Copyright (was Graham Nelson's Curses)


Another win for copyright means another loss for the universe.

Imagine if this kid had never spoke up afterwards; we’d have entirely unknowingly discouraged a young bright mind and yanked back a helpful link, based on a kneejerk reaction to protect what? Curses from having unauthorised derivative works? Is that really worth this kind of risk? Does Graham Nelson really need hall monitors to patrol threads looking for infringers? For every ‘incorrect targetting’ situation like this that comes to light, there are dozens of people whose creative and hobbyist activities are silently chilled by copyright, and who just melt away without asking for a clarification.

P.S. I too am interested in the different historical versions of well-programmed things.

And here I thought your thing about copyright was just a quip.

Although copyright IS important, I was more concerned about a new release of “Curses” coming out, with “new content” that was wildly differing in tone and context from the previous areas, even more so from a person whom we knew nothing about. It was unlikely that such a project would bear a fruit worthy of the history of Curses. Hence my preoccupation.

I’m sure you’ll understand that given the wording of the first post, this interpretation wasn’t completely random. And thus my response, as a concerned IFer, basically dotting the Is, nuding the potential fan-fictioner-to-be away from such an intrepid project if he weren’t completely ready to follow it through to the best of his abilities, which would include, yes, contacting Nelson, but not just for permission: rather, to engage him in conversation about various aspects of the game, so the end result looks like a complete ouevre instead of a poor fan fiction.

My post was in the form of a question. Naturally, eventually the OP formulated an answer. If in doubt, then we can safely say that his interest in this case would have ensured that he cared enough about it to revisit this thread and answer the questions.

Now that I’ve come to the end of this post, I find it actually rather absurd that I have to clarify myself this way. I fully understand your apparent passion regarding strict and unblinking copyright enforcement, but, dude, generally chill.

EDIT - Also, I asked 5 questions. Only one of them could be considered to be regarding copyright infringement, and yet it wasn’t even in the back of my mind. I just thought it’d be at least polite. I certainly asked Al Lowe’s permission before I make LSL2P&C. He explained he couldn’t legally give me permission as Sierra held the copyright, but he gave me his blessing. That’s what I meant in this case.

EDIT 2 - On the other hand, I might be the one who needs to chill, as I see now, calmly, that it’s after my post that the words “copyright infringement” come to play. You might have been responding to those all along. And if so, well, I apologise for being defensive about it.

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This is not your determination to make, nor anyone’s determination to make – not even really Graham Nelson’s though he may have the legal right should he so wish. Nor is it your determination to make whether or not it is okay in a particular context for someone to infringe Graham’s – or anyone’s copyrights. The way copyright works is, if the author doesn’t complain, then everything’s fine. That’s why we have so many versions of the original Adventure – not because the original authors renounced their copyrights on release, but because they simply didn’t complain. They let it happen.

I guess it’s a good thing there weren’t a bunch of copyright hall monitors around back then, thinking they were doing somebody a favour by telling people who have done nothing wrong, on behalf of someone who has expressed no disapproval of it, that they shouldn’t be doing what they are doing simply because a stupid law that few people take seriously anymore says XYZ.

Your flurry of disapproving questions immediately pouncing on somebody’s project on the basis of a single highly ambiguous word was foolish and entirely misguided. It has resulted in your foot firmly planted in your mouth. I hope you never attempt to play the keystone copyright cop again. You deserve precisely as much embarrassment as required to modify your behaviour toward newbies in this forum: no more no less.

And some people wonder why innovation is slowing around here… maybe too many are appointing themselves judge, jury, and executioner of newbies’ projects and ideas. When somebody says they are interested in doing something, the answer should always be ‘yes do it’; there is no other correct answer. If you dissuade that person, they are not going to work on IF projects you like better instead; the vast majority of the time they will switch to another medium where the community is less police-like and they can feel more freedom to do as they wish.

And there is always going to be a community member who doesn’t like the things you like, and thinks they shouldn’t be done for reasons based on twisted ethics, and you are showing that member by example that it’s okay to pounce on newbies for it. It’s just madness for a community that wants to grow to behave in this way.

Copyright is not doing IF any favours whatsoever. We would be way better off if we ditched trying to respect it entirely and left it completely up to the owners of copyrights (Nelson, Activision, whoever) to do their own policing, the way the system actually intended – that’s why it was originally in the civil code and not a criminal offence at all, which has only changed in recent draconian decades. Because coming down on infringers was supposed to be an optional choice made at the copyright owner’s discretion.

EDIT TO ADD: I am not angry at you Peter, I am just using your mistake here to prove a point that really needs to be made forcefully. This isn’t the first run-in I’ve had with copyright hawks on this forum – they are way too thick around here. Ultimately this isn’t really about you – the mistake you made is just the inevitable mistake that is always made when copyright is taken too seriously.

I was about to reply to your post, but frankly, I tire of misdirected hostility and will have no further part of it. I’m not the one who feels embarassed, nor the one who feels has his foot in his mouth.

Well I’m sorry that you hate so much to be confronted with the consequences of your actions. Anytime you want to embarrass me further by having me stick my foot right back here in this place again, you know what actions to perform. I am perfectly willing to embarrass myself by pointing out the truth.

Yay! A nice two-person flamewar about nothing!
And what if our original post was, let’s say, from PUDLO, pretending he’s a 12yo?

You people just need to relax, I think.

Err… I never thought of that.

Well I’m sorry if I overreacted… but that’s just my hot button issue and there it is.

Well, for my part I’m sorry if I sounded too discouraging of new projects to a newcomer, and about sounding as though I felt I had a right to judge someone’s project. I’m even more sorry for this argument, none of it was my intention, any more than it was yours to overreact.

So, peace. :slight_smile:

OK I’m sorry too, let’s bury the hatchet, maybe I went too far.


I’ve split off the posts about copyrights etc. Let’s have a more civil discussion next time please.

Only the ones you disagreed with, I notice. Probably not a great idea to use mod power to inflame an already settled and apologised-for situation, but whatever.

I really hope I’m not inflaming things any more by saying this, but while I understand the reasoning behind splitting the topics, and while the other thread did become neater, this one became something removed from context, potentially confusing and, without context, an argumentative dead end…

Maybe add a first post, or edit it with the link to the thread which started the discussion? Then the OP will not be troubled further, and readers of this thread will have a context to ground themselves in.

And hey, we could actually start a conversation about copyright, once we’re all firmly grounded someplace.

Who said I disagreed with anything? I left the ones which engaged with the OP, and split the ones which weren’t. As to context, while it might have been neater if some of the posts could’ve been duplicated, I don’t think it matters too much. It felt like the debate had already run its course before I split them. I can certainly add a link to the original though, so I’ll do that now.

Very neatly done. :slight_smile:

Thanks for that. I don’t want to fight about the modding. Nothing was deleted, so ultimately it’s a quibble.

I will try to avoid the messy bits…

The IF Archive policy is that when you upload your work, you are implicitly giving permission for the Archive to store it, mirrors to mirror it, and people to download it. It is true that we don’t save old copies of games, but that’s not part of the bargain! It’s just historical policy. Maybe someday we will start retaining all files – that’s what “archive” usually means. Maybe someday we will do a sweep of the Wayback Machine to try to recover old versions of games.

(There was a point, I recall, when we said “Hey, we should really keep old copies of the Inform compiler and libraries, because that’s important for studying and updating old source code.” But the Archive hadn’t saved that stuff. So everybody hunted around their hard drives, uploaded copies, and now we have … ource/old/ etc.)

The point of this is: passing around an old copy of Curses is within the spirit of things. I’d do it if I had one.

And then, if you think that somebody is going to do something with it that you dislike, you can start that discussion. But it’s no reason to yank the file away. Other people might be interested too! For other reasons! Or maybe the original person will change his mind. Or you misunderstood. Or the project, however benign or nefarious, might never wind up happening at all.


All good points; thanks for adding them here. The only reason I can think of to have a copyright discussion in that ‘here’s a link’ situation is to warn people who sound like they might wander into litigious territory that they might get served with papers or something. So if it’s not falling afoul of a major corporation with lawyers known for sharp practice, and the original creator isn’t involved in the thread, then I don’t see a good reason ever to discuss it, unless the point is to turn this forum into ‘Obedient Copyright Citizen Lesson Time’. That’s the impression that really turns me off, the idea that people are using this forum to train others to be obedient to silly, pointless rules that can only hamper the kinds of network and sharing effects which, contrary to copyright dogma, are the actual sources of innovation in the world. So that’s where I’m coming from.

This is a big deal for me – easily half my Twitter feed is about this issue; and there are many hundreds of thousands (at least) of others like me. But I guess I am the only ‘proud pirate’ type digital rights activist who sometimes frequents this forum (at least who is willing to speak up about it). It’s a definite culture clash.

Everyone download my Zork game from the iOS store! It’s just the original but with the lamp as an in-app-purchase for only £1.99! Is this OK?

The Precog Police. Jailing people for doing nothing (yet) since 2013!