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Subject: Is it OK to copy a game? (an actual clear poll) rss

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Subhan Michael Tindall
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Inspired by the poll here, along with many a flogged dead horse thread that fails to separate out the fundamental questions of legality, morality, and ethics; thereby presenting a issue in a manner by which it can never be successfully resolved, I hereby present, in conjunction with this horrifically run-on sentence, which deserves a thread of its own, a poll intended to both present more clearly the multi-pronged issues involved in the oft-asked question "Is it OK to copy games?", and to elicit cogent discussion in a manner which does not fall prey to the conflation of the above mentioned terms.

Note the zeroth: It is assumed in all questions that the permission of the author, publisher, or other rights holder to the game as neither been sought nor granted.

Note the first: The following questions do not make an assumption of ownership or the lack thereof of the game in question. Respondents are responsible for clearly noting any such distinctions in their arguments, should they feel it has a bearing on their arguments.

Note the second: The following questions do not make an assumption regarding the in-print status of the game in question. Respondents are responsible for clearly noting any such distinctions in their arguments, should they feel it has a bearing on their arguments.

Note the third: The following questions do not make an assumption regarding the availability or lack thereof of the game in question. Respondents are responsible for clearly noting any such distinctions in their arguments, should they feel it has a bearing on their arguments.

Poll
1. Do the copyright laws of your country, as you understand them, permit copying of a game provided that no copyrighted artwork, text, or patentable mechanics are copied?
Yes
No
I have not read the law, and have no idea
I have read the law, and still have no idea
2. Do you believe it is moral to copy a game, provided no laws are being violated.
Yes, for any reason including profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit or at cost
Yes, for personal use only
No
3. Do you believe it is moral to copy a game, even if applicable laws are being violated?
Yes, for any reason including profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit or at cost
Yes, for personal use only
No
4. Would copying a game, as long as no laws are being violated, be allowed by your personal code of ethics?
Yes, for any reason including profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit or at cost
Yes, for personal use only
No
5. Would copying a game, even if applicable laws are being violated, be allowed by your personal code of ethics?
Yes, for any reason including profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit
Yes, as long as it is not being sold for profit or at cost
Yes, for personal use only
No
      234 answers
Poll created by subhan
 
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chearns
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What I find curious are those who are against copying games (even for personal use), but totally fine with commercial versions of public domain games like Uno (copies Two Four Jack), Werewolf (copies, well Mafia), or Time's Up (copies Celebrities).

I can't see the moral harm in making my own copy of a game to play with friends (particularly when I think of areas of the world where importing games would be extremely expensive and unrealistic), whereas trying to get people to pay for something that is freely available seems wasteful and exploitive, and thus morally reprehensible.
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Drew Spencer
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What's the difference between something being "moral" and something being "according to my personal code of ethics?" Wouldn't my personal code of ethics determine what I think is moral?
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Brook Gentlestream
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banyan wrote:
What's the difference between something being "moral" and something being "according to my personal code of ethics?" Wouldn't my personal code of ethics determine what I think is moral?


I believe he's asking whether you would do it, versus whether or not you would judge others for doing it.
 
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Tim Maloney
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chearns wrote:
whereas trying to get people to pay for something that is freely available seems wasteful and exploitive, and thus morally reprehensible.


People are not paying for the freely available rules. They are paying for the production of the game with nice cards, art, etc.
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Subhan Michael Tindall
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banyan wrote:
What's the difference between something being "moral" and something being "according to my personal code of ethics?" Wouldn't my personal code of ethics determine what I think is moral?


Actually it is somewhat to the contrary. Although the two terms are used somewhat interchangeably in common parlance, I think a reasonably standard definition would be that 'morals' refers to a belief about right or wrong, while 'ethics' refers to a system or code of behavior based on reason that is used to govern behavior, and may be found at many levels which often conflict, and are normally based on morals. Behaviors can be moral but not ethical, and vice versa.
 
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Jon G
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I thought an "It depends..." would have been the best answers to #3 and #5 above.

In the States, if we're talking about an in-print game, I would say it's (slightly) immoral/unethical to make an illegal copy of a game for personal use. It's also pretty stupid, given the effort to do so.

If the game is wildly out of print, or if I lived someplace where shipping cost more than the game, I'd say it becomes moral/ethical to do so. Of course, in most of those cases, there's excellent fan-made art you can substitute for the copyrighted stuff.
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It would have been nice if the poll had distinguished between copying readily available in-print games and copying out-of-print games for which one cannot even figure out who the IP owner is (as well as various points along that spectrum.)
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Steve Bauer
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chearns wrote:
What I find curious are those who are against copying games (even for personal use), but totally fine with commercial versions of public domain games like Uno (copies Two Four Jack), Werewolf (copies, well Mafia), or Time's Up (copies Celebrities).

I can't see the moral harm in making my own copy of a game to play with friends (particularly when I think of areas of the world where importing games would be extremely expensive and unrealistic), whereas trying to get people to pay for something that is freely available seems wasteful and exploitive, and thus morally reprehensible.


Assuming you see the game designer as having a moral right to control copies of his work then the moral harm is violating this right. If you don't think he/she has the right to control copies then it would be moral neutral or moral good as games are a good thing.

I don't see how selling public domain games would be morally reprehensible unless you think they are being dishonest about it in someway or forcing you to buy it.
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dr.mrow wrote:
I thought an "It depends..." would have been the best answers to #3 and #5 above.

In the States, if we're talking about an in-print game, I would say it's (slightly) immoral/unethical to make an illegal copy of a game for personal use. It's also pretty stupid, given the effort to do so.


There is a set of games that could be copied for free; Any game that uses a special deck of cards but could be played with a regular deck of card. Any game that could be played using pencil and paper such as battleship. Does the cost of making a copy matter?

dr.mrow wrote:

If the game is wildly out of print, or if I lived someplace where shipping cost more than the game, I'd say it becomes moral/ethical to do so. Of course, in most of those cases, there's excellent fan-made art you can substitute for the copyrighted stuff.


By this standard if the game is in-print but overpriced does it become moral/ethical to copy it? I think even the most wildly out-of-print game could be bought for a price.

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I think it matters whether or not the caveats of the first question apply to the others. I answered as if they do.

A game without its trappings is an abstract structure – a compact representation of a tree-like branching hierarchy of game states. Finding a path down this tree using permissible state transitions is an entirely mental process. A law prohibiting the "copying" of it (especially for "personal use" where no communication is necessarily involved) would be a type of thought crime.
 
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Jon G
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sbauer9 wrote:
dr.mrow wrote:
I thought an "It depends..." would have been the best answers to #3 and #5 above.

In the States, if we're talking about an in-print game, I would say it's (slightly) immoral/unethical to make an illegal copy of a game for personal use. It's also pretty stupid, given the effort to do so.


There is a set of games that could be copied for free; Any game that uses a special deck of cards but could be played with a regular deck of card. Any game that could be played using pencil and paper such as battleship. Does the cost of making a copy matter?


Note above I'm talking about an illegal copy, not one made with your own art, or copyleft art, or no art at all: that's legal and (IMO) ethical. You get either an ugly, cheap game, or a very nice game that took a lot of effort to make, or somewhere in between. The cost is irrelevant to this discussion, except that if you assign some value to your time, it will probably be cheaper to just buy the game than handmake one with nice bits.

The only thing I really object to is printing out most of the original game art from BGG and slapping it in sleeves or on cardboard sheets. For an in-print game, you really are costing the game designer/publisher some money or future market.

sbauer9 wrote:
dr.mrow wrote:

If the game is wildly out of print, or if I lived someplace where shipping cost more than the game, I'd say it becomes moral/ethical to do so. Of course, in most of those cases, there's excellent fan-made art you can substitute for the copyrighted stuff.


By this standard if the game is in-print but overpriced does it become moral/ethical to copy it? I think even the most wildly out-of-print game could be bought for a price.
[/q]

In the "wildly out of print" case, your decision doesn't affect the value of the game, except maybe on the eBay market. All the copies have been sold, it's not going to be reprinted anytime soon, so you're putting more copies of a limited game into existence where more people can enjoy it. To me, that trumps any technical illegality. You may even be increasing the market for the game by introducing it to other people who would rather buy a copy than photocopy it. Note that this is a key difference between mp3's and boardgames- the fact that you copied the game illegally doesn't make it trivial for me to make a copy too.

And, as noted above, these sorts of games usually have fan-made art that you can use without breaking any laws.
 
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dr.mrow wrote:
You get either an ugly, cheap game, or a very nice game that took a lot of effort to make, or somewhere in between.


Sometimes you get game art that had a lot of time and effort expended on it to achieve the current unfortunate state.

Sometimes you get thoroughly rudimentary game art, where it is clear that what you are really paying for is the IP and the effort it took to develop it into a game.

It's a mistake to assume that a professional production is always higher quality than an amateur one.
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dr.mrow wrote:
I thought an "It depends..." would have been the best answers to #3 and #5 above.

In the States, if we're talking about an in-print game, I would say it's (slightly) immoral/unethical to make an illegal copy of a game for personal use. It's also pretty stupid, given the effort to do so.

If the game is wildly out of print, or if I lived someplace where shipping cost more than the game, I'd say it becomes moral/ethical to do so. Of course, in most of those cases, there's excellent fan-made art you can substitute for the copyrighted stuff.

I agree with this. Things are not always 100% right or 100% wrong, there is very often a huge area of gray in between. For example, games long out of print but clearly under copyright because they are not old enough like many games from the 60-80s. Newer games where it's unclear who actually owns the copyright. I would not have any problem with making a copy of either type of game. But if I enjoyed it, I would purchase a new copy if they became available again, if only to say "thank you" to the designer.

Morganza wrote:
It's a mistake to assume that a professional production is always higher quality than an amateur one.
18xx being a prime example of that.
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I do not agree with this poll as i cannot answer half it's questions.

It all has to do with the state of the game.

Is it ok (or moral) to copy a game readily available in any close store? I would say no, even for personal use.
ex: copying Dominion.

Is it ok (or moral) to copy an out-of-print from a long time ago game that can't be found anywhere (As in, even if you want to purchase it you can't)? I would say yes.
ex: the numerous copies of "Dune", before the FFG remake was announced.
(of course, the decent thing to do is actually buy a copy if the original is reprinted decades later).

Is it ok (or moral) to copy a game you already own for your personal use? I would say yes.
ex: the recent re-themes of Pandemic.

I cannot therefore answer a straight: "It is moral to copy a game" as it is definitely not a binary question.
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Martin Larouche
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indiexxx wrote:
chearns wrote:
whereas trying to get people to pay for something that is freely available seems wasteful and exploitive, and thus morally reprehensible.


People are not paying for the freely available rules. They are paying for the production of the game with nice cards, art, etc.


Not all games have "freely available rules". Some of them are *only* just a set of rules. The rule binder of Advanced Squad Leader cost around 90$. Star Fleet Battles captain's manual is also "just a rulebook".

Some other games are so easy to copy, like Squadron Strike, that uses any spaceship miniature you can find with a simple hex map that can be found anywhere that the only source of revenue for the company is the ruleset.
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dr.mrow wrote:
sbauer9 wrote:
dr.mrow wrote:
I thought an "It depends..." would have been the best answers to #3 and #5 above.

In the States, if we're talking about an in-print game, I would say it's (slightly) immoral/unethical to make an illegal copy of a game for personal use. It's also pretty stupid, given the effort to do so.


There is a set of games that could be copied for free; Any game that uses a special deck of cards but could be played with a regular deck of card. Any game that could be played using pencil and paper such as battleship. Does the cost of making a copy matter?


Note above I'm talking about an illegal copy, not one made with your own art, or copyleft art, or no art at all: that's legal and (IMO) ethical. You get either an ugly, cheap game, or a very nice game that took a lot of effort to make, or somewhere in between. The cost is irrelevant to this discussion, except that if you assign some value to your time, it will probably be cheaper to just buy the game than handmake one with nice bits.

The only thing I really object to is printing out most of the original game art from BGG and slapping it in sleeves or on cardboard sheets. For an in-print game, you really are costing the game designer/publisher some money or future market.


I believe it is wrong even if you use none of the copyright material from the original game and you have a legal right to do so. I believe it is still wrong in the out of print scenario but if you have tried to get the designers permission and can't find him or got no response then it is ok.

I don't really care much about the copyright of the art or rules but care about the idea of the game.
 
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No worries, diversity of opinion is what the OP is looking for here. That's why it's a poll.
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deedob wrote:
I do not agree with this poll as i cannot answer half it's questions.

It all has to do with the state of the game.

Is it ok (or moral) to copy a game readily available in any close store? I would say no, even for personal use.
ex: copying Dominion.


What about the people who have made poker-chip Dominion?

Does the answer change if they have bought a copy of the card version?
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I don't think copying a game, for personal use, is a moral issue. Fabricating a single copy of a bootleg game to me is like baking bread, or sewing a jacket (both of which I also like to do). It is satisfying to make something.

There may well be an ethical question, or even a dilemma, but a moral issue? None whatsoever.
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The people who make and sell games operate (and hopefully profit) in countries where there are laws. I live in a country where by and large we have effective rule of law, which protects those people and largely makes it possible for them to do business in the first place. The only obligation we have to them is to operate within the law ourselves.
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Subhan Michael Tindall
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Morganza wrote:
It would have been nice if the poll had distinguished between copying readily available in-print games and copying out-of-print games for which one cannot even figure out who the IP owner is (as well as various points along that spectrum.)


The law (at least in the US) does not make this distinction, so neither does this poll. If you wish to respond with caveats, please include in the comments!
 
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You asked whether we thought various actions were ethical. For many people, the conditions for ethical behavior and the conditions for legal behavior may diverge.
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deedob wrote:
Is it ok (or moral) to copy a game readily available in any close store? I would say no, even for personal use.

What about in print games that do not have a clear, for lack of a better term, "owner", like chess?
It is readily available nearly everywhere, yet I think noone would mind if I make my own copy of it and even sell it for profit.

dr.mrow wrote:
Note that this is a key difference between mp3's and boardgames- the fact that you copied the game illegally doesn't make it trivial for me to make a copy too.

Only if you are solely considering physical copies. A lot of boardgames are available digitally as smartphone apps, computer versions and the like. If we take such cases into account copying can become trivial.
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Bewulf wrote:
deedob wrote:
Is it ok (or moral) to copy a game readily available in any close store? I would say no, even for personal use.

What about in print games that do not have a clear, for lack of a better term, "owner", like chess?
It is readily available nearly everywhere, yet I think noone would mind if I make my own copy of it and even sell it for profit.

dr.mrow wrote:
Note that this is a key difference between mp3's and boardgames- the fact that you copied the game illegally doesn't make it trivial for me to make a copy too.

Only if you are solely considering physical copies. A lot of boardgames are available digitally as smartphone apps, computer versions and the like. If we take such cases into account copying can become trivial.


No one "owns" games like Chess. It's public domain and no copyright can be broken since no one can lay claim on it.
This entire discussion cannot apply to these games.
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