(via EFF Deep Links) Microsoft has released a Game Content Usage Rules, which will make it easier for machinima enthusiasts to assert their copyright from content generated in games like Halo (1-3), Age of Empires, Rise of Nations, and Project Gotham Racing. The inspired grant of licence reads:

“Here’s the magic words from our lawyers: so long as you respect these rules, Microsoft grants you a personal, non-exclusive, non-transferable license to use and display Game Content and to create derivative works based upon Game Content, strictly for noncommercial and personal use. We can revoke this limited use license at any time and for any reason.”

The relevance of this is that machinima has been skirting the edges of legality, as many game developers assert copyright over the content generated with their engines. Given the creative complexity of some machinima, those claims seem shallow, but it is really nice to see that Microsoft groks the movement and is willing to allow at least non-commercial use of the generated content. Hugh Hancock, an Edinburgh-based machinima expert, has written about the licence favourably.

I’m still making up my mind about this development, as I’m still not certain about the copyright claims exerted by the game owners. If we think of the game engines as content-generating tools, then the copyright claim may be very thin indeed. After all, Microsoft does not own the copyright over every Word document, do they?

As an interesting aside, Fred von Lohmann points out that this licence resembles the unilateral nature of the GPL, and not a contract. I tend to agree with him that the Machinima Licence bears more resemblance to Creative Commons and the GPL. However, I disagree with him that the licence is not a contract. At least in jurisdictions such as Scotland, we have no problem with unilateral contracts.

Now, I must finish watching Leeroy Jenkins wipe out his team once again. Happy times.


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