Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The coming tsunami of IP infringement

The "User Generated Content" or specifically "User Generated GAME" space seems to be red-hot these days.

Lots of web-based examples (Metaplace, GameBrix, Silverlight, Atmosphir, etc), and now console games are going to be a hotbed as well, with Little Big Planet being the case example getting the most mindshare.

David Edery had a post up doing his own post-mortem on Scrabulous, in which I commented on it's successor, Wordscraper. In it, I said:

Wordscraper... supports user-definable boards and tile weightings. Which means you can do, as I have done, a board and tile set that exactly match those of Scrabble, and VOILA! IP circumvention via User Generated Content!!!

If they were to publish something like a board-sharing service, the developer (or FB?) would be subject to DMCA takedown notices, but now Hasbro/Mattel has a harder job: Vigilantly watch the forums, send repeated DMCA takedown notices, etc. Also, I don’t know if other countries have similar laws.

There are some holders of game IP that have tried to enforce their hold over game rules, mechanics, etc. Obvious examples are Tetris Corp, who recently were in the news for getting a clone pulled from iTunes, as well as the Hasbro/Mattel Scrabble example. Other cases exist where it seems to have flown under radar (e.g. Webkinz's games are almost ALL rip-offs of classics, but with name changes and theme changes. Sometimes game design changes too)

Quite frankly, I just don't see how the IP holders are going to keep up with it all in this new world.

I suppose you could serve takedown notices to - like Scrabulous - only the most successful examples. But then what does that say for all those would-be infringers out there: Go ahead and clone games and be successful with them... but not TOO successful.


Patrick said...

Atmosphir, I work for the company (Sabarasa) that developed the majority of that game! Too bad the company doesn't get clearly visible credit on the site.

Mark DeLoura said...

In a world of user-created content, publishers who expect to be paid for what they can create can create value by making an experience that is not easily or quickly cloned. Simple Scrabble is not enough!

Anonymous said...

Scrabble is an unusual case, in that the board layout is covered by copyright. "Gameplay" per se isn't coyrightable -- only images, sounds, etc., "tangible expressions of ideas," not ideas in themselves. Thus, you can clone, say, Space Invaders, and as long as the imagery isn't too close to the original's, and you don't use the trademark, there's not a lot the IP owner can do.