If you’re a little unsure about what Video Game Modding (VGM) is, check out my earlier post. It gives it the brief description that my word count can’t allow. Also, that one has zombies.
VGM is based on and tying into existing games, but none the less it is the modification and redistribution of content originally created by someone else. When dealing with intellectual property (IP) in this fashion, modders encounter a veritable quagmire of ethical and legal issues rarely thought about. For example, who owns the mod? The holders of the original games copyright or the producers of the mod? With many modders choosing not to profit from mods at all but a few opting to ask for donations from people using the mod, where does the line of profit lay? If we are to think about the sheer notoriety that a successful mod brings, who deserves that?
As video games become a more main-stream media, VGM has grown more prominent and in the process the legality of certain modding has come to a far greater light than ever before. Given the size of the modern video games industry, there is a great deal of money to be made and lost. Litigation is inevitable.
One of the most recent and relevant cases of copyright and modding revolves around a certain game which, if you’re cool enough, you might have heard of: DOTA II. What you need to know is that the original DOTA (Defence of the Ancients), was a mod for a game made by Blizzard Entertainment (Blizzard), World of Warcraft. The mod was made by a small group of third party developers, only worked within the existing game and was distributed for free on the internet. DOTA became immensely popular and everyone lived happily ever after…
… Until another games company, Valve Corporation (Valve), hired the developers of the Mod and made a completely new game based on the Mod, calling it DOTA II. Blizzard responded by taking Valve to court in an attempt to secure the trademark of DOTA as their IP to be used on their upcoming sequel version of DOTA II which, at the time, was known as “Blizzard DOTA II“.
Blizzard claimed that the association of the term DOTA with their product was enough for them to claim the rights to it even though Blizzard did not produce it and the team that did were now in the employ of Valve working on DOTA II, which was wholly the IP of Valve. Hence, contention. Ironically, copyright laws that were originally implemented to protect IP were now allowing companies to claim it unjustly (Patry, 2008).Still with me? ‘Course you are.
It’s a great story, but I can’t really go any further. Check it out here, here and here if you’re interested. If you’re not and you don’t like video games or copyright and you’re only suffering through this for my sake, here’s a gif of a hilarious baby to say thanks.
In conclusion, the emergence of third part modding has led to a variety of interesting and outrageous copyright issues and, until international copyright legislation are adjusted to better suit the digital age, clashes and calamities over modded video games are going to get more elaborate and far more expensive.
REFERENCES! Get excited.
- “End of the blog”, The Patry Copyright Blog, Published August 2008, read 23/3/14. http://williampatry.blogspot.com.au/2008/08/end-of-blog.html
- “Vave and Blizzard Come to Agreement Over DotA Trademark”, Toms Hardware, Published 19th of May 2012, Read 23rd of March 2014 http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Valve-Blizzard-DotA-Trademark-Agreement,15688.html