As an artist and game developer myself, I agree that copyright laws should exist. I do not want to see my hard work snatched away from me and used in another game to be used for a similar or different purpose. It should be well known that it is out there, but with a few ground rules. When it comes to modding a game, creating a machinima, or sometimes even pirating a game, the rules should be bent a lot.
Video games, in the early days, allowed players to play for free, and were encouraged to be shared. Then it became a public resource consumed in a private possession for competition and profit. When copyright laws are enforced, they are powerful. The higher echelon, richer gaming companies seems to benefit more from the laws. I find it frustrating for when certain games comes out, it is through those companies -or nothing. When there is an add-on feature is has to be from the company; I almost feel restricted. Video games are sometimes to unsatisfying to get, or play, or so satisfying that you want to see/do more, but you’ve done it all. Game companies want to make fans and supporters to buy their game right? Well, they want more, so the more technical fans, “hackers” as they are called, create more additions to the original game, and share it through the internet; which people call pirating. Only one thing stands in these “heroes” ways is the ownership of these games: Copyrights and IP protection.
Due to this complex structure, video games present a number of questions and challenges in terms of copyrighting. Questions related to its rubrics, applicable to video games; do not have obvious answers when giving the definition of copyrights. From my understanding, the general definition of copyright, with video games, is that anything that has to do with a games software, and audiovisual elements, (pictures, videos, code, sound, etc.) are off limits to the public, if protected and owned by a company. I believe that copyrights should not hide everything from the public. If the elements of the game are used respectively, whether in modding, machinima, or pirating/sharing, then where is the harm. Companies will probably scream at me for writing this but they could lose a little bit of money because if that companies work is “copied” for a new purpose, and for harmless fun, it promotes the companies own original game in the end.
In the article, “Playing on the Digital Commons: Collectivities, Capital and Contestation in Videogames Culture”, written by Sarah Coleman and Nick Dyer-Witheford, claim that copyrights restrict creativity from fellow developers and/or fans, by limiting their access to evolved data due to the protection that the game is under. Copyrights want to restrict and what games want to promotes, a public resources. The writers quoted Steven Levy in the article, “essential lessons can be learned about systems – about the world – from taking things apart, seeing how they work, and using this knowledge to create new and even more interesting things”. The high-status individuals/companies create barricades (hiding goods and/or reinforcing law), trying to protect valuable product, thus creating chaos and a rebellion from fans. As well, as a stand still for “hackers”/programmers to develop and learn off each other’s code to evolve in society.
The word “hack” was never a horrible phrase until the rebellion against powerful computer based and gaming companies. Haddon, mentioned in the article, states that this “stylish” technical innovation is undertaken for the fundamental pleasure and not necessarily to complete a profitable goal. Innocently playing around with technology, can sometimes result in extraordinarily things discoveries; gateways, shortcuts, new inventions. Hacking a game and copying it isn’t against the law, but copying the same game, if the game is placed in a public space, or modified in anyway, considered piracy. Pirates and modders just want to expand, or remind us, of the incredible experiences we’ve had playing games, and all they want to is to give the back to the public for free. These “heroes” don’t make any money from this, they are like Robin Hood, giving the rich to the poor, so that other people can honour the game developers who made the games. Making duplicates of something, and not changing a single thread of code, and sharing it, shouldn’t be theft, but the gaming companies believe that stealing is stealing. As a result, the companies lose profit causing them to create lower budgets, meaning no higher quality games or as much staff to create it. They don’t see that some pirated games/mods improve the gaming experience, and that’s when the law is enforced by the big company. It is an ongoing battle which we will probably never see the end of. As technology changes, more rules will probably be applied to the Copyrights laws, but the will apply to hackers, who with new technology, will always be able to use creation to catch up with them. It is my opinion that fans and hackers expanding onto a game held under copyright with only benefit the company. Artist will then make more money under the contract and future work.
Coleman, Sarah and Nick Dyer-Witheford. “Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture.” Media Culture & Society 26.6 (2007): 934-53. Web.