Thoughts on Digital Rights Management

Since my first experience with computers I have become fascinated with search the web and using a wide variety of software. Even at a young age, applications that would bore my friends and family were quite interesting to me. I loved the idea of being able to use different types of word processing software, spreadsheets, and all other types of software.
Unsurprisingly I have met my fair share of software which requires licensing to be able to use. Non-free software is not a recent invention given that, in early times, the simplest way to get software if you didn’t have a solid Internet connection was by purchasing it from a store. However, since the Internet has become the most common way to acquire software in modern times many software developers and publishers have opted to find new ways to ensure that those using their software have a valid license to use the software.
What is Digital Rights Management (DRM) Software?
Digital Rights Management software or DRM software provides a means to allow software developers and publishers to protect their software from illegal use and sharing. The idea is to prevent someone without the proper licensing from being able to run the application. While most DRM solutions do not prevent someone from copying the files and moving them to another computer, the licensing component would prevent them from running it on an unlicensed computer.
One of the biggest reasons that companies implement DRM today for software, especially in the gaming market, is to ensure that gamers looking to play their games are forced to purchase the software to be able to play it. DRM solutions often get cracked by hackers and cracks are leaked to the Internet, enabling gamers to remove the DRM protections and play the game regardless, but with DRM being quite the losing battle, one of the main reasons companies use the software is to make it take longer for pirates to redistribute the game.
It is important to understand that in most modern cases DRM solutions are made by companies that specialize in preventing unauthorized use of software. However, a lot of developers, especially in earlier days, found different methods of creating their own solution in-house. Before DRM software became its own type of software being sold on the market to publishers, developers and publishers built their own approach to preventing unauthorized use of the software.
How Does DRM Software Work?
The basic concept of DRM software is to provide the user with a way either directly or indirectly to prove that they have a valid license to use the software. Companies like Microsoft have traditionally handled Digital Rights Management by selling their operating systems and software with a license key that needs to be inputted by the user. Depending on the version of the OS or the software, the key will either work or it will not. Keys were generally tied to that specific version of the software and the method of which the keys were generated were kept a secret to the public.
In essence, the software will ask for a license key. The user will either put in a valid license key or an invalid license key and the software will check it using some form of algorithm. If the key is valid, it will allow the user to install the software. If the license key is found to be invalid, it will not let the user install the software, or it may offer some other way to validate the key. Often times users would mistype the key, forcing them to retype it multiple times before the software would take it. This was common when license keys where alpha-numeric, meaning they would use both letters and numbers. It was easy to mistake the letter “O” for the number “0”.
Some software would go a step further and force the software to make regular connection to the Internet in order to prove that the inputted license key was still valid. Most modern DRM solutions will reach back out to a server on the Internet to confirm that the license for that software is still valid. While this is a common tactic, it requires that the company operating the server ensure optimal uptime for the software to phone back home. If the connectivity is breached at the point the DRM tries to make contact, it can rule the install invalid until it is able to connect again.
This is one way that DRM works, but there are countless other approaches ranging from requiring an always-on connection to connect to a server to use the software to requiring a specific piece of hardware to be connected to the device for the software to function. In essence, the main objective is to ensure that there is a valid license to use the software and to have a means to continue to validate that license as changes are made to licensing, especially if the software is on a subscription basis.
The most prominent and successful model for DRM lies in online gaming platforms like Valve’s ‘Steam’ and Electronic Arts’ ‘Origin’ platforms. These are online platforms where gamers are able to purchase games directly from the distributor. When a buyer downloads their software, it is locked to their specific account, although these platforms usually offer different ways for others to access the content such as allowing for multiple users which have purchased it to use the same files or for family members to share copies within their libraries. These platforms act as both a way for gamers to access games online and for game developers to publish their titles while having some protection against piracy.
What are the Positives of DRM Software?
Software developers and publishers benefit from the protections offered by digital rights management software. Since users of the software require a valid license to use it, it means increased sales that could otherwise be defeated by the use of unlicensed or illegal copies of the software. This also gives the publisher some flexibility over how their software is being distributed, allowing for them to offer different tiers of their software and different arrangements for different audiences.
With the rise of the subscription model consumers are given access to software that would usually be outside of their budget in previous business models. For example, Adobe has opted to make access for their Photoshop software and other professional software available on their Creative Cloud platform through a monthly or annual subscription rather than a one-time purchase license like older versions required. Since many users can pay a recurring fee that takes away the shock of seeing a high cost, many users which would be financially forced to pirate the software for its use are now able to afford it.
The idea of protecting online software has led to the rise of online software platforms and the ability for people to purchase software and managed all of their purchased in one place. The creation of platforms like Steam have led to smaller developers being able to get their titles out into the world while being compensated for their work.
Digital Rights Management software is also used at the Enterprise level to ensure that only companies which have licensed the software are able to make use of it. This has become an important part of Enterprise software to prevent competitors from obtaining the software and stealing ideas or code from the published software. Since Enterprise software generally required advanced licensing and hardware requirements, it would become difficult for a competitor to obtain a valid copy of it and the depth of the DRM software can prevent an illegal copy being produced except by the most skilled of pirates.
What are the Negatives of DRM Software?
To be frank, DRM software has long found ways to punish the end consumer for the actions of software pirates. One of the most notable cases where DRM has prevented authorized users from being able to use the software lies in the infamous SimCity debacle in 2013. The game was released to purchases with an inability to connect to the game servers to be able to play the single-player game that they had purchased. Even if they were able to connect to the server, losing that connection for too long would render the game unable to be played, thus losing progress for most players.
Another example in a different context would be the issues that Diablo III had with its initial release preventing people from playing a game that, while being multiplayer, could also be played by just a single player. This meant that people not interested in playing with other people still had to play online, and during times when the servers were having issues or when the servers were down for maintenance, the game was completely unplayable. Blizzard has never released an offline version of Diablo III to be played by those without an Internet connection or without access to the servers despite Diablo II operating on that type of model. Though it is important to note that Diablo II and Diablo III, despite being from the same series, are considerably different games in both scope and focus.
If a developer or a publisher decides to implement DRM, they can either build the solution in-house or they can pay another company to license their DRM software. While I do not have inside information for a lot of DRM solutions, in some cases the DRM software developer makes the publisher pay a fee for each title they wish to implement the DRM software for. It comes down to whether the company would benefit financially in the long term for making their own DRM software and if the extra hassle from having to develop and fix issues with the DRM software over time overcome the time saved from just implementing an existing DRM solution.
If the DRM software is developed in house, it means the developer needs to create the DRM solution based on their use case scenario. This means the company likely needs to dedicate one or more members of their team to managing the method used to ensure that the end user has a valid license. This often means developing an online server to communicate with clients to authenticate. Since some software would require online connectivity anyway to operate, this could be a trivial cost. However, for software that can be used offline, it means having to find a way to balance checking online for a valid license and being able to operate while not connected to the Internet.
If the DRM software is acquired from another company, the developer can save time by simply ensuring that the DRM solution is being implemented properly. Support for issues with accessing the software would go to another company, but this can become difficult for customers of the software to understand. Some companies will still handle the support themselves and reach out to the DRM software provider when they cannot answer the question, sometimes increasing the complexity of the issues and the amount of time it takes to resolve the issue for the paying customer.
In most cases DRM can negatively impact a paying user’s ability to use the software while pirated versions of the software have the DRM components removed from the software. If the software is put up online for other users to download without the DRM, those users would have access to a potentially superior version of the software, albeit until an update is made to the software to fix bugs or otherwise improve the software. If the software developer is able to produce a version of the patch that will not work on versions without the DRM, it would force pirates to find a way to implement the patch into the software manually, or they would need to produce another copy of the software with those updates and the DRM removed.
Personal Thoughts on Digital Rights Management
It’s no secret that I am not the biggest fan of DRM. Since my earliest days in computing I have had to deal with it time and time again. Even now dealing with the old method of typing in a license key to use the software can be a hindrance especially when the license key has started to fade. Acquiring older computers for repurposing could mean obtaining a non-legitimate version of the operating system the computer originally obtained because the legal license key might have faded out due to the heat of the computer.
Online platforms like Steam provide a level of convenience that I am quite glad to have, but it can be a pain to get a game up and running when you don’t have access to the Internet or if the servers are down. Blizzard games are quire notorious with having a weekly period of time, albeit short, that users are not able to play their games because the servers are under maintenance. In the case of Starcraft II, there is an offline mode that can be used to play the campaign, but a large part of the game is completely unavailable during that time. Players of World of Warcraft and Diablo III are certainly not as lucky in that department.
For games that require online components this is not a surprise, just a minor inconvenience most of the time. I am a big fan of Path of Exile and generally use the Steam version of the game to be able to stream it to one of my laptops, preventing me from having to be at my desktop to play the game. However, if the Path of Exile servers are having issues, I will be unable to play the game completely. If the Steam servers are down, I can only play the game using the non-Steam version of the client which also prevents me from using their in-home Streaming feature to play the game from one of my laptops.
I feel major companies fail to realize how much using a DRM solution can damage their perception and reputation within the gaming industry. As a result of the SimCity debacle I would never consider purchasing a future SimCity title. I would not want to be purchasing a game that I know will have issues when I am looking to play it. Instead, I would look for reputable alternatives on platforms like Steam and on websites like GOG.com which have the older versions of the games which lack the same limitations.
I personally have a tendency to avoid games that clearly have a DRM facet involved. While I respect that companies need to protect their software from theft online, if that solution has proven to be problematic for paying customers, it does a disservice to the cause convinces me that I should not invest in that particular game. For example, Sonic Mania is a game I am certainly interested in playing, but the implementation of Denuvo regardless of the merits has me skeptical considering that Denuvo has a history of causing issues with the games that the DRM is installed within including issues with not being able to play Sonic Mania offline until a patch was produced by the publisher.
Digital Right Management software can often be a necessary evil to ensure that hard work is being properly compensated, but implementing solutions which can cause headaches for the end user only serves to incentivize the user to obtain an illegitimate copy of the game to not have to deal with those issues. I have more than once paid for a game only to have to download a pirated version of the game to be able to play it since the DRM software causes issues with my operating system. It is incredibly frustrating when you have given the game publisher your money, but they don’t have any interested in resolving issues with the DRM solution unless thousands of similar users are having the same issues. Even then, the largest publishers will only take action once pressure has been put on them through coverage in mainstream news.
All in all DRM software has a legitimate purpose within the industry, but it is important for both the end user and for those creating the software to take a step back and look at the situation and ask ourselves if the protections make actual sense.

Thoughts on Recent DMCA Issue re: Pewdiepie

Important Note: I am not a legal professional nor do I have a professional relationship with anyone mentioned within this blog post. I would also like to state that a lot of the information presented within this post is my opinion or in some cases my understanding of laws surrounding Copyright in relation to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The facts presented within this post are my understanding of the facts, but do not constitute as a credible source. If any of my conclusions or the facts presented within this post are incorrect, feel free to reach out to me and help me understand the mistake made.

Very recently one of the largest YouTube video creators, ‘Pewdiepie’, is the topic of conversation due to his use of a racial epithet which has historically  been used to attack and demean those identified as “African Americans” as well as anyone with a darker skin tone. The use of the word was during a live stream as Felix, the man who uses the alias ‘Pewdiepie’ online in his YouTube channel, was playing an online game known as “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds” (also known and references as “PUBG”) in which the word was thrown at another player within the game. While one could reasonably come to the conclusion that the use of the word was accidental, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the word was used.

This comes after months of issues between the YouTube personality and main stream media in which many online publications accused him of pro-Nazi beliefs and communication on his channel. While many of these cases were certainly presented outside of a context that does change the ultimate meaning of the situation, even in context this particular use of the word is something that one could reasonably state is unnecessary. Many have accidentally said something they didn’t mean to say, but the accidental use of the word I would assume indicates that it’s a word he has used before. No one simply uses a word like that off the cuff without having some sort of history, whether it be from being around people that use it or having used it previously. Regardless, it certainly comes off negative and I personally cannot stand the usage of the word in this context even if it was on accident.

Recently one of the names behind the successful independent game “Firewatch”, Sean Vanaman, made posts on Twitter claiming that they would file a DMCA takedown of the videos on the ‘Pewdiepie’ YouTube channel relating to Firewatch and other games released by the studio. He explains this is in regards to his use of the racial epithet during that live stream, indicating that he does not want to be associated with him in any way, shape, or form and would use Copyright as the means to remove any association. He even admitted to having most likely financially benefited from the videos he will be filing the takedown notice and has indicated that he needs to think about the implications of such benefit, potentially meaning that he would like to avoid similar situations in the future.

Source: https://twitter.com/vanaman/status/906983575337107456

Archive Copy: http://archive.is/kQB0z

I want to first voice my agreement with the sentiment which Sean has. The use of the word by Felix is not something that should be encouraged and the creator certainly has a bad history of activities that I wouldn’t want my name or any associated brands to be associated with. Regardless of whether the use of the word was intentional or not, it is not something that one could simply forgive and forget and Felix certainly has a rather interesting history of producing quite questionable content. As being one of the largest content producers on the platform, one would and should hold him to a higher standard than lesser channels given that he would be one of the most prominent channels one would find when trying to find out what content on YouTube is like. While there are certainly millions of channels which use the platform, this type of content can shine a negative light on the platform as a whole and cause more problems than have already been caused due to the advertising issues which many other creators attribute to him.

In summary of recent events, a large number of larger advertisers pressured YouTube to take additional steps to prevent their advertisements from appearing on hate speech and other unacceptable content on the platform. While I certainly applaud advertisers wanting YouTube to take steps to protect them from being displayed next to videos depicting hate speech and real-life violence in terrible context, this has also put the platform in jeopardy and has negatively affected countless other content providers who do not make content that matches that description. Following all of this, Felix has once again placed the platform in a bad situation even if the incident didn’t occur within the same content he produces on YouTube.

All of this being said, the statements made by Sean Vanaman on Twitter paint a really bad picture for many. His intention to file a DMCA takedown of videos containing Firewatch gameplay produced by Felix is, in essence, promising to abuse a system in order to silence someone. Copyright law is supposed to protect created works both fictional and non-fictional in scope and presentation. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act aims to protect online content by providing provisions for Copyright holders to request or demand the removal of content which infringes on their rights as a content producer. This means parties that copy their work and present it either as their own or without the permission of the Copyright holder in a non-protected fashion must remove the content when demanded, otherwise the Copyright holder has the express right to sue the offending party.

It is important to note that platforms like YouTube rely on “Safe Harbor” provisions which shift the responsibility of the content to the content producers rather than the services that host the content. YouTube does have a responsibility to Copyright holders to act on their behalf when a DMCA takedown is submitted, but there are also some provisions which protect content creators from unlawful DMCA claims which do provide these platforms with minimal leeway to protect their own creators. That being said, those protections aren’t all too strong and often times a content creator using someone else’s Copyright in a legal manner are still affected by claims despite having a correct fair use argument towards their use of the Copyright.

While, to the best of my knowledge, neither Sean Vanaman nor Campo Santo have taken any actual steps towards making a claim under DMCA to YouTube, it is not a positive outlook that he would make the claim that the use of the racial epithet is at all in relation to whether or not the works produced by Felix are or are not protected by DMCA. The DMCA is supposed to protect Copyrights, not one’s association to another or assumption of support of what one says. For Sean to make those public statements, it shows that he might not understand DMCA or may have a skewed perception of it that strays away from the intention of the act.

YouTube currently exists in a weird state as they provide automated tools for Copyright holders to make claims against content. The process will have the content taken down immediately while offering the channel which has uploaded the content a means to contest the decision to remove the content. This is in compliance with the DMCA, but the implementation leaves it quite open for abuse since YouTube’s involvement in protecting a creator or uploader could have them lose their safe harbor. This would have a terrifying impact on all independent creators on the platform and would certainly damage free speech in the platform.

I do want to single out a very specific tweet from Sean that I particularly agree with and feel should be a compelling reason for him NOT to file a DMCA takedown notice:

Archive Copy: http://archive.is/iMmmz

Freedom of speech certainly does not protect you from how the rest of the world is going to view you and it certainly doesn’t protect you from the very public consequences of that speech. It simply means the government cannot prosecute you over your personal beliefs and expression. It does not mean that the rest of us have to agree with or support what is being said, and it certainly doesn’t mean that those associated with the individual making that speech must continue to be associated with that individual. It is perfectly fine for Sean Vanaman on a personal level of Campo Santo on a professional level to publicly comment on that speech and distance themselves from the ‘Pewdiepie’ channel and brand.

That being said, leveraging DMCA as a tool to do so is very much not what the DMCA provisions are created to do. These are not tools used to remove content from the Internet produced by those you disagree with. Fair use provisions are there to protect commentary, criticism, and educational content from dealing with censorship from those covered within the content and those which will disagree with it. Felix’s use of Firewatch in his Let’s Play format video is and should be protected speech regardless of what kind of person he is or the quality of his character. We need these fair use provisions to continue to make progress as a society and to allow innovative technologies and forms of communication to mature and move us forward.

While it remains to be seen if Sean is going to stick to his word and actually take action against the channel using the DMCA takedown procedure or if he is going to wise up and use a more appropriate means to compel Felix or YouTube to remove the content, this definitely serves as another reminder that the laws passed to protect Copyright on the Internet are severely outdated for the type of growth the Internet has seen in both the usage of it as a means of communication and the types of media content which creators are uploading quite frequently through a wide variety of major and minor platforms. The Digital Media Copyright Act was quite clearly made without taking into consideration the content forms found on most YouTube channels.

Outdated Provisions / Terrible Ambiguity

One of the most frustrating aspects of fair use is the process of determining whether some sort of content is considered fair use or not. Since these guidelines are non-binary, it can be very difficult to determine whether even a single video meets the requirements of fair use or not. In the recent lawsuit between Matt Hoss and h3h3productions (a YouTube channel operated by Ethan and Hila Klein) Mr. Hoss attempted to make the argument that since they used a large portion of his original video within their commentary video that it couldn’t fall under fair use. While one of the elements of fair use involves the portion of the work being used, there is such a level of ambiguity that we cannot possibly determine how much of the video should be used when making commentary or criticism. While h3h3productions ultimately won the lawsuit, we still are sitting in a position where the determining factors for fair use are too vague to give content creators an understanding as to how they should present their content and how much of another creator’s Copyright they are allowed to present relevant to the points they are trying to make.

Wikipedia has a large number of images and information on their website that meet the fair use standards due to the lack of quality in images and using only the minimum of a Copyrighted work as to make important points within the articles on the website. This approach does ensure that their use of Copyrighted works is most likely to fall under fair use, but can often make it increasingly difficult to offer readers a comprehensive view on a topic which is one of the things that Wikipedia is quite proud of. Anyone can visit their website and learn from it since articles are updated by those which have a direct interest in the legitimacy of the information contained on the website. The people maintaining these articles are often experts in their field or are at least well versed enough to know how to perform the approach amount of research to produce educational content.

In my opinion, it would make a lot of sense for the law to define in rather certain terms what type of content falls afoul of fair use. It is entirely possible for law to make references to legal cases and real-world examples as a means to convey what the law or legal code is about. With how easy it is to put information on the Internet, I feel it would be possible to ensure that those researching the laws and regulations in regards to Copyright which are meant to protect Copyright holders would be able to get a clear depiction of the types of content that are and are not fair use. It would also serve as a means to protect Copyright holders more effectively if one can say without a shadow of a doubt that content either meets or fails to meet the requirements for fair use.

I believe digital Copyright is in a weird state right now where only the largest content producers are actually protected and all others which release any form of content online are simply vulnerable to any sort of coverage of any type of Copyright. You’re not protected against a larger company deciding to use their legal resources to silence you in a lawsuit since most smaller content producers do not have the finances to defend themselves. If there is anything the Matt Hoss lawsuit has taught us, it’s that you need to be at that type of level to be able to fend of a legal attack from anyone that has the resources to levy a lawsuit against you. If you speak your mind on a particularly topic about any other type of content online, you’re opening yourself up to an attack on courts and there is no very specific protection that actually protects you; it just merely offers you an opportunity to protect yourself if you have the money and legal resources to do so.

Edit: I would also like to note that there has been some recent coverage over this whole ordeal that seems to indicate that “Let’s Play” content is not protected under fair use. While I do agree that there are not direct protections in fair use for that type of content, not all types of “Let’s Play” content are the same and there are legal arguments to be made which have not had an opportunity to be discussed in court yet. To say that there is no protection for these types of use of Copyrighted content is entirely correct, but that doesn’t mean that this type of content couldn’t see a legal protection in the future nor does it address the fact that DMCA itself still has a lot of situations which have never been seen in court. I feel there is a moral obligation of content creators to voice that particular side of the equation, but to also remind hopeful content creators that DMCA was not created with them as the protected class. It favors the large creators that have the ability to hire a legal team to represent them when they feel someone else’s content infringes upon their own. Those which speedrun games, produce interesting unique takes on games, criticize them, or otherwise create content with gameplay are not the protected class regardless of whether they should be or shouldn’t be. The major issue here is the simple fact that there is a ton of ambiguity written into Copyright law in ways where it would take a landmark case for us to truly understand how these types of content would hold up in court. Until someone finally decides to try that, we will never know.

Random Thoughts on Privacy

Lately I have been doing a lot to reflect upon my current daily life both during work hours and after them. Since I have a hard time waking up in the morning, there is not really a “before work” period, but moreso a “right before work” period, so most of my focus is on what I do and where I do it during work hours and afterwards.

My current setup involves having a computer desk both in the living room and in my bedroom enabling me to switch between two different locations. I have a gaming desktop in the living room as well as a laptop out there being used for an IRC bot right now (leverbot). My work laptop is set up in my room giving me a dedicated working environment where I can focus on work-related activities or studies without being bothered.

I am a semi-private person. By this I mean I do divulge some interesting details about myself, but I like having my privacy in terms of what I am actively doing. For example, if I am playing a game, I don’t like being bothered during that time with a few exceptions. For example, I don’t mind being bugged about the game itself such as someone asking me a question, wanting to join, or something else along those lines. I also don’t mind people talking to me when I am playing games when we’re hanging out, but there are times when I am wanting to play a game alone and having people bother me during that time does have a tendency to ruin the experience.

To rectify those times when I want some privacy, I am putting a solid state drive back into my other laptop that is currently not in use. Earlier this year I opted to give my brother the SSD drive out of that laptop since I wasn’t actively using it and he had a need for it. As a result, I don’t have a laptop capable of playing even basic games since the Dell computer I work on has Intel integrated graphics which don’t work well for a lot of games. Some very basic ones like older games or games that are made for low-spec systems will be fine, but games like Path of Exile or even osu! are pretty much pointless.

By investing in another solid state drive, I will be able to swap out the laptops after work hours to relax and play games in the privacy of my room. I’ll probably do this in cases where I am playing games online with other people where I may want to use voice communication or in cases where I think someone might be showing up at the house that I would rather not impede upon the enjoyment of gaming. For example, my roommate’s father will show up unannounced to play with the dog and have a conversation. This could be a 1-2 hour visit, and during that time I am usually wanting to play games.

This will allow me to play games from my room and not be disturbed by uninvited guests to the house. I can also have that laptop running to the side if I need another machine to be running some stuff on during work hours, which is something I generally remote into my desktop for.

My close friends and family know the types of things I am interested in. I don’t really hide my interests from anyone. Most people I know will know that I am a fan of Professional Wrestling, Anime, and other things. I don’t really hide it, though it is not something that generally comes up nor do I bring that type of stuff up all of the time (though my roommate will give me shit about how much I espouse wrestling around here).

I essentially just want privacy in my daily life rather than about the details of my life. I am not private in the sense that I hide a lot of things and moreso that I want times where I have time to myself.

GDQ’s Copyright Hypocrisy

One of the first things I want to communicate here is that I can respect what GDQ is attempting to do with their events. I am a large fan of Mario Marathon which friends and family already know quite well given that I have a tendency to force it upon them each year that it is going on. I am a fan of charity events which support causes I like to support and I also am a fan of gaming marathons. As a result, something like GDQ is precisely what I am looking for in my entertainment.

With that being said, there are a number of things about GDQ which have a tendency to annoy me, one of which involves their outright hypocrisy regarding copyright and DMCA.

For those unaware, Games Done Quick has long decided to file takedown requests with YouTube’s automated system whenever someone tries to upload a video containing footage of the runs or content from their live broadcasts on the platform without permission. The runners have permission to upload their own runs to their YouTube channel since they are the one providing the entertainment during that run, but otherwise you would need to reach out to GDQ. I don’t know what their policies are in regards to requesting access to their footage and whether or not they authorize any third parties that are not directly involved in GDQ to use that footage, but a number of people trying to put together “best of” videos have been copyright claimed and had their content removed from the popular video format.

Here’s the issue.

One of the biggest reasons GDQ can currently exist in its current form is due to the fair use protections that protect them from copyright claims from game developers and publishers. Video games are a protected media preventing parties from profiting off the work of others without the express written permission of the copyright holder. In this case, if I were to steal assets from another game to make my own, profiting from that work would certainly be illegal. There are situations where I could parody, criticism, or otherwise comment upon the work of the original artist, but simply reproducing their own assets and especially the entirety of their game would most certainly open myself to lawsuit.

GDQ is protected because they are creating their own derivative work offering commentary on the original work within a different media context. Instead of merely recreating the gaming experience, someone is playing the game in a way that offers its own value. Speedrunners are attempting to play the game as fast as possible under certain conditions and the broadcast of the game is not the only presented content in this context. Generally, the gameplay window only takes up part of the stream and other aspects presented in the stream are the commentary from the speedrunner and those presented with them, the staff reading off donations or making announcements, a live crowd potentially seen in the stream, and other information presented on the screen. Even if the game was a large part of the content, the fact that they are performing the game in a rather impressive way and offering commentary on the performance on top of that prevents the work from falling outside of the bounds of fair use.

In short: GDQ is allowed to exist because of fair use.

GDQ enjoys a protection against copyright holders by presenting their form of entertainment under fair use. They are not profiting off of the form of entertainment, though one could argue it is fair to profit off of playing a game at a high level since they are not recreating the enjoyment of the game for the viewer in the same way the viewer would enjoy the game if they were playing it.

Circling back to the issue at hand… there are a number of YouTube channels out there which produce “best of” compilations or commentary on the GDQ events which have a tendency to use clips from actual GDQ events. The staff at GDQ has made public statements regarding the use of GDQ footage and has taken measures to request the removal of this type of content from YouTube. GDQ can ONLY make this claim if they claim ownership over the original video and audio which they produced.

“But wait… shouldn’t commentary or criticism fall under fair use?”

Yes. It does. GDQ is requesting YouTube remove content from their platform as they believe they own a copyright over footage that requires fair use to operate… and wants to undermine others that want to create similar content under the same fair use guidelines.

In my honest opinion, every single takedown request filed by GDQ staff where the content being produced is not be reproduced in its entirety is an insult to those which rely on fair use. What these channels are doing is PROTECTED under fair use under the same guidelines that GDQ itself is protected. This is a hypocritical move made by GDQ to punish others wanting to offer their own take on the best or worst moments of GDQ as they are the only ones that can possibly benefit from that type of content.

First and foremost, while I am not a legal professional and therefore do not have an intimate understanding of copyright law, I believe it is not only unethical what GDQ is doing, but potentially illegal. By filing a single takedown notification to YouTube, GDQ has stated to YouTube that they own the copyright of the footage being presented in these clips. This may or may not be true, considering that they are producing their content through fair use. However, they are also purporting that the party that is using the footage under a situation that is protected by fair use is not protected by fair use, and they are also SPECIFICALLY claiming that they understood the use of their work to NOT be protected by fair use. That is a requirement of filing a takedown request; you have to admit that you understand copyright law and fair use before you file the claim.

There have been cases of people filing DMCA notifications claiming that actually did not understand what designates fair use, but an organization which SIGNIFICANTLY relies on fair use has no excuse to not understand what constitutes as fair use.

It is my opinion that what GDQ does in these situations should be considered perjury and should be subject to criminal penalties. We see this issue again and again with copyright trolls, video game developers not keen on being subject to criticism, and content creators which cannot handle criticism being thrown their way. We have seen it with the likes of Alex Mauer, Digital Homicide, and Matt Hoss. GDQ puts itself in the same group as the previously mentioned by silencing criticism and commentary about their event in the way that they have.

While this is just my opinion, this is precisely why I choose not to support GDQ.

Path of Exile 3.0.0 Patch Notes

GGG has published the 3.0.0 patch notes on their website detailing changes made for the release of their latest expansion. This new expansion stops the cycle of completing the game three times per character and moves it to 10 acts each played through once on each character.

Click here to view the patch notes.

While to some extent I will miss going through the harder versions of acts one through four, this will make the process of leveling a new character less tedious overall. No longer will there be Cruel and Merciless difficulties.

It is particularly nice that they are implementing a skill tree planning feature to help remind you of what skills you were planning to pick up as you gain skill points. It is a nightmare if you pick the wrong skills, sometimes forcing you to spend currency to undo the mistaken node choice. This is something that will definitely help me during build planning and is a welcome addition to a lot of recent QoS improvements they have made over the past couple of years.

I will admit the reaction from the community over the patch notes has been particularly negative. I don’t know if I entirely understand the points being made, but a lot of people feel that GGG is removing the fun out of the game by nerfing weaker builds and not raising the power of builds that are never used due to their lack of viability compared to many other builds. Most notably changes have been made regarding energy shield and the Vaal Pact node.

I’m not going to go through each change as I don’t really understand the current meta nor do I understand how each of the changes are going to affect the game. Going forward, I am going to try to learn more about the game since I have an interest in learning how to play efficiently and actually finish all of the endgame challenges.

New Infrastructure Again

While it seems I cannot simply make up my mind on how things are set up, this is likely the last time I mess around with things. Would’ve backed up the blog, but didn’t feel like doing a full back up for 4 posts. I also want to rewrote what I had previously written with more thought and planning put into it. Expect an overhaul of this blog today and some more stuff coming back online. I gave up and am using cPanel to control everything.