Saturday 4 December 2010

Machinima – mixed messages about alternate universes

If your copyright is infringed, you can object, ignore or approve.

‘Machinima’ are homemade movies put together using imagery from computer-games. The gaming industry, seeing the promotional value of these derivative works, seems to approve. World of Warcraft, for example, sanctions machinima in its ‘Letter to the Machinimators of the world’. Along with the approval come conditions, the most important of which is that machinima must be non-commercial.

This is a copyright story with a happy ending but that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t interesting, as Gaetano Dimita revealed to a Blaca meeting last month.

‘Letter to the Machinimators of the world’, for example, is a copyright licence – though not a contract as the user is not providing any consideration. It has an uneasy relationship with the End User Licence Agreement (EULA). While the Letter says ‘you are permitted to create machinima productions’ the EULA says ‘you agree that you will not, under any circumstances … create derivative works based on the Game’. In copyright terms, this appears to be a direct contradiction – you are allowed and not allowed. From the perspective of contract law, the Letter is not a contract, so is unenforceable by the user, while the EULA is a contract, so is enforceable by the computer-game company.

If your copyright is infringed, you can object, ignore or approve – or a combination of the above.

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