Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

February 6, 2014 - E. Zachary Knight

Earlier this week, Rock Paper Shotgun posted an editorial in response to some Twitter comments made in response to some comments written in an earlier post about GOG's Time Machine Sale. In that post, RPS Editor John Walker wrote:

As someone who desperately pines for the PD model that drove creativity before the copyright industry malevolently took over the planet, it saddens my heart that a game two decades old isn’t released into the world. Even ignoring the chances that anyone involved in the development of a game made in 1989 is seeing a penny of it, it engenders this belief that for creative products there should be some inalienable right to keep making money on some work you did decades ago, like a plumber demanding a fee every time you use the tap he installed in 1992. Yuck, stop it.

In response to comments made about how John didn't want developers to get paid, he wrote a follow up editorial which concluded this way:

And just in case, let’s do this one more time: I love it so much when talented people get handsomely rewarded for their great creative work. It brings joy to my heart when I see stories of the likes of Garry Newman or Marcus Persson becoming fantastically wealthy in response to their brilliant creations. Little makes me smile more broadly in an average day at work than reading the indie developer who’s reporting their game’s sales mean they can give up their day job and focus on what they love.

Copyright is a controversial issue in the games industry with topics such as piracy, DRM and YouTube videos making up much of the discourse. Yet, the public domain has never really entered the conversation as video games have never been subject to it.

So with this being part of a much broader and controversial issue, it sparked a few editorials from various developers. There was one post on Gamasutra made by Steve Gaynor, one of the developers of Gone Home, who wrote about how income made from older works help fuel the creation of new works.

Another was a post from Paul Taylor, Joint Managing Director of Mode 7 Games, who wrote about how living creators might feel when the works they created are used for purposes they don't approve of. 

I also tossed my hat into the ring with a post about how games that don't enter the public domain may be lost to many modern gamers. I included quite a few graphs to illustrate this point which you should check out. This post even sparked a great conversation on Gamasutra. 

All of this leads into this week's poll. Should video games enter the public domain? If so, how many rights should the original creator hold over those works? How long should it be before games enter the public domain? If the poll doesn't have an answer that fits your opinion, or you want to expand on what you picked, please respond in the comments or send an email to us at SuperPACpodcast@gmail.com. 

Andrew and I will discuss this poll and all the responses we get in the next Super PAC Podcast.

"vote label" © Tribalium / Shutterstock. All rights reserved, used with permission.

-Reporting from Oklahoma, GamePolitics Contributer E. Zachary Knight

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Comments

Re: Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

I have trouble picking between "Yes after a fix amount of time" and "IP can be renewed but they have to use it"... There are pros and con's of both. The plus side of everything eventually going public domain is how it can be used to influence really creative adaptions. Heck I find it ironic the one of the biggest defenders of copyright is disney and yet half their empire was built on adapting public domain work. However there is only the chance for things to go out of hand, and thus keeping the IP under control helps maintain some quality control... honestly imagine if you had to deal with dozens of new Mario and sonic games every year from a wide variety of different developers with wildly different qualities; It could get rather crazy... Nintendo may not always change things up that much, but atleast you'll get a fun game for your money. Though the competition might be good. Part of me wonders; what it Lucas had allowed Star wars to go public domain... The massive wave of Star wars products could make things interesting, but it could also make things confusing and oversaturated.

Like i said, I can see pro's and con's to both... though maybe I should lean towards everything going public domain eventually. Atleast then companies would have more incentive to create new IP's instead of just keep milking their old ideas. Not to mention that if we are talking LONG term, then we might get to the point where those things that went public domain are not as insanly popular anymore; so they can work as good material to adapt, but not have to worry about crazy over saturation from EVERYONE trying to milk it.

 

At the very least i can say I hate it when companies just sit on an IP. God knows that i wish Banjo Kazooie could be released from Microsoft's grasp so that another developer might be able to recapture the old magic

Re: Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

The thing about Nintendo and even Sega, those IPs are under regular use, so no danger of them going public domain so long as they're using them.

 

Where we have companies such as Square-enix, and now Capcom, who have these IPs that are definite fan favorites, and they're just sitting on the copyright letting it rot while they just re-release stuff.

So I voted on letting them renew it so long as they're actually doing something with it other than making sure no one else can touch it.

Re: Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

*nod* I kinda wish I could select "(d) and then (a)", so companies that are actively using their copyright can hold onto it longer, but all copyright eventually defaults back to the public.

This would allow works which no one is utilizing to enter public domain faster since they are not benefiting anybody at that point.

Re: Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

And for the people that say copyright should never expire:

http://www.spiderrobinson.com/melancholyelephants.html

 

Re: Poll: Should Video Games Enter The Public Domain?

Neat story.  I've never come across it before...

 
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