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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 58 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Roleplaying, Free Software & Content and Libre Culture  (Read 4654 times)
Offray
Member

Posts: 12


« on: April 12, 2006, 08:32:01 AM »

Hi all,

This is my first post here, so let me say thanks for this site and make a hoping not so long introduction.

I have enjoyed a lot with the reading and the nice sense of community. I'm closer to Free Software & Contents that to roleplaying (but I have also roleplayed for a while -- almost 8 years).

The way I come here was trying to search relations between role playing and libre culture (particular Creative Commons contents). That happen because I was recently directing a nice White Wolf Chronicle and I was thinking "would be really nice to give some thing back". Being a non native English speaker (as may be you already noticed by my typos) I prefer something which helps to create local communities on that subject like translations, wiki/blog support and so on. But making that with classical copyrighted material is a long process generally. So I found Sorcerer, which is also classical copyrighted, but behaves like shareware software and has a nice development and "bug testing" cycle (putting in software terms), and then I found the Forge, where, in some sense, the distance between role-players and creators/publishers is blurred. There are also Creative Commons Wikis (with the non-commercial clause) for independent games, and there is people which uses free software for building its pdf book games, control versions of the published, getting web presence and so on.

I would like to explore more the relationship between Free Software & Content, and Libre Culture. Some of you are asking for a mixed model of free/payed distribution, so I hope that this thread extended It and included also mixed and community creation. So they come my questions:

  • I know that software and press industry are different in relation with publishing, may be because the "atoms recipient" for "bits/memes" in the former case doesn't give any particular aesthetic experience, but having/touching the books in the later case its different and nicer that touching the CDs (memes on the CD are usefull specially when they're in the reproductor/interpreter for them, but we're the reproductor/interpreter of the press material). Anyway there are examples of people who is making self publishing and including a creative commons licence which let others to print and sell their work. May be the most known case is Light & Matter (http://www.lightandmatter.com/area1.HTML) --Yep, I know that academics are different for role playing-- but, ¿What do you think of the non-commercial clause for some community driven efforts in the role playing field?
  • Some software games are releasing its game engine under a Free/Open-Source Licence, and leave arts, game worlds/concepts etc. as privative add-ons which are compatible with the game engine. In the role playing world may be the release  of the d20 system its the more important example of a reutilizable "game-engine" in a liberal fashion (there are also various free, in the sense of freedom, systems out there). As Ron says "system matters", but may be is the system the part of the game which gets more user feedback in playtesting and conventions and and in some way can benefit more from a model of community created artifacts. ¿What do you think about making the "system role play engine" a collective creation licenced in a fashion that users understand that they will be creating a collective work and will be credited for that? (Games creators could be the "official source" of system, in some
  • Role playing in the commercial sense seems more like a "product market" instead of a "services market", contrary to the software, in the commercial sense, which is more service oriented (and may be is the success of Free/Open-Source software as a viable economical model also). Other grass root cultural phenomena could be profitable in the sense of a twisted emphasis from products to services and they make the things more diverse that just what the Big Companies (TM) :-P, what to show. At the same time, hacker culture seems to find two conceptual frameworks of thinking Free Software and Open Source Software, with different emphasis, the first in ethos, the second one in methodology, which makes bridges between grass root activities (programming as a form of expression, intellectual activity, art & science) and business world. ¿What do you think about making bridges between grass root roleplaying and business world?

Thanks a lot for your time and thanks a lot for this place.

Cheers,

Offray
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Larry L.
Member

Posts: 616

aka Miskatonic


« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2006, 11:40:54 PM »

Anvilwerks makes its games available under a Creative Commons license. I think Clinton is way ahead of his time on this matter.
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Offray
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2006, 12:39:03 PM »

Hi Larry,

I have seen the creative commons licenced work of Clinton, and is nice to see it. I'm wondering about non commercial clause not because I think that giving for free the work is the path to follow, but because I think that one of the things that helped a lot to the free software economy was the possibility to sell the software also. Of course selling atoms is not like selling bits and software business in not like books business. I have seen some work of Benjamin Crowell (who write, publish and sell some Free Books) about the subject here:

http://www.lightandmatter.com/article/infrastructure.html

I have thought about the subject in the case of free software. I always try, if is possible, to add local value to the software instead of paying external cost. In the case of software I try to bee an evangelist and a translator locally and I think that it adds value globally to the original creation. It works fine with software, but may be it doesn't work well with books. Some of my thinking goes like this "With the money I paid in US dollars for a printed copy I could cover various hours of good translation in Colombian Pesos, even if the game is really awesome I can make just for fun, saying thanks and share with my friends". Of course a translated version could not be an interesting thing for an Anglo speaker author. But I think that it adds a lot of value.

Translating is just and example of community added value for freely (in the sense of freedom) available/changeable content and I would like to hear more of your thought.

Cheers,

Offray
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contracycle
Member

Posts: 2807


« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2006, 12:34:05 AM »

I don't think there is much of thids culture in RPG, and what doies exist has probably leaked over from computing.

But that said, there is of course a long tradition of writing your own games, your own scenarios, and even publishing these. Often for free.  But this is becuase it has been something of a do-it--yourself activity.

While there may be some simmilarities here, I do not think the hobby any kind of collective mentality.
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Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
DevP
Member

Posts: 576


WWW
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2006, 04:03:37 AM »

(Speaking of White Wolf, did you know they have a Wiki? As you have interest in that, you should see what you can contribute to it.)

Clinton has been an excellent proponent of CC content, and many people agree that, if you have some idea you haven't adequately developed, you should take what you have and CC it so that others can pick up where you left off. Nonetheless, there has been resistance to CC-licensing content, in part since a game book is a copyright writing piece, and not just a functional work. While the software analogue is tempting (a game is a functional set of rules that others can extend), in truth a real game is ALSO a product of some difficult writing, editing and layout, and many people are not as certain of making their text available for free, if they are still intending to recoup part of an investment.

Licensing aside: in rpgs the participants have always been content-producers themselves to some extent, and the Forge has helped blur lines between different tiers of those content-producers. I think there's a strong DIY ethic in the natural relationships built around the Forge, even if these don't correspond perfectly to a Free Culture ethos.

If I may ask, where are you from? What RPGs do you like? We could look at how to actually act on a Free Culture ethos with games out there.
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jerry
Member

Posts: 98


WWW
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2006, 06:17:11 AM »

There's also the Free RPG Community at http://www.freeroleplay.org/.

Jerry
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Jerry
Gods & Monsters
http://www.godsmonsters.com/
Offray
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2006, 07:18:00 AM »

Hi DevP

(Speaking of White Wolf, did you know they have a Wiki? As you have interest in that, you should see what you can contribute to it.)

Yep I know it. But if you see at http://wiki.white-wolf.com/worldofdarkness/index.php/Copyright there is not any notice about the collective creation on the wiki, they're just stating their ownership, as always, over their work, but they say nothing about the rules over collective creation. I think that this is important because it makes concrete the ethos behind community. The other one path is we let you, as costumers, to use our wiki and our trade marks, but remember this is ours and your contributions, well... we don't know.

Clinton has been an excellent proponent of CC content, and many people agree that, if you have some idea you haven't adequately developed, you should take what you have and CC it so that others can pick up where you left off.

I have made this before, but not with Role Playing content. But I will be willing to take some others work and start to adding local value (for example spanish translations).

Nonetheless, there has been resistance to CC-licensing content, in part since a game book is a copyright writing piece, and not just a functional work. While the software analogue is tempting (a game is a functional set of rules that others can extend), in truth a real game is ALSO a product of some difficult writing, editing and layout, and many people are not as certain of making their text available for free, if they are still intending to recoup part of an investment.

May be the first thing to licence under CC is the game "engine" part. D20 systems and others are pioneering this. It makes sense also because it can be patented. Copyrighted works protect the ex presion of an Idea, not the idea by itself, so if the idea behind the game engine is expressed with different works it can be put under a liberal copyrigth protection (like CC). One of the things that makes the developers free their work to community is that there is a service model around the free content. May be we can think in something like this. (I'm not thinking in asking for money every time the GM talks a story, or the "classical", at least here, hobby club where the people "play & pay" for using a table and getting some privacy and dices, or game related stuff).

Licensing aside: in rpgs the participants have always been content-producers themselves to some extent, and the Forge has helped blur lines between different tiers of those content-producers. I think there's a strong DIY ethic in the natural relationships built around the Forge, even if these don't correspond perfectly to a Free Culture ethos.

I agree with you. Thanks for the nice talk :).

If I may ask, where are you from? What RPGs do you like? We could look at how to actually act on a Free Culture ethos with games out there.

I'm from Colombia, South America. I like a lot mage, but I have played AD&D and Fuzion (last one a long time ago).

Cheers,

Offray
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Ben Lehman
Member

Posts: 2094

Blissed


WWW
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2006, 08:02:38 AM »

I would like to note that, under the interpretation of IP law that has been given to me (I'm not a lawyer), there is no way to copyright a game system -- it's a process, but not usually novel enough to be patentable.

So there is no need for an "open license" on game rules -- they are ideas, and this already freely usable under standard law.

yrs--
--Ben
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talysman
Member

Posts: 675


WWW
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2006, 10:21:46 AM »

I would like to note that, under the interpretation of IP law that has been given to me (I'm not a lawyer), there is no way to copyright a game system -- it's a process, but not usually novel enough to be patentable.

So there is no need for an "open license" on game rules -- they are ideas, and this already freely usable under standard law.
I'm not a lawyer, either, but the people who handle copyrights at the Library of Congress are, presumably, and they agree, although they go a little further: you can't copyright the methods of playing a game, the concept of a game, or the name of a game. You can, of course, trademark the name, but that's different. So yeah, the OGL is legally unnecessary, although I'd argue it's socially necessary and thus a potentially good thing. The d20 license, on the other hand, is a licence to use a specific trademark and is legally necessary if you want to claim your game is d20-compatible.

You don't see Libre Culture manifesting in RPGs the way it manifests in the software world probably for exactly that same reason. In the world of print, there has always been a distinction between the rules of a game and the expression of a game, or between a mathematical formula and a mathematician's published work where he discovers that formula. One thing is and has always been free to use, the other is a unique creation of someone, a product of their labor, which they may want to be paid for.

What happened with software is that someone came up with the idea that you could copyright or patent a computer algorithm and it produced a chilling effect on innovation and just plain usefulness. Stallman and others objected to this and the free software movement was born. So, you could argue that the movement was necessary in the software world, but unnecessary in the game design world. There were always practices among RPG designers that resembled Libre Culture in the world of computers.

Leaving aside Creative Commons, there's also quite a few examples of designers borrowing each other's mechanics. Sorcerer's die mechanic, My Life With Master's story->endgame structure, Polaris's ritual phrases, and Dogs in the Vineyard's dice mechanic have been shared quite a bit recently. There seems to be a general spirit of encouragement of this, too; I've seen game designers encouraging newcomers to use "their" mechanics in new games, and I've seen them crediting other designers as an influence.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
Offray
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2006, 06:55:34 PM »

There is some agreement about rules can be patented. The expression of that rules in a written form is what can be copyrighted. The thing is that if that expression has a liberal copyright licence, the could be also translated without rewording the all system, just using the same words in another language. So, if game creators encourage the use of their rules with the proper attribution of their original authorship, then using a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike licence (for example) would make things easier, spreading the meme of the system in a not Anglo speaker place.
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jerry
Member

Posts: 98


WWW
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2006, 04:38:52 PM »

To add to what Offray said, there are lots of "translations" that benefit from having the original text and being able to easily and legally use it. They can be converted to different formats (such as Palm) and redistributed in that form, for example.

One interesting use of Gods & Monsters recently is someone using it in an upcoming play-by-post game (Cauldron). Copyright law lets him use the rules regardless, but because I released it under the Gnu FDL the GM also was able to copy each section into its own forum for the players.

Jerry
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Jerry
Gods & Monsters
http://www.godsmonsters.com/
Offray
Member

Posts: 12


« Reply #11 on: April 22, 2006, 07:13:58 AM »

Hi,

Seems that Cauldron is a place where only registered users can read... or I'm missing something?. I made a typo in my previous post. What I was meaning is that game systems can't be patented.

Cheers,

Offray
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guildofblades
Member

Posts: 297


WWW
« Reply #12 on: April 22, 2006, 09:19:56 AM »

>>What I was meaning is that game systems can't be patented.<<

Game systems in general can NOT be patented, nor can they can copyright protected. Though the writing that comprises a book that explains the rules certainly can be copyright protected, all that does is protect that particular expression of those rules. Those same rules written differently would not be protected.

Under extremely limited circumstances, it might be possible to patent a particular game mechanic (but not an entire rules set), but only where you could make a case with the patent office that the mechanci in question was truely unique and an innovation.

Also understand that what the patent office will give a patent for and what patents the patent office gives that are actually legall enforceable in a court of law are two completerly different things. Something like 60% of all patents awarded by the patent office do NOT survive their first challenge in court. And further, a patent is quite expensive to get, ranging from $1,500 to $5000+, so unless you have a truly unique and particularly innovative and commercially viable mechanic that "just everyone" will want to copy, a patent makes no sense for a game publisher.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
http://www.guildofblades.com
jerry
Member

Posts: 98


WWW
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2006, 11:17:11 AM »

Seems that Cauldron is a place where only registered users can read... or I'm missing something?

No, that's my understanding, too. It was set up for players of a play-by-post game there.

Jerry
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Jerry
Gods & Monsters
http://www.godsmonsters.com/
axonrg
Member

Posts: 16


WWW
« Reply #14 on: May 02, 2006, 05:11:04 AM »

What happened with software is that someone came up with the idea that you could copyright or patent a computer algorithm and it produced a chilling effect on innovation and just plain usefulness. Stallman and others objected to this and the free software movement was born. So, you could argue that the movement was necessary in the software world, but unnecessary in the game design world.

Not at all: computer algorithmns are not and have never been, AFAIK, copyrightable. That they may become patentable is a relatively new development and I think the free software movement predates it.

In the same way, game rules are not copyrightable, but the expression, the written game itself (text, diagrams, etc), are most certainly copyrightable. There are still plenty of reasons to freely license your copyrighted game texts, images and pages, even if your rules and mechanics are closed.
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Ricardo Gladwell
President, Free Roleplaying Community
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