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Old 05-22-2002, 04:23 AM   #1
Dulan
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"All area files created through the use of this codebase become the property of the game administrator and not the property of the builder. The game administrator is under no obligation to provide copies of area files to builders at any time."

"[Note: The above blurb is taken from the current licensing doc packaged with the source." - the licensing doc being the license to use this codebase.

This is part of the licensing agreement of ACK! MUD.

Offhand, I can say right now that it is illegal. Not only does the phrasing utterly violate copyright law, but it takes away from builders rights quite severely. As well, reading on this, the current ACK! administrator claims that it has been succesfully defended in court - 3 seperate times.

Bullcrap? What? I want more information here - anyone care to comment? KaVir especially?

This could have potentially vast implications on the rest of the community, as well. If this can slide, just how many rights can builders truly have if builders rights can be pre-restricted by the license of the codebase, and not by any agreement or acknowledgement on their part? And if that can happen, what else can happen? While I do support copyright to an extent, I support builders rights more so - even if I can't build worth crap. And this is one of those cases where it is utter and complete crap imo.

-D

P.S. A sidenote, since Orion brought it up. "Property", in this context, transfers "Intellectual Property", also known as IP, or Copyright to the admin of the MUD in question.
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Old 05-22-2002, 05:08 AM   #2
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Well, it's difficult to say anything but "ME TOO" here, Dulan.

The claim that it's been defended in court looks completely phony - a search on Google didn't turn up any court rulings, but perhaps my criteria are wrong.

But...
Here's the ACK! License as found online, refering to v. 4.3:
Quote:
Originally Posted by
This file file describes the license requirements for using the Ack!Mud code
base.

--All previous licenses ( merc and diku ) apply, and must be followed.
--Login screens must contain all info required in previous licenses, plus
the taglines given at the bottom of this file.
--as per the diku license, no profit may be made by anyone using this code
base.
--Ackmud specific code segments may me freely copied, distributed, or
modified as long as the terms of all appropriate licenses are met.
--Ackmud, Ack!Mud, and ACK!MUD are copyrighted when dealing with internet
multi-player online games.
I don't see the offending reference here, but as I said, it's v4.3, dated 1998.
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Old 05-22-2002, 05:22 AM   #3
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Dulan, the clause isn't "illegal", it's just legally worthless. It would be like including a clause which stated "If you get caught cheating, the mud owner has the right to turn up at your house and beat you to death with a spiked club". You could stick it in the license if you liked, but it wouldn't allow you to get away with murder. Equally, the builder DOES still own their property, unless they've explicitly signed away their rights - whoever told you that the license had been successfully defended in court is either lying or has been misinformed (if it had even GONE to court I'm sure we'd all have heard about it, anyway).

The second part of the clause, concerning providing copies of area files to builders at any time, is something which has been debated before, and isn't quite as straightforward. I believe that such a clause is legally valid, even though it's not very nice, but it may depend on the situation.
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Old 05-22-2002, 06:15 AM   #4
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I could be wrong but, unlike the situation with Diku/GPL where the wording was clear in the phrasing, couldn't this be an attempt by the author not to take the copyright (which can't be taken anyway, in this fashion), but to simply claim ownership of the fixed form of the work. To clarify, an attempt to take ownership of the physical copy, such as a painter's painting, as opposed to the rights to the physical copy, such as a painter's copyright of said painting?

Since it doesn't make a distinction as to which 'property' it is attempting to assume ownership of (the fixed form, or the rights to said fixed form), I would think the intent of the licensor would be a very necessary step in the process of making that distinction...

Some see at as an attempt to steal the copyright, while others may see it as an attempt to retain ownership of the work created on/for their MUD.

Just my thoughts on the matter.
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Old 05-22-2002, 02:38 PM   #5
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There is no way in the world that license agreement would be upheld in court. First of all, and very importantly, a license is a contract which requires consideration. No consideration means all you have is a promise. A promise is not a legally binding agreement, its just a promise. Second, it violates copyright law because unless it is a work for hire, a licensee can not force a license upon the licensor. It is the builder that grants the owner the right to use the work, not the owner granting the builder the right to build something for him.

Orion:

To clear up some wording, you can not simultaneously have a copyright holder and a separate owner. The owner of the mud can be granted, through a license, an exclusive right to use or something akin to a "life estate" in the work, but they would not become the owner.

As a side note, a builder could always give the work to the owner as a gift. A gift requires three elements: intent, delivery, and acceptance. For such a situtation, the builder would have to make it clear they are giving the work to the owner as gift and intend to do so. However, the owner can not compel the builder to make his work a gift.

Hope this clears things up. If you have any more questions feel free to ask.
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Old 05-22-2002, 02:38 PM   #6
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Mmm.

All quotes were taken from the current ACK! administrator. She claimed that it had been successfully defended in court on three seperate occassions, as I stated earlier. I could dig up the specific email and such from the mailing list, if everyone wanted? This was at the heart of the Druid's Realm scuffle over areas awhile back - DR refused to remove areas of questionable legality from their MUD as per the Builder's request, and also refused to forward the builder a copy of their area.

A further note: An area file is the expression of an idea. The builder does not hold copyright over the idea for the area - just the expression of the idea. At least that's from Poli Sci yesterday. Having a copyright lawyer teaching Poli Sci kicks ass!

So....-shrug- Ideas? Comments? What the heck is up with this?

-D
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Old 05-22-2002, 02:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Dulan @ May 22 2002,1:38 pm)
Mmm.

That was as quoted from the current ACK! administrator, Alastair and KaVir. She also claimed that it had been successfully defended in court three times. Also note that all quotes were taken from her.

So....-shrug- Ideas? Comments? What the heck is up with this?

-D
tell her to provide the docket number or case citation. I can go look up either and check. Until she does that, I won't believe her because I have never seen any Mud mentioned in a case before.
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Old 05-22-2002, 04:48 PM   #8
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Not to argue the points any, but I see this as almost the same as if you create an entry for a contest. Usually the rules state that all submissions become the property of the contest sponsor and will not be returned. The statement where it says "not the property of the builder" is fishy to me.

I can also see the "no obligation to provide copies of area files to builders at any time" being there to protect the admin and the other builders from disgruntled builders. If more than one person worked on an area, do all contributers have rights to the whole area? Also, the person could keep demanding this file, then that file, and so on. Just to be a pest.

The statement allows the admin to use the area and to modify it as they see fit. But that doesn't mean the original builder can't make a copy of the code and write it down or something (I don't code so I don't know how much of a task this would be to do) and use it again somewhere else. I agree the original author shouldn't have to give up complete rights to the area.

Anyway, that all could be mute because the builder knows up front what the deal is and by creating the area using that codebase, they are agreeing to the terms.

This could be where the admin is coming from, but it still doesn't explain the defended in court three times and won statement.

_
Disclaimer: The above is my opinion and should not be relied upon by anyone. Submitted for discussion only.
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Old 05-22-2002, 04:57 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Adarkts @ May 22 2002,3:48 pm)
Not to argue the points any, but I see this as almost the same as if you create an entry for a contest.  Usually the rules state that all submissions become the property of the contest sponsor and will not be returned.  The statement where it says "not the property of the builder" is fishy to me.

I can also see the "no obligation to provide copies of area files to builders at any time" being there to protect the admin and the other builders from disgruntled builders.  If more than one person worked on an area, do all contributers have rights to the whole area?  Also, the person could keep demanding this file, then that file, and so on.  Just to be a pest.

The statement allows the admin to use the area and to modify it as they see fit.  But that doesn't mean the original builder can't make a copy of the code and write it down or something (I don't code so I don't know how much of a task this would be to do) and use it again somewhere else.  I agree the original author shouldn't have to give up complete rights to the area.

Anyway, that all could be mute because the builder knows up front what the deal is and by creating the area using that codebase, they are agreeing to the terms.

This could be where the admin is coming from, but it still doesn't explain the defended in court three times and won statement.

_
Disclaimer:  The above is my opinion and should not be relied upon by anyone.  Submitted for discussion only.
This is when trying to explain the law becomes annoying. I clearly laid out some contract basics and yet people want to offer their OPINION about the law WITHOUT any legal training whatsoever.

1. The license is granted to the owner from the builder. Not the other way around.

2. Building and having terms imposed on you by a mud owner DOES NOT OVERRULE FEDERAL LAW. Unless their is consideration, there is no contract!!!

3. The statement? that you refer to does not give the right to modify but suggests the owner becomes the full owner of the work over the author. Your interpretation has nothing to do with what the owner is trying to do in this instance (which we have clearly established is not a legally binding contract).

4. People need to stop saying what they THINK the law is or is not. Opinions are not helpful and without any legal training or serious study you do nothing more than obscure the facts and make the situation more confusing.
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Old 05-22-2002, 05:06 PM   #10
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From what I can see from the quote originally mentioned above, the license is talking about the area file itself.  there is no mention of the actual intellectual property of the area, just the area FILE.  All arguments before this have related to the IP.  How does the area file fit into the copyright?  I could make a comment based on previous conversations on the topic, but it would be a comment based on others' opinion.  I'd be interesting in seeing a more intelligent response.

Darrik Vequir
-Who realizes a law students opinion is just that, but still wants to hear it.
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Old 05-22-2002, 05:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Darrik @ May 22 2002,4:06 pm)
From what I can see from the quote originally mentioned above, the license is talking about the area file itself.  there is no mention of the actual intellectual property of the area, just the area FILE.  All arguments before this have related to the IP.  How does the area file fit into the copyright?  I could make a comment based on previous conversations on the topic, but it would be a comment based on others' opinion.  I'd be interesting in seeing a more raw response.

Darrik Vequir
The file itself can be the owner's, just as if you bought a sheet of music in a store to learn how to play your favorite group's music. However, while you "own" that sheet of paper (or book, whatever), it does not give you any rights over the copyright of the music. Nor is buying the sheet music a license to make a cover of the song and release on the album. Copyright is still vested in the original author, as it would be in the case of the mud.

The file itself would be property of the owner. As copyright is intangible in the sense that it doesn't exist as a real thing per se. However, conversely, copyright law does require the work be fixed on tangible form somehow (thereby excluding a public speach from being copyrighted, unless it was recorded by the author first).

This is some of the more complex IP stuff, and we can go over it if you like, though it is not really germaine to the topic at hand.
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Old 05-23-2002, 02:41 AM   #12
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Oh....CRAP

Right here, baby. With fun quotes like license agreements superceding copyright law, and such.

Welcome to the wonderful world of ACK!, such as it is.

I know some people will find certain points vastly amusing in here. While some of her points are right, and her posts appear initially correct, once taken as a whole....who the hell gave the ACK! admin this utterly wrong information?!?!?

-D
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Old 05-23-2002, 04:22 AM   #13
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As I understand it, even if you cede the claim that the mud owner owns the area file (not the copyright), that still doesn't grant him or her the right to use, display, copy (etc.) the work. Hence, it's sole purpose from that moment is to take up space on their hard drive.

Kas.
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Old 05-23-2002, 03:52 PM   #14
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From what I've read of Mason's response, the actual clause in the license is perfectly valid... it may not be what the writer meant, of course.

This was my point in my previous post... the clause is fine, but what is being argued in the rest of the thread is not what the clause is saying... heck, what the owners are actually trying to enforce isn't what the clause says, either.

Fun stuff.

DV
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Old 05-23-2002, 04:19 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Darrik @ May 23 2002,2:52 pm)
From what I've read of Mason's response, the actual clause in the license is perfectly valid... it may not be what the writer meant, of course.

This was my point in my previous post... the clause is fine, but what is being argued in the rest of the thread is not what the clause is saying... heck, what the owners are actually trying to enforce isn't what the clause says, either.

Fun stuff.

DV
I suppose if you wanted to take it that literally you could argue that it does not pertain to the "work" itself but the directory in the code. (though that would seem a little strange. Thats like announcing "ALL OF MY BOOKS ARE MY BOOKS AND NOT YOURS!" rather pointless, yes?).

its quite clear, whatever the case, that ack!mud has not much of a clue what they are doing. and until someone from there provides me with a docket number or case citation, i will hold my opinion that they are full of crap.
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Old 05-24-2002, 10:47 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by
From : Paula <dominia@mindspring.com>
To : kaos8891@hotmail.com
Subject : Re: kaos8891@hotmail.com posted to ackmud
Date : Fri, 24 May 2002 19:241 -0400

MIME-Version: 1.0
Received: from [167.206.5.133] by hotmail.com (3.2) with ESMTP id MHotMailBEB8168F00AA40042A12A7CE0585B09519; Fri, 24 May 2002 16:24:42 -0700
Received: from [192.168.123.150] (ool-4351ffe6.dyn.optonline.net [67.81.255.230]) by mta2.srv.hcvlny.cv.net (iPlanet Messaging Server 5.0 Patch 2 (built Dec 14 2000)) with ESMTP id <0GWN007JF2A34B@mta2.srv.hcvlny.cv.net> for kaos8891@hotmail.com; Fri, 24 May 2002 19:22:51 -0400 (EDT)
From dominia@mindspring.com Fri, 24 May 2002 16:25:35 -0700
In-reply-to: <1022194254.15152.53010.m5@yahoogroups.com>
Message-id: <B91443D1.B0%dominia@mindspring.com>
User-Agent: Microsoft-Entourage/10.0.0.1309

We don't get involved in pointless conversations such as these. Let someone
sue for damages. Until then, it's simply a discussion by people who want to
make themselves feel all tingly inside.
This is what the ACK! community thinks of license issues apparently. You have to sue to get their attention even if their license is legally questionable.

Isn't the ACK! community just fun?

-D
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Old 05-25-2002, 12:03 AM   #17
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My first question is, why do you even care about "the ACK! community" if you feel it is so messed up?

As for the license, I have a question: Is the situation here the makers of a codebase saying they own any area anyone creates on any mud that uses that codebase? Or are they saying anyone that becomes a builder on ACK! Mud (is there a specific mud named ACK! Mud?) and then makes an area for that mud gives all ownership rights to the area to that mud?

That sounds like a standard "work for hire" type relationship. Work for hire is not always done for money. As for consideration, the builder is getting access to a server and codebase where they can build things, they get the status/prestige/fun/whatever of being a wiz/builder on that mud, etc. There is definitely valid consideration.
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Old 05-25-2002, 12:42 AM   #18
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This may be a pointless conversation for some, but others may feel it is somewhat informative. And, if it can make someone aware of their rights, then it shall not have been in vain. If Ack!mud wishes to dismiss us by claiming we get all tingly because we are discussing the law, that is fine with me. I'm in law school and really do enjoy discussing this kind of stuff.

Threshold:

Simply creating a work for another is not necessarily a work for hire, per se. Moreover, simply allowing a builder to work on a builder port is not in itself consideration. Not all muds make builders an imm, which is another reason building in itself is not necessarily consideration. However, granting special privileges (such as an imm) to a builder MAY create consideration (again, such a determination is not definite).

However, just because there is consideration does not necessarily mean the contract is valid. A contract can not be forced upon someone. The license is granted to the owner from the author. If the owner wants to say "if you want to build you have to agree to these terms" that is fine. However, without consideration such a deal would be invalid. Moreover, a builder could simply say "i don't agree" and the offer from the owner no longer invokes a power of acceptance in the builder. At which point, a completely new set of terms could be arranged.

(That was a crash course in offer and acceptance, another important aspect of contracts. I don't know if this helps or not, but I thought I would throw it in to cloud everyone's mind a little more.)
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Old 05-25-2002, 01:09 AM   #19
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In order to claim something is 'work for hire', you have to pay them at least minimum wage for the work done, potential benefits, etc.

I really don't think that any MUD can logically claim that, Threshold.

As for why I am hashing this over, I have been working on an ACK! derivitive for the past 4 or 5 years. I think that I can honestly say I have no small interest on this subject.

-D
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Old 05-25-2002, 02:04 PM   #20
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There is no true legal precedent for the situation this creates.

On the one hand, a builder uses the medium the owner created to create the work. This forms an intrinsic relationship between the two. The builder has used the owners resources and equipment, and therefore does not have exclusive rights to the material created.

On the other, the builder has created something which fits into the mold the owner needs, but is not solely dependent upon that medium. In other words, without the MUD, the builder could still create the room descriptions, NPC descriptions, etc. Therefore, despite the use of the owners medium, they would still have exclusive rights, n'est ce pas?

Sadly, there are those who are vindictive enough (or immature enough) to demand removal of their areas when things sour on the homefront. By far the best option is to agree with their demands, remove their area(s) and move on. This is not always a viable option, and involves a level of maturity which is not often in the repertoire of the owner. The owner should endeavor to not hire persons of this caliber.

In my personal experience, those who do stoop to this level are also uneducated enough that the removal of their area(s) is actually a benefit....

-------------

Another option, and one which I espouse: include a plethora of helpfiles which indicate that contributions to, work on, etc for your site becomet he property of the site and cannot be removed. When they demand removal, point them to those files. Indicate that you'll be more than willing to comply if they get a court ruling which says that you must do so.

I also do not believe work for hire requires material payment. So long as the worker and the employer agree that the value of the payment is worth the goods given, the standards are met.
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