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Aug 04, 2005



I don't think modders have too much to fear considering, as you mentioned, this Hot Coffee "mod" is purely an unlockable Easter Egg. Other publishers and developers know of the value of modders and will likely take precautions that Rockstar did not in future releases.

Modders are typically trying to create new content to extend the premise of a particular game. The fact that the Hot Coffee "mod" is even categorized under a comparable label is quite silly. Action Replays simply aren't Mods.

Take-Two was threatening to strike back because, at that time, there was question as to the origin of the Hot Coffee "mod". Take-Two didn't want to take responsibility, so they blamed those who had, supposedly, "modded" the game. It was a purely defensive posture and face saving act on the company's part. Once the source was discovered to be the publisher itself, Take-Two continued pointing the finger at the modders and companies that would profit from said unlockable. And naturally, what company would want to admit complete fault for including such scenes in a game?

I don't see the public being appalled by the hackers and modders. Their focus is squarely on Rockstar and Take-Two. If nothing else, hackers and modders have become the checks and balances system of sorts between content providers and the public at large.


Some create with the ideal that ownership and some create with the ideal that things yearn to be free.

So perhaps the benefits of modder's production follows an endogenous growth path in that it has a linear (if not exponential) benefits to the communicty while only marginal (if not exponetially negative) for the company.

Creators may come and go, but the creation may live on with or without the creators.



This is a very interesting predicament. Unfortunately, the only resolution I see involves group formation among the modding community. While this already exists on a minor level (nearly all major mods are the result of cooperative work) I think that modders will find it necessary to create more formal groups. Procurring profit for intellectual work has never been easy, but for individual modders it is nearly impossible.
Unfortunately, grouping modders could have the same effects Microsoft has had on the traditional programmer: it "formalizes" and "standardizes" the creative processes. With group re-structuring (such as is found in the revolutionary Valve Entertainment's corporate structure, or, lack thereof)I do not think it would be impossible for modders to obtain the legal rights they need and profit without compromising their unique designs.

Questions: How is this any different from the Grockster/Napster cases? Aren't game companies just selling technology- a source code? How are they legally responsible for user modifications? Theoretically, anyone with 3d Studio Max and Animator could create a sex scene: Why not put "Adult" ratings on these?



3D Studio Max is a tool of creation while Grockster/Napster and games are transmission/distribution tools.

I think there is general 1st Amend. protection of creation, but legal restriction on transmission & distribution.

Organization and formalization is always an option for an collective to "bargain" collective.




I think the difference between the Grokster case and what modders are doing is that Grokster is, as Frank put it, a distribution tool. The problem in terms of IP (intellectual property) is that Grokster was found to have other uses which would significantly impact the market for digital media (people use it to share songs as everyone knows)…hence the company was found to be in violation of copyright through contributory infringement. The issues of IP and modders are different; modders are confronting IP law on two fronts. First they are working with source code that is proprietary, which means that their use of it is regulated by some sort of license. These licenses typically say that the code cannot be exploited commercially without the permission of the owners, because any modifications to the code could be considered a derivative work and so by US law still under some control from the owner. So, all modders that change the source code are more or less doing so with the permission of the original authors. Modders also confront the IP of 3rd parties, i.e. folks who have nothing to do with the game but own some IP that the modders want to include in a mod. So it’s like me wanting to make a mod, using the Quake 3 engine and source code, where Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse go at it in Arena Combat. Warner Bros. and Disney might have something to say about that, even if id Software is “ok” with me doing the mod. So software companies are legally responsible for their code because they create the terms of a license…thus if some one violates the terms of the license by commercializing it or making a derivative work that the company doesn’t authorize, then the game company or the 3rd party owners can sue the modders…if they violated the license. The issue with hot coffee is that since the code was already in the game…modders did not put it there…the sex scenes are NOT a derivative work…they are owned and were made by the makers of GTA. Take Two tried to use the terms of its license to suggest that the modders that made hot coffee had somehow violated the license. Having read the license, I don’t see anything that might be “actionable,” because they did not make the scenes they simply unlocked them. Which brings me to my original point: even though companies often have no legal ground to stand on, they use the threats of lawsuits to intimidate and bring into line those they feel are using their IP in inappropriate ways.

In terms of organizing, modders have had a more or less amicable relationship with game companies. They get to use IP that doesn’t belong to them to develop themes in gaming they hold dear, in exchange they basically promise not to try to sell the mods. There has never been a case where the game company has brought a group of modders to court for control over a mod, probably because this is against tradition. My feeling and the feeling of modders I’ve spoken to is that the current relationship with game companies is working well for them. My concern is that these threats might multiply if modders begin to push on what is quickly being politically defined as acceptable gaming content.

The first amendment issues are a whole other ballgame. While creativity is protected the use of large information clusters like code, which have a proprietary dimension, may be considered commercial speech and so not wholly protected under 1st amendment, but now I’m in the realm of conjecture.


I am a GTA modder, working mostly on my own, and have produced work for all three of the last GTAs.

I myself am puzzled by Rockstar's having left the Hot Coffee material in the game, and wonder at what level the decision was taken to leave it in. Was it simply the coders who knew it was there, or did it go higher? The likelyhood of it being found was very high, given the number and variety of coders who pick over the game code.

EA's reaction to the outcry over Hot Coffee was merely the standard corporate reaction to events of this type - obfuscate with language, partial denial, then making good with a patch whilst calming the waters. Altogether, EA fought a splendid rear-guard action in my opinion.


I agree with you. Game companies have been working with modders for years. They often recruit modders into their ranks. They know how closely modders look at the code. They had to know folks had the skills to find that scene. The way I see it, there is no way that they actually believed it would never be found. I think it was simply an easter egg left behind for the hard core fans. When they started getting heat, they panicked and engaged in a lot of CYA. Like you, I’d be interested in knowing how they’re dealing with internally.


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