Monday, 27 July 2009

I© Own™ ¥our $oul

Without wanting to sound like a stereotypical idealistic student-type with nothing better to do than whine about the many injustices of the world, I'm going to have a good old whine about one of them

Patents and IP and all that shit.

While, as an aspiring writer, I find myself frothing at the mouth over any tale of plagiarism, there is a limit to that which I believe one can claim ownership of, at least in terms of ideas and intellectual property.

Not too long ago, I read the following piece on Kotaku, detailing a patent for drop in/drop out coop gameplay, and it made me think. What if, back in the day, id had decided to patent many of the FPS gameplay mechanics that Wolfenstein and Doom made so popular? What if someone had patented the idea of looking down and seeing your own legs while in a first person perspective? What if someone had patented the idea of weapons with alternate fire modes? If everyone owned every gameplay concept, gaming history would be a hell of a lot less interesting.

I remember playing one of the Broken Sword games, and marvelling at its installation process and the fact that, rather than have me sitting there bored, it gave me a little mini-game to play while I waited. This was a fantastic idea. Not only was I mildly entertained and distracted during the lengthy installation, but I couldn't help but respect the developer's attention to detail and dedication to the spirit of entertainment. And that was the last time I saw such a mini-game. For years I wondered why nobody had caught onto the idea of installation/loading screen games, until someone told me (think it was Steve) that they couldn't. That somebody owned the idea. Somebody whose games I didn't generally play, and who clearly could not be arsed with the idea anyway.

I'm all for the protection of intellectual property...but surely there's a line to be drawn between protecting your interests against those who might simply steal from you and profit by it, and jealously warding off competition 308 to the point of shitting 311 on anyone who might prove to *be* competition by claiming ownership of concepts that are, when you think about it, borderline abstract. It's a wonder nobody has patented the first person perspective really, or the presence of characters with both left and right legs...or, hell, simply the concept of "a computer game".

Can you imagine how many writers would be fucked if similar things happened in the literary world? Nobody could ever be "inspired" by the works of other writers, for fear of being mashed into the ground, legally speaking, by some publisher who had once patented the idea of "a person or group of people who live through a dramatic series of events, learn important life lessons, face overwhelming odds and eventually prevail". Hell, they'd be lucky to write a prologue without discovering that someone owned the concept.

You know what? Here's mine:

I'm gonna patent the idea of an omnipotent supernatural entity that created the universe and everything in it, occasionally interacts with mankind by means of miracles, magic, angelic visitations, burning bushes and ethereal voices, may or may not have a beard and lives in the clouds surrounded by annoying fuckers that play harps incessantly. Ergo, I own god.
In fact, no, wait...fuck it, I'm gonna patent reality. Ergo, I AM god.

In other news,
experts have been discussing the possible repercussions of advanced AI, such as viruses that mimic human interaction with the digital world for the purposes of identity theft, or the "Skynet Scenario", as I'd like to call it;
"a runaway chain reaction of machines capable of building ever-better machines."
Of course, they're a bit late. In my opinion, Skynet has already planned our downfall in the form of Conficker.

- Brax


  1. This is a blog dude, whining is essential. Otherwise nothing would ever get written! It's all just whining, nude cosplayers and short plays featuring the Denton brothers.

    All this trademarking crap really pisses me off too - although it technically doesn't affect me, it's just plain unfair. I understand licensing characters, titles, franchise specifics, but gameplay elements? Things that had already been done by other people but they just had the tenacity/shitty-mindedness to patent?

    I remember a couple of years ago, LucasArts tried to sue Digg because they owned the rights to their game The Dig, and they looked vaguely similar. I shit you not.

  2. My favouite one was where the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) sued the WWF (Word Wrestling Federation), over ownership of the acronym, and won, despite the fact that both organisations had used the acronym from March 1979. Apparently the Wrestling Federation violated a 1994 agreement which limited the use of the WWF initials overseas.

  3. I wrestle with my words all the time. And Brax's, too.

  4. [pedant] WWF is not an acronym [/pedant]

    I wrestle with my conscience a fair bit, sometimes adding the boundaries of good taste into a cage match. Their lack of corporeal form does put them at a disadvantage though, which probably explains why I [REMOVED IN THE INTEREST OF TASTE, YOU SICK BASTARD!]

  5. I thought it was silly when Apple's patent for multi-touch was accepted... It's not like they invented the bloody tech...