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Re: (TFT) Appropriate use of copyrighted material

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Subject: Re: (TFT) Appropriate use of copyrighted material
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 08:39:52 -0600
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From: Guy McLimore <guymc@evansville.net>
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Michael Taylor at MichaelTaylor1@compuserve.com on 12/30/98 8:24 PM said:

Guy McLimore said:

>>But my real question is, why would you WANT to appropriate Melee (or any 
>>game by another designer) for a computer-based game by filing theserial 
>>numbers off, even if it was legal to do so?
>>#1: Profiting from someone else's work and putting your name on it,
>>even if you can get away with it, is morally reprehensible.

Michael Taylor replied:

>>>>>Whoa! I *never* said anything of the sort. 
Then I apologize for misreading you.

>>>>>But it would be a tremendous amount of work to film a good version of 
>>>>>"Stranger in a Strange Land", too. Everyone would LOVE to see that 
>>>>>happen, and it's not something the author himself could have done
>>>>>But doing so without legally obtaining the rights to the original work
>>>>>which it is based from the Robert Heinlein estate would still be
>>>>>(And illegal.)

That's my point - it would be illegal yes. But it would NOT be WRONG! Wrong
is a completely subjective 'moral' value. We try to make our laws follow
the best 'moral' solutions we can, but they are rarely perfect. Copyright,
patent and fair use are only one example where the laws do not necessarily
provide the 'right' result. 

>>>>>Chiseling the rules to Melee on stone tablets thirty feet high 
>>>>>would be an enourmous amount of work, and take great craftsmanship to
>>>>>well. But it would still be a violation of copyright and WRONG!

Legally yes, but if the person did it out a labor of love and charged a
minimal $1 fee to see it - do you really think they should be denied that
because they don't legally own the rights to Melee?

>like "DOOM" means a computerized version of Melee would be useless?
>>>>>Again, that's not what I said at all. 
Then again - I apologize. 

>>>>>But a GOOD computer game intended to reproduce man-to-man sword and
>>>>>combat would be best designed to do what we CAN'T easily do with 
>>>>>cardboard counters on a paper map. 

Yes, but this is just as easily a matter of emailing it to a friend,
pausing in the middle of a game for pizza without ruining the components,
cross-referencing the weapon statistics, etc. In other words, what we CANT
do easily with pencil and paper doesnt HAVE to affect the rules. We can
enhance the game without messing with the rules which are quite good. 

According to your logical we wouldn't have Word Processors or
Spellcheckers! We can do both easily with pencil and paper, but both gain
OTHER enhancements besides changing the rules. 

>>>>>I'd like to see more detailed and 
>>>>>realistic damage assessment, better strategic play, and hiding the 
>>>>>"numbers" (stats, damage, etc.) and instead feeding back to the player

>>>>>info as subjective data (your arm bleeds when you're hit, your combat 
>>>>>ability suffers when you pick up a weapon too heavy for you, your
>>>>>crumples to the ground when it goes unconscious, etc.).

This *might* be more interesting. But - as GURPS has shown us - it might
also be deadly dull. 

>>>>>So if it doesn't make any difference to your playing experience, why
>>>>>use a different set of rules and factors than the ones in Melee? Why
>>>>>use another set of ruels and factors that is designed by you
>>>>>for your game? Then it would be YOUR game, not someone else's game?

Reverse the question. Why redesign Melee when it's already been done better
than I could do it? So what if it's MY game design? I'm not interested in
the game design part of it (except as far as using the best design I can
find). I'm interested in creating the best PROGRAM for it. Why would I
deliberately cripple my program by using an inferior game design (my own)?
So what if it's someone else's game - it would still (and legally SHOULD)
be MY program! That's what fair use is supposed to be all about. 

Remember, the current copyright laws are NOT protecting the origional
author! They're protecting Howard Thompson - who didn't even DESIGN Melee! 

Sidebar: In addition to generating a lot of lousy software, this philosophy
is one of the reasons that movies are so bad. Everyone who works in movies
is taught not to specialize, but to do it all. Therefore, few of them learn
to master any one discipline. If you see in the credits "Writer/Director" -

>>>>>No. You have purchased a copy of the game for your use. That's like 
>>>>>saying you bought a copy of Tom Clancy's novel "Rainbow Six", and so
>>>>>should have the right to create and market a computer game based on

No, I dont think it's the same thing at all. I think 'fair use' has to
encompass the wide variety of ways an intellectual property might be used.
If I want to make a copy of "Rainbow Six" to read on my pilot on the bus on
the way to work, right now that's illegal. That's a lot different than
putting it in shrinkwrap and trying to sell it at Fry's. 

I don't think we should be able to make a commerical version of Melee for
sale at Egghead, but neither do I think that we should be legally
processecuted for making an internet version of Melee. Or even a
'collectors edition' of ITL for sale on the internet. Or a collection of
TFT chemistry rules....

No, these distinctions don't boil down to simple "This use is wrong - this
use is right" soundbites. It goes back to the origional intent of the law -
to promote innovation and to protect the creator of an oriigonal work to
profit from their work. NEITHER intent of which is being served by the
current legal snafu with Howard Thompson and Melee! 

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm not going to DO anything about it. It's a
interesting discussion, but far to complex to be resolved without YEARS of
appropriate lawsuits. I'm not interested in being involved with that. 

But as a discussion, it seems obvious that even if you feel doing something
illegal is also "wrong" (I don't), then wouldn't you still have to admit
that the tangle involved with Melee is far less that clear-cut. 

>>>>>But YOU DON'T OWN THE RIGHTS! I'm not questioning the VALUE of being
>>>>>to play a Melee-based computer game. But it's VALUE belongs to someone


I don't question whether you OWN the rights. I question whether the rights
should belong to the owner or the creator! 

>>>>>Michael, you have missed the point ENTIRELY! You should not be able to

>>>>>profit from a game when it is essentially a translation of a
>>>>>work, no matter how much work and effort you put into it, or how much 
>>>>>everyone likes what you do. I have no doubt that a competent
>>>>>with a good feel for what the strengths of Melee are could indeed
>>>>>a computer game that would be both a good computer game, using the 
>>>>>strengths of the medium, ad a recognizable version of the original.
>>>>>if the game is still essentially Melee and created and marketed
>>>>>the copyright owner's permission, it's still wrong. And no amount of 
>>>>>semantic debate is going to make it right.

I may have missed the point. Is the point that it's illegal? I know that.
But you keep saying it's WRONG! And no amount of it's being illegal is
going to make it WRONG! 

In other words - just because you want to write a 'game-world' supplement,
you ALSO have to write the game rules? Why? You've written game worlds
without having written the origonal rules? Was that WRONG? It wouldn've
been illegal without the proper permissions - but would it have been WRONG?
I personally don't think so. That's all I'm saying. 

>>>>>But if you just do a "computer version of Melee" that is no 
>>>>>more than translation of the exact rules and language of the game to 
>>>>>another medium, it's not a wholly original work.

Of course it's not - but neither was Melee (see Jean's email earlier). 

I think that Japan seem to have the right idea (though I'm not an expert on
it by any means). They seem to draw a line between 'fan-based' creations
and 'commerical' creations that allow a certain amount of copyright
violation in the spirit of common sense that our laws don't seem to have. 


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