Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 03 Jul 2017, 14:23

[Note by moderator: If this thread spirals again into personal accusations and trolling it will be locked. So please stay on topic and keep it civil!]

I wonder why this question is not asked more often, you hardly ever see someone talk about this, even though it is totally obvious.

So why is almost every open source game a clone of some proprietary game?

Let me bring some of the counter arguments usually brought up:


-Open source games cannot compete, because they don't have the big production budgets.

If this is true, then why do open source programs compete very well on the market, not even compete, but win in many areas. There is a clear contradiction there and there is no logic reason why it should be the opposite for games, since programs and games are both software, just different purpose software.


-Open source games cannot compete, because they don't have the big advertisement budgets.

Thats also false, since most successfull proprietary games do not have advertising as well, their own brand name is the best advertising since they build up their brand over time with good products. Even to this day video games are rarely advertised in mainstream media and the mainstream media does not feature them.
Also a big counter argument to this is that many of the most popular games now, started out as user made mods that had no one behind them and no advertising at all, but they are some of the biggest players now and some even outsell products made by the biggest companies that exist.


-Open source games cannot compete, because they don't have the manpower and organisation of big companies.

Manpower does only help you to a limited extend, with more people working on it, you can only increase quantitative production, not qualitative production.


-Open source games cannot compete, because there are no open source game engines and software available.

That may have been true around 5 years ago, but now there are multiple engine and software alternatives available to make games, that can decently compete with the proprietary ones.



So why are open source programs and user made mods so successfull and open source games not?

There is a simple answer: Innovation.

And thats exactly what the open source games scene lacks the most, but innovation is pretty much the only advantage you can have over big companies and if you throw that overboard there is almost no way you can win. Because of this open source games are similar to clickbait ripoff games that you see so often that ride on the latest hypes to make some money, this tactic can work decently, but those ripoff products hardly ever can outshine the thing they copied, since they are just copies and never innovated and therefore can never be better than the original.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby eugeneloza » 03 Jul 2017, 14:30

Duion {l Wrote}:why is almost every open source game a clone of some proprietary game?

And why almost every proprietary game is a clone of some other proprietary game?
I can hardly count "original" games on my fingers. Most of games share these or that elements.
The question is almost obvious. Experimental Strange games are not popular. Very few succeed. And they succeed only by accident.
P.S. Maybe making a list of games/clones would be helpful to determine and compare the percentage of innovative/cloned games in FOSS and proprietary?
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Lyberta » 03 Jul 2017, 15:10

Also I think that some of us would not play proprietary games but would want to see free versions. I enjoyed FreeDoom when I played it about 6 months ago even if I never played any Doom game.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby onpon4 » 03 Jul 2017, 15:36

I think the more pertinent question is why some games don't stray far enough from their inspiration to distinguish themselves. I think that has mostly to do with how they're presented initially. When you introduce something as "open source X", you constrain yourself to X because it makes deviations look like a problem. This is why I was firm in saying that Hexoshi is not a clone of Metroid.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 03 Jul 2017, 16:54

eugeneloza {l Wrote}:
Duion {l Wrote}:why is almost every open source game a clone of some proprietary game?

And why almost every proprietary game is a clone of some other proprietary game?

There is a big difference between an exact clone that copies most or even all elements of something and something that is inspired by something or just in the same genre.
And I can give you a long list of proprietary games that are not a clone of anything, but it would probably be easier to make a list of clones, since most proprietary games are original.

But for fun let me list some of the most popular proprietary games right now, that are not a clone of anything: GTA 1-5, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege, Left 4 Dead 2, Arma 3, Fallout 4, Euro Truck Simulator 2, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Counter-Strike, Portal 2, The Sims(TM) 3, DayZ etc etc, you can basically copy most of the titles that are popular right now into the list of non clones, there are a few very popular titles that get cloned a lot, but they often originated as user made mods for proprietary games that then got copied by others because the (original, not clone) game was so popular.

Lyberta {l Wrote}:Also I think that some of us would not play proprietary games but would want to see free versions. I enjoyed FreeDoom when I played it about 6 months ago even if I never played any Doom game.

Sounds like Stockholm Syndrome that you have, the companies don't want you to have a free version, they want you to pay and consume their product, then throw it way and buy their next etc. They don't care about you, so why would you still want to worship them through imitation and consuming their products indirectly through remakes?

onpon4 {l Wrote}:I think the more pertinent question is why some games don't stray far enough from their inspiration to distinguish themselves. I think that has mostly to do with how they're presented initially. When you introduce something as "open source X", you constrain yourself to X because it makes deviations look like a problem. This is why I was firm in saying that Hexoshi is not a clone of Metroid.

They are not inspired, they are clones without inspiration and they are like that because they lack inspiration, very simple. Yes there are some exceptions, but most games simply copy something and even label it as copy, so there is no denying that.
I would not label something that is inspired by something as clone, since something that is inspired by something is still an original, but just copying something has nothing to do with inspiration, but a lack of inspiration.
Something that is inspired copys maybe 10-20% of the elements and the rest is original, while a copy takes 80-90% of the original and the rest is original.
There are probably even laws that define in detail when something is a new creation and when it is a ripoff, I think the legal definition is that you can copy elements into your work as long as it's a minor part and most of your creation is original.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby eugeneloza » 03 Jul 2017, 21:51

Duion {l Wrote}:list some of the most popular proprietary games right now

Which of those were made by a team with less than 10 members?
More.
GTA 1-5 ----- well, the "3d" ones I've seen are clones of Carmageddon, which is clone of Need For Speed, which is clone of Test Drive, which is clone of early racing games.
Left 4 Dead 2 ----- another clone of Doom, being another clone of Wolfenstein right?
Euro Truck Simulator 2 ----- yet another clone of Test Drive? Or Stunts which is an advanced clone of Test Drive? Never payed attention to this game, so I might be wrong.
Fallout 4, the clone of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the clone of Oblivion, the clone of Morrowind, the clone of Daggerfall, the clone of Arena, the clone of Ring of Nibelungen, the clone of Wolfenstein 3D.
Counter-Strike, Portal 2 --- yet another clones of Doom, right? Really advanced clones.
The Sims(TM) 3 ------- that's really something new. However... wait. Clone of Space Colony? Which is clone of some ancient DOS game I've played in 90s? And actually a clone of Barbie-like dolls?
Making a cool and advanced clone which will surpass the original is an art, really. But basically, we can link all the games to some "generes" which are First-person shooters, actually most being clones of either Wolfenstein 3D or early flight/tank simulators, real-time strategies as made popular by Dune2 (actually 99% of modern RTS are just really advanced clones - throw out all the "decorations" and you'll see the same gameplay elements). turn-based strategies (Fallout 1-2 were clones of X-Com, which was a clone of Laser Squad, right?), etc., etc., etc.
I can name very few games that really introduced NEW gameplay mechanics. Did you know about Pony Island?

Well, how about
MERITOUS. Unique battle mechanics like I've never seen.
BATTLE FOR WESTNOTH. Really cute strategic solutions giving the game unique feel.
DUNGEON CRAWL STONE SOUP. Didn't dungeon crawlers started with FOSS games? I may be wrong.
MINE TEST. Successfully cloned into proprietary Minecraft.
FREE DROID RPG. While it shares a lot of similarity with Diablo (wasn't it an isometric clone of Gauntlet?) and Droids, it has its unique features making it rather realtime Fallout 1 in style.
Check out Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection, it's awesome and full of unique games, earlier found only in pen-and-paper.
Should I mention that Ur-Quan Master was opensourced? Which is a clone of nearly the first computer game ever - StarWars?
Speaking of this forum we should also mention
Ancient Beast - maybe there's some game like that, but there's a lot of unique gameplay elements I've first seen in this game.
Lips of Suna - While we may call it just "a 3D rogue-like", it has a lot of unique feel and mechanics.
Valyria Tear / Heroes of I-always-forget-the-spelling-cost - Unless we call all jrpgs clones of some-ancient-jrpg it has a lot of unique solutions both in plot and in gameplay.
Wyrmsun - While a warcraft-like strategy, I'm highly unsure if it's a clone.
Rogue Box Adventures - A unique and successful merge of some mechanics.

So... what about the ratio? How many clones are there in proprietary games and how many clones are in FOSS?
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby themightyglider » 03 Jul 2017, 23:11

I belive to make something totaly new that never was seen before is a very hard task and dosn't give you a garantee that your game will be successful.
Some of the most famous games just took some well known elements and combined them in a interesting way.
Furthermore beeing a clone is not always a bad thing. Take the roguelike genre for example. Even the name suggests that this games try to be like the original Rogue.
You also can try to interprete well known game mechanics in a new way to create something new.

I guess evolution instead of revolution is the better way to be inovative.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 03 Jul 2017, 23:26

@eugeneloza
Sure every 3D game is a clone of Doom which is a clone of Wolfenstein and every game with cars is a clone of Need for Speed or whatever was first, which were then clones of the 2D games, since everything is a clone and always was a clone and everything that will be created in the future will be a clone as well.

But open source games that look like clones, play like clones, are intended as clones, are made as clones and are even named as clones by their own developers are somehow unique original games and not clones at all.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby charlie » 04 Jul 2017, 00:04

There are plenty of original open source games that are not clones. Flightgear, Cube 2 / Tesseract, Teeworlds, Simutrans, etc. You just overlook anything that doesn't conform to your opinion.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Julius » 04 Jul 2017, 11:43

Note by moderator: If this thread spirals again into personal accusations and trolling it will be locked. So please stay on topic and keep it civil!

My personal comment on it: I think it is because the open-source game making community is largely made up of by programmers looking for some hobby programming challenge. Therefore it is often an easy choice to re-implement something, especially if that means you can re-use art assets that would be otherwise very difficult to get.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby themightyglider » 04 Jul 2017, 23:39

For sure, it's true that there are many game clones around. But there also a lot of games with new ideas out there.

I guess the intention of the autors of games that lable them self as clones is just to make very great game concepts available as free software or to bring this games on their favourit platform (mostly GNU/Linux).
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 05 Jul 2017, 00:19

I think they labeled themselves as clones because they ARE clones and they did it, because they had no creativity and no idea on their own.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby themightyglider » 05 Jul 2017, 01:34

I think they labeled themselves as clones because they ARE clones and they did it, because they had no creativity and no idea on their own.


So you found your own answer for your initial question.
But I do not understand why you seem to be such angry about this fact. If other people like to clone popular games, this dosn't mean that you need to do the same. If you like to see more creative games you need to convert more creative people to free software by beeing a good example.

If you are really want to know why people choose to make a clone instead of a new game, why don't ask the authors of such games themself (in a polite way). I'm sure they will tell you what their reasons are.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby c_xong » 05 Jul 2017, 03:25

There's a very large overlap between the retro gaming and open source gaming communities. This is because the open source model makes it easier to cater to retro gamers - the IP issues are clearer, and a dedicated fanbase can collaborate on open projects (as opposed to convincing skeptical, profit-driven execs). Still, it does happen sometimes, witness the numerous "HD remakes" or products like the NES classic in recent years.

The point is to recreate (clone, remake) something nostalgic for modern platforms, and maybe fix its obvious flaws. For this demographic, cloning is the point, and not because they lack creativity.

If you want to know why open source games are less creative, pointing to things like osgameclones.com is missing the point. Instead you should look at game devs who do want to innovate, and ask why so few of them are choosing the open source model.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 05 Jul 2017, 11:15

c_xong {l Wrote}:There's a very large overlap between the retro gaming and open source gaming communities. This is because the open source model makes it easier to cater to retro gamers - the IP issues are clearer, and a dedicated fanbase can collaborate on open projects (as opposed to convincing skeptical, profit-driven execs). Still, it does happen sometimes, witness the numerous "HD remakes" or products like the NES classic in recent years.

The point is to recreate (clone, remake) something nostalgic for modern platforms, and maybe fix its obvious flaws. For this demographic, cloning is the point, and not because they lack creativity.

If you want to know why open source games are less creative, pointing to things like osgameclones.com is missing the point. Instead you should look at game devs who do want to innovate, and ask why so few of them are choosing the open source model.

Yes I am asking here, since I could not find many open source game developers yet, I thought that this is the right plapce, but it looks no open source game developer visited here to give me an answer yet why they are doing clones.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby GunChleoc » 05 Jul 2017, 12:13

Since lots of proprietary games are clones too, does it really matter?

Since you asked, as I understand the history of Widelands, it went like this:

1. Somebody wanted to understand how the map format of Settlers II worked, so he reverse engineered them
2. He didn't want the work to get lost when he had to reinstall his computer, so he dumped the source code to SourceForge
3. Some more people appeared out of the blue and decided to turn it into a game
4. Widelands now has its own map format that can do a lot more than the original Settlers, but Settlers II Maps can still be loaded due to compatibility code.
5. Basic game mechanics are like Settlers II, but the tribes and campaign scenarios are completely unique
6. A feature that is planned when we leave the alpha phase is trading, which the original Settlers didn't have at all. We already have a seafaring feature that has mechanics that are completely distinct from how it worked in Setleers III. I never had a copy of Settlers II, so I have no idea what was available there or not.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Duion » 05 Jul 2017, 12:30

@GunChleoc
Yes it does matter, since proprietary clones are a lot less common, proprietary games are the minority of all games released, while open source clones are the majority of all open source games released.
Even when proprietary games make clones, they often develop them from the ground up having their own game code, their own art style and just cloning the game mechanic, while most open source clones are exact clones, using even the same name attached with an "open" or "free".

So someon reverse engineered the Settlers 2, but the original Settlers game innovated their game with each new version and they are now at The Settlers 8 I think with lots of great improvements in graphics and game mechanics and you have a reverse engineered game that is now in alpha stage that was available in finished state 20 years ago as a commercial version.
But I don't think someone just wanted to reverse engineer it for fun, the intention was probably to remake the game form the reverse engineered code.
I would even consider reverse engineering as some form of software piracy, since the original creator clearly did not allow that and prevented people from doing it.
Probably the intention was to steal someones code.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby onpon4 » 05 Jul 2017, 14:11

Yes I am asking here, since I could not find many open source game developers yet, I thought that this is the right plapce, but it looks no open source game developer visited here to give me an answer yet why they are doing clones.

They have email addresses, you know. Go to the game's home page, find the contact info, and ask them. Most of them probably don't even see this thread, and if they did, they wouldn't know that you're talking about them.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby GunChleoc » 05 Jul 2017, 15:12

Please read carefully what I wrote. In Widelands, only the map format was reverse engineered, and then discarded for a completely new map format. So, the compatibility code for the Settlers 2 maps is the only reverse engineered part of the game, everything has been developed from scratch, including the GUI toolkit. We also have 0 full-time developers. You may be in the position that you can afford to spend all day on developing your game, most people have full-time jobs and maybe also a family that wants their attention.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby charlie » 05 Jul 2017, 22:50

Duion has just been given a minimum 1 month ban for his behaviour in other threads (on top of the nonsense in here).

Btw, for anybody reading, Cube 1/2 are not Quake clones (part of some deleted debate). They are very innovative engines where the levels are live editable and built out of "blocks" that are defined as a shape within a cube, allowing for all kinds of really cool creations. They do have a DM / FPS gameplay style similar to Quake, but that's not the essence of the projects.

From the Sauerbraten (Cube 2) website:

Much like the original Cube, the aim of this game is fun, old school deathmatch gameplay and also to allow map/geometry editing to be done cooperatively in-game.

The engine supporting the game is entirely original in code & design, and its code is Open Source (ZLIB license, read the docs for more on how you can use the engine).

NOT. A. QUAKE. CLONE.

Emphasis mine.

When you don't have to go beyond the front page of the website to find out the basic principle of a game, then it is hard to interact with a person authoritatively making inaccurate claims and keep a level head, so in that regard I somewhat apologise to the community for ranting at Duion.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby Lyberta » 07 Jul 2017, 03:21

charlie {l Wrote}:They are very innovative engines where the levels are live editable and built out of "blocks" that are defined as a shape within a cube, allowing for all kinds of really cool creations.


The editor is easy to learn but the geometry you can do with it is very limited. I've made a few Red Eclipse maps and a lot of times had to compromise because the engine can't do slopes under complex angles.
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby leilei » 07 Jul 2017, 06:35

BZFlag was mentioned for being original. *cough*Battlezone*cough*Spectre*cough*

and less code i have to do with a game, the more time I can allocate towards making art. The creative process is a long and strenuous one when you're alone and don't want to do asset flipping. Many of the designs I show to the public often had many rejected iterations that aren't seen... but hey i'm always "going backwards" for my characters being women, so.....

it's not a thing that can be done in months alone.. and as for my motive for cloning, it's strongly for future preservation by compatibility while taking drastically differing creative directions for aesthetic appeal, optimal visuals (both of these things raising interest and bringing in new players even including those who are bored with q3/ql) and even more legality (for looking less "confusing"). Replicating it in torque3d (or any other engine) with superhd paintbythenumbers graphics won't mean jack shit period
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Re: Why are almost all open source games copycats?

Postby dulsi » 18 Jul 2017, 17:02

Duion {l Wrote}:Yes it does matter, since proprietary clones are a lot less common, proprietary games are the minority of all games released, while open source clones are the majority of all open source games released.

I wouldn't say proprietary clones are a lot less common. The commercial game industry is very large and churns out many clones. Sure there aren't as many clones of AAA games but that has to do with the cost of making the clones. I'm pretty sure there are more match 3 clones than people on the planet. :)

Duion {l Wrote}:But I don't think someone just wanted to reverse engineer it for fun, the intention was probably to remake the game form the reverse engineered code.

Reverse engineering can be fun to do. While I don't general reverse engineer just for fun I wouldn't discount it as a possible motive. I did it initially in a lot of case to cheat. Other times I've done it to mod the game. My friends and I were reverse engineering the Master of Magic files. My purpose was to create a Klackon hero in the game.

For Bt Builder I started reverse engineering the Bard's Tale Construction Set with the intent of recreating it. But I didn't want to recreate it exactly. I wanted to build the construction set I expected when I bought the game. Which meant the UI should be closer to the previous Bard's Tale games and you should be able to recreate everything in the previous games.

For Troll Bridge, I wanted a game like the original Legend of Zelda. I didn't go the exact clone route with it.

For Yaroid, I made an asteroid game for dos because my mother likes the game and I thought it would be a nice present. I ported and modified it to run on the Net Yaroze before I tried something more original (which I never got around to).
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True Story

Postby Wuzzy » 31 Oct 2017, 03:18

Once upon a time, some hacker liked a video game very much. But the great video game sadly happened to be non-free software. “That can't be! This game ought to be free.”, said the hacker. And thus a FOSS clone was born. The End.

You have to see it as a liberation. :)
We have to admit this true statement: There are many games in the proprietary world which are good from a quality standpoint. It's the ethical standpoint which is the problem. So any successful free software clone of a high-quality proprietary game is still a win for everyone in my eyes.

Alternatively, the original game could have been free software to begin with. Then a FOSS clone won't be neccessary. Or even better, you convince the original developers to go FOSS mode. This is hard, but this option should be kept in mind, because rarely, it succeeds. We tend to forget that free software is part of a movement. It's very important to get coders, artists, translators to join the free software movement, by contributing to free software, instead of proprietary ones.

You say that clones involve no creativity. Yes. Obvious fact it's obvious. That's the point! If you get too creative with your clone, your clone has failed. Or it was no clone to begin with.

If a clone is finished, you also have the option to build additional features on top on it afterward. At this point, things can become really interesting, because then the FOSS clone has the potential to completely obliterate the original. :) OpenTTD is probably THE flagship example. I won't say it has “obliterated” TransportTycoon Deluxe, but it clearly has obtained a loyal following. If you search for “TransportTycoon Deluxe” in YouTube, you will frequently stumple upon OpenTTD as well. This is quite impressive.

Other reasons for clones are to preserve gaming history, for games on obscure platforms or to add support for GNU/Linux and more platforms. For some games, doing such a clone might be even ESSENTIAL for their survival.

On the other hand, there's also an obvious downsides with clones: They are extremely time-consuming to make and don't add anything actually new to play. From the gameplay perspective, they're redundant. Most of the hard work done on the game is simply duplicated. In the same time, another, different game could have been made.

Still I think FOSS clones are justified, but that's no excuse for not having own ideas.

What's also important to consider when making a clone is to know if a game is even clone-worthy. IMO there are only a few games which are so good they need to be cloned perfectly. Those will be the most time-consuming. Many games, even popular ones, have design flaws. So for most games it would be better to only do kinda-clones. A good kinda-clone spots design flaws in the original and just refuses to clone them, while adding some ideas on its own.
As a developer, I think, you really need to be aware early of how far you want to go with your clone. It can save a lot of trouble later.

At this point, I should probably say that I have started a game called “MineClone 2”, a sandbox game in which you dig and build stuff with blocks (a shameless Minecraft clone. ;) ) So I can speak from experience. And obvious bias. XD

Finally, we must not forget that FOSS game developers are still a minority. As more people join the Light Side, the need for clones will become smaller.
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Re: True Story

Postby Duion » 01 Nov 2017, 13:13

Wuzzy {l Wrote}:Once upon a time, some hacker liked a video game very much. But the great video game sadly happened to be non-free software. “That can't be! This game ought to be free.”, said the hacker. And thus a FOSS clone was born. The End.

You have to see it as a liberation. :)


This is plain and simple stealing, which is the opposite of moral behavior, it looks like almost the whole "free software" movement consists of hypocrits.
Don't come with "oh copyright laws are bad etc" since even in a world with no laws it would be considered stealing, since if someone creates something he is the creator, he owns his work and it is totally up to him what he will do with it.
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