Monday, February 04, 2008

No Answer Does Not Mean Go Ahead

Every now and then I see a comment in an X-Plane forum somewhere to the extent of:

"Joe Author made this great scenery pack for FS2K4, I tried to contact him about a port. I got no response, and the pack is free anyway, so I've posted my conversion."

Simply put, you can't do that, at least not in the United States. Copyright law is very clear on this subject: if you don't hear back from the author, the default is that you do not have permission to create a derived work.

(The fact that the original package was "free", meaning cost zero dollars, is not at all relevant. The author retains his rights to his own work even if he doesn't charge money.)

A simple thought experiment reveals why it has to be this way: if I was giving away my new program as a promotional period and went on vacation, and you decided to post a derived work because (1) it was free and (2) you hadn't heard from me, I would have no way to stop an illegal use of my work that I did not ever want (nor ever indicated that I wanted). "Free" plus "no one is home" is simply not a high enough bar to protect authors.

4 comments:

pauli said...

Hi Ben
I am a "burned child" - perhaps an old child, I am becoming 67 this year.
My problem was about similar, not the same:

I was down loading a MSFS scenery pack and was inspired because the design was very primitive and i got the feeling there is a better way to do it. I was spending some time in the near of the place of the airport as an extra bonus.
Due to that I spent one week on reconstructing the airport according photos from the internet and my own.
I left some items in the package which are common and FREE in the MSFS scenery world like NATURE, PARKING, AIRPLANES - without wheels.
The next step was to ask the original designer for permission to place that into X-Plane community for free download.
There was NO ANSWER - similar to your case.
Then i tried to finder over some other sources, as the one where the files have been downloaded and got the answer: we do not know that person, he is not on our list.
O.K. for me it was only the INSPIRATION and nothing else- 90 percent and more was my own design work. I sent it to the X-Plane forum with the remark: I did not got a contact with the original designer - FINALLY I WAS BANNED - form the forum.
Ben I was so shocked like never before. I know it was only an inspiration - and inspirations are completely free, in the whole world. I still feel to be punished for something - he called me a THIEF - a case in Switzerland for the court.
love paul

Benjamin Supnik said...

Pauli, it is up to the people who run x-plane.org whether they ban you or not...they run their own forum and we all visit their at their discretion. You are a visitor in their home - it is not like a public park.

90% is clearly not good enough for copyright law. If you have a package with 90% your work and 10% someone elses, it is a derived work of that other person. You have to get their permission.

If that 10% is really trivial, remove it from your package. If that 10% is not trivial, then clearly you have used something of value without permission.

Brett Sumpter said...

I'll just note that Pauli getting banned from x-plane.org for the above comes from multiple violations & ignoring warnings to stop posting derivative works without permission.

Since he wouldn't stop posting it or simply remove the items that weren't his own creation he got banned.

The first occasion can perhaps be blamed on ignorance, but not the several after that - he decided the rules didn't apply & ignored them. Bad choice...

As a freeware author that's been burned I take copyright violations very seriously, as do most people these days. Ben - thanks for posting on the topic :)

Benjamin Supnik said...

Hi Y'all,

I have not posted any policy on commenting in the past, so I will let Brett's comment go through as I did Pauli's. With that in mind:

NO MORE on this topic. This blog will not be a referendum on any of this incident. Any further comments on the specifics of this package and the subsequent actions in the x-plane community will NOT be accepted.

(Comments and questions about derived works and copyright in general will be permitted.)