Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Wuzzy » 26 Nov 2017, 07:47

A lot of games love to call themselves “free software” or “open source” when they really aren't:

If you look closer, it turns out that only the source code is under a free license, while the game's data is not.
Yet they are advertised as “open source games”. This practice seems to be somewhat common.

What are the reasons and justifications for only going the “half way” to free software?
Why stop at the artwork?
Did maybe even any of you choose to release such a game under such terms? Why?

To me, these games are neither open source nor free software. Just read the Free Software Definition (https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html)
and the Open Source Definition (https://opensource.org/definition).
Nowhere do these definitions state that there can be any part of the software which—for some reason—is excempt from the definition.
As I read the definitions, it's basically all-or-nothing.

Game data is rarely separate from the game. It seems to be a common notion that game data is somehow special and does not need to be free.
I think this is nonsense. It's essential and in many games, the code does not even work if you remove the data.
Even if the code does not immediately crash, you can hardly call it a game anymore. Maybe a game engine at best.
Try removing all maps from Xonotic and see if you still have a game.

So, I think it's a mistake to refer to games as “open source” or “free software” if only the game data is non-free.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Julius » 26 Nov 2017, 07:58

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” - Buckminster Fuller
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Wuzzy » 26 Nov 2017, 08:43

Thank you.

I think RMS' arguments are rather weak. His whole point is basically “oh well, it's not really the end of the world”.
Art contributes something different to society. You appreciate it.
Modifying art can be a further contribution to art, but it is not
crucial to be able to do that today. If you had to wait 10 years
for the copyright to expire, that would be ok.

I don't think the same logic can be applied to video games. I don't want to wait 10 years.
What's noteworthy is that RMS isn't opposed to copyright as such, but is for making it weaker.

Note that RMS himself also released some of his own artworks (a few comics) under CC Whatever-ND.


Onpon4 mostly just said what I think. ;) I swear to you, I did not see this post before! The long list of examples is great. Especially the part where onpon4 takes apart the “data” which actually turns out to be executable code. Intersting read, thanks!
By the way, I have noticed this ridiculous PlaneShift licensing as well. This is probably the best example of “open source which really isn't”. :P

That having said, are there more opinions on this matter?
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Julius » 26 Nov 2017, 09:52

Wuzzy {l Wrote}:What's noteworthy is that RMS isn't opposed to copyright as such, but is for making it weaker.


A bit OT, but the entire Free Software movement is build on copyright... with the idea of transforming it to "copyleft" but not abolishing it at all. Which is rather pragmatic and the reason why it works in the legal system we have.

Sure there is a subset of FOSS sympathisers who believe that the world would be probably better off if there was no copyright at all, but then you also would not be able to compel people to release modifications as in the copyleft idea.

(Even more OT: I personally believe that copyright needs a reboot and be more like patent law, i.e. you always have to release source/specifications but you can retain certain rights for a limited period of time if you actively register for it and if your contribution is not trivial).
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Lyberta » 27 Nov 2017, 01:37

I host Libre Gaming Manifesto where I detail what I consider to be a truly libre and ethical game.

I disagree with RMS that art is secondary. In my case video games were the only thing that kept me away from suicide (and now libre games is still almost the only thing that keeps me alive) and I think that there are a lot of people (in absolute amount) that are or have been in the same situation.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 27 Nov 2017, 16:01

I would like to see copyright abolished entirely, personally. Failing that, I would like to see copyright limited to people who actively register, for a fee, every three years or so. That of course means that the Berne Convention needs to be torn up. That is a horrible agreement.

I wouldn't particularly mind the loss of copyleft in exchange for the abolition of copyright. I think it would cause enough devastation to proprietary software to more than make up for it.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby GunChleoc » 27 Nov 2017, 22:51

Well, actively registering carries another problem with it. Just look at the GEMA for music in Germany. Say I write a song and want to prove that I wrote it, I have to become a member and pay money every year. And unless you're one of the big acts, you don't get a lot of money back, if at all. So, such a system would privilege those that can afford to pay money to register.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Magellan » 28 Nov 2017, 00:22

GunChleoc {l Wrote}:Well, actively registering carries another problem with it. Just look at the GEMA for music in Germany. Say I write a song and want to prove that I wrote it, I have to become a member and pay money every year. And unless you're one of the big acts, you don't get a lot of money back, if at all. So, such a system would privilege those that can afford to pay money to register.


All the more reason that copyright protections should be eradicated completely.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 28 Nov 2017, 00:37

GunChleoc {l Wrote}:Well, actively registering carries another problem with it. Just look at the GEMA for music in Germany. Say I write a song and want to prove that I wrote it, I have to become a member and pay money every year. And unless you're one of the big acts, you don't get a lot of money back, if at all. So, such a system would privilege those that can afford to pay money to register.

Good. That means less copyrighted works. No one deserves a monopoly on culture, not even the poorest of the poor.

Not that it actually changes anything from their perspective. If you're poor, unauthorized copying of your work is the last thing you need to worry about, and you probably can't sue infringers anyway.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Wuzzy » 28 Nov 2017, 06:52

Lol, this thread went more quickly off-topic than I hoped. This is not a discussion about copyright itself, but about justifitions for “free code, non-free data” games.

Wuzzy {l Wrote}:What are the reasons and justifications for only going the “half way” to free software?
Why stop at the artwork?
Did maybe even any of you choose to release such a game under such terms? Why?
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Arthur » 28 Nov 2017, 17:12

Getting non-free as in freedom but gratis art is a lot easier than getting both gratis and free art. A lot of artists don't want to give away so much control over their works, possibly because it might get used somewhere they don't approve of, overused (and thus cheapened in their minds) or they want to keep the option of licensing it commercially to someone else. While you can dual license, I think a lot of people aren't aware of it, and if it's CC-BY 4.0 licensed for example there's little reason for someone to ask for a commercial license because credit is pretty much the only requirement.

Not to mention there's a lot of artwork that's basically thrown up on a site but never under any explicit license. Maybe it just says "you can use it as long as you give me credit". Which means that in contrast to CC-BY commercial entities would contact the author before using it, and they could possibly negotiate some agreement - they would not just take it and use it since it's not a proper license like CC-BY. Also there's a lot of artwork out there under the CC-BY-SA-NC license, for example a lot of music on Jamendo is licensed like that.

All this contributes to the fact that it's a lot easier to create a game with non-free data, and I've not touched upon all the freelancers that would balk at the Free licenses. And to be honest, I believe selling a game where the art is proprietary will usually bring more income than if all of it is free and open. People are often cheap and don't tend to pay unless needing to.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Magellan » 28 Nov 2017, 19:26

Education is a big factor. Many, if not most artists are simply unaware of the particulars of copyright laws and free licenses, or have some misconceptions about them. There is also the idea that the artist is "defending" their work from some imagined onslaught of "thieves". I think this might make artists wary of contributing to FOSS projects, or of licensing their work so that it is usable in a truly free game.

It is difficult to get over the hump of that initial "you think I should give my art away for FREE?!?!" reaction from artists who maybe are not fully informed about free licenses. This is especially true if the artist already makes little or no money from their artwork (which is most artists).

This is not to bad-mouth artists or other creators, though. They are themselves probably the biggest victims of unjust copyright laws. Education on the issue is paramount.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Lyberta » 29 Nov 2017, 04:45

There is also a huge issue that Creative Commons hosts proprietary licenses. i feel they really sabotage free culture movement by doing this.

As a musician, I try to make my music as free as possible. All my music is CC-BY-SA 4.0+ and I publish full source code of my music so anyone has tweak it as long as they abide CC-BY-SA. The only problem right now is that I use proprietary (but gratis) stuff during creation of the music: LinuxSampler and Sonatina Symphonic Orchestra. I hope to replace those with SFZero and Libre Orchestra in the future.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby GunChleoc » 30 Nov 2017, 11:20

onpon4 {l Wrote}:
GunChleoc {l Wrote}:Well, actively registering carries another problem with it. Just look at the GEMA for music in Germany. Say I write a song and want to prove that I wrote it, I have to become a member and pay money every year. And unless you're one of the big acts, you don't get a lot of money back, if at all. So, such a system would privilege those that can afford to pay money to register.

Good. That means less copyrighted works. No one deserves a monopoly on culture, not even the poorest of the poor.

Not that it actually changes anything from their perspective. If you're poor, unauthorized copying of your work is the last thing you need to worry about, and you probably can't sue infringers anyway.


My point was that I don't see how abolishing copyright in favor of another payable "copyright" system would solve anything at all.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 30 Nov 2017, 15:55

What don't you understand? The point of making copyright registration-only and with a fee would be to reduce the number of copyrighted works. You said that means poor people wouldn't be able to copyright their works; that reduces the number of copyrighted works. So you freely admit that it would work.

As for corporations, they would be evaluating each monopoly they have for their value and only renewing those they expect a greater return on investment from, rather than keeping them all. So that would reduce the number of those works that are copyrighted, too. I suspect that copyright of dead authors would be dropped, copyright of old games would be dropped, and copyright that no one knows the owner of would certainly be dropped, just to name a few.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Julius » 01 Dec 2017, 04:25

Back on topic:
Coincidence or not, but this quite negative conversation recently came up about more or less the same topic:

https://www.reddit.com/r/linux_gaming/c ... nt/dqhmw93

They basically complain about people demanding that art should be libre as well.

Personally, I have a rather pragmatic stance on it, relatively similar to Stallman's. Games are entertainment, and like I can enjoy a totally closed movie, I can also enjoy a closed source single-player game.
Closed source multiplayer games I tend to avoid, not so much becaused they are closed per se, but rather because of lack of longlivety and often shady business practised behind them.

However, I would not contribute to a game with closed source, and libre assets would be a requirement for contributing to any project with a larger scale, e.g. not some gamejam prototype or some something like that. The reason for that is less ideological, but rather part of good project management.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 01 Dec 2017, 05:31

I didn't see that complaint in that thread. I hardly even see any mention of libre art, and where I do it pertains to Stallman's position.

And funny enough, one of the few references I found was this:
the only parts of the game that will be proprietary are the creative pieces like art, behavior scripts, etc

Note that he said "behavior scripts". That's software. So the game he's planning on developing is not libre software; rather, it's proprietary software running on a libre interpreter. It's no different from e.g. the King's Quest games running on ScummVM. This is why I am generally speaking wary of "open source but proprietary content" games, and the main point of "The Gaming Trap".
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Lyberta » 01 Dec 2017, 10:14

Julius {l Wrote}:Personally, I have a rather pragmatic stance on it, relatively similar to Stallman's. Games are entertainment, and like I can enjoy a totally closed movie, I can also enjoy a closed source single-player game.


To a point. To me, the fun part of gaming is modding games. If game is not FOSS, I can't mod it easily. When I see "good" proprietary single player game, my thoughts are usually: "Hey, this game looks fun. Too bad I can't mod it so it sucks.".
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby GunChleoc » 02 Dec 2017, 13:22

onpon4 {l Wrote}:As for corporations, they would be evaluating each monopoly they have for their value and only renewing those they expect a greater return on investment from, rather than keeping them all. So that would reduce the number of those works that are copyrighted, too. I suspect that copyright of dead authors would be dropped, copyright of old games would be dropped, and copyright that no one knows the owner of would certainly be dropped, just to name a few.

Considering what is happening with software patents, in my book that is wishful thinking.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 02 Dec 2017, 17:18

Patents are nothing like copyright. Please don't conflate the two. Patents also have absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.

Briefly: copyright covers a specific work, e.g. a book or a program. A patent covers a general idea. As such, patents cover software that the patent owner has nothing whatsoever to do with. That's why the patent system has caused what it has caused. Watch "Patent Absurdity" if you haven't already.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Lyberta » 03 Dec 2017, 11:28

onpon4 {l Wrote}:Patents also have absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.


Game data can use design patents.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Julius » 03 Dec 2017, 11:54

To give this a slightly different twist (and to explain why I also think patents are not totally irrelevant to this discussion):

My main grievance with non-free art is actually the lack of libre-licensed source data. In fact there are cases where the art is libre, but the author (for what ever reason, sometimes practical) has not released the source files, which makes this libre art almost as useless as non-free one. With source data I mean for example the layered 2D graphic file that is then saved as the final compressed image, or the music tracker file, or the 3D .blend model that still includes all the helper bones and so on.

Thinking about it now, I would probably prefer a game that would be released with non-free binaries for both art and code (but have the source-code and source-assets somewhere available under a libre license) than one that claims to be fully FOSS but it's a pain to get anything close to resembling source files for the assets. The latter is actually surprisingly common, especially when non-FOSS tools have been used to create the assets.

And to get back to patents Vs. copyright: the requirement to release detailed specifications (=source, or at least something almost as good) is only in patent law. Edit: Not claiming that current patent laws are good, just stating that some aspects of it are much better than current copyright law.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby dulsi » 06 Dec 2017, 17:20

Troll Bridge has no free data. At the time I made it non-free because I was concerned that people could re-use the images in other games and make it seem less unique. In reality that was dumb. No one wants to reuse my data and even if they did it wouldn't be a big deal. I've gotten enough from open source I shouldn't have that restriction. I really need to update the web site and remove that restriction.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby onpon4 » 08 Dec 2017, 23:59

My main grievance with non-free art is actually the lack of libre-licensed source data. In fact there are cases where the art is libre, but the author (for what ever reason, sometimes practical) has not released the source files, which makes this libre art almost as useless as non-free one. With source data I mean for example the layered 2D graphic file that is then saved as the final compressed image, or the music tracker file, or the 3D .blend model that still includes all the helper bones and so on.

Thinking about it now, I would probably prefer a game that would be released with non-free binaries for both art and code (but have the source-code and source-assets somewhere available under a libre license) than one that claims to be fully FOSS but it's a pain to get anything close to resembling source files for the assets. The latter is actually surprisingly common, especially when non-FOSS tools have been used to create the assets.

I've thought about this a bit. I used to have the same concern, and I brought it up with RMS in an email. I don't have that email anymore, but basically he thinks it's not really that great an issue because things like PNG files and audio files can function just fine as source code, too.

After I saw this post, I thought about this some more, and I think I agree with RMS. Here's why:

When you run a program on your computer, you don't see what the program actually does, because programs are both so fast and so complex that that would be impossible. Furthermore, assembly code (which can be derived form machine code by disassembling it) usually cannot adequately describe what a program is supposed to be doing in a way that a programmer could easily duplicate. All that information is stored in the source code. The binary is optimized for a computer to read and execute the program; the source code is optimized for a human to read and modify the program. This is why a program's source code is, generally speaking, necessary in order to modify it.

Things like images and music are different. Pictures are not designed to be looked at by a computer; they're designed to be looked at by a human. Music files are not designed to be listened to by a computer; it's designed to be listened to by a human. The computer's only role in this circumstance is to convert a sequence of bits into a form the human can understand. Put simply, any human can see the entirety of an image file and hear the entirety of a music file; if they couldn't, the file would be broken. So whereas a programmer can't look at an executable binary and determine what (abstract) things it's doing, an artist can look at an image and see what it looks like, and a musician can listen to an audio file to hear what it sounds like. There are many people who are talented enough to duplicate any image they look at, no "source" required; just look back at all the realistic paintings artists have done, and that was only with a brush and canvas where a mistake can easily ruin the entire thing! Perhaps the color data and angles won't be exactly the same, but to the perception of a human (which is what counts), it can look identical. The same sort of thing applies to music; musicians who are good at making music often can hear a song and figure out play it on their instrument of choice. One specific example I can think of is Todd in the Shadows, who always plays a piano rendition of whatever song he's talking about before the video starts.

Given that, while layered GIMP files or MIDI files or LMMS files are certainly optimal, I don't think they're necessary.
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Re: Non-free game data: Reasons, justifications, rebuttals

Postby Lyberta » 10 Dec 2017, 02:22

onpon4 {l Wrote}:The same sort of thing applies to music; musicians who are good at making music often can hear a song and figure out play it on their instrument of choice.


As a musician, I find this incredibly uneducated. Good luck transcribing orchestral piece by ear. Or removing some instruments from a recording. To me, if musician publishes their music without the source code, they are spitting in the face of their listeners. I've spent way too much hours in Sonic Visualizer transcribing stuff.
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