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DMCA and its Failings

September 28, 2015, 11:57:52 PM by kat
Contrary to the title, DMCA is a relatively robust set of rules. They fail generally through abuse and misuse. Or because people don't quite understand them. Or due to of corporate apathy. They fail because people (both individuals and Corporation) look to short cuts, using a "least effort possible" approach to dealing with complex issues arising from Copyright compliance.

The principle behind DMCA is pretty simple though; a person finds their work being misappropriated and files a "Take Down Notice". The content hosting company upon receipt of this notice removes the offending item whilst a back and forth between parties ensues, culminating, usually, in the item being removed permanently, or it being restored. Usually, either/or outcome is where it ends.

There's a flaw with this very simple process however (some might say one of many flaws), in that it necessitates the original author be able to physically inspect the potentially offending item to avoid inculcating themselves of the liabilities associated with filing Notices knowingly to be in error (filing 'false' DMCA's). In other words, if the item can be viewed, great. If not, because it may be hidden behind a paywall or simply as part of the way a given service offering is provided, it becomes a serious problem because DMCA makes no provision for such scenarios; service providers/hosts are not under any specific obligations where DMCA rules are concerned to allow access to hidden content for the purposes of confirming an infringement, which they would argue ostensibly prevents bad-faith actors 'fishing' for claims to make.

So whilst a service paying customer (member or subscriber of a paid for service) might notify the original author of a potential problem (for example contacting the original author of a character model seen on another site/service 'hidden' behind a paywall), if said author is not also a paying customer its then a challenging to say the least, to persuade the provider/host to allow access - after-all who might this supposed 'author' requesting access be in such situations except some sort of freeloader using DMCA to get something for nothing.

This is a position many a User Generated Content creators might otherwise find themselves in - being notified of a possible infringement they won't ordinarily able to verify, especially where games, products and services allow their users to upload content are concerned. Basically if something is 'stolen', uploaded and hidden (for whatever reason), the original author is essentially locked out from proper remedy of the situation... unless they're willing to risk filing false DMCA Notices (this may seem like a low risk action but its not - never, ever file a Notice knowing it to be false or inaccurate, DMCA Notices, being legal documents, are kept, which establishes a 'record of activity' based on filings and outcomes, information that can be inspected by anyone, and which might reveal a pattern of erroneous submissions that would subsequent undermine legitimate claims - notwithstanding it being Perjury to file falsely).

Whilst most company's take a reasonably pragmatic approach to hidden items, allowing access when enough identifying DMCA and user information is provided (data that would be used solely to verify who the requesting party was, and the items suspected, not to service an actual Notice request). Others don't. Needless to say it's these latter groups that gum up the DMCA works for everyone */me looks intently in IMVU's direction.

Indipocalypse - #Indipocalypse

September 01, 2015, 12:31:47 AM by kat
There's a new 'thing' to discuss. Its called the "Indipocalypse" (#Indipocalypse "in-dee-poc-ahh-lips"). In a nutshell the Indie game market is on the verge of a (potential) collapse event because too many games are being released with too few making a return. The problem appears to be so bad there's increasing back-chatter in certain quarters from developers resigning themselves to pulling work from stores or in other ways essentially abandoning their creations rather than finding a solution.

Freemium, in-game adverts, micro-transactions and all the little tricks and hock used to part players from their cash don't helping either, and may in fact appear to be turning people off games in droves, driving them towards Social Media, YouTube and other forms of entertainment - gamers of all stripes are now watching others play games as a legitimate form of entertainment.

For Indie devs the answer to this market saturation to some is the emergence, or more correctly, the continued dominance of, "Triple-I" ("I" for "Independent") game studios and publishers, outfits that are able to leverage disproportionately large amounts of cash to 'buy' platform dominance. For others, smaller Indies in particular, a crowded market can be navigated by forming Indie-cliques (#indiclique) or indie-collectives (#indicollective); groups of independent developers, creators and artists mining a localised pool of followers and fans for financial support. For individuals, certainly those wanting to go-it-alone as much as possible, the situation is slightly more complicated but there's a lesson to be learnt from the aforementioned; social media - the dominance of Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms that may come and go, and the way people use them highlight the importance of building a community of follows and fans. This cannot go understated, and indeed seems to be key to surviving the Indipocalypse.

Having said that, be careful not to put all ones eggs in the same basket because of inherent concerns associated with handing distribution control over products to third-party services that can pull products or penalise sellers for seemingly arbitrary reasons.

Windows 10 & Blender etc...

August 11, 2015, 03:36:47 AM by kat
So... lets talk Windows 10. Blender works on it, as do most applications it appears (Max, Maya etc.). There are obviously some teething issues with driver compatibility ("Windows Audio Device Graph Isolation" in particular has issues causing higher CPU usage than might be expected) and older programs seemingly running slower (although the cause for this is difficult to track down). But aside from these minor issues is does indeed seem like those holding out, Windows 7 users especially, can now upgrade. With that said, it might be better to purchase a new PC with Windows 10 in mind/pre-installed rather than installing the operating system onto 5+ year old hardware.

There are two concerns to keep in mind though;

1) Don't 'upgrade', perform a 'full' install, use the Windows 10 ISO (burnt to disk) - link to download is provided after clicking the Windows 10 Taskbar icon to start the upgrade process (providing the appropriate update is installed), just click "Install to other computers". Alternatively, materials to create media can be found on Microsoft's site here. Obviously back up all data and have program disks to hand or internet access available (used to log into a Microsoft account during install should the user want to 'sync' data - this can be skipped for 'local' access).

2) More importantly, users should be aware of the very real implications regarding Windows 10 being 'always on' in terms of pushing all activity to the Internet and Microsoft's services. In essence Windows 10 acts like an interface to the Internet rather than local hardware and data, as such a number of services run in the background and are difficult to shutdown or close without using Task Manager. In other words social media is always on, mail is always on, web search etc, is always on, Skype etc, is always on even when associated programs are 'closed'. For Consumers this may not be of concern, but for business it might (for example configuring POP instead of IMAP is hidden under more layers of interface than previous and depending on the application used to manage email, doesn't seem to download mail locally when POP is configured for use with Gmail, Outlook mail etc., with the result that all [business and private] communications are pushed to online services rather than being stored locally).

The take-away is that although a lot of the issues with Windows 8/8.1 are fixed, it may be better for business or those using computers for work, to install the OS to a spare (compatible) computer for testing rather than installing directly to primary hardware from the get-go.

Content sharing & misappropriation

August 09, 2015, 04:38:42 PM by kat
This entry is filed under "things that have to be done against ones better judgement" (read that as "something that has to be done to raise awareness of 'an issue' whilst being reluctant to "name and shame" participants in any way, or be part of the endemic "call-out culture" that's metastasizing across the Internet these days"). So probably not going to "Win friends and influence people" [amazon] on this one, but here goes...
Although the issue discussed in the tweet above has been resolved for the specific account in question ("KatsBits"), the broader issue remains in that the above mentioned "Author Accounts" are proxies, accounts created by the sites owner(?) on behalf of other individuals without their express knowledge or consent.
It does not go without saying that without exception this should never, ever, be done. It is never, ever, a good idea for Site Owners to create accounts on behalf of others without their express permission or knowledge as doing so is viewed as an attempt to forcibly obligate the invoked Individual(s) or Entity(s) to terms they may not otherwise agree with. An Individuals or Entities self-agency should never be ignored by Site Owners for the sake of convenience unless they're willing to risk fourth-degree burns.

Doom 4, Snapmap and EULA licensing

June 29, 2015, 09:08:14 PM by kat
Doom 4 (idtech 6) Editor 'Snapmap'

Doom 4 is set to include an editor, Snapmap, to so fans of the game will be able to make mods and levels once the game is released. Whilst there's no-doubt going to be a fair bit of information about this in the coming months, one aspect likely to received little to no coverage will be the EULA under which the tools can be used. For most individuals the terms will be of little to no consequence, largely because in the grand scheme of things their work is unlikely to be picked up by anyone (unless it's truly unique or fun in some way). For hard-core modders or level designers however, if Snapmaps EULA is anything like the one for RAGE (PDF pg 8), authors will essentially be relinquish their claims (RIGHTS) of authorship and ownership of any work created using the tools.

The two primary and pertinent sections are; first defining "New Materials";

All uses of the Editor and any materials created using the Editor (the “New Materials”) are for Your own personal, non-commercial use solely in connection with the applicable Product, subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement

It's important to note the distinction being made here, that the mere ACT OF CREATING is itself subject to the EULA terms, which also applies to ANYTHING made with the tools.

Next come the waivers, that if these tools are used to create new content doing so means;

[... ]
If You distribute or otherwise make available New Materials, You automatically grant to Bethesda Softworks the irrevocable, perpetual, royalty free, sublicensable right and license under all applicable copyrights and intellectual property rights laws to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, perform, display, distribute and otherwise exploit and/or dispose of the New Materials (or any part of the New Materials) in any way Bethesda Softworks, or its respective designee(s), sees fit.  You also waive and agree never to assert against Bethesda Softworks or its affiliates, distributors or licensors any moral rights or similar rights, however designated, that You may have in or to any of the New Materials.  If You commit any breach of this Agreement, Your right to use the Editor under this Agreement shall automatically terminate, without notice.

Again it's important to note that although the agreement can be breached, doing so ONLY disobliges the user from using the tools to create more content, it DOES NOT nullify Bethesda's claim over materials that may have already been made available or even created.

Again, whilst these concerns may be of no interest to 'noobs/newbs', they should give pause for thought to the more seasoned modders/mappers, especially when it's unequivocally stated that NO commercial or for-profit exploitation is permitted (and that would include revenue generated from advertising). In other words, it's less likely those big projects of past 'doom' games are going to stand any chance of being publicly remunerated or supported without causing their respective author significant legal issue, something Bethesda is not shy about doing.

[Both Bethesda and id Software were contacted about for clarification; Bethesda said they "have no information on upcoming products from our development studios". No reply from id Software as of time of writing.]
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