Thursday, June 16, 2011
What if every game company required commercial licenses from game sites?
I will make less than $99 from the "Buy Tobold a coffee" donation button this year, if I extrapolate year-to-date donations. Thus I do need to think about what happens if every game company follows CCP's move to charge game sites with any income which use their intellectual property $99 a year. By covering so many different games, I would be pretty much screwed if all these companies came and wanted money from me.
Fortunately I am not really at risk. Whatever you think about the originality of my blog posts, they *are* "original" in a legal sense of the word. My thoughts and opinions about various games are my intellectual property, not that of the companies that made the games. I do not need a license to write about a game, or even to describe it. However this isn't a carte blanche for all game blogs: Many blogs I know use screenshots to illustrate their adventures, and those screenshots are the intellectual property of the game company. Theorycrafting sites using lots of data from the game would also be at risk. That can move a blog into the grey territory where legally they would be required to pay a commercial license, but practically it is unlikely that any game company bothers to send you a cease and desist letter for that.
The kind of game sites that are really targeted by that are those that offer third-party services: Databases in which you can look up information about the game, Wikis, and especially sites that offer any sort of addons, macros, or programs. Even if these addons are not banned by any terms of service, as soon as the site is making any money from donations, advertising, or from asking users for money, they would have to pay the $99 license fee.
And it is this fixed amount for the license fee which makes me think that this is an extremely bad idea. If all game companies introduced similar rules, what would happen? Well, the really commercial sites like Curse or Zam would pay up, because $99 per year is probably not a significant deterrent for them. But as there are only a handful of big sites like this, the game company will at best make a couple of thousand dollars, not even enough to pay for monitoring compliance with the license terms. All the small "fan sites" which already work for peanuts, mostly out of love for their games, would go out of business. The game companies would lose huge amount of goodwill from the fans, in exchange for insignificant amounts of money. That can't be a good deal!