Limbo of the Copyright and Adventures in Fair Use

Slashdots coverage of the Limbo of the Lost controversy has yielded some really interesting linkfodder. Steve Bovis is apparently a real world class idiot and has taken up the banner in his own name. His lawyer (solicitor) has advised him to keep quiet but it’s pretty obvious he’s proud of his own invention and thinks videogames are big money. He also claims he was developing the game (Limbo of the Lost) for two other consoles before they were “killed off”. Nevermind the fact that a development license on a console is exactly that – you need to actually buy a license to develop and you need to buy the hardware to develop on which is big money to discourage us non-big-game-company folk to not buy a console which doesn’t check the copyprotection on discs.

Apparently Steve also has had his account suspended on Wintermute, which tells us a lot about how he intended the game to look. Wintermute is a free-to-all engine which retains copyright control over it’s code. This means the engine itself is suspect in terms of fair use, let alone all the produced artistic materials. So far no-one on their forums has weighed in on the topic aside of banning his account outright.

But it gets better – with Wintermute being used with questionable legality and redistribution rights, Steve decides to go over to Games Radar and talk a pile of trash. His arguments are fairly braindead and illustrate why I don’t believe that physical property law is any type of analogy to intellectual property law. It’s clear that Steve and company ripped off these games wholesale and violated the intellectual property law protecting them, but his views everything in terms of property law. His examples include the ideas that screenshots are not derived works and they are the same as photographs. He also says that copying Big Ben wholesale would be clear infringement but a photograph of Big Ben is not. (The actual legal status of both examples is that this is OK for educational or personal use but commercial resale is strictly prohibited). While I hate EULAs attached to software, this is clearly why they come in handy.