Flash Rights


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Flash Rights

JayIf you have been participating in or observing the comment threads of late, you may have noticed an argument simmering over whether a particular game design that was previously published on the Web was used without attribution in a recent game release. The essence of the argument is this: can two independent developers arrive at an uncannily similar idea without one being influenced by the other? I am inclined to think so.

I also believe it is very important that designers and developers receive proper credit for their efforts and for their creative genius, regardless of whether it's a pixel-based avatar, a detailed game design, or a Flash game on the ZOMGFREE1000sOFGAMES Flash portal. We do everything we can here at JIG to ensure that the proper author(s) receives credit for each game we review, sometimes going through much effort to track down the 'official' site and author name for a particular game that may have been suggested to us. We also try to provide background information about a game and its origin, where appropriate, so that the correct lineage of the design can be documented and preserved. We just want to do the right thing, but sometimes it is difficult to know what the right thing is to do.

John Cooney, of JMTB02 Studios, as part of his senior thesis, recently put together a site that aims to help developers, particularly those using Flash, protect their intellectual property. His site, FlashRights.com, provides information and links that explain copyright, licensing issues, and ways to protect your Flash game and your rights as a developer. While it may not cover every issue surrounding intellectual property, it is a good place to start understanding the basic concepts, terms, and issues facing Flash game developers today. John is a prolific Flash game developer and has been working in the Web game industry for the past 6 years.

Visit his site, learn about your rights, and protect yourself. It's a crazy world out there.

19 Comments

Ah Jay. I think it rather unfortunate that you don't feel it appropriate to discuss/argue over the notion of coincidence, pertaining to similarities having to do with games, on a game review site that has always included thoughtful discussion along with games. However, it is your site, after all, and sometimes we have to suck it up and deal with the rules. I tip my hat to you, sir.

Also, after a quick jump to flashrights.com, I can say that that looks like some useful information (even though I am not a game developer myself). I'm beginning to wonder just how much good stuff can come from Mr. Cooney and his knowledge of flash. Stop it. You're making the rest of us look bad. :)

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Scramble - My point was that this post was not to be about that issue, but rather about John Cooney's great resource for Flash developers.

Sorry if I was not clear.

If you have something to say, by all means speak your mind. :)

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Oh, okey dokey then. I do have something to say:

Candy is, in fact, delicious.

:)

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hahaha, and I like pie. :p

Grape pie is my favorite. yum.

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grape pie? I've never even heard of grape pie.

On the issue of coincidence however...
It really is entirely possible for two people who don't know each other, have no reason or way to know what the other is doing to have the same idea.
You think Charles Darwin is the one who first thought up natural selection? Nope - he was just the first one to publish.
Now - we have extensive resources available to all of us. Anyone of us could come up with an idea, implement it, publish it, and within a few hours, have it circulating the globe.
Recently, I had a great new idea for a story (I write) - I did some minor research, started to sketch out my ideas and thesis, and *bam*, I saw my idea written by someone else in a magazine. Already written and published.
I was disappointed that I didn't do it first - but hey, I still thought of it myself. I still consider it my own idea. I wouldn't have quite come to the same conclusion as another, but many things would have been similar - enough so that had I gone and published mine, I could have been sued for plagiarism.
That wouldn't make me a thief, but when it's so easy to self-publish anything these days, it's hard to prove a case.
The thing I'm trying to say is simply: Don't be so quick to say that this type of coincidence isn't possible. It's entirely possible. Our brains all tend to work in the same way, we have similar thought processes, a thousand people could all have the same idea tonight, but only a couple of them might act on it. It's entirely possible.

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Well said Wendy, I totally agree.

Also remember this if you see something similar to something you have made or are making, the reason you saw it was because your looking for it now.
Why are you looking for it? You're thinking about it.

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Hey, this happens all the time. (Tower defense games, anybody?) MySims is just an extension of Animal Crossing, which in itself is an extension of The Sims series. This is the main reason why I keep stalling on my comic; every time I think I've got a good idea to work on, I discover that somebody else has already done it, and they turn out to be well known and famous.

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Jay, are you in Vermont, or just referring to the grape pies that you get at a kwik-e-mart for $.25?

I think that Mr. Cooney did a slam dunk of a job centralizing creative knowlegde. Definately an important thing for people to be doing. It is like a Union for Flashers *grins*

Hmm now I want grape vichyssoise...

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Nice post, Jay. Once again, JIG is one of the classiest gaming sites on the web.

And I'm a sucker for pumpkin pie, myself.

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@Wendy
Sometimes not doing thorough research is better:

I had a really cool idea (I write software), and implemented it. Over time I improved it, until I came up against a show-stopping problem. But through good fortune of factors beyond my control (new facilities in the language), I was able to solve. This led to great success (by my humble standard :P ).

Later, it turned out that lots of people had had this "really cool" idea before me, and of them, a several had even implemented and published it - some of the work quite excellent. But no one else had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time that I had.

With thorough research, I wouldn't have started.

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Congratulations to John Cooney, he did a great job to clearly explain copyrights related issues.

I didn't read all the previous craze on the black/white idea, but it is one more example of a endless debate : Can/Shall ideas be copyrighted ?

Personally I don't think so, for at least one simple reason : the origin of an idea is hardly ever identifiable.

I you look closely to videogames (or non-videogames) history, you'll realise how all videogames "borrows" (if not steal) ideas from previous games or previous works. You think Pong was an original idea ? Or just a mere ripoff of the videogame "ping-pong" shipped 6 months before with the Odyssey console ?

As stated above, I deeply think two disctincts persons can come up with the same idea without knowing each other, especially if they both start from the same source of inspiration...

Anyway, similar ideas is a whole different problem as swf stealing, and I suppose FlashRights project is more intended to protect Flash developers from ruthless ad-sponsored gaming websites, than to start a "It's my idea" war between Flash developers ;)

After all, ideas needs references, so creativity comes from sharing...

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That site, she is not so good monsieur.

I'm picturing poor kids registering copyrights via large cardboard boxes. Since its implied that that is where all copyright must come from. :)

Especially since most flash games actually want/need distribution without modifications. So a pointer to the right creative commons licenses, (which is probably the easiest way of saying you allow that in lawyer speak), would make much more sense.

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I think you will find information on Creative Commons licenses there as well.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it's possible to copyright ideas. All that can be copyrighted is their particular implementation.

In response to Wendy - Many stories share similar ideas. In order to write a good story, you need to pay attention to the minor details, set the correct mood, make sure no word in your story is superfluous, etc. No two people can do that exactly alike. It is the one who does it best that becomes famous, not for their idea, but for how they implemented it.

As an example in science, it was Einstein who came up with the idea of special relativity, but he holds (held) no patent rights on GPS systems, which extensively use his formulas.

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I've lost count of the amount of times I've thought "Hey, <such and such> would be a pretty good idea! Maybe I'll work on something relating to it at some point."

Then a day later, I see it's already been done. By about twenty different people.

Plus, seeing as human culture has lasted as long as it has, I'm of the opinion there is no such thing as a "completely original idea" anymore.

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yow:
"Sometimes not doing thorough research is better"
sometimes - yes, you're right. but when you want people to take you credibly for writing about different ideas (take Madeleine L'Engle writing about the tesseract) you have to know what you're talking about. I just had poor timing, but not to worry, I have a hundred more ideas in my head.

Andrew:
"Many stories share similar ideas. In order to write a good story, you need to pay attention to the minor details, set the correct mood, make sure no word in your story is superfluous, etc. No two people can do that exactly alike. It is the one who does it best that becomes famous, not for their idea, but for how they implemented it."
I agree - but say, for example, I had been writing a story about an evil dark wizard and a kid who would be his downfall and had the kid go to a school to study magic back in the late 1990s. Once J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter, my idea would have been useless. Even if I could have written a similar story and done it better, it wouldn't matter - because she had already done it. That's what I'm trying to avoid. There are millions of things that have yet to be said, I just need to find the right one for me.

Thanks for the replies though - I totally didn't expect anyone to pay attention :)

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If an infinite number of monkeys were put in a room typing on keyboards for an infinite amount of time, one of them would type Hamlet to the letter. (That's from Coincidences, Chaos, and all that Math Jazz).

Coincidences will happen, especially considering we aren't monkeys randomly typing, we're humans attempting to reach a similar goal. The chances of them happening are greater than the chances of them not happening. When everybody was given the "Replay" theme, we saw some very similar games (Time Raider, Super Earth Defense, Timebot, etc). Did all these people plagiarize each other? No. They were coincidences. Similarities between games will happen, so there's no need to point fingers when they do. Not that anyone is pointing fingers.

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Re: monkeys

That only works if you have some kind of strange breed of monkey that for whatever reason, would sit down in front of a typewriter, and only interact with said typewriter by hitting the keys, for a long enough period of time to accidentally produce Hamlet.

I hate that analogy. Now, give me a random character generator that can run for an infinite amount of time and you're getting somewhere.

You don't really need an infinite amount of monkeys if you already have an infinite amount of time, by the way. one infinity is good enough to do the job.

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I had vinegar pie once. It had a little bit of lemon extract or zest or something in it. The vinegar-with-a-tad-bit-of-lemon pie was supposed to be a replacement for full-blown lemon pie during some sort of war or something.

I thought it tasted awful.

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