Getting Copies Right: Open Source Gaming

Phoenix Wright

Today, in what is a veritable legal monsoon season, a law exists regarding just about everything. People are quick to abuse the law of the land for their own purposes, suing over anything, staking claims to this and that, and doing whatever else they can to manipulate things for personal gain. In the video game world, the focus is more on using laws to keep everyone else’s hand off of intellectual property, allowing each and every scrap of content to be used in only the way its creators intended. It’s mostly a “look, but don’t touch” affair.

It was only a matter of time before the more, well, maybe less creative minds in the LittleBigPlanet community would dip into copyrighted material to re-create or re-imagine some of the finer experiences in gaming. They did just that, alarms rang out in the night, and the intellectual property patrol were cut loose, deleting a number of high-quality, but conceptually and thematically borrowed LBP creations swiftly and mercilessly. Many top-rated levels from the community vanished without a trace, leaving quite a sour taste in the mouths of many pleasure-seeking sackpeople.

Thus, a beautiful platform for fun and creativity was destroyed. Or was it?


According to Media Molecule Technical Director Alex Evans, this is not an entirely doom-and-gloom tale. In fact, some people want their copyrights “infringed.”

“We knew that people would be creative, and that there would be references. It was hard getting the right balance on a worldwide angle. But then there’s been these two mad positives; one was the high quality of the levels, including the infringing ones. The other point is the number of IP owners who came up to us and said please whitelist us – we’ll never ever ask you to pull infringing stuff. I can’t say who that is, but those two things really shocked me, I think it shocked [the IP holders], who were like, hang on, my IP’s being represented and it’s being represented really well. The IP holders have to have last say over the representation of their brand, and that’s fair enough, so we’ve always got to have a method for people misusing a brand, but what’s been really lovely is how well represented so many brands are.”

It’s good to know that at least some people get it. While the world of legality is all about restriction, segmentation, and general selfishness, the “internet generation” has been accepting, adopting, and applying the open-source attitude more and more with each passing day. We are migrating further away from the hindering “mine” and “yours” qualifications; everything is shared. Personal inventions are offered to the masses, allowing for parallel development in a shared problem-solving process. When it comes time for praise, this natural merit-based system rewards those who set wheels in motion, because the only prerequisite to IP access is recognition.

Until now, all we’ve seen and heard from the videogame industry is the former, but with the voluntary LittleBigPlanet whitelisting of these unnamed IP holders, it seems some people realize that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that these copycat tributes actually serve to honor the source material they are based on. Maybe gaming is finally going truly “two-point-oh.”

So is anyone interested in making a LittleBraidPlanet level?


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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