IFArchive and licenses

Random question (not for me, but I got interested in the topic) but…
Under what licenses are games uploaded to the IFArchive?
Is there one to begin with? What license is not accepted?

The context is about a future educational game (currently WIP) that needs a license, with the goal of being uploaded to the IFArchive when done.
EDIT: and if someone knows of a good license for an OER, that’d be neato!


The front page links to the Terms of Use page.

There is not necessarily any license beyond “By uploading files, you give the Archive permission to store those files forever and distribute them freely to the public.”


There’s no formal license requirement.

Really, for almost all uploads, the author hasn’t thought about the question. Mostly they just take for granted the IF community gift economy: “Here’s a game I want people to play. The IF Archive is a good place to find it.”


A bit OT but I noticed that when you now create a new repository on GitHub you get an option to choose a license among about 15 listed. I’m actively uninterested in licence agreements and wonder if there’s someone legaly trained that can tell we which to choose that’s most resembles “I don’t care, tyou can do anything you want with the code.” and stop people from making issues on the project asking for me to apply a correct licence agreement, without offering any suggestion what that agreement should be?

The MIT license is probably the most common one, and is widely used in the IF community. It’s very close to “do what you want”, except that people who use the code have to give attribution to the original authors.

If you don’t even want attribution, then public domain, or the Unlicense is an option. But probably just choose the MIT.


We now have Creative Commons for that.

There’s a helpful chooser if you want.

1 Like

If you consider your work software, CC is not recommended, by CC itself:

Can I apply a Creative Commons license to software?

We recommend against using Creative Commons licenses for software. […]

Much longer version on their website: Frequently Asked Questions - Creative Commons


If you are making the IF in a particular (non-commercial) engine, consider checking what licence (if specified) that engine uses and consider whether using the same one would make sense. You would be well-advised to credit the engine licence terms in the game anyway (as well as your own game’s licence, if different), if only so that people who care about such things are confident in knowing whether they can stream/modify/[do the thing they are thinking of doing] your IF without breaking either the letter of the law or the spirit in which the IF was shared.

Also consider that if you own the copyright for a game and wish to release it on a commercial licence alongside providing IFArchive with the complete version, you could ask whether IFArchive would accept an exemption in writing. (This is less of an issue for demos, since demos are generally expected to be freely distributed and no lawyer is going to be surprised at a demo for a commercial game being on an archive). Non-commercial IF for which you own the copyright is unlikely to have any issues if uploaded to IFArchive, but I am not a lawyer.

1 Like

Colin Post has been considering the idea of a free game license that would permit libraries and other archiving institutions to keep the work. See: Let's Talk about Collecting Narrative Games in Libraries - #19 by ccpost

This is still in the planning / survey stage, though.

1 Like

In that case they really should be providing a license that allows anyone to copy and distribute the work. Without a license a potential distributer is assuming the copyright holder is not going to enforce their copyright. If you really don’t care how anyone uses the work that would require yet a different license. Personally I’m not sure why you’d be okay with eg some AI bro company sucking up your data and profiting from your work, not that a copyright or license is going to stop them.

1 Like

Public domain might be slightly less ideal than a license. Some countries don’t have a concept of public domain, which can restrict people from reusing stuff. I am not a lawyer.

It’s easy to say this when you’ve been in the open-source world for thirty years and start every project by slapping in your favorite license. But this is alien to most people.

(Remember that the IF Archive had been active for like 25 years before we thought of adding “I am the author and I give permission” to the upload form.)

Personally I’m not sure why you’d be okay with eg some AI bro company sucking up your data and profiting from your work, not that a copyright or license is going to stop them.

I agree it’s not going to stop them, which means it’s not a useful argument.

Zarf, if this “free game license” start from your “zarf license” of decades ago (that was, the code is freely reusable, but the story content is not, or allow only derivative work, e.g. fanfiction, interactive or not) this can solve the core problem of IF source code licensing (that is, code and content is deeply interwined)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio

1 Like

@dannii You are quoting something from the cited TOS page that isn’t actually there!

To be fair, I think he’s quoting me.

EDIT: I read the wrong post.

Yeah, it’s post number two I think, which paraphrases the summary of terms and conditions - which, since it’s the summary, paraphrasing vs direct quotation doesn’t matter much as it’s the actual terms that are legally operative.

Though I’d second Zarf’s broader point that in nearly all relevant cases it’s the community norms and expectations that are most impactful; law generally steps in where social ties are weakened or attenuated, and one upside of the small size of the IF community is that most things aren’t heavily legalized!

The quote was from the upload form.

Well sometimes all you have in life are meaningless gestures. And it’s as good an argument as you’re going to get. If the license can be violated at will by those with more power than you, then this entire discussion about which license to use is a meaningless gesture.

Public domain can be emulated in those countries with CC0, WTFL (and perhaps the Unlicense but I haven’t checked that yet).

(I personally think: Probably the best solution is letting the authors decide which license they use, as long as it allows the IFarchive to store and publish the game.)

Thanks for looping me into this thread! This discussion definitely illustrates the utility for the free game license tailored for library collecting that I’m working on.

I am definitely still working on it, though now it’s in the the ‘academic work just takes way too long’ phase of development.