IF-archive and archiving games

This topic which was initially about Mathbrush’s decision to not proactively review games not in the IF archive spun off into a discussion about archiving IF in general and the benefits of IF archive vs other hosting places like itch.io.

I figure a more dedicated thread for this discussion would be useful? Will place my thoughts here shortly.


Not sure if this is 100% on topic or only 80% on topic, but I think almost all IF authors would benefit from periodically uploading an archive of their work. The IF Archive accepts this and even has a dedicated folder for them. This folder currently contains… let’s see… one archive! (By yours truly.) Make me less lonely & protect your legacy in one go.


So where does it say the IFArchive cannot sell the Content it collects from users.


In the terms of use (among a lot of other protections):

Since the Archive includes material licensed for personal use only, it may not be compiled for commercial distribution. If you wish to commercially distribute a subset of the Archive’s contents, you must obey the license of each and every file you distribute, and get permission from the author of every file with no attached license. The Archive maintainers are not able to give that permission. Note that “commercial distribution” includes selling games or game compilations on online auction sites.


That only applies to users of the Content on the Archive, not the Achieve itself, which has its own license granted by whomever submits it.

You’re asking what stops IFTF themselves from selling your game down the road?


Right. Legally speaking, I don’t think anything prevents the IFTF itself from deciding to distribute user-submitted content commercially using the license granted when you submit:

For clarity, you retain any ownership rights that you have in and to your User Submissions. However, for the IFTF site to exist and provide fantastic content to readers around the world, in submitting a User Submission to IFTF, you hereby grant IFTF a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, display, edit, modify, tag, cache, index, codify, adapt or create derivative works of, host and perform the User Submissions in connection with the IFTF Services and its affiliates, where such right is terminated only upon a user’s deletion of said User Submission, at which time IFTF may copy, retain, use and distribute User Submissions that have been removed or deleted by the individual who submitted/uploaded the User Submission. You hereby waive any moral rights you may have in your User Submissions and grant each user of the IFTF Services a non-exclusive license to access and archive, but not to distribute, your User Submissions through the IFTF services.


yes, i believe this contains the actual agreement.

@evouga that’s how i read it too.

I consider the actual commercial exploitation by IFTF of material submitted to the Archive as nearly zero, because that would be organizational suicide due to the community backlash.

With that said, would you feel better if a clause was included that specifically did not grant IFTF commercial rights to any content specifically uploaded to the IFarchive?


Sidenote that was kind of mentioned in the linked thread, but there’s a bit of the issue of overloading the Archive submit points (sorry about this for the past two weeks btw), especially around Comp/Jam times.

How can we help with making the processing time faster? or ensuring the upload point is not overloaded when many of us want to archive stuff?
EDIT: also what could be restricted in terms of size of folders and stuff?


Right, if you submit it to them with a license allowing them to distribute it commercially then of course they’d be allowed to distribute it commercially. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where this could happen but not impossible - like a collector’s edition physical version of 25 years of IFComp winners or something like that? Given the rules, terms and conditions, and the general norms around IFTF and the IF community that would basically have to be a contact the authors to get their opt-in sort of thing.

Is there another concern here that the IFTF might want to address, or some barrier to archiving that could be removed? Might be helpful to have that conversation directly if so (if I had a magic wand, I wouldn’t worry about the legalese but I would try to increase the speed and user-friendliness of the upload process).


I think you’re reading that wrong. You don’t get to submit with your own license. By submitting you are granting the Archive the terms laid out in their license. Any license you attach to your work will pertain only to end users, eg CC etc.

There is a concern;

The IFTF should be completely prohibited from monetizing the User Content both directly and indirectly. And in particular prohibited from ever charging a fee to access the content.

Also, from the IFcomp rules pages;

by entering IFComp, you grant the Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation (IFComp’s organizing body) the non-exclusive right to distribute, without limit, all material you submit to the competition.

without limit !!

Like, for example, charging a distribution fee, aka “selling”.

1 Like

Okay. Make the suggestion. I have no qualms about it.




Funny you bring that up - I’ve been in talks with Limited Run Games about physical versions of IFComp winners. It’s still very early days but one condition is that I’ll need to track down every single author and get their agreement to participate. This may never come to fruition because LRG may decide they’re not interested in the end, or people may decline to participate, or any other reason, but I think that’s the right way to do it, at least for now.

If in some hypothetical time down the road we end up with an annual IFComp physical box through a longer-term partnership putting some sort of commercial opt-in on the entry might make sense, but right now, during exploratory conversations, getting every individual’s explicit permission seems right.


(ETA: Responded to the comment “see above” which is no longer there, so providing context.)

Walking up to each individual and asking permission first is not exploitation. I stand by what I said.

Submit your concerns, let them respond. Crucify them then if you don’t like what they have to say.


Just to reiterate: I said that I’d need to track down each author and ask for their commercial rights. I’m not operating under the assumption that IFTF already has those commercial rights. Also even if IFTF technically does, it would be ethically wrong to just sell that stuff. The origin of the project was “hey I bet IFComp authors would enjoy having a hard copy of their game in a box, and the ability for to make a bit of money from the sales of that box.” It’s nice seeing something you made on a shelf. It’s also nice to get some money for that work, even if that’s not at all the motivation you had for making it.


On the legal question, I’d agree that it couldn’t hurt to have the IFTF terms more explicitly say that direct commercial exploitation of submitted pieces by IFTF is off the table, absent some separate and additional agreement – though I strongly believe that is what the current language does.

I’m not a contracts or IP expert by any means, but I do have a law degree, and when you see the word “distribute” in a laundry list of 13 other overlapping terms, the general legal canons of construction are to read that word narrowly, not expansively, all the more so because the words “sell” or “commercial” are conspicuous by their absence. And then of course the first thing someone sees when they upload something to the Archive is a request to read the Terms of Use, which are summarized as “by uploading files, you give the Archive permission to store those files forever and distribute them freely to the public.” That isn’t legally operative language, of course, but where terms are ambiguous (e.g., what does the word “distribute” mean in this context?) extrinsic materials like this are legitimate evidence. So if IFTF is saying this is what their language means, a court would almost certainly hold them to it.

That’s why the discussion of what authors put in their own licenses about commercial exploitation is relevant: the license uploaders grant to the Archive doesn’t give the IFTF any commercial rights, but of course if a work-specific license gives commercial rights to the world, IFTF is included in that and wouldn’t be limited in their activities by anything in the Archive license. If that’s a real concern, though, one could also change the license to say it specifically prohibits IFTF from taking advantage of otherwise-available commercial rights.

Again, this is separate from the “reputational suicide” argument, which I think is right – all of the IFTF’s funding comes from the community which of course has strong norms about this stuff! But the legal side is important too, and I don’t harp on it to be a jerk – but I do think it’s unhelpful if there’s a sense in the community that the current language is legally insufficient and creates these risks. So just to state plainly, I think it’s very clear that if IFTF did decide to start selling IF Archive materials outside of the specific permissions granted by authors in the licenses they attach to their work, it would likely be pretty easy to win that lawsuit. If folks with deeper subject matter knowledge disagree I would certainly defer to them, but the arguments raised so far are not legally credible to the best of my knowledge.


Without getting into the idea of modifying our TOS, let me say:

We explicitly allow people to download files from the IF Archive freely. That includes downloading all the files. And indeed I’m pretty sure some sites trawl and copy the whole server regularly.

(I have not gone through the logs to verify this, but occasionally I get a note from Linode saying “You sure served a lot of traffic this month!” Given that we’re behind Cloudflare with a long cache time, that can’t be any specific game being popular.)

Given that, the safeguard against IFTF going nuts is that anybody could run an IF Archive. Anybody could run IFDB too. (IFDB source code; IFDB database dumps.)

It is not IFTF’s mission to run the only archive, or the only database, or the only forum. We want to run an archive and a database and a forum. If we do it well, and if people trust us, our services will be the most widely used. If not, that’s fine too!

If people actively distrust us, our donation base goes away, we go away, and other people take over doing what we do. This is a deliberately created tripwire.