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Copyright and free downloads

Following an interesting discussion in the thread about adding new spells to Dungeon Master, I thought I would comment further on some of the issues raised. I would be interested to hear other's views.

PaulH:"As for the 'legality' of this, I am not sure where the owner of this site stands as regards to the right to allow the download of original work."

Well, It seems fairly clear what Mr. ChristopheF's views on this are considering the site contains almost every possible DM game available for download... but to be fair, it's done with the knowledge (but not necessarily the agreement) of ex-FTL members.

PaulH:"But if you do have an original copy you are free to do what the heck you like with it as far as altering it goes (dungeon.dat files etc). And I believe that you can 'share' these files as long as each person who receives a file has an original copy too (as they must to be able to play the thing). Having it on a web page is a different matter though!"

This is simply not true; it's no different how you obtain modified files, it's theft, and I draw your attention to the Software Copyright notice in the front of the DM manual. Let me ask you this: if there were as much chance of being caught downloading games off the net as there is in stealing games from your local computer shop, would you still do it?

We are all guilty of theft in using materials from this site, but we justify it by saying "Well, DM is so old and you can't buy it anymore, and the internet makes it so easy, so who cares?". Even Wayne Holder knows about this site and appears to feel the same way--he asked Christophe to add disclaimers that the materials are copyright FTL, but he didn't ask for them to be removed.

So I think we're all more-or-less singing the same tune--we know it's ethically wrong that Christophe has the stuff for download, we know it's wrong that we modify it and make it available. But we also know that we get enjoyment from it, and given the game now has "abandonware" status (a stupid term if ever I heard one), we feel it's OK. We turn a blind eye because it's easy, and the original creators/owners turn a blind eye because it simply is not worth their while to enforce their copyrights on unavailable products. Even if FTL asked Christophe to remove all the downloads, they would only spring up somewhere else on a warez site.

From my poit of view, I am not saying that I am holier than thou, but I can reasonably justify downloading and playing the games because I own most, if not all versions, as originals. But things like disseminating source code go much further than that, and that's where I think things get messy...

Re: Copyright and free downloads

I stand by my quote of being able to do with your goods what you like once you have 'purchased' them. Disect, alter, whatever it is yours, YOU payed for it (for personal use only, I will add!). The problem, as you rightly state, arises from the publishing of these modified files and where you obtained them. Copy right does state that goods are not to be lent, reproduced etc without consent of the copyright owner. Hmmm. The terms and boundaries of this are a bit cloudy though and are open to interpretation.
But your final point of view I agree with, if you have original copies of the game then downloading bits for it can be justified. This is why I added the quote regarding 'sharing', though in a certain context. If two parties have original files, payed for and legal, and one party adapts a file and gives it to the second party, does this contravene (I don't know how you spell that word) the copyright? The second party has the original file anyway so is this theft? Theft of what, exactly? How about if the first party modified the second parties file for him? And you do not violate copyright by making a back up of material for private use. Is this private use though?
In the end, it doesn't really matter because as you say I doubt FTL are going to shut this site down, and probably realise most people have had an original anyway!

Re: Copyright and free downloads

What do you suppose Microsoft would do if it found that two
dozen people in the entire world had stolen a copy of Windows
3.1 and were using it to run legal copies of old Microsoft
applications?

This DM/CSB business seems important to us. But I fear that
we are a rather small minority. Flyspecks get more attention
in most of the world.

PAul

Re: Copyright and free downloads

I understand your sentiment, and from a practical view point you're right of course, but the bottom line (read: ethical stance) is that it's not about the degree of theft, but whether or not theft has happened at all.

Re: Copyright and free downloads

That bottom line could also be added to the 'altering the game' discussion. Substitute the above phrase for 'theft'.

Re: Copyright and free downloads

I don't agree about having the right to modifying what you buy
Have you ever played a gamebook, and noticed in the bottom corner (I noticed this with Lone Wolf only) of an action chart where it gives you permission to photocopy it for your own use?
That is for you, it's just a book, you aren't modifying the chart, and yet the company felt it needed to allow its permission...

As you said, we aren't just passing it between ourselves - the downloads are there for everyone Look at that rip - off site Christophe highlighted, that was trying (though doesn't seem to have yet) sell DM with six of the dungeons people created here.

Think about what is actually available freely to anyone in CSB4win for example - a version of DM that comes with DM and CSB, playable on PC through windows, with sound, editors avaliables for use, and soon to come with up to 15 or more dungeon expansions once Sphenx can get the DM -> CSB file modification freely available.
Add in the new spells being proposed, and suddenly you have a must--get package for anyone who loved DM.

Obviously no one will be losing money by now for this coming out (can you even buy first hand anywhere?), but still anyone could download these, put them up on the web then sell the whole bundle, and basically anyone with something that was provided would have helped because there was nothing to stop them downloading the things.

Re: Copyright and free downloads

From a practical view? I admit to being an engineer...not a
mathematician. I am reminded of a cartoon......There is a bridge
over the river and trains, cars, and trucks are crossing the river.
A mathematician is standing with a notebook, saying "That bridge
fell down years ago during the big storm. You see? I have the
equations to prove it." OOOOKKKK.

Most of the world runs on the practical. You are free to operate
your life on the theoretical and refuse to cross the bridge, safe in
the knowlege that it is not really there.

If the owners of this game were to pipe in and say that they
do not want our little group to enjoy their creation (which, as has
been pointed out, most of us have paid for more than once) in rather
unanticipated ways then my 'practical' point-of-view would
change dramatically. If they could make a few dollars with it
then I would try to withdraw my contribution and would give them
whatever I have done - to do with as they please.

I did CSBwin for my own enjoyment but it turns out that I have
enjoyed sharing; I hope (and believe) it was not at anyone
else's expense.

Re: Copyright and free downloads

PaulH, a very good call!

Although, by merely pointing it out and not clarifying your own view, you suggest that you believe the game shouldn't be modified at all, which we know from previous discussions is clearly not the case.

PaulR, perhaps the word practical was not the most appropriate for me to use in this case. I am still struggling to find the right one!

Re: Copyright and free downloads

Gambit: Well, I think I understand your point. But my definition of
'theft' includes something to the effect that someone is somehow
deprived of something. It need not be physical. Pride. Happiness.
Money. Status. Whatever. Some people might hesitate to say, for
reasons unknown perhaps to themselves, that they are somehow
damaged. But I doubt it in this case. And in fact, we have received
communications from the owners of this property when they
thought we were doing something wrong. I know of two specific
instances. I think that if we make a good-faith effort to accomdate
their wishes then we should not chastise ourselves for stealing just
because there is a letter 'C' within a circle nearby.

How did this all get started? New spells? The original Atari DM and
CSB games appear to me to be limited by hardware resources. I
bet that the authors would have added more features if they
could have found more memory, diskspace, etc. I don't think adding
things in the 'spirit' of the original is out of line. Making it possible
to have more text, teleporters, pressure pads, and worms is OK in
my book. So I think the question to ask is "Would the authors have
done this if it were possible". We can probably guess their answers
with some reliability.

As a practical matter......most of what has been proposed will not
be implemented in our lifetime. The structure of the program almost
forces one to stay within the spirit of the original. For example: nobody
is going to change the artificial intelligence of the monsters because
nobody is going to figure out how it works now. IMHO, of course.

Re: Copyright and free downloads

I agree with Gambit
we know it's ethically wrong that Christophe has the stuff for download, we know it's wrong that we modify it and make it available. But we also know that we get enjoyment from it, and given the game now has "abandonware" status (a stupid term if ever I heard one), we feel it's OK. We turn a blind eye because it's easy, and the original creators/owners turn a blind eye because it simply is not worth their while to enforce their copyrights on unavailable products.

I think anyone can modify anything about the games (including new spells for example) and make it available to others, for fun (no money should be involved of course). Then if you like it, play it. If you don't like the change, do not play it.
That is my "practical" view.
For example, I would not like to play the original DM or CSB dungeons with additional spells that would necessarily change the balance of the game.
But for a new dungeon specifically designed to take into account the new spells available to the player, then I see no problem. If you are a purist and do not want to use these spells, then do not play with this dungeon, but do not prevent other people from playing it.

The only real questions should be surveys like for example:
"I plan to include a teleport spell in the engine. Would you like it?"
If nobody wants to see such a spell, then the developer may not want to spend a considerable amount of time implementing the spell, apart from his own enjoyment.
For the moment, I saw many ideas about new spells, but few people seem to be able to implement them...

Christophe


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