Letter From the Staff

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Letter From the Staff

Looking back at our record of published material, we began to see that certain core values, unexpressed but ever present, had shaped which articles we'd published and which topics we'd covered. We resolved that in the New Year, we would compile and publish these values in a written statement. We'd clarify our biases. We'd express our positions. We'd be open about what we stood for, and encourage others to be, too.

These are our positions. This is what we stand for.

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You guys actively support letting companies have full ownership & control of user-mods provided they give fair warning? Man, with all the talk about owning intellectual property and letting people use games to explore a wide array of topics...that seems a little bit counter-intuitive.

In their current form they're mostly derivative and I don't think any of them remotely deserve contesting ownership. But as people are able to dump more of their own art, sound, and design into the mods I think at some point that line is going to get crossed.

Interesting, but kinda pointless lil document which seemed to say "we walk the line"

I'm interested to hear how my illicit downloading of a copy of a Custer's Revenge ROM is hurting the publisher, developer, the PC gaming market, or well, anybody other than a pixelated Native American.

I thought it was a great document, but one segment did give me pause; the "diversity in games" section made me stumble, but only because I was approaching it in terms of "Yeah, developers should try exploring new genres instead of cranking out the same old ones" and not in the terms you were addressing.

Good stuff.

-- Steve

An interesting if less than radical read.

It seems, to my understanding at least, that your current stand point is that developers can do what they like with their games as long as they tell us in advance. While this is all fine and dandy, they did put all the time and money into creating the software after all, it seems to be at odds with what you as a publication "that wasn't afraid to tackle the hard issues facing the game industry". To my mind a stand point that would be of greater value to all parties would be one based on the rights of gamers (which in your current ideals seems to be buy it or dont) as well as developers.

Just my 2cents.

*Edit* You also fail to mention anything regarding abandonware beyond the standard piracy is bad line.

I would also be interested to know what you propose as a sutible replacment to the pre-owned games market? A solution that is good for both players and developers, if I dont like a game I should be allowed to sell it on, should I not?

I'd like to know what is your official opinion about the "piracy" of 10+ years old games ?
(Oh, how much I'd love that one of the Escapist's staff answer me..)

Publishers can protect their work all right ; but I'd like them to do it with something else than online activation and limited install, it just doesn't strike me as justifiable either .

Painting the question as of one "piracy of 10+ years old games" makes it overly simplistic, don't you think? For instance, Ultima Online is 10 years old, but pirating Ultima Online seems like it is still piracy. Ultima is a commercial game that continues to operate and charge users.

If you want to formulate a policy on abandonware you need to address:
- the age of the game,
- its continuing suitability for commercial exploitation,
- the intent of the copyright holders,
- the public benefit of enabling the property to enter the public domain, and
- the length of time that the property has been abandoned (most important of all!)

The issue of abandonware is closely analagous to the issue of adverse possession in real property law. In case you're not familiar with that term: If you abandon your home and I live there for twenty years, and you then return and try to kick me out, the doctrine of "adverse possession" will give me title to your property.

Or, from Wikipedia, "adverse possession is based on the doctrine of laches, which states that neglect to assert a right together with lapse of time and other circumstances prejudices an adverse party." In short, it puts a statute of limitation on your ability to exercise your property rights, if you stop exercising them. (If you continuously exercise them, this never occurs). Sounds a lot like the idea of abandonware, right? It's a centuries-old common law doctrine.

Applying similar reasoning, if I let my game slip out of circulation for a year, it's hard to claim it is abandonware. If I let my game slip out of circulation for 20 years, during which time it is freely distributed around the web, right in front of my nose, and never say or do anything about it, then it seems like it should hard for me to claim decades later that this is all piracy and I'm very upset about it.

So do we believe that there should be something similar for games, so that there is a moral and legal point at which a game is abandoned and should be considered to have entered the public domain? Yes.

Does our legal system currently have such a provision for copyright? No. Maybe not. Not sure. Copyright law is a jumbled mess.

Did we want to jumble up our position paper with legal analogies to adverse possession and intricate copyright arguments? No. It would take a full paper in itself. Maybe we will draft that, if there's enough interest. We weren't even sure anyone would read THIS paper!

Fair play. I love a bit of transparency me.

The unrestrained cynic in me thinks it's little surprise to see that piracy of any form isn't supported by the escapist -- pirates don't buy ads that keep them employed.

That said, I tend to agree with the document, and Archon's explanation thereof, my only personal nitpick that I think a more nuanced view about user created content may have been appropriate, and more fitting with the overall idea that the creator of what entertains us is the one that deserves the rights over that. So while recognize the right of the developer of the environment to say what rights go where, a statement of belief that intelligent developers give certain rights to those who do develop additional content -- perhaps maintaining for themselves the right only to eliminate those things they do not feel appropriate to their creation.

Archon:
Painting the question as of one "piracy of 10+ years old games" makes it overly simplistic, don't you think? For instance, Ultima Online is 10 years old, but pirating Ultima Online seems like it is still piracy. Ultima is a commercial game that continues to operate and charge users.

If you want to formulate a policy on abandonware you need to address:
- the age of the game,
- its continuing suitability for commercial exploitation,
- the intent of the copyright holders,
- the public benefit of enabling the property to enter the public domain, and
- the length of time that the property has been abandoned (most important of all!)

The issue of abandonware is closely analagous to the issue of adverse possession in real property law. In case you're not familiar with that term: If you abandon your home and I live there for twenty years, and you then return and try to kick me out, the doctrine of "adverse possession" will give me title to your property.

Or, from Wikipedia, "adverse possession is based on the doctrine of laches, which states that neglect to assert a right together with lapse of time and other circumstances prejudices an adverse party." In short, it puts a statute of limitation on your ability to exercise your property rights, if you stop exercising them. (If you continuously exercise them, this never occurs). Sounds a lot like the idea of abandonware, right? It's a centuries-old common law doctrine.

Applying similar reasoning, if I let my game slip out of circulation for a year, it's hard to claim it is abandonware. If I let my game slip out of circulation for 20 years, during which time it is freely distributed around the web, right in front of my nose, and never say or do anything about it, then it seems like it should hard for me to claim decades later that this is all piracy and I'm very upset about it.

So do we believe that there should be something similar for games, so that there is a moral and legal point at which a game is abandoned and should be considered to have entered the public domain? Yes.

Does our legal system currently have such a provision for copyright? No. Maybe not. Not sure. Copyright law is a jumbled mess.

Did we want to jumble up our position paper with legal analogies to adverse possession and intricate copyright arguments? No. It would take a full paper in itself. Maybe we will draft that, if there's enough interest. We weren't even sure anyone would read THIS paper!

Thank you for your answer , I actually did not expect it.

Yes, I was being overly simplistic , but I was implying (at least in my mind) most of what you just said.
Maybe you should draft it after all , but I can understand if you want to keep it simple.
:)

Archon:

Did we want to jumble up our position paper with legal analogies to adverse possession and intricate copyright arguments? No. It would take a full paper in itself. Maybe we will draft that, if there's enough interest. We weren't even sure anyone would read THIS paper!

Why don't you make that your position? That there isn't enough discussion of the issue--especially by people interested in doing things like making legal analogies as opposed to people advocating for one side at all costs--in order to take a position, and that any position worth taking is going to wind up being a full paper in itself, and not a tag line?

As it stands now, the person who pirates software from a paying customer is in a greater category of wrongdoing than someone who buys an illegal copy of the software from a bootlegger: if I buy stolen goods, I'm just guilty of buying stolen goods, right? While if I pirate software, you're saying I've actually stolen.

Even if you're certain that no piracy is justifiable, why not take the position that while it's not justifiable, neither is it stealing? Just because you disagree with one side of the argument, you don't have to adopt the vocabulary of the extremists on the other side. We have plenty of words for wrongful use--embezzlement, infringement, etc.--so I have to ask: why did you settle on the word *stealing*?

Also, why is the legal and the practical conflated with the moral? Aren't those three different questions?

+++++

Why is there a disclaimer at the beginning of this question: "Do we need more diversity in games?" that isn't in "Is the used games and games rental business good for consumers and game companies?" and "How much compensation do game creators deserve for making a hit game?"

Why is the "current used games business and game rental business" and example of "poor business practices" because they "put the retailer in ongoing conflict with the game companies" and "will lead to fewer games, less innovation, and higher prices"? Why should retailers care about any of those things? Isn't that just an *unfortunate* business practice for the consumer and the game companies, and a GOOD--the opposite of bad--business practice for the game retailer? What's wrong with conflict in a market economy?

Do you think maybe you've taken a vantage point that privileges the game companies in this manifesto? Jumping back and forth in using words like "good" and "justifiable" from the moral to the legal sense in order to make an argument that sees the rights and wants of the game companies first, the consumer second, and the retailer practically non-existent?

+++++

Why is the issue of game companies tying a purchase to a particular user/console/account/etc. not addressed, when the technology to do so is basically here, and would end the used/rented game issue overnight?

+++++

Why do you say that "damage caused by pirates is absorbed by legitimate game consumers in the form of higher prices and, indirectly, in fewer games being made overall."?

One, aren't prices set at a level of maximal return? In other words, if selling for $30 will get three customers, $50 two, and $70 one, doesn't the company sell for $50 regardless of how many pirates there are because $100>$90>$70?

Two, are you sure fewer games are being made overall? I'm sure you're familiar with the DRM letter from Stardock about Sins of a Solar Empire, where they talked about how games get made for the market of people who will buy games and not pirate them, just like the styles of Window Blinds reflect the desires of the people who actually buy Window Blinds (or whatever it was called).

I mean, there's what--three Europe Universalis games out now, with tons of expansion packs? Didn't Mount & Blade just come out? Are you sure there are less gamings coming out because of piracy, or are there just *different* games coming out as the hobby evolves? I mean, Russ Pitts talked of an isomorphic, turn based Fallout being unplayable, but a new Fallout certainly did come out. Are you sure that when you say there are less games coming out that you're not looking at how certain styles of games are no longer coming out, while ignoring the new styles of games that are coming out, or that certain styles are more diverse than they ever were?

Which leads to the question: when you say "Piracy of games has been a leading cause of the decline of the PC as a platform" what do you mean by the word "decline"? Personally, I'm continually amazed when I look at the offerings of Strategy First and Paradox, which makes it hard for me to understand how someone could say PC gaming is in decline.

Now, PC gaming isn't at the *center* of gaming like it was, but, is that really a decline? Is it a decline to see the shelves of Babbages and EB lined with used console games in place of PC games? And does that have anything to do with piracy? Or is it that it's far easier for retailers to sell a used console game than a used PC game? Or that the console has become ubiquitous and so the blockbuster games have moved from the PC to the console?

Maybe that word 'decline' has to be better defined--to me, it's a relative decline if anything, as new gamers tend to be console gamers and not PC gamers percentage wise. Is that the result of piracy, though? Or is that the result of consoles turning people into gamers that the PC would never have reached in the first place?

incal11:
I'd like to know what is your official opinion about the "piracy" of 10+ years old games ?
(Oh, how much I'd love that one of the Escapist's staff answer me..)

Thank you for your answer , I actually did not expect it.

Oh, if there's one thing this staff will do, it's answer ya. They certainly give as good as they get, and aren't afraid to tangle it up.

If you've ever wondered why the level of discussion here is orders of magnitude higher than anywhere else, it's because the staff set the tone for these forums back in the day. You don't see them as much anymore, I guess because this place seems to have really taken off as a business--good for them, they deserve it--and because they write less and less of the articles (again, good for them for being able to get the content rolling in).

This was a great read. While at first I thought that it could use more depth - as others noted above - I'm pretty sure that would have the opposite of the intended effect.

A number of broad, reasonable statements that everyone can embrace is good as far as vision statements go. As you add resolution and depth, it becomes harder and harder to make statements that everyone can agree with. In an effort to please everyone, you end up with a document that nobody really likes.

I also like that while unifying, it gives lots of room for individuals on the staff to embrace different positions. It might be a matter of personal taste, but I don't become a fan of periodicals, I become a fan of an individual writers working for the periodical. Too many places (and I'm sure you know who I mean) are going for that one-voice approach, and their voice ends up bring a bland monotone.

Crap. Another overlong forum post that I should have just put on my blog. Apologies.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Why don't you make that your position? That there isn't enough discussion of the issue--especially by people interested in doing things like making legal analogies as opposed to people advocating for one side at all costs--in order to take a position, and that any position worth taking is going to wind up being a full paper in itself, and not a tag line?

Because there's a lot of issues we didn't tackle for that reason. The point wasn't to necessarily answer every question, but to state ones that we did feel we had answers to.

As it stands now, the person who pirates software from a paying customer is in a greater category of wrongdoing than someone who buys an illegal copy of the software from a bootlegger: if I buy stolen goods, I'm just guilty of buying stolen goods, right? While if I pirate software, you're saying I've actually stolen.

Even if you're certain that no piracy is justifiable, why not take the position that while it's not justifiable, neither is it stealing? Just because you disagree with one side of the argument, you don't have to adopt the vocabulary of the extremists on the other side. We have plenty of words for wrongful use--embezzlement, infringement, etc.--so I have to ask: why did you settle on the word *stealing*?

Steal means "to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as a habitual or regular practice" and "to take from another without right and without detection." That is the word for what is going on, no?

Other words, such as robbery, larceny, embezzlement, and infringement, are all defined specific legal terms. Stealing is not. Its a synonym for pilfer, filch, and purloin, but it has the virtue of being easily understood in common parlance. "Piracy is pilfering!" lacks bite, no?

Also, why is the legal and the practical conflated with the moral? Aren't those three different questions?

Sorry - could you give me the context of where this is aimed?

Why is there a disclaimer at the beginning of this question: "Do we need more diversity in games?" that isn't in "Is the used games and games rental business good for consumers and game companies?" and "How much compensation do game creators deserve for making a hit game?"

The straight answers is that we wrote our positions first, then phrased the questions for what we had written as answers.

The philosophical answer is that the question is itself part of the position. For example, if we had asked "Do game creators deserve compensation for making a hit game", that would have implied that the core issue of compensation for artistic creation was open to question here at The Escapist, whereas as written, the question suggests that we are evaluating how much game creation should be valued, relative to other things.

Why is the "current used games business and game rental business" and example of "poor business practices" because they "put the retailer in ongoing conflict with the game companies" and "will lead to fewer games, less innovation, and higher prices"? Why should retailers care about any of those things? Isn't that just an *unfortunate* business practice for the consumer and the game companies, and a GOOD--the opposite of bad--business practice for the game retailer? What's wrong with conflict in a market economy?

Perhaps "inefficient" or "sub-optimal" would have been a better word, but we were aiming for accessibility. From your studies of economics, you'll know that a business practice can be sub-optimal for the market as a whole even when it benefits one particular market participant. For example, monopolies are "GOOD business practices" (to use your phrase) for the monopolist, but nevertheless are not something we'd recommend.

Do you think maybe you've taken a vantage point that privileges the game companies in this manifesto? Jumping back and forth in using words like "good" and "justifiable" from the moral to the legal sense in order to make an argument that sees the rights and wants of the game companies first, the consumer second, and the retailer practically non-existent?

At least with regards to this question, I know that we have. We never claimed that we'd be value neutral as between game companies, consumers, and retailers on any given issue. We're giving our position, not outlining every possible position. That was, as I said, the whole point; to make it clear where we were coming from. So at the risk of alienating EB Games we took this position.

Why is the issue of game companies tying a purchase to a particular user/console/account/etc. not addressed, when the technology to do so is basically here, and would end the used/rented game issue overnight?

The original draft had several proposed solutions to the used/rented game issue, but our advisory board recommended we simply state our positions, not try to solve the problems.

And, again, we are trying to keep it succinct and readable. Obviously we've already published hundreds of thousands of words on topics similar to these with in-depth discussions of many of these topics.

Why do you say that "damage caused by pirates is absorbed by legitimate game consumers in the form of higher prices and, indirectly, in fewer games being made overall."?

One, aren't prices set at a level of maximal return? In other words, if selling for $30 will get three customers, $50 two, and $70 one, doesn't the company sell for $50 regardless of how many pirates there are because $100>$90>$70?

To address briefly, if a near or perfect substitute is available at lower cost, it will result in decreased demand for the product (the game). That may actually result in a near-term reduction in the game's price, as the marginal price falls to a price point that will move more units in the face of decreased demand. Long term, however, suppliers will address the decreased demand for games by lowering the number of games they create, decreasing supply. The result is higher prices and fewer games. This is not particularly controversial. If there's enough piracy, eventually production ceases virtually entirely, as it has for many IP-based products in many parts of the world.

Both you and I are engaging in an oversimplification of how prices are set, as I'm sure you know. Since different people have different economic views, I will share that I believe the best example of price theory is the austro-classical theory embodied in Geore Reisman's CAPITALISM: A Treatise on Economics. You can find it on the web as a free PDF. Having each tossed around some econ, I'm afraid I can't spend too much time trading theory here, as it's not a debate that can be resolved on the forums.

Two, are you sure fewer games are being made overall? I'm sure you're familiar with the DRM letter from Stardock about Sins of a Solar Empire, where they talked about how games get made for the market of people who will buy games and not pirate them, just like the styles of Window Blinds reflect the desires of the people who actually buy Window Blinds (or whatever it was called).

I mean, there's what--three Europe Universalis games out now, with tons of expansion packs? Didn't Mount & Blade just come out? Are you sure there are less gamings coming out because of piracy, or are there just *different* games coming out as the hobby evolves? I mean, Russ Pitts talked of an isomorphic, turn based Fallout being unplayable, but a new Fallout certainly did come out. Are you sure that when you say there are less games coming out that you're not looking at how certain styles of games are no longer coming out, while ignoring the new styles of games that are coming out, or that certain styles are more diverse than they ever were?

Certainly if one includes casual games, or what I call (and have given speeches on) "gamer snacks" the PC is far from dead as a platform. We are, in context here, refering to the sort of games that *used* to be predominantly on PC, but now are not, i.e. hardcore games.

Which leads to the question: when you say "Piracy of games has been a leading cause of the decline of the PC as a platform" what do you mean by the word "decline"? Personally, I'm continually amazed when I look at the offerings of Strategy First and Paradox, which makes it hard for me to understand how someone could say PC gaming is in decline.

Hmmm. This is almost a discussion distinct from our position, so I hesitate to get into it, but at least my personal sense is that PC gaming used to be in some way the flagship platform for AAA gaming, and it no longer is. As per your sentence below, you actually agree with me on this, and that if we'd said "decentralization" of gaming this conversation would be shorter.

Now, PC gaming isn't at the *center* of gaming like it was, but, is that really a decline? Is it a decline to see the shelves of Babbages and EB lined with used console games in place of PC games? And does that have anything to do with piracy? Or is it that it's far easier for retailers to sell a used console game than a used PC game? Or that the console has become ubiquitous and so the blockbuster games have moved from the PC to the console?

Why can't it be all of the above? We didn't say that piracy was the exclusive cause of the - ahem - "decentralization" of the PC as a platform.

And obviously the used game issue is closely related to the game piracy issue.

Maybe that word 'decline' has to be better defined--to me, it's a relative decline if anything, as new gamers tend to be console gamers and not PC gamers percentage wise. Is that the result of piracy, though? Or is that the result of consoles turning people into gamers that the PC would never have reached in the first place?

PCs are, if anything, more ubiquituous than consoles, and more casual gaming happens on PCs than on consoles (spades, tetris, etc.) So it's hard, in my opinion, to claim that consoles are inherently more casual or more mainstream than PC games.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

incal11:
I'd like to know what is your official opinion about the "piracy" of 10+ years old games ?
(Oh, how much I'd love that one of the Escapist's staff answer me..)

Thank you for your answer , I actually did not expect it.

Oh, if there's one thing this staff will do, it's answer ya. They certainly give as good as they get, and aren't afraid to tangle it up.

Well, someone has to keep you entertained, Cheeze. ;)

Archon:
Stealing...a synonym for pilfer, filch, and purloin, but it has the virtue of being easily understood in common parlance. "Piracy is pilfering!" lacks bite, no?

I totally agree it lacks bite. Then again, does the word 'stealing' have too much bite? Especially when that word has been taken by one side of the debate the way stealing has? Kinda like the way the words 'life' and 'choice' have an extra dimension in the abortion debate, or when you say 'Republican' in the context of N. Irish politics, it means something way different than when you say it in the context of American politics, and in both cases more than just the simple dictionary definition of that word.

I mean, maybe I'm just being hypersensitive, but to me, choosing to use the word 'stealing' signals to people you line up on one side of the debate, like when you say 'states rights' everyone knows you're talking about curtailing liberal agendas, and not about, say, medical marijuana, or how no one mentioned the phrase "activist judges" in connection with the D.C. gun ban case. Hey--maybe you do, and so that's exactly the word you want to use. However, just thought I'd bring it up, that to me that word not only has bite, but functions as code for a larger stance.

Why is there a disclaimer at the beginning of this question: "Do we need more diversity in games?" that isn't in "Is the used games and games rental business good for consumers and game companies?" and "How much compensation do game creators deserve for making a hit game?"

The straight answers is that we wrote our positions first, then phrased the questions for what we had written as answers.

The philosophical answer is that the question is itself part of the position. For example, if we had asked "Do game creators deserve compensation for making a hit game", that would have implied that the core issue of compensation for artistic creation was open to question here at The Escapist, whereas as written, the question suggests that we are evaluating how much game creation should be valued, relative to other things.

That makes perfect sense, and is consistent with the core values the manifesto expresses, so sure--I get it now.

Why is the "current used games business and game rental business" and example of "poor business practices" because they "put the retailer in ongoing conflict with the game companies" and "will lead to fewer games, less innovation, and higher prices"? Why should retailers care about any of those things? Isn't that just an *unfortunate* business practice for the consumer and the game companies, and a GOOD--the opposite of bad--business practice for the game retailer? What's wrong with conflict in a market economy?

Perhaps "inefficient" or "sub-optimal" would have been a better word, but we were aiming for accessibility.

Sure. I just think in aiming for accessibility, you conflated the legal, the practical, and the moral. But it makes sense in the context of your next answer, so, my point is moot anyway.

Do you think maybe you've taken a vantage point that privileges the game companies in this manifesto? Jumping back and forth in using words like "good" and "justifiable" from the moral to the legal sense in order to make an argument that sees the rights and wants of the game companies first, the consumer second, and the retailer practically non-existent?

At least with regards to this question, I know that we have. We never claimed that we'd be value neutral as between game companies, consumers, and retailers on any given issue. We're giving our position, not outlining every possible position. That was, as I said, the whole point; to make it clear where we were coming from. So at the risk of alienating EB Games we took this position.

Heh--you mean I didn't just imagine that? Maybe that should go in your core values, then? Your core values say they are both, but they are heavy on the political, and light on the ethical, beyond the fact that those political values are also ethical ones. In other words, maybe your core values in the ethical realm beyond the ethics that you think need to have laws attached to them didn't get represented?

Why do you say that "damage caused by pirates is absorbed by legitimate game consumers in the form of higher prices and, indirectly, in fewer games being made overall."?

Having each tossed around some econ, I'm afraid I can't spend too much time trading theory here, as it's not a debate that can be resolved on the forums.

I guess my point is that talking of the "damage" pirates cause and the consumer "absorbing" it signals an ideological stance beyond just the meaning of those words, like with the use of the word "stealing."

Hmmm. This is almost a discussion distinct from our position, so I hesitate to get into it, but at least my personal sense is that PC gaming used to be in some way the flagship platform for AAA gaming, and it no longer is. As per your sentence below, you actually agree with me on this, and that if we'd said "decentralization" of gaming this conversation would be shorter.

I'd 100% agree with all that. Then again, why should anyone care if the PC is the flagship platform for AAA gaming? Again, maybe it's one of those things you don't claim to be value neutral on, that you consider a value, even if not a core value, that the PC somehow should hold that position.

Maybe I'm just coming at it from the position of someone who wants another Master of Orion, and sees no way in which PC gaming being back in the position of the flagship would make that more likely--if anything, I feel as if it would make it less likely. I agree with you though, that it's another discussion: can we really call the original MOO and Civ and Fallout "AAA titles", when that phrase refers to things like Gears of War and Fallout 3 and GTA4?

Maybe that word 'decline' has to be better defined--to me, it's a relative decline if anything, as new gamers tend to be console gamers and not PC gamers percentage wise. Is that the result of piracy, though? Or is that the result of consoles turning people into gamers that the PC would never have reached in the first place?

PCs are, if anything, more ubiquituous than consoles, and more casual gaming happens on PCs than on consoles (spades, tetris, etc.) So it's hard, in my opinion, to claim that consoles are inherently more casual or more mainstream than PC games.

I was actually thinking of all the Bros out there, the kind of people who bought the 32X for their Sega Genesis to play DOOM even if their computer was powerful enough to play DOOM on there. People who would never get into gaming--whether casual or hardcore--if not for consoles.

In the document you stated that you believe that the value of games far outweighs the price we pay for them. So what price do you believe a game is worth paying for, when are the customers being ripped off? This is considering that Australians pay up to $120 for a new game while Americans pay half of that.

L.B. Jeffries:
You guys actively support letting companies have full ownership & control of user-mods provided they give fair warning? Man, with all the talk about owning intellectual property and letting people use games to explore a wide array of topics...that seems a little bit counter-intuitive.

In their current form they're mostly derivative and I don't think any of them remotely deserve contesting ownership. But as people are able to dump more of their own art, sound, and design into the mods I think at some point that line is going to get crossed.

As someone with a deep respect for--and total disagreement with, in that Bob Dylan, 'we always did feel the same/just saw it from a different point of view' "Tangled Up In Blue" sense--what I think are the philosophical underpinnings of this document, let me hazard a guess as to why it actually makes a lot of sense if you accept the four core values.

If you look at the fourth core value, it holds as fundamental "free enterprise, or the right of individuals to buy, sell, and trade their property." What that means is that you can offer your property to others on any terms you want. So if the term 'we get full ownership & control of user-mods' is put up front and the consumer is given fair warning, if the consumer buys the property, they agree to any of the terms the seller has set. The reason is that if anyone but the person who owns the property has the power to set the terms on which the property is sold, it's not "free enterprise", it's 'less-than-free enterprise'.

Then if you look at the first core value, intellectual product is considered the same as any other kind of property as far as setting terms on any transaction.

In other words, the line where a work goes from 'derivative' to 'original' isn't set by anyone other than the person who created the source material, and they set the line in the terms of sale.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

If you look at the fourth core value, it holds as fundamental "free enterprise, or the right of individuals to buy, sell, and trade their property." What that means is that you can offer your property to others on any terms you want. So if the term 'we get full ownership & control of user-mods' is put up front and the consumer is given fair warning, if the consumer buys the property, they agree to any of the terms the seller has set. The reason is that if anyone but the person who owns the property has the power to set the terms on which the property is sold, it's not "free enterprise", it's 'less-than-free enterprise'.

Then if you look at the first core value, intellectual product is considered the same as any other kind of property as far as setting terms on any transaction.

In other words, the line where a work goes from 'derivative' to 'original' isn't set by anyone other than the person who created the source material, and they set the line in the terms of sale.

I'm not totally following this. You don't find the contradiction in a person saying they support free enterprise and an intrinsic right to intellectual property BUT supports a developer's right to have absolute ownership of anything made with a tool set they're distributing?

At what point DO the modders have a right to their own intellectual property and labor? Why does making it with a person's Engine or tools, provided the person brings a significant contribution, make it so they get no rights whatsoever with that work? I don't deny the original makers of the game or whatever have a right to some profits, but the whole thing no matter what?

And if you really want to argue that all is fair so long as they fairly warn the modders, don't be shocked if no one wants to make a mod they have no rights to.

L.B. Jeffries:
You guys actively support letting companies have full ownership & control of user-mods provided they give fair warning? Man, with all the talk about owning intellectual property and letting people use games to explore a wide array of topics...that seems a little bit counter-intuitive.

In their current form they're mostly derivative and I don't think any of them remotely deserve contesting ownership. But as people are able to dump more of their own art, sound, and design into the mods I think at some point that line is going to get crossed.

I feel that I agree with the Escapist's position on the grounds that they do provide fair warning. But, the point that seems debatable is what constitutes fair warning? Clickthrough/wrapper agreements are insufficient. Corporations take away every conceivable consumer right in the text of the EULA, and depend on courts to hem them in where it comes to actual legality (Doctrine of First Sale and its tenuous relationship with IP licenses, etc.). For me, whether or not the company is going to ride in and squash all of your pretty custom content always seems to hinge on a trust built between consumer and company, ignoring the EULA. We as a community have come to rely on some companies exercising the EULA to the fullest extent possible, while others have been found to not care. The greatest outcry tends to be when these same (un-caring) companies occasionally turn around and begin exercising their EULA, violating the trust, and angering people, but claiming "We told you so. See? You clicked 'OK' right here." Full disclosure of the intended level of censorship, methods for handling said censorhip, methods for complaining when said censorship goes awry, potential for user-generated content to be resold, etc., PRIOR to purchase would be ideal. In the end, maybe what would be best is if the industry settled on some sort of standard, and then gave full disclosure about how they intended to deviate? As it is, if we were to take EULAs for their word and consider them fair warning, who would even bother installing software on their computers? I like my soul just fine, thankyouverymuch.

The Escapist Staff:
We believe that piracy of games is stealing, and cannot be justified on any grounds.

Fair enough. We see "stealing", understand generally societally negative connotations, and come up with the idea that you mean "bad". Great. Well, "piracy", despite our modern affection for the letter 'R', parrots, and crude prosthetics, still tends to have the same sort of connotations. Thus, "Piracy (which is bad) is Stealing (which is bad)." Fantastic. I'm glad we have that settled.

By refraining from placing some sort of definition to the term "piracy", you by default include such nuances as abandonware, and executable cracking. In so doing, you do nothing to distance yourself from the crackpots that equate "executable cracking" with "funding terrorism". I agree with Cheeze_Pavilion in saying that Archon's application of adverse possession to the subject of abandonware is a great argument to make, and that we need more like it, instead of useless tautologies like "Piracy is bad". Fair enough that you didn't want to go in depth here, but failing to acknowledge the nuance of the issue, even in a brief statement... it just gets everyone nowhere. At least now we know you don't support ThePirateBay in the case of brand-new, AAA games? Glad we've cleared that up...

L.B. Jeffries:

I'm not totally following this. You don't find the contradiction in a person saying they support free enterprise and an intrinsic right to intellectual property BUT supports a developer's right to have absolute ownership of anything made with a tool set they're distributing?

No, I don't find the contradiction once you've accepted the idea that a developer has an absolute right to sell a tool on they terms they wish, including the term 'anything you make with this tool set, I have absolute ownership of'.

At what point DO the modders have a right to their own intellectual property and labor?

The point set by the person selling those tools. Of course, this brings up the issue of what the default point is if the point goes unspecified.

Why does making it with a person's Engine or tools, provided the person brings a significant contribution, make it so they get no rights whatsoever with that work? I don't deny the original makers of the game or whatever have a right to some profits, but the whole thing no matter what?

That's what happens when you consider property rights absolute in the sense that a person can only be deprived of them by their direct consent, as is the case in these four core values.

And if you really want to argue that all is fair so long as they fairly warn the modders, don't be shocked if no one wants to make a mod they have no rights to.

Hey--don't kill the messenger: that's my point. But that's a practical counter-argument, not the uncovering of a contradiction.

The contradiction comes later when you start asking 'so why can't I sell you a car that blows up if you don't get me to make a specific garuntee in the contract of sale that it won't blow up?' I'm just explaining the logic here.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Hey--don't kill the messenger: that's my point. But that's a practical counter-argument, not the uncovering of a contradiction.

The contradiction comes later when you start asking 'so why can't I sell you a car that blows up if you don't get me to make a specific garuntee in the contract of sale that it won't blow up?' I'm just explaining the logic here.

It's a contradiction because you can't say you support intellectual property if you then say only under certain conditions. The entire reason copyright, patent, and licensing laws were created was to encourage people to spread ideas into the public. To then say that a person can legally create a binding control over all artistic works made with their tools is to go against the entire purpose of encouraging creativity.

What is the point of saying you support art if you also say you support people having no right to their art?

*edit*

ARGH, look, I get touchy about this subject. I don't think it's right to just blankly say companies get to have all the right to a mod because of some contract they got someone to click on before they dumped their heart and soul into a mod.

You don't have to agree to that. There's no reason to not fight against it. Look at how many mods have made games better. Have made the developers money. When you have a bunch of people improving the value of a product for no compensation, why on Earth should that be allowed to continue without giving them some kind of rights?

i can not believe that the escapist has been around for over three years!!!

L.B. Jeffries:

It's a contradiction because you can't say you support intellectual property if you then say only under certain conditions. The entire reason copyright, patent, and licensing laws were created was to encourage people to spread ideas into the public. To then say that a person can legally create a binding control over all artistic works made with their tools is to go against the entire purpose of encouraging creativity.

What is the point of saying you support art if you also say you support people having no right to their art?

All people have the right to their Intellectual Property, as is especially seen when they give those rights away. Modders are not forced to use proprietary toolsets; there is no monopoly on "canvas" that prevents the "artist" from working at all if they refuse to buy in. Modders get a free toolset, a high-powered one that some corporate entity poured bucketloads of money into, and in return, they give up some set of rights to the work which they produce using said toolset.

Additionally, "create a binding control" seems to imply that the modder was not complicit. See above where I rail against the quality of the dialogue between corporation and user, but recognize that insofar as clickthrough agreements are legally binding, the modder IS complicit.

L.B. Jeffries:

And if you really want to argue that all is fair so long as they fairly warn the modders, don't be shocked if no one wants to make a mod they have no rights to.

As Cheeze said, this is a valid statement, and for the proponents of giving the developer the right to set the terms, the idea might be that this is not the likely outcome of a functional system built around these premises, because it makes so little sense. In the end, the goal is for the desires of the users to have rights to their creations to work against the desire of the tool-maker to wield absolute control by pulling on the desire of the tool-maker to have people flock to their product. The Escapist (from my reading) is not encouraging developers to be a**hats, but instead buying into the notion that a functioning market will reach a desirable outcome for all parties.

P.S. I need to be faster. I already scrapped an entire post, because by the time I got around to hitting Post, Cheeze and Jeffries had already gone another round. I fear what happens as I click now...

Geoffrey42:

L.B. Jeffries:

It's a contradiction because you can't say you support intellectual property if you then say only under certain conditions. The entire reason copyright, patent, and licensing laws were created was to encourage people to spread ideas into the public. To then say that a person can legally create a binding control over all artistic works made with their tools is to go against the entire purpose of encouraging creativity.

What is the point of saying you support art if you also say you support people having no right to their art?

All people have the right to their Intellectual Property, as is especially seen when they give those rights away. Modders are not forced to use proprietary toolsets; there is no monopoly on "canvas" that prevents the "artist" from working at all if they refuse to buy in. Modders get a free toolset, a high-powered one that some corporate entity poured bucketloads of money into, and in return, they give up some set of rights to the work which they produce using said toolset.

What about Little Big Planet where it's actively encouraged? Or Half-life where Counterstrike made the game's multiplayer popular?

I'm not saying the company should lose all their rights. I just don't think it's right that you have Sony and other companies declare they own the things and can do whatever they want in their contracts. Hell, Federal Courts already ruled once that the developer did not own the mods in the case on Duke Nukem mods (Microstar v. Formgen, Inc. 942 F. Supp. 1312 (U.S. Dist. 1996)).

You don't see the people who sell video cameras declaring they have rights to the movies made with them. If a person were to change enough of the art and sound in a game, along with adding their own code, how have they not significantly contributed?

L.B. Jeffries:
I'm not totally following this. You don't find the contradiction in a person saying they support free enterprise and an intrinsic right to intellectual property BUT supports a developer's right to have absolute ownership of anything made with a tool set they're distributing?

There's really no contradiction here - their right to place restrictions on the content created with their tools is the very soul of free enterprise.

For example, the current darling is LittleBigPlanet. That medium for creation is relatively fixed, and it's fairly clear to those using the tools provided that they're providing free content for that game. It could be more obvious, but I think most people making levels know that they're not going to get any compensation for their creations. They might not know that their work could be used to feature the game though.

Modders get more power using Source - they have a lot of freedom and flexibility to either tweak an existing game or nearly create a new one. The development and distribution is completely open, but they can't sell any of their work without a commercial license.

Second Life, on the other hand, explicitly assigns IP ownership to their users, and their users can (and are encouraged to) profit financially if they can. Lindon Labs does reserve the right to moderation though, and can even block or remove content completely if they want to.

Microsoft, with XNA, is the most open - you can use their tools to create whatever you want, and give it away or sell it if you choose. They're just providing programming tools. Unless you want to push your game out onto the Xbox, in which case you have more hoops to jump through, but even then they're relatively hands-off.

All of these (and more) can co-exist, and they each support the community in different ways at different levels. But when it comes down to it, our position is almost always the one that supports the original creator, and we believe that their rights in determining how their work gets used is absolute.

And if you really want to argue that all is fair so long as they fairly warn the modders, don't be shocked if no one wants to make a mod they have no rights to.

We completely agree with this - this is how it should work. The community should be well-informed as to what the legal limits of the tools they use have so they can make informed decisions before they devote their lives to a project. Either they'll accept the limitations, or they'll find (or create) better tools instead. That's the free market at work.

If you think about it, it really makes a lot of sense in context. The sanctity of the creators rights is the basis of the similar stances we take in our virtual property and piracy positions.

L.B. Jeffries:

What about Little Big Planet where it's actively encouraged? Or Half-life where Counterstrike made the game's multiplayer popular?

I'm not saying the company should lose all their rights. I just don't think it's right that you have Sony and other companies declare they own the things and can do whatever they want in their contracts. Hell, Federal Courts already ruled once that the developer did not own the mods in the case on Duke Nukem mods (Microstar v. Formgen, Inc. 942 F. Supp. 1312 (U.S. Dist. 1996)).

You don't see the people who sell video cameras declaring they have rights to the movies made with them. If a person were to change enough of the art and sound in a game, along with adding their own code, how have they not significantly contributed?

I see now that I should not have ditched as much of my original second post as I did, wherein I specifically complimented Valve as an example of being nice about their EULA, EA/Maxis as an example of being up-front about what was going to happen to your Spore creatures, and MediaMolecule for doing a bad job of being clear with their users about how moderation was going to work. I have not read these people's EULAs, because I am not a modder, but I'm assuming that they are all similarly brutal.

Note that in an earlier post in this same thread, I talked about the overly broad nature of EULAs and my distaste for the way the companies rely on courts to reduce their scope, rather than being reasonable to start with. With regard to video cameras, you don't see the seller doing so because no one would buy their cameras. As far as I can tell, Duke Nukem is a legal example in your favor, and the video cameras are an example in the Escapist's favor, i.e. when balanced against consumer desires not all companies are so covetous of their tools. Cameras are a bad analogy though; Sony did not invest in and design the camera they sold you from the ground up for the purpose of filming the movie it came with. The camera is a tool in and of itself, sold at a profit for the purpose of allowing others to create their own content. See Garry's Mod, which I believe has no such clause regarding Garry's right to your junk, because Garry is in essence selling you a camera, not content/IP+content creation tool.

In the end, I'm not saying that I'm against the type of regulation you're advocating, and mandating a certain level of user rights with respect to user-created content, but instead that the view espoused by the Escapist is not inherently invalid, just coming from a different angle, specifically a market-driven one.

To your last question, I don't think the question is anything to do with whether or not they have significantly contributed (I think they have, but I think it is beside the point). They entered into an agreement with the corporation of their own free will. If that agreement is unlawful, fine, it is null and void. If it is lawful, then the agreement stands, and the modder/artist loses whatever rights they chose to lose by entering into the agreement. If you want to change the law, then let's talk about what better legislation protecting Intellectual Property rights would look like.

In responding to that question, I end up with a slightly different one. I was originally going to answer with an analogy derived from the design of a car, where I do everything but design the engine, and borrow said engine design from GM. If I produce that car, GM has every right to sue me over the design of the engine, despite the engine being a minority of the effort put into the car by me. On the other hand, if I design a kit that is made to be compatible with the GM engine, and sell it with instructions as to where to obtain a compatible engine, should I be in the clear? I think so. If I apply those two scenarios to videogames, I come up with different results. Spore and LittleBigPlanet seem an awful lot like cars built around a borrowed engine. Mods like CounterStrike seem to be a lot more like kit-cars. Is this a valid difference? Did that make any sense?

Geoffrey42:
By refraining from placing some sort of definition to the term "piracy", you by default include such nuances as abandonware, and executable cracking. In so doing, you do nothing to distance yourself from the crackpots that equate "executable cracking" with "funding terrorism".

I disagree. I think that everyone in the gaming community knows what the definition of piracy is, and doesn't need it spelled out. The only people who need to quibble over the definition are those in need of some self-justification. Trying to nail down a definition of piracy versus abandonware versus whatever else is being lumped in is like trying to distinctly define the difference between pornography and art.

Here's a quick example. Seiken Densetsu 3 (or Secret of Mana 2) was only ever released in Japan, in Japanese. There's pretty much no way to get a copy these days. If you want to play the game, especially in English, the only real way is to download a hacked version of the game ROM that includes a fan translation and play it on an emulator. It's pretty easy for anyone to justify this - not only is it "abandonware" but its also never even been released in this language.

But then, next week, the game suddenly appears in English as a downloadable title on the Wii. Now is it outright piracy, or is it OK because you downloaded it before it was available? What if they're charging $30 for it - is it OK because they're charging a ridiculous price for it? What if the translation is worse?

When it comes down to it, we - the consumer - don't get to make that decision. Someone else, somewhere, owns the rights and our position is that it's their decision to make. Even if we aren't quite sure who the "they" is. As a consumer, our only real decision-making power is to not buy something - if someone doesn't want to sell us something, it's not really our right to take it anyway.

Alex mentioned the grey areas above, where abandonware falls in relation to common law. They really need clarification, to help answer questions exactly like this, but our society's intellectual property laws are well and truly fucked at the moment (so to speak).

Cheeze_Pavilion:
You don't see them as much anymore, I guess because this place seems to have really taken off as a business--good for them, they deserve it--and because they write less and less of the articles (again, good for them for being able to get the content rolling in).

I think we jump in just as much (maybe even more, in some cases) but we're just the same-sized splash in a bigger pond these days ;)

Virgil:

L.B. Jeffries:

And if you really want to argue that all is fair so long as they fairly warn the modders, don't be shocked if no one wants to make a mod they have no rights to.

We completely agree with this - this is how it should work. The community should be well-informed as to what the legal limits of the tools they use have so they can make informed decisions before they devote their lives to a project. Either they'll accept the limitations, or they'll find (or create) better tools instead. That's the free market at work.

No, that's the optimistic market at work. We don't know if they'll create better tools. It's just as likely they'll create worse tools, and the overall prosperity in the world will go down. For instance, back in the day, hip-hop would sample from all over the place, in an eclectic mix that involved creativity and rewarded the artists for having a large knowledge of music. Now that's basically impossible with what you have to go through to get clearance and the money involved, so instead you get P.Diddy droning his mumbles over a single Police song because it's cheaper.

That's the future possibility you have to be prepared for if you embrace this kind of absolute view of property rights. The free market is not necessarily the most prosperous market--it depends on initial conditions.

Geoffrey42:

Well, "piracy", despite our modern affection for the letter 'R', parrots, and crude prosthetics, still tends to have the same sort of connotations. Thus, "Piracy (which is bad) is Stealing (which is bad)." Fantastic. I'm glad we have that settled.

You'll never get my pirated ARRRRRbandonware!

Virgil:
Trying to nail down a definition of piracy versus abandonware versus whatever else is being lumped in is like trying to distinctly define the difference between pornography and art.

Um, I think you mean the difference between *obscenity* and art.

L.B. Jeffries:

It's a contradiction because you can't say you support intellectual property if you then say only under certain conditions.

...

What is the point of saying you support art if you also say you support people having no right to their art?

It's like this: let's say I owned a mill, and you owned a farm. You harvested the grain off of that farm, and wanted to use my mill to make flour. If I will only allow you to use the mill if you agree that I own all the flour, then you have to agree to that, or you have no right to use my mill.

mill=game the company produces
grain=the efforts of the mod community
flour=the mods.

It's not a contradiction--it's just an absolute model of economic exchange where the only law is that all transactions must be free of physical duress, and whatever contract terms the two parties agree to.

The entire reason copyright, patent, and licensing laws were created was to encourage people to spread ideas into the public. To then say that a person can legally create a binding control over all artistic works made with their tools is to go against the entire purpose of encouraging creativity.

Ahh! Now you're getting it--when choosing between encouraging creativity and defending the rights of the owner to exclude others from their property, this philosophy always chooses the latter. It's not any sort of logical extension of our current copyright, patent, and licensing laws: instead, it looks at the twin goals of those laws--encouraging creativity and giving people absolute control over their property--and declares the former a totally illegitimate goal of laws, and the latter to be the only necessary and acceptable mission of the laws.

Of course, there's always the apologetic that you'll actually see more creativity under such a system that is given by people who hold these ideas, but, that's open for discussion because it's a prediction that a side effect will take place, not something that must logically follow.

*edit*

ARGH,

You said "ARGH" in a discussion about piracy :-D

look, I get touchy about this subject. I don't think it's right to just blankly say companies get to have all the right to a mod because of some contract they got someone to click on before they dumped their heart and soul into a mod.

You don't have to agree to that. There's no reason to not fight against it. Look at how many mods have made games better. Have made the developers money. When you have a bunch of people improving the value of a product for no compensation, why on Earth should that be allowed to continue without giving them some kind of rights?

Hey--I completely agree! I say I'll subscribe to that idea when I can sell any drugs I want and the FDA is abolished, or when I can sell any kind of food I want and the health inspectors are abolished, or I can give any legal advice I want and the state bar associations are abolished, or I can operate anywhere I want and the state medical licensing boards are abolished, and I can get my customers to sign and be legally bound by any contract I draw up where they give up their right to sue me if anything goes wrong!

I'm just waiting for the day a real band gets sued because someone already made a song like that in Guitar Hero, or Sony sues Nintendo over the next Mario including a platforming level that resembles something in Little Big Planet

Remember that old idea of getting a computer to generate all the possible haikus in the English language, publishing them, and then no one could ever write a new haiku? Well, GH and LBP might be the beginnings of that...

Cheeze_Pavilion:
For instance, back in the day, hip-hop would sample from all over the place, in an eclectic mix that involved creativity and rewarded the artists for having a large knowledge of music. Now that's basically impossible with what you have to go through to get clearance and the money involved, so instead you get P.Diddy droning his mumbles over a single Police song because it's cheaper.

That's not an argument against developer-specified control on community tools, that's an argument for increasing fair use rights (and decreasing the power and renewability of copyright). I don't think you'll find a similar parallel in tools development - since it's more technological progress than a creative one, they're pretty much always improving.

Virgil:
I disagree. I think that everyone in the gaming community knows what the definition of piracy is, and doesn't need it spelled out. The only people who need to quibble over the definition are those in need of some self-justification. Trying to nail down a definition of piracy versus abandonware versus whatever else is being lumped in is like trying to distinctly define the difference between pornography and art.

Here's a quick example. Seiken Densetsu 3 (or Secret of Mana 2) was only ever released in Japan, in Japanese. There's pretty much no way to get a copy these days. If you want to play the game, especially in English, the only real way is to download a hacked version of the game ROM that includes a fan translation and play it on an emulator. It's pretty easy for anyone to justify this - not only is it "abandonware" but its also never even been released in this language.

But then, next week, the game suddenly appears in English as a downloadable title on the Wii. Now is it outright piracy, or is it OK because you downloaded it before it was available? What if they're charging $30 for it - is it OK because they're charging a ridiculous price for it? What if the translation is worse?

When it comes down to it, we - the consumer - don't get to make that decision. Someone else, somewhere, owns the rights and our position is that it's their decision to make. Even if we aren't quite sure who the "they" is. As a consumer, our only real decision-making power is to not buy something - if someone doesn't want to sell us something, it's not really our right to take it anyway.

Alex mentioned the grey areas above, where abandonware falls in relation to common law. They really need clarification, to help answer questions exactly like this, but our society's intellectual property laws are well and truly fucked at the moment (so to speak).

I disagree. I think that the cacophony of voices on the internet, even within the gaming community, makes many terms full of all sorts of connotations that the speaker does not intend. On these subjects, providing definitions provides clarity, and gives both sides a better view of what the other is saying. I am not quibbling for the sake of self-justification. If I apply a NoCD crack to a legitimate copy of Game X, am I violating the EULA? Most likely yes. Am I breaking the DMCA? Most likely yes. Be me a pirate? Maybe, depending on the definition (dictionary.com's would lean toward yes). Is it really beneficial to lump widespread lost revenue with violation of end-user terms? I say no.

You say yourself that the abandonware issue needs clarification, and the example of Secret of Mana 2 would benefit from such. If there were some law that specified a set amount of time after which software could be considered in the public domain, then we would KNOW where the solid legal line lay between piracy and abandonware. Instead, most of us have this sneaking suspicion that it is good and just that truly abandoned software be made available to those who are interested, but for some reason, the law fails to reflect it. We are left instead with a big swath of legal black and white, which feels awfully grey. For those of us that fail to recognize the Law as all that is Good and Just and Right, we end up with the urge to agitate toward something which better accommodates our instincts on the issue.

You mention above trying to distinguish pornography from art, and I'm going to assume that you meant 'obscenity' as Cheeze pointed out. On that very topic, we have court precedent in the form of the Miller Test. The Miller Test doesn't say "Does it have boobs? Oh, then it is obscene." The Miller Test is an established method for a court to balance between free speech and prohibiting obscenity. We don't have any more concrete a method for identifying obscenity than we did before. It is not "nailed down". But at least we have something approaching a compromise, instead of the one-sided argument we're living in right now.

Cheeze_Pavilion:

Remember that old idea of getting a computer to generate all the possible haikus in the English language, publishing them, and then no one could ever write a new haiku? Well, GH and LBP might be the beginnings of that...

For whatever reason, that brings to mind an image of Rome salting Carthage's fields. The death of the English Haiku as we know it.

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