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Old 10-09-2006, 10:45 PM   #1
Toraux
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Dynamic MUD is currently looking to fill several positions. If you have any interest, check out http://dynamicmud.blogspot.com.

Thanks,
Toraux
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Old 10-10-2006, 04:16 AM   #2
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From your application requirements:

"2. All applicants should understand that any work they do for the game will become property of the game, meaning you forfeit all rights to ownership of the works you do for the game."

From the US Copyright Office:

"Any or all of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights or any subdivision of those rights may be transferred, but the transfer of exclusive rights is not valid unless that transfer is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent."

That aside, I have seen hundreds of muds fail over the years. I have seen several custom-built muds which had countless hours poured into them before the developers lost interest, or came across some other stumbling block, and then gave up. Many years ago I even participated in the design of a commercial mud, but the project died before it even completed the design phase.

Given that failure rate, my question is this: If someone spends hours upon hours developing content for your game, and signs the copyright over to you, then your mud dies, what happens to all their work?
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Old 10-10-2006, 05:23 AM   #3
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Not that this has much of anything to do with the original poster's intent, but just thought I would chime in...

It is true that your best bet is usually to have a lawyer draw up the contract, mail it to the contributors, have them have it signed and notarized and then wait for the signed version to come back to you.

But...

A digital electronic signature, which can consist of something as simple as an "I agree to these terms" checkbox before an email can be sent from a website, can hold up in court as evidence to agreeing to a contract. Most states in the USA have some form of electronic signature laws (and most have had them since telegraph contracts were declared valid in the mid 19th century).

Heck, be generous and have in your contracts to "pay" your writers in check form as "independent contractors in a compilation" for their work. Work done "work for hire" is owned by the employer. Check with your locality on contracting rules, laws and requirements.

There is case law available to be googled on what has and what has not held up in court cases. Use it at your own risk.

Standard Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. Seek appropriate legal council on all legal and contract matters.

Best of luck on your project.
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Old 10-10-2006, 06:43 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Mabus @ Oct. 10 2006,11:23)
A digital electronic signature, which can consist of something as simple as an "I agree to these terms" checkbox before an email can be sent from a website, can hold up in court as evidence to agreeing to a contract. Most states in the USA have some form of electronic signature laws (and most have had them since telegraph contracts were declared valid in the mid 19th century).
Electronic signatures are not legally valid for all things. Do you have any evidence of them being sufficient for a transfer of copyright?

Also note that the agreement for Dynamic mud does not appear to include consideration, and therefore would not be a 'contract'.

Finally, like many mudders, I am not American and am not subject to US federal laws.

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Heck, be generous and have in your contracts to "pay" your writers in check form as "independent contractors in a compilation" for their work. Work done "work for hire" is owned by the employer.
An independent contractor is not an employee, and once again this would require a written agreement between the parties (see here).
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Old 10-10-2006, 08:02 AM   #5
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Didn't really expect a reply to this, but here it goes....

What I posted wasn't a contractual agreement, more or less just a set of recommendations so people knew what to expect. For the moment at least not really any of these positions will produce all that much material like say a builder would in most conventional muds, but if I do get some sort of contractual agreement set up would hopefully get some clause put in which would either let people regain their right to use their own materials if the project ever fell apart. I mainly want to ensure that if someone develops a website for me then three other websites don't pop up a week later with my same layout and graphics.

Maybe I should add a note.... wouldn't mind picking up someone with considerable contract and copyright law experience.

-Toraux
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Old 10-10-2006, 03:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 10 2006,06:43)
Electronic signatures are not legally valid for all things. Do you have any evidence of them being sufficient for a transfer of copyright?
Electronic-based signatures have been declared legal for many forms of contracts. Fax's and even telegraphed contracts have stood up in our (USA) court system.

Since the ESIGN Act of 2000 electronic signatures are as valid as the handwritten variety for legal purposes in the USA. There is software available that could be added to a website for such purposes (though I still prefer the old "pen and paper" contract myself).


Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 10 2006,06:43)
Also note that the agreement for Dynamic mud does not appear to include consideration, and therefore would not be a 'contract'.
Agreed. At least some nominal consideration is part of any contract. $.01 per room, or even a promise to "include your name for reference" or "get free items in game!" could be used as compensation (as consideration does not have to be monetary) could likely be used to resolve that issue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 10 2006,06:43)
Finally, like many mudders, I am not American and am not subject to US federal laws.
You would have to check your county's treaties with the USA to see how US Copyright law affects you. As you often link to US legal material when discussing intellectual property law I am sure you are already aware of this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 10 2006,06:43)
An independent contractor is not an employee, and once again this would require a written agreement between the parties (see here).
Bad choice of wording on my part. I have stated I am not a lawyer. "Contractee", or "contracting entity" may have been better suited to the sentence rather then "employer". Work for hire by an independent contractor is still work for hire. Work for hire transfers the ownership of copyright to the person hiring.

A "written contract" can be an electronically signed document and the independent contractor would be adding to a compilation. Those and added consideration could be used to transfer legal copyright.

My previous "standard disclaimer" still applies. I am sure for $50-100 a lawyer would draw up the proper documents and better explain the process of electronic contracts dealing with copyright matters, NDA's and non-competes. Money well spent if someone is planning on forming a pay MUD.
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Old 10-10-2006, 06:05 PM   #7
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Since the ESIGN Act of 2000 electronic signatures are as valid as the handwritten variety for legal purposes in the USA.
E-Sign applies to transactions in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, with "transaction" defined as "an action or set of actions relating to the conduct of business, consumer, or commercial affairs between two or more persons".

It doesn't apply for all legal purposes, and suffers from a number of other problems (such as using overly broad language, lacking a defined "reasonableness" standard for demonstrating consent, and being incompatible with international standards).

I'm not at all convinced that it would apply to copyright transfers, and even if it did I'm not sure that this situation fulfills the definitions used by E-Sign (nor, as I pointed out before, would it make much difference to those outside the US).

I can see a faxed copy of a signed document holding up (although that's still just my opinion). But owning someone's copyright just because they clicked on a box? I find that very unlikely, or we'd have seen it in the big commercial MMORPGs by now - particularly considering the huge debates about content ownership.

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Originally Posted by
At least some nominal consideration is part of any contract. $.01 per room, or even a promise to "include your name for reference" or "get free items in game!" could be used as compensation (as consideration does not have to be monetary) could likely be used to resolve that issue.
To be legally sufficient, consideration for a promise must be legally detrimental to the promisee or legally beneficial to the promisor. In some countries the requirements are even stricter (in the UK, for example, the consideration requires something of actual economic value). $0.01 would be consideration, but I don't think "I won't remove your name from the credits section of your area file" would be - that sounds like a preexisting duty to me (without permission to use the area, you couldn't remove the credits anyway).

Consideration also requires (1) a bargain regarding terms of an exchange, (2) a mutual exchange, and (3) the exchange must be something of value. So you couldn't just throw free Uber Swords at someone and then claim you owned the copyright to their area - it would have to be negotiated in advance.

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You would have to check your county's treaties with the USA to see how US Copyright law affects you. As you often link to US legal material when discussing intellectual property law I am sure you are already aware of this.
Yes, but I'm not talking about copyright law (something is pretty similar in most first world countries). I'm talking about E-Sign, which specifically a US law.

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Originally Posted by
Work for hire by an independent contractor is still work for hire.
It is, but if they're not an employee then work-for-hire requires a written agreement.

In particular, I want to discourage the opinion of some mud owners that their staff automatically count as "employees", and that their copyrights are therefore automatically the property of the mud owner.

It needs a contract, which in turn requires consideration (as you pointed out). It's not something that the mud owner can just spring on their staff by surprise after they've spent a few months churning out work.
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Old 10-10-2006, 11:45 PM   #8
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Kavir wrote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
But owning someone's copyright just because they clicked on a box? I find that very unlikely, or we'd have seen it in the big commercial MMORPGs by now - particularly considering the huge debates about content ownership.
What? That's a nonsensical claim considering that many of the big commercial MMORPGs do exactly what you claim they don't.

From World of Warcraft's (the biggest MMORPG) Terms of Service:

All title, ownership rights and intellectual property rights in and to World of Warcraft (including without limitation any user accounts, titles, computer code, themes, objects, characters, character names, stories, dialogue, catch phrases, locations, concepts, artwork, animations, sounds, musical compositions, audio-visual effects, methods of operation, moral rights, any related documentation, "applets" incorporated into World of Warcraft, transcripts of the chat rooms, character profile information, recordings of games played on World of Warcraft, and the World of Warcraft client and server software) are owned by Blizzard Entertainment or its licensors.


In other words, all the IP content that you, the user, create (your name, your chat, etc) are handed over to Blizzard by agreeing to the TOS.

From Sony Online Entertainment's Terms of Service (which cover EQ, EQII, Planetside, Star Wars: Galaxies, etc)

Any and all creative suggestions, ideas, notes, drawings, concepts or other information that you send to us, whether at our specific request or despite our request that you not do so ("Submissions") and any and all Licensed Content shall be deemed, and shall remain, the property of SOE from the moment of creation. Accordingly, SOE shall exclusively own all now known or hereafter existing copyrights and all other intellectual property rights to all Submissions and Licensed Content of every kind and nature, in perpetuity, throughout the universe.


In other words, by clicking on this, you've agreed that any content you send to SOE becomes owned by SOE.

OP: What you have your volunteers agree to is consistent with what the biggest companies running MUDs/MMORPGs consider to be legal, so I wouldn't worry about it.

--matt
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Old 10-11-2006, 12:21 AM   #9
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We use a similar agreement with our authors, with a (physically) signed contract.  Obviously, good management practices dictate that you try to do as much as possible in collaboration with your authors, but it is your game.

It would be very difficult to run any serious endeavor without this sort of agreement.  If one of your authors says "Promote me to co-owner, or I'm revoking your permission to use the central city I wrote for you." after the MUD has opened, what are you going to do without owning the material?

Toraux: I'd advise finding an appropriate Non-Disclosure Agreement which includes the kinds of clauses (re: copyright and ownership) you have, and having each of your authors sign one and mail it to you.  Not only does this protect your game, but it makes sure that all of your authors are clear on the arrangment from day 1.  That's fair for everyone involved.

Everyone else: If this thread is going to get much bigger, please create a new topic under the Legal Issues forum. We're getting away from the original poster's intent here on Advertising.
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Old 10-11-2006, 04:36 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Oct. 11 2006,05:45)
From World of Warcraft's (the biggest MMORPG) Terms of Service:
Interesting, although it seems primarily concerned with protecting their own content (i.e., their own artwork, sound effects, quest stories and dialogue, etc).  Character names wouldn't fall under copyright law anyway, and the only explicit reference to player content I can see is "transcripts of the chat rooms" (a compilation copyright, not necessarily extending to the contributions of individual users).

The Sony Online Entertainment's Terms of Service looks more relevent, at least to the OP's situation, as it seems to be claiming ownership over intentional submissions made directly to the company (rather than general content you create within the game).

Quote:
Originally Posted by
OP: What you have your volunteers agree to is consistent with what the biggest companies running MUDs/MMORPGs consider to be legal, so I wouldn't worry about it.
The MMORPGs agreements are contracts.  The OP's agreement is not.  Furthermore the OP can't even prove that the contributors read the application requirements, let alone agreed to them.

I once wrote an area for a mud (back in 1994).  Several years later they released their codebase, which included my area - and skimming through it, I noticed that the licence for the codebase stated that builders for that mud automatically agreed to give up their copyright.  Until that time I'd never seen the licence, and certainly had no idea of what the conditions were.  That is not a valid claim over my copyright.  But how can the OP prove that his situation is any different?

Quote:
Originally Posted by (Valg @ Oct. 11 2006,06:21)
It would be very difficult to run any serious endeavor without this sort of agreement. If one of your authors says "Promote me to co-owner, or I'm revoking your permission to use the central city I wrote for you." after the MUD has opened, what are you going to do without owning the material?
You could just get them to grant you the nonexlusive rights to use their work. I'm not the owner of the Wheel of Time copyright, but that doesn't give Robert Jordan the right to make me throw away my copies of his books.
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Old 10-11-2006, 12:42 PM   #11
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Kavir wrote:

The MMORPGs agreements are contracts.

And yet, as you have pointed out many times, is consideration being given? If it's being given in WoW's TOS, there's nothing stopping the OP from simply doing the same thing.


Furthermore the OP can't even prove that the contributors read the application requirements, let alone agreed to them.

Just like packaged software, where you don't have to agree to or read the license, but you're bound by it once you open the software package anyway.



That is not a valid claim over my copyright.


Well, in your opinion at least. The specific implementation of copyright law is really a bit of a grey area, which is why one wants to get an opinion on a specific case from a subject matter expert if it actually matters much.


You could just get them to grant you the nonexlusive rights to use their work.

A number of MMORPGs do this, including Runescape. I believe you can also simply have them grant you the exclusive rights as well if you don't wish them to be able to use the area in another MUD.

--matt
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Old 10-11-2006, 01:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Oct. 11 2006,6:42)
Quote:
Originally Posted by
You could just get them to grant you the nonexlusive rights to use their work.
A number of MMORPGs do this, including Runescape. I believe you can also simply have them grant you the exclusive rights as well if you don't wish them to be able to use the area in another MUD.
The point is that the transfer of exclusive rights has the same "in writing with a signature" requirement as a transfer of copyright, while a transfer of nonexclusive rights doesn't (thus sidestepping the whole issue of what is or isn't considered a "signature" under the laws of your country).
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Old 10-12-2006, 01:45 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (KaVir @ Oct. 11 2006,1:41)
The point is that the transfer of exclusive rights has the same "in writing with a signature" requirement as a transfer of copyright, while a transfer of nonexclusive rights doesn't (thus sidestepping the whole issue of what is or isn't considered a "signature" under the laws of your country).
Yes. Both of which, by your previous logic (big commercial MMORPGs would be doing it if it was ok), are acceptable.

--matt
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Old 10-12-2006, 04:45 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Oct. 12 2006,7:45)
Yes. Both of which, by your previous logic (big commercial MMORPGs would be doing it if it was ok), are acceptable.
They're just hedging their bets. The next line of Sony Online's Terms of Service (at the exact point you stopped quoting) continues with: "To the extent that any of the above may be void or unenforceable...", and goes on to claim what amounts to a nonexclusive licence to use the work in any way they wish.

I guess you could follow their example and claim both, just to cover your bases.
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