation.

Sober Thal:
~snipsnip~

Formatting? What? Did it confuse you? Probably not... you were distracted by the [39]? Or was it the fact the fact that Jabba ate a group of young kids that had a good idea and that became part of his Sarlacc pit? What are you really defending here?

Yeah, Jabba no bargain, became, Gabe will come and eat you for your idea! He will then absorb your idea as his own, and you will never feel any pain. Give up your rights for this great game that we will make part of our God Damned flagship, and we will (kinda) shower you with money, but keep the rights for future games! Sure you won't own the rights to Portal, but you have the choice to get paid for it!~ We aren't anything like other companies... we won't allow you to keep any independent name... you have to become us first. You must let Jabba eat you!

THEY MADE A FUCKING CHOICE! WHAT DON'T YOU FUCKING GET ABOUT THAT!!! duh!!!!

Sorry. You are getting carried away by the whole "I wanna nit pick anything you say to be able to defend my love ox Valve!" If you can't talk openly about these things, don't bother quoting me again.

EDIT: Sorry, I get what you are saying, I don't agree with the whole thing, but please forgive me if I sound rude 'at' you. I don't want to be an ass and just say you're wrong, I don't want to have my view tossed aside because I'm saying things the wrong way either.

My point is: It's possible to make a great idea for a game, and to also survive the politics of the industry. To say it's impossible just really upsets me, cause I don't believe it's a be all end all fact.

I can't really understand the gibberish I'm quoting right now but it's okay since that's not what I want to address. You've stated before in this thread that Valve publishes games. It doesn't, really. Valve hires teams to develop its own games, it doesn't do what Activision and EA do and just buy all the rights and throw devs away like disposable tissues after. To this effect, valve is an independent developer because it publishes its own games. In Portal's case, the team who made Narbacular Drop still owns the rights to Narbacular Drop. Portal was co-developed alongside employees of Valve, while they were working AS employees of Valve and is as much a Valve product as it is their own. It's a bit different than the publisher - developer relationship EA handles.
And Notch is an exception, not the rule. A game like Minecraft doesn't come along every day, and it'd be folly to assume it would under any circumstance. There are many indie devs who have made genuinely fun, quality games but have only gotten a fraction of the money they would have gotten if they sold their rights to a publisher and gave them free reign to any abuse they want out of the system. The copyright law is there to promote diversity, not scarcity, which is the mechanism that operates all great innovation. Nowadays it's easier to self-publish, and that's exactly what scares the big names. Because unlesss something like SOPA happens, it'll just keep getting easier. The industry is changing for the better, and it's the major publishers who are the bad guys for trying to stop that from happening.
I hope this clears up some misconceptions. If I misunderstood what you were saying or I'm not expressing myself too clearly, feel free to tell me.

Robert B. Marks:

I'm not going to reply in this thread more than once - I have found that online arguments don't tend to be worth the time. But, if you want your example, here's one: Epic. They started as a PC company called Epic Megagames, and have since moved to consoles. Their console titles do get PC releases, but by a different company.

But, if you really want a better picture, read this: http://www.tweakguides.com/Piracy_5.html

That link is from a website that did a proper analysis of the numbers, and talked about why the migration from a PC market measured in billions of PCs to a console market of under 100 million consoles took place.

And that's all I have to say on the subject.

Wait a second. The migration to the console market has been made on largely misunderstood issues - namely, that every pirated copy is a lost sale, and that there are less pirates on consoles (although if there are less console users it's normal for there to be less piracy). Knowing this, is it still alright to put the blame solely on piracy, and not the lack of understanding regarding the issue?
Yes, I'm saying the migration to the console market was an idea born of ignorance. The sad part is that the same ignorance still persists today, with a publisher looking at the number of downloaded copies and going "and THIS is how much money I've lost".

Major, major, MAJOR kudos for knowing Metal Arms and reporting it's demise. I'd always wondered why I never saw a sequel. You could see some of it's influence in Starcraft: Ghost before they post-poned it (look for some of the footage online, the marine's walking animation is really reminiscent of the droids walking for some reason, but I can't explain how exactly).

Caverat:
Also, anyone who is okay with copyright infringement against big time publishers, but in anyway changes their tone when discussing indie developers is a cunt. Period. (See what I did there?)

Good for you for being morally consistent like that :) It's difficult to be morally consistent and also be a copyright supporter like that.

There are lots of unpleasant implications to the notion that someone can control the property and actions of a peaceful person, just because he's inspired to recreate the works that originated from someone else.

Individuals propagating and reproducing the good parts of the world around them is how human society grows. We all give up a lot when that gets banned and punished.

You could say that it's fine to restrict people's ability to reproduce the ideas and expressions around them, so long as you don't go to far; so long as you pick and choose when it's okay and when it isn't. But you don't do that :) You're morally consistent. I like that.

mellemhund:
Well if McD serves bad food, you can get a refund. If a game is crap, it's just too bad. So it is only natural to test if the product is actually what is promised. How else would one know what publishers to avoid?

Why can't you get a refund on a game? It happens all the time.

You know Jim, when you're not pretending to masturbate to yourself day and night (jesus, I hope you're pretending), you can make a damn good point.

It's good to be critical and rebellious of big corporations, but always be cautious when rallying against them. Even though Jim didn't say so, I'm sure some viewers interpreted his message as 'make laws that restrain the publishers!' Well okay, I guess Jim kind of DID imply that the Copyright law needs to be changed.

Here's the thing, artists willingly sold their creative ideas to the publisher. If the company decides to take the creation away from the artist, they totally can if the contract they both agreed to allows that. Like imagine selling all your belongings to some guy, then complaining that he ran away with all of it.

Jim mentioned that artists can distribute their creations themselves nowadays, and that publishers are becoming less relevant. Yeah, that's pretty much the whole solution right there. If enough game designers stop selling their souls to EA and Activision, we'll be able to get by without the big companies. Actually, what will inevitably happen is that those companies will start treating their artists much better in order to compete, and then everything will be a million times better for everybody.

The solution is absolutely not to strangle the corporations down with laws. Likely, the first corporation that figures out how to slip past or even abuse the new law will be the corporation to take back the oppressive, destructive monopoly. But even if that didn't happen; it's so much better and so much easier to just let the free market work on its own.

Awesome episode.

Not only Jim's best episode, but one of the best things on this website, far better than the things that came out from "extra credits" if you remember that show.

Well, not to completely miss the message here (Which I got), but that was probably the MOST dildos I have ever seen in a single video...EVER.

Sober Thal,

Your comments on this thread seem to indicate that you like to be punched in the nuts.
All this nonsense about how its the developers fault and yada yada. You seriously care that much for giant money-raking publishers and so little for the people that make the games you love?

You're like a wife who apologizes for being beat by her husband.

Look, I get that you're just looking at this from a logical, scientific, action-reaction stand point. Your logic is sound in many cases but sometimes empathy has to play a part in your decision. You're really not helping anyone by making these arguments.

sometimes facts don't matter. They really don't, because the world is made of people, not information.

Sure, the developers could have made a different decision about selling their rights away, but I guarantee they didn't think they would have their game would be ripped away from them in the blink of an eye.

Although I don't support piracy for the most part I have to agree. Can't criticize people from stealing from an already broken system.

Stemer:
Hang on if anyone said this on the forums they would get banned faster than you could say "hypocrisy".

I completely agree with Jim though, and that was a great episode.

I know this is old but you said it man.

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