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#1 2019-03-01 05:48:36

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 2,411

Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

One Hour One Life, like all of my work over the past fifteen years, is placed in the public domain.  At the same time, it is available commercially for $20, because access to my game servers isn't free.  The content and code are on a public GitHub (https://github.com/jasonrohrer/), but beyond running your own private server, that content won't help you play the official game.  Piracy simply isn't an issue for a server-based game.  And, despite the fact that it's in the public domain, the official version of One Hour One life has been commercially successful.

There have been unofficial adaptations of my work in the past (see Terminal Heist or Two Hours One Life).  There was never any confusion about these adaptations, and I generally have no interest in controlling other people, so the more the merrier.  In my experience, the details don't matter much.  A mod is a mod.  A spin-off is a spin-off.  People get it.

But now, One Hour One Life for Mobile, also an unofficial adaptation, is causing enormous confusion.  This is the first time that an adaptation of my work has become commercially successful, and possibly more successful than the original (#1 paid app in Japan a few months ago, for example).  Now suddenly, the details matter.

These issues are complicated and without many precedents.  A successful work is placed in the public domain and receives a successful, unauthorized adaptation, which is marketed in parallel with the original.  In fact, I don't know of any examples of this happening, inside or outside the world of video games.

Anyway, it's happening now.  How should this be explained to people?  What needs to be said explicitly, and what can be left unsaid?

For some context, back in May of 2018, I said this to the mobile developer by email:

Jason wrote:
MobileDev wrote:

Understood. One last question just to avoid misunderstandings then: Are you fine with us using the name One Hour One Life or should we pick something else?

Essentially, everything I do, including names, is in the public domain and not copyrighted, trademarked, etc.

However, that doesn't give people the right to mislead people.  Fraud and copyright are two different issues.  If I were to take a public domain work (The Wizard of Oz), I could still release it under that title.  If I modified it, I could no longer claim it was by Baum, but I could say it was based on Baum's work.  If I presented it as my own work 100%, when it was not, I would again be committing fraud, though not violating copyright.

So, just be sure to make this clear.  Same game, but an unofficial port, by you guys, but based on my work.  You don't HAVE to say that it is based on my work, by the way (there is no attribution license in place here), but if you're claiming authorship yourselves, you'd better mention this so as not to commit fraud.


Over the intervening months, it became clear to me that the state of affairs was not understood by most players.  Furthermore, the mobile developers had started implementing design changes that strayed from my vision.  More power to them (that's what the public domain is about), but a lot of players thought that the changes were approved by me.  In October 2018, I made the following request:

Jason wrote:

As I've thought about this more and more, I think that my main concern here is lingering confusion in the mind of game players.  I have created a body of work during my life, and I want everyone to know which things are really part of that body of work.


I'd like you guys to make this crystal clear in your marketing and presentation of your game.  Example Android wording that would be sufficient (first line of the description in Google Play):

This is an unofficial adaptation for Android devices of the original desktop game by Jason Rohrer.

iOS:

This is an unofficial adaptation for iOS of the original desktop game by Jason Rohrer.


Also, during loading, you show the Dual Decade logo.  On first start-up, it says something like, "Based on the PC game by Jason Rohrer."  I don't remember what it says, because that is apparently only shown once on first-start-up.

Instead of that, after the Dual Decade logo, I want the words "UNOFFICIAL ADAPTATION" to pop up for 1.5 seconds (or however long the Dual Decade logo is shown).  This should pop up at every startup.  If it only pops up at first start-up, it is too likely to be missed.  I don't need my name to pop up there.

After some back-and-forth, they massaged the wording on the AppStore into this:

This is the unofficial expanded version of Jason Rohrer's desktop game "One Hour One Life", adapted for iOS.

And the Splash screen, which is only shown for about 2 seconds, was this:
uUAyKX0.png


I get the impression that most people do not look at this splash screen, but at least it's there.  Still, the wording is confusing, and not the clear wording that I originally asked for.  Also, this may have been added too late, because if you look back at website reviews of the mobile version (TouchArcade, etc.), none of the reviewers seem aware that the game is an unofficial adaptation.  Here's an example, where the reviewer included my trailer, with my voice speaking to the viewer, in the body of the review:

https://toucharcade.com/2018/08/23/one- … fe-review/

Yes, my trailer is in the public domain too, but it's clear to me that even this reviewer was misled.  If reviewers can't figure it out what's going on, how can we expect end-users to figure it out?

Along the way, the design changes continued, culminating around the holidays with an NPC Santa character who was running around, handing out presents.  Santa kinda looked like one of my drawings.... kinda.  A Peace Lily was also added, and I got an email from a player who said the Peace Lilly was ruing the game, and that I should remove it.  Sorry pal, not my game.  I was also getting Mobile bug reports on GitHub.  Clearly, people were still confused.

Du0RJ-pWkAA-TAS.jpg


Finally, last week, a bomb dropped.  The mobile version was released on TapTap in China as a free demo.  Suddenly, there were 9000 concurrent players in China (a full order of magnitude more than the official game has ever had).  And guess what?

The wording on the splash screen AND in the TapTap app store text was missing.  No mention of it being an adaptation, no mention of it being unofficial.  How many Chinese players played the game?  50,000?  100,000?  And none of them were aware of what they were playing.  The game shipped with a splash screen that gave full credit to the mobile devs.

WsLZ24n.jpg

When I pointed this out to the mobile devs, they acted to correct it, but it was obviously too late.

Furthermore, the TapTap store page included a "meet the devs" style video, which featured the mobile team and made no mention of me or of of the fact that they were working on an unofficial adaptation.  The devs acted to correct this by adding a splash screen to the video, but the style of the video itself is misleading (are we seeing the minds behind OHOL?):

https://www.taptap.com/app/153717


And now the question:  what rights do I have, as public domain creator, to make demands like this in the first place?  Are "copyright" and "plagiarism" and "fraud" and "libel" different issues?  Can I make demands about the marketing around a work, without making demands about the work itself?  Is it possible to plagiarize a public domain work?  What about a historical work?  Can you plagiarize Shakespeare?  Could Lewis Carroll's estate bring legal action against you if you misrepresented Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as your original work?  And what kind of legal action would that be?  Certainly not a copyright claim.  Maybe a libel or slander claim?

"No Rights Reserved" sounds absolute, but it obviously applies only to areas where copyright normally gives you rights.  It doesn't apply to everything.  I don't suddenly give people the right to break into my servers, or rob my house, or enslave me.  There is a "line" somewhere, but where exactly?  Do I give people the right to lie about me?  If I have a right to not be lied about, that right is not a side-effect of copyright.  It's not a right that can "expire" after a limited term of required truthfulness.  Beyond preventing explicit lies, do I have the right to force people to tell the truth?  What about implicit lies?

So can I waive my right to control how copies are distributed, or derivative works are made, without also waiving my truthful claim of authorship?  Yes, that sounds like "some rights reserved," but a right to what, exactly?  To the truth?

And it's obviously also a matter of degree.  Some derivative works have a greater chance of misleading people than others.  If someone takes a bit of my code and rolls it into some other project, there's very little awry if my original authorship isn't proclaimed.  Same with a collage made with some of my drawings, or my drawings used in a fan-made spin-off game.

But what about a very straight-forward, direct commercial adaptation?  Since there are no precedents here, most people assume, when interacting with such a port, that the original author was involved.  Thus, if nothing is said, most people end up being misled.

If I waive my right to control the adaptation, do I also waive my right to control what is said about it?

You might say that I simply picked the wrong license, and perhaps the public domain isn't really for me.  Maybe the CC BY license would have been a better fit:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Well, except that, no, I'm generally not concerned with credit in most cases.  If someone is remixing, I don't want to burden them with a credit requirement, or force them to include the text of the license, or whatever.  I'm just concerned with people being misled, or with my legacy as a designer being muddied.  And "appropriate credit" might not even be sufficient in the case of the mobile adaptation.  What, one line buried in the Credits screen?  That's not going to clear things up for 100,000 Chinese players.

Imagine if the mobile devs were invited onto the Tonight Show to talk about "their" game:  would they be required to mention me, or required to explain that their game was an unofficial adaptation?  The CC BY license says nothing about that.  I don't think a license, or copyright generally, is the right lens.

Yes, copyright generally precludes such situations from ever arising, because all derivative works are authorized, so no one is ever misled, and public domain works are ancient, and thus sufficiently well-known, that the chance of misleading people with derivative works is low.

So, I'm essentially making this up as I go along.

With all that context, here is the email that I just sent to the mobile developers:

I have found a solution that will clear up the confusion forever.


Please make the following changes:

1.  Include the word "Unofficial" in the title of the app as displayed in all of the app stores.  This can be "Unofficial One Hour One Life for Mobile", if there is room, or something shorter if there is not room (Example:  "Unofficial One Hour One Life").  Obviously, this won't fit in the App name on the actual device, which is currently 1Hour1Life, and is fine.  The point of this change is to make sure all future customers know that they are not getting the official game, before they make the purchase.


2.  Change the first two lines of Description text in each AppStore to:

Unofficial Adaptation
Not approved by original author Jason Rohrer

(Below these two lines, you can include whatever truthful explanation you want, or say nothing more about it, and of course, whatever other description text you want)



3.  Add the following two lines of text on the main screen (the "menu screen" of the app itself).  This eliminates the need for any splash screens, etc.  This text will always be visible when the user is looking at the menu (browsing family trees), so there's no chance they will miss it.  Existing customers will see it also, even if they never look at the app store again.

Unofficial Adaptation
Not approved by original author Jason Rohrer

This text should be displayed in a font that is at least as big as the "family tree" header font ("You were born as...").  The typeface should be a different typeface from the rest of the interface, so that everyone can visually tell that something different is being explained.

And, optionally, you can include a "More Info" button, which will lead the player to whatever truthful explanation you want to give.  I don't require any additional explanation, but you obviously might want to explain things a bit more (public domain, how you asked my permission and I said, "do what you want," quotes from our emails, how you've made improvements to the game, how much time and money you spent on the port, etc.)



See the attached mock-ups.  The first one is the most plain, but on big family trees, there will be text overlap.  Still, it satisfies my requirements.  The other three mock-ups show how this message could be integrated into the "paper" UI that you have, and how a "More Info" button might be included.  I'm also fine with simpler designs, such as a "white box" under the text, instead of paper.  As long as the text is there in two lines and readable by everyone.



It is my understanding that app store Description text can be changed quite rapidly.  Please change the Description text to display the above lines within 72 hours.  (If procuring human translation is problematic on that timeline, I'm fine with a Google-Translate placeholder text in 72 hours.)

It is my understanding that you need to ship an update to change the title of the app in the Apple AppStre.  Therefore, I expect that will take longer, and be released along with the changes to the App itself.

However, it is my understanding that the App Title can be changed instantly in the GooglePlay store, so I expect that change to be made in the same 72 hour timeline as the Description change.


Please send me screen shots of the Menu Page text in the app within one week, so I can let you know if it is sufficient.  After that, I expect the updated app, which includes this new text, and the "Unofficial" word in the Store titles, to be released three weeks from now.



And before you run me around in circles again, I just read through our email exchanges, and I requested similar wording back in October.  This is not a new idea.  All the way back in May, I said:

"So, it's best to avoid fraud here and be open about the fact that this is an unofficial port, but explain that the game is open source and public domain, which is why such ports are possible."

In other words, I've been asking for the same thing all along.

So, this time, what I'm asking for is crystal clear, reasonable, and truthful.  There's no more time or room for discussion here.


Remember, whatever money you've made over the past 11 months is based on the work that I've produced over the past four years, and the work that I continue to produce weekly.  You should be grateful that I placed it in the public domain, which allowed you to achieve the commercial success that you're achieving (and will continue to achieve in China), and you should be eager to explain the truth of the situation to everyone---not debating with me about wording.


Jason


I have included the mock-ups below.  But right in those screen shots, you can see the problem:  those aren't my fonts, my buttons, my layout, etc.  Obviously, this is an adaptation, and other people made choices that I wouldn't have made.  However, if the audience is unaware that they are playing an adaptation, they will assume that these are my choices.

VjdOpuF.jpg

oSUOTxa.jpg

K4UZJAo.jpg


And finally, has this experience made me second-guess the public domain?  Do I wish I had retained the copyright to the game?

No.

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#2 2019-03-01 06:53:47

lionon
Member
Registered: 2018-11-19
Posts: 532

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

How about registering a Trade Mark on "One hour one life"... so everyone using it to make a buck still can, but needs to call it something else.

Although the 3 clause BSD-license has fallen somewhat from grace in OpenSource community, this is exactly the reason the 3rd clause was for.

PS not related but because we're talking about the license: "Public domain" as you are using a non-license hasother issues, it works for the US, but for example here in europe it is simply not valid. European copyright law doesn't allow the author to transfer copyright (only at max to give exclusive license, the right to cited it not forgeable). The MIT (expat) license is IMO as simple as it can get, if you simple with your one sentence waiver, you are getting other issues.

Last edited by lionon (2019-03-01 06:54:08)

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#3 2019-03-01 07:22:22

ryanb
Member
Registered: 2018-03-08
Posts: 208
Website

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Requiring they add the word “unofficial” to the app name after the fact doesn’t feel right to me. These original agreements play a part in how much time to invest in development. If they knew ahead of time about these requirements they may have decided not to invest in making it.

The mobile devs want the game experience to be as good as they can make it, and adding a constant splash screen every time the user switches to the app is a poor experience if it can be avoided.

I like the idea of “wherever you are credited, I want this statement” which sounds like a good measure to avoid fraud. This would apply to the app description, the original splash screen, interviews and articles, etc.

It is unfortunate that you have to deal mobile support requests, but I imagine the popularity of the mobile version has increased interest and sales in your official PC version too.

Last edited by ryanb (2019-03-01 07:25:46)


One Hour One Life Crafting Reference
https://onetech.info/

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#4 2019-03-01 08:11:26

BladeWoods
Member
Registered: 2018-08-11
Posts: 320

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

I know nothing of your rights, but they of course are very resistant to putting these messages in their title and top of the app description because it will hurt their marketing and sales.

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#5 2019-03-01 12:49:49

NetherCrow
Member
From: gensokyo
Registered: 2019-01-04
Posts: 35
Website

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

I think it's necessary to warn the mobile developer.

They are using your code and make money. And bringing trouble to you.

And most of pe version players are totally griefer. At least in China.


Chinese Mobile Players are the best griefer around the world. I am ashamed of them. They invent the auto-baby-killer and grave-baby-prison to avoid Others Break their Eve Chain. And the griefer use bear and bow to kill every eve player for their REVENGE. All animal and kiln are killed or destroyed because of envy and hatred.

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#6 2019-03-01 12:56:41

futurebird
Member
Registered: 2019-02-20
Posts: 1,553

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Intellectual property is often over-regulated and abused but I also think the opposite extreme is dangerous for artists. I love the idea that this game can have mods, and variation, but I don't think the mobile app people are adding much?

I though that it was an official app. It cost $5. I think some of that should have gone to you. IDK it's your choice how to run this, but I don't think if there is no new content or variation that just porting an app is that ... impressive.


---
omnem cibum costis
tantum baca, non facies opus

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#7 2019-03-01 12:58:44

futurebird
Member
Registered: 2019-02-20
Posts: 1,553

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

lionon wrote:

How about registering a Trade Mark on "One hour one life"... so everyone using it to make a buck still can, but needs to call it something else.

This seems fair. The logo, name etc. should be protected, and if people want to have the official logo they would need to have the app approved.


---
omnem cibum costis
tantum baca, non facies opus

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#8 2019-03-01 13:31:09

Greep
Member
Registered: 2018-12-16
Posts: 289

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

I'm with ryanB in that I don't think it's really fair to expect them to have to put "unofficial" in their title this late into their development.  It gives the connotation of a "paid mod" which has all of the negative expectations you'd expect (low quality, zero customer support).  Fair if that is the original agreement, but it's not.

To use the alice example, Tim burton shouldn't be expected to title a movie "Alice in Wonderland: the unofficial spinoff by Tim Burton" to appease some ancestors of the original author.

Last edited by Greep (2019-03-01 13:36:04)


Likes sword based eve names.  Claymore, blades, sword.  Never understimate the blades!

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#9 2019-03-01 13:59:42

Peremptive
Member
Registered: 2019-02-14
Posts: 189

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

It feels strange that the license allows for your code to be copied for commercial use. For 2H1L for example it is pretty clear that it is a fan game since there are some changes and it is free. But ohol mobile is pretty much the same as your game, with delays on code updates, and some gimmicks added like the santa stuff and server events and competitions. Thing is, there is nothing to stop them from even selling it for PC. Money being involved and the concept being largely the same (not having a different idea for gameplay like 2H1L) makes people assume the mobile version is related to PC.

I am by no means an expert, but from what I understand this is why people usually pick non commercial use licenses if they want their work to be available to fans and modders. While they are a hassle to enforce, just by existing, copies tend to change their names, logos etc.

On a more practical note, I don't know if unofficial is really the best term. Official implies a distinction between the games that isn't really there, since everyone is free to make their version, there is no authority defining the "correct" game and the "wrong" ones. It also makes them hesitate to add it because it would imply to people that it is not supported and developed actively, like it is a fan version.
The distinction is that of authorship and originality. I think the best phrasing would be, "Not related to the original PC game of the same name" or "not related to the original PC developer". If they could add that to the loading screen, or even at the bottom of all screens that are not ingame, it would make the difference clear without implying that there is an order, a ranking to the two games.

Last edited by Peremptive (2019-03-01 14:09:40)

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#10 2019-03-01 14:46:10

CrazyEddie
Member
Registered: 2018-11-12
Posts: 676

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Please consult an intellectual property attorney and ask about your options. I know of one; I have not worked with him but have great respect for him based on our social interactions. I will email you his information.

---

Speaking entirely as a layman and an outside observer, and at the risk of both being wrong and telling you things you already know:

Copyright and trademark are separate matters. The various issues you cover in your 2004 copyright essay aren't applicable to trademark. Even if you reject copyright, there's no similar reason to reject trademark. Trademark is precisely the mechanism that would allow you to exert the kind of control over the mobile developers that I believe you would now like to exert.

You have probably lost your copyright in your code and artwork due to your efforts to put them in the public domain. You have probably not lost your various trademarks in One Hour One Life. I say "probably" in both cases because I Am Not A Lawyer and you should consult with one. I expect that you haven't attempted to register a trademark, which would count against you, and I expect that you haven't tried to defend your trademark against the infringing uses of it by the mobile developers, which would also count against you... but these two facts do not necessarily mean that you have no trademark or that you cannot enforce it.

---

If the mobile developers are claiming authorship of something they did not create, they are not engaging in "fraud". I understand the concept you are trying to convey, but the correct term is "plagiarism". Fraud has additional connotations that most likely do not apply here. Fraud would be a civil or criminal matter and would involve a wronged party; that party would not be you. You have no standing to raise the issue of fraud here.

Plagiarism is (probably!) not a civil or criminal matter in any relevant jurisdiction. It's a social matter; plagiarists are subject to social sanctions such as loss of reputation, being fired, etc. There's no remedy to someone saying "I made this" other than to say "No, you didn't." You can't even force them to stop saying "I made this"; there's no way to force someone to stop making false statements outside of specific contexts such as defamation, perjury, and contract. People can lie and you can't stop them.

---

If you pursue this as a matter of trademark protection, you may have some legal leverage you can use.

But as a practical matter, the most that you may have is social leverage, i.e. asking them and hoping they agree to comply with your requests. Anything more than that might be more expensive, time consuming, and logistically difficult than you can afford, especially considering that they are in a foreign country.

But again, I would urge you to speak with an IP lawyer before either embarking on a course of action or deciding not to do so. Good lawyers have a way of saving their clients huge amounts of money and time by skillfully applying their knowledge and craft.

---

I don't expect that mobile developers will agree to the requests you've made in your most recent email. Adding those various phrases and so forth would make the app less appealing, which would damage their commercial interests. And you've offered no compelling reason for them to make those changes.

I think you need to consider further exactly what your interest and goal is here, and then make requests which meet both parties' interests.

Are you trying to ensure that people who play their game know:

  • that it is based on a game you created (i.e. you want to receive attribution for your original work)?

  • that it is based on a game the mobile developers did not create (i.e. you want to prevent them from taking attribution for your original work)?

  • that it includes game design elements that you did not create?

  • that it is not the same as the PC version?

Each of those suggests a different action that the mobile developers could take which would satisfy your interests. Making your interests crystal-clear would help you make a request that the mobile developers would be more likely to agree to.

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#11 2019-03-01 15:58:21

Grim_Arbiter
Member
Registered: 2018-12-30
Posts: 469

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

If the translation actually is one hour life in Chinese, would you feel better if they called it "One hour life" in English instead?

I can understand the naming confusion being an issue like you stated, with people not knowing you have no part in dual decade or vice versa. With them adding things not from you, it only compounds the problem because now its not just a direct port that carries your original vision anymore.

It sounds like a name change by dual decade would solve all these issues right? It wouldn't confuse anyone anymore.

While it sucks that they are changing the game, there was a spillage of players that did buy the game from you because of the mobile version. So I think developing a symbiotic relationship, like you have with things like this, is better than going to war with it.


--Grim
All I ever really wanted was a jungle, and a jungle I got. See it ain't the vision, it's the plot that makes me stop.

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#12 2019-03-01 16:56:04

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 2,411

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Yes, I am not at all claiming that the mobile version has hurt my financial bottom line.  I have no proof either way, and the only way to test it would be via time machine.

But the existence of a de facto symbiotic relationship does not change the potential for confusion in the minds of the audience.

I'm a game designer with a reputation.  I've been doing this for fifteen years, put out nineteen games, and so on.  And I spent four years making this game.  So there's the potential for long-term damage here that has nothing to do with financial issues.

When people think of One Hour One Life, what will they think of?  Have you played OHOL?  Yes?  Oh, you mean the mobile version?  Yeah, you just played an unofficial version, but you didn't realize it....


Plagiarism is a form of fraud, CrazyEddie.

Furthermore, when it comes to language used in marketing a work, it can transcend morality into legality, because potential customers are being misled about what they are buying.


And also, I've been asking them to call it "unofficial" all along.  Back in May of 2018, they had only been working on their adaptation for two months, and I said:

So, just be sure to make this clear.  Same game, but an unofficial port, by you guys, but based on my work.  You don't HAVE to say that it is based on my work, by the way (there is no attribution license in place here), but if you're claiming authorship yourselves, you'd better mention this so as not to commit fraud.

Granted, "make this clear" was not well-defined, but in my view, they never made it clear enough, which is why we are here.  Each time I asked them to make it more clear, they wiggled out of it, and made it less clear than I wanted it to be.

If every reviewer had said, "this is an unofficial adaptation that Jason wasn't involved with" in their review, we wouldn't be here.

Again, if it wasn't clear to reviewers, who was it clear to?


And changing the title entirely, calling it "Eve's Wilderness" or whatever, would only further confuse things, and mislead even more people.  This is a very direct adaptation of my work.  It's not just a trademark issue, in other words.

What it is, to put it most simply, is "Unofficial One Hour One Life."

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#13 2019-03-01 17:01:20

Christoffer
Member
From: Sweden
Registered: 2018-04-06
Posts: 148
Website

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Hi, I am the "public face" of the mobile development. I guess it makes sense to answer here, since Jason chose to take the conversation public. You have to understand that this is a conversation though, not a negotiation or an exchange of promises or commitments.

First: I apologise for what happened with the TapTap listing in China and the translation of the splash screen. It was bad and we are sorry for it and took steps to limit the impact as soon as we were made aware of it. I have already apologised to Jason and explained how it happened, but this is a public apology to him.

Second: We think that OHOL is an absolutely genius game and that not only we, but the world of gamers owe him a dept of gratitude for creating it. When I approached him about making a mobile version of it, I wasn't even aware that he puts his games in the public domain, for everyone to do with as they want. We offered a cut of the earnings on several occasions, but he always declined. A rare and unusual individual, to be sure.

We have always taken care to ask Jason about every step we have taken, and always gotten the go-ahead to proceed with our plans. The implications that Jason now feel are hurting his legacy as game creator, were not there at the beginning, and neither of us expected them.

At some point, Jason felt the need to make some demands of us. Not for money, but for limiting confusion he felt was dangerous. He asked for changes to our marketing and for a splash screen to show every time the app started. We spent some time bouncing suggestions back and forth. We wanted to do what it took to solve his problem, but we wanted to do it in a way that did as little damage as possible to the mobile game. Such things take some time, but we delivered something that he said he was happy with:

Christoffer wrote:

"This is an adaptation for Android devices of the original desktop game by Jason Rohrer."
becomes
"This is the unofficial extended version of Jason Rohrer's desktop game "One Hour One Life", adapted for Android. We have added additional play modes as well as changes to make it play better on touchscreens. We are independent developers and the mobile game world resides on our servers." (This will also be localized to 8 other languages)

The rest of the description stays the same.

The splash screen
"Based on Jason Rohrer's One Hour One Life"
becomes
(splash screen saying:)
One Hour One Life for Mobile
(image)
The Unofficial Extended Adaptation
Running on Dual Decade Servers

Jason wrote:

Yes, all of that (store wording and splash screen) is fine with me.  It conveys "unofficial" and "separate servers" just fine.

This was back in October. Our app had just had a surge of sales in Japan and was at most on #2 download position among paid apps on the AppStore there (this translates to less money than you would think, but we were happy about it)
We received some inquiries from publishers in China, and discussed them with Jason. He thought about joining forces with us, but ultimately decided that wasn't what he wanted. That's also when we settled on the messaging above.

Fast forward a few months...

We have since entered into an agreement with a publisher in China, and released a special version on the AppStore there. There is also the free demo for Android, which is supposed to pave way for a paid version soon. There is a surge of interest for the game in China, that could become even bigger. Our publisher wrote their own description of the game for the Android demo, instead of using the Chinese translation of our App Store description. This version omitted the wording we had agreed on with Jason. It has been corrected now. They also asked us for some video recordings and make a video clip to promote it. This video also didn't mention the origin of the game (it has been changed now too).

Understandably, this made Jason angry. Our communication with our publisher was not good enough. We can only apologise and vow to do better in the future.

This may have been the trigger, but from what I can tell Jason also wasn't satisfied with the effectiveness of the messaging he had approved earlier. There were still people writing to him about peace lilies and about crooked people stealing his game. We have sent a couple of emails back and forth. I am still trying to solve his problem in a way that doesn't do way too much damage to our own product. I guess Jason thought I was being too slow, because after I had gone to bed yesterday he sent an email saying:

All that I really care about is messaging so that EVERY PLAYER and EVERY REVIEWER knows, with no doubt or wiggle room, that this adaptation is UNOFFICIAL and NOT APPROVED BY JASON ROHRER.  It should be flashing in red, or permanently on the menu screen, or whatever it takes.

and this morning I found the email that Jason also posted here.

To Jason:
I still want to solve the problem that troubles you. Not because it is a problem for us, but because you wish it so, and that means something to me.

Your solution could spell the death of a really great mobile game. One that many people are in love with. We have recently ramped up the team to five people, three of whom have just quit their other jobs to work full time on an add-on project that we want to bring to the player community.
I ask you to patiently work out a solution that does what you need it to, without crushing the mobile app.

I have repeatedly asked you for a phone or video call this week. You have not responded.

I have offered to fly from Sweden to US to talk to you in the flesh, and work it out together. You have not responded.

Yes, you want a solution NOW, but to what price?

About solutions:

Grim_Arbiter wrote:

It sounds like a name change by dual decade would solve all these issues right? It wouldn't confuse anyone anymore.

A name change is a really big thing to do, after working up a name for the game in mobile circles. The mobile community in Asia is way bigger than the PC one. Look up #OHOL on twitter if you like.
That said, we'd prefer changing it over adding "unofficial" to the name. Mobile gamers looking through the App Store would glance at our game and then keep looking for the "official" mobile game. They wouldn't think to look for a PC game.
I can't know what the results would be if we changed the name, but we are still willing to look into it, in order to solve your problem of player confusion and your legacy.
You need to give us more time than 72 hours to work out a plan though. We have to find the right name and decide on how to message it to the community and to roll it out in new releases. We also have an agreement with a publisher on a game with the name "One Hour Life for Mobile". They have been investing in marketing. They need a reasonable chance to plan for this change. Plus, it's Friday now, so you're giving us until Sunday to fix this?

Jason, please show some patience. You have our attention and priority. Please show willingness to talk about it and work out a reasonable solution together.

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#14 2019-03-01 17:47:48

CrazyEddie
Member
Registered: 2018-11-12
Posts: 676

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

I wanted to explicitly answer some specific questions you asked:

jasonrohrer wrote:

And now the question:  what rights do I have, as public domain creator, to make demands like this in the first place?  Are "copyright" and "plagiarism" and "fraud" and "libel" different issues?  Can I make demands about the marketing around a work, without making demands about the work itself?  Is it possible to plagiarize a public domain work?  What about a historical work?  Can you plagiarize Shakespeare?  Could Lewis Carroll's estate bring legal action against you if you misrepresented Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as your original work?  And what kind of legal action would that be?  Certainly not a copyright claim.  Maybe a libel or slander claim?

I am not a lawyer but I am confident the things I am about to tell you are correct.

Copyright, plagiarism, fraud, and libel are indeed different issues. Trademark is also a different issue.

"Can you plagiarize Shakespeare?" If you mean is it possible: Yes, it is possible to plagiarize a public domain work, a historical work, or Shakespeare; it is possible to claim them as your own, and doing so is plagiarism. If you mean is it permissible: as a matter of law, yes, it is permissible; there is no law that would forbid you from doing so. As a matter of propriety, no, it is not permissible; it is generally agreed that doing so is wrong and should not be tolerated.

"Could Lewis Carroll's estate bring legal action against you if you misrepresented Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as your original work?" - No, they could not.

"Maybe a libel or slander claim?" - No, because "Here is a book that I wrote" does not damage the reputation of Lewis Carroll. There might be a case for the statement "Lewis Carroll did not write Alice in Wonderland, I did" being defamatory (and thus libelous or slanderous), but merely publishing a copy of Alice in Wonderland and putting your name on it is not the same as making such a defamatory statement.

There is a "line" somewhere, but where exactly?  Do I give people the right to lie about me?  If I have a right to not be lied about, that right is not a side-effect of copyright.  It's not a right that can "expire" after a limited term of required truthfulness.  Beyond preventing explicit lies, do I have the right to force people to tell the truth?  What about implicit lies?

You do not have a legal right to force people to tell the truth.

You do not have a legal right to prevent people from lying, either explicitly or implicitly.

You do not have a legal right to prevent people from lying about you, unless those lies are defamatory, i.e. they are damaging to your reputation.

If I waive my right to control the adaptation, do I also waive my right to control what is said about it?

You do not have any legal rights to control what is said about it. That is true regardless of whether you waive your legal right to control the adaptation.

So can I waive my right to control how copies are distributed, or derivative works are made, without also waiving my truthful claim of authorship?

You never waive your truthful claim of authorship. You can always truthfully claim authorship. The question, though, is whether you can prevent others from falsely claiming authorship.

So far I've been giving you bad news. Here is some good news, however:

Can I make demands about the marketing around a work, without making demands about the work itself?

YES! Yes, you can. You can hold one or several trademarks in the work, and by doing so you can prevent others from using those trademarks, of if you wish you can grant them permission to use those trademarks only as long as they adhere to terms that you specify ("licenses"). You can thus abandon any control over the work itself (i.e. place it in the public domain) but retain control over how certain elements that are inherent in the work - the trademarked aspects of it - are used, including how they are marketed.

This is almost certainly what you want.

I infer that what you care about is that people don't confuse "the mobile version of OHOL" with "the game that Jason Rohrer made". You don't want the changes they've made to be thought of as part of your design. And that's your right!

Trademark is the method by which that right of yours can be made legally enforceable.

The function of trademark is to ensure that different products made by different parties are recognized as different from each other in the eyes of the public. Kellogg's Corn Flakes are different from Post Toasties; trademark law exists to ensure that consumers will never mistake the two, even though they may be similar. The words "Kellogg's" and "Corn Flakes" (when used in the appropriate context) are trademarked and can't be used by anyone else. Ditto the graphics printed on the cereal boxes, the distinctive rooster mascot, etc.

A trademark embodies the elements of your product which most distinctively make it yours. Thus, trademark is a way to retain authorship rights of a product when you want to - in some sense - relinquish authorship rights of the content.

You undoubtedly have numerous elements in One Hour One Life that you could claim a trademark over. The details can be complicated. Please talk to an attorney. But with a trademark claim established, you could then dictate to others how and under what conditions they could use those trademarked elements.

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#15 2019-03-01 18:06:34

Peremptive
Member
Registered: 2019-02-14
Posts: 189

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Since the issue was raised publicly here in the first place, here's my two cents:

Christoffer wrote:

That said, we'd prefer changing it over adding "unofficial" to the name. Mobile gamers looking through the App Store would glance at our game and then keep looking for the "official" mobile game. They wouldn't think to look for a PC game.

It seems to me a fair point, as unofficial implies unsupported / not professional or fan made. But you do need to make clear the issue of originality and authorship - that your game is separate from Jason's. Would you add something like "Not related to the original PC game of the same name" or "not related to the original PC developer" very prominently at your app store descriptions and in the menus of your game?

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#16 2019-03-01 18:07:21

breezeknight
Member
Registered: 2018-04-02
Posts: 790

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

quite salty all that

i think the limit is crossed if someone is making serious money from someone else's work available for free

signing a publisher agreement ? lol


@Jason, you should had limit the public domain to PC only, the platform your official version is actually on
allowing a mobile version only after you made your own, cause mobile is a greed dump


@Christoffer
just shut down the servers until you find a final solution, how about that ?
oh, right, it's a big biz now, isn't it ? your big money would maybe sail off ...

decency would have told you that stepping into a signed agreement with a publisher should mean changing name, main idea of one hour limitation, exchanging all original drawings, sounds & codes used directly
if then a publisher would be still interested, fine, if not then you should have opened a negotiation with Jason to licence the mobile version allowing him the saying, yeah bitter ...
even if it's public domain & open source doesn't mean that you can just grab it & claim ownership & do as if you would be the owner & maker
decency helps a lot in cases like that

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#17 2019-03-01 18:10:28

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 2,411

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Eddie, I agree with everything you said, except that I think that false claims made about Lewis Carol could potentially be defamatory.  His reputation includes a reputation as an author.  If you call that into question, then you defame him.

Of course, defamation requires that a reasonable person would be likely to believe the false claim.  Thus, I can say, "Donald Trump is from the planet Venus," without defaming him.

Likewise, since Lewis Carol is so well known, I can't defame him by saying, "He didn't write Alice, I did."  No reasonable person would believe that.

But if I take a work that is less well known, like One Hour One Life, the chance of reasonable people being misled is much higher.  If the Chinese version says, "By Dual Decade," which is false, and implies that I didn't make it, there's a chance of permanently hurting my reputation as a game designer.

Likewise, if you were to find a 200-year-old unpublished novel in a shoebox, and publish it under your own name, and the family of the orginal author discovered this, they would not have a copyright claim, but they could have a defamation claim, since reasonable people would believe that your great grandfather did not write the novel---when he actually did.


I hear you on Trademark, but so many of the elements of the work would have to be brought to bear as part of the trademark---it would really have a chilling effect on any and all derivative works.  I mean, is the milkweed plant trademarked?  Could it be used in someone's logo or icon?  If so, would that imply my involvement?

If I was going to do that, I might as well use copyright.

The cornflakes analogy is not apt, because cornflakes are cornflakes.  More than one person can make them, and they end up being pretty much the same thing.  If someone else draws a milkweed plant, it will be a different drawing.  If someone else uses my drawing, they are using my drawing.

And if I trademarked all of that, what would be left?  Just the code?


As for why I took this public, well, I want to be clear about what is going on.  There is confusion.  There shouldn't be any confusion.

Apologizing is nice and all, but there's no way to erase the damage that has been done.  You can't reach out to 100,000 Chinese players and set the record straight.  More humans on the planet now have a false impression about the origins of the game than the number of people who have a truthful impression.  This is very bad, permanent, and irreparable.

Saying that it was a "simple oversight" downplays how serious of a problem this is.


As for having enough money from the mobile success to hire a bigger team, that doesn't have any relevance here.  A bigger team doesn't justify continuing to mislead people.  Compare eleven months to four years, please.


If you want to disguise the fact that this is an unofficial adaptation from potential customers, that is a huge problem.  Customers should know what they are getting.


72 hours is plenty of time to put these changes into motion.  I'm not looking for further negotiations at this point.  We've been "negotiating" for 11 months.  In the wake of the Chinese release, there is no more time for negotiation.  I need to prevent more damage from being done now.

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#18 2019-03-01 18:15:20

Christoffer
Member
From: Sweden
Registered: 2018-04-06
Posts: 148
Website

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

breezeknight wrote:

quite salty all that
you should have opened a negotiation with Jason to licence the mobile version allowing him the saying

Well, we did (and I wrote so above). Jason told us to go ahead with China on our own. He even sent contact information for another publisher who had been in direct contact with him.

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#19 2019-03-01 18:20:22

Christoffer
Member
From: Sweden
Registered: 2018-04-06
Posts: 148
Website

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Christoffer wrote:
breezeknight wrote:

quite salty all that
you should have opened a negotiation with Jason to licence the mobile version allowing him the saying

Well, we did (and I wrote so above). Jason told us to go ahead with China on our own. He even sent contact information for another publisher who had been in direct contact with him.

Thus proving, I should add, that Jason thinks and acts differently than most of us. Yes, of course we feel an obligation towards him for that.

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#20 2019-03-01 18:25:50

Grim_Arbiter
Member
Registered: 2018-12-30
Posts: 469

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

I see both sides to this argument and where you both are coming from. This really is a tricky situation.

I do feel like jason is in the right with his name needing to be branded as to not have this issue, and have his creation remain in name. Adding unofficial mobile version would greatly help all of this. Unless your consumers ONLY way of searching the internet is through the app store, (which I dont think would ever be possible) a quick search on a search engine will reveal the original source, jason.. Unless Chinese search engines would only find you website? Which I dont think would be possible.

Adding unofficial could also help you out if someone ever wanted to come after you, saying that you mislead them to having access to Jason's game. I dont think it would hurt you to do, because people can easily find out that there is no official mobile version of this game, and choose to buy your version that is.


--Grim
All I ever really wanted was a jungle, and a jungle I got. See it ain't the vision, it's the plot that makes me stop.

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#21 2019-03-01 18:29:43

breezeknight
Member
Registered: 2018-04-02
Posts: 790

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Christoffer wrote:
breezeknight wrote:

quite salty all that
you should have opened a negotiation with Jason to licence the mobile version allowing him the saying

Well, we did (and I wrote so above). Jason told us to go ahead with China on our own. He even sent contact information for another publisher who had been in direct contact with him.

what you did is an exchange of non official emails, that's not negotiations
negotiation means legal stuff,
with your actions you entered meantime a legal terrain, you should have asked a lawyer where the limits of decency & law lie

Jason asked you to sever your work from his with a very clear message to the users, so absolutely no confusions can happen
you didn't do it, you muddled the line between the original game & your port & that's indeed going towards fraud

if you would have been honest then you should have been alarmed !!! as users started to confuse your mobile port with Jason's original PC game
i hope you are just inexperienced

if you want to port the game to mobile, as it is with all drawings, sounds, code & name, then you have to make a legal contract with Jason
it's no more about public domain & open source
you want more than just some modding & some unofficial port, you want the success of your port on mobile devices in big asia, so you have to treat the game as if it would be a licenced work, because actually it is outside the lines you crossed

- - -

Last edited by breezeknight (2019-03-01 18:30:38)

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#22 2019-03-01 18:34:14

jasonrohrer
Administrator
Registered: 2017-02-13
Posts: 2,411

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Yes, I did say you could do what you wanted.

However, I cautioned you strongly, all the way back in May of 2018 (when you had only been working for two months), not to mislead people, because it would constitute fraud:

However, that doesn't give people the right to mislead people.  Fraud and copyright are two different issues.  If I were to take a public domain work (The Wizard of Oz), I could still release it under that title.  If I modified it, I could no longer claim it was by Baum, but I could say it was based on Baum's work.  If I presented it as my own work 100%, when it was not, I would again be committing fraud, though not violating copyright.

So, just be sure to make this clear.  Same game, but an unofficial port, by you guys, but based on my work.  You don't HAVE to say that it is based on my work, by the way (there is no attribution license in place here), but if you're claiming authorship yourselves, you'd better mention this so as not to commit fraud.


By invoking the word "fraud" back then, I intended to underscore the seriousness of the situation, and the potential for people being misled in a way that would be harmful to me.

Over time, my thoughts about exactly how the work should be labeled to avoid fraudulent misrepresentation have changed, proportional with the amount of misleading that was taking place.

I've never had to have this discussion with 2HOL, because there has never been any misleading taking place there.  Nor with Terminal Heist.  Thus, as with defamation, it depends on the situation, and what a reasonable person is likely to believe.


A reasonable Chinese person is now likely to believe that you are the originator of One Hour One Life.

I hope you understand how horrifying that is.


In the "meet the devs" video on TapTap, you describe yourself thus:  "...mostly, I work with the game's design..."

https://www.taptap.com/app/153717

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#23 2019-03-01 18:44:18

lionon
Member
Registered: 2018-11-19
Posts: 532

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

jasonrohrer wrote:

I hear you on Trademark, but so many of the elements of the work would have to be brought to bear as part of the trademark---it would really have a chilling effect on any and all derivative works.  I mean, is the milkweed plant trademarked?  Could it be used in someone's logo or icon?  If so, would that imply my involvement?

If you trademark explicitly the milkweed, it's a trademark. If not it is not. Just googled it, registering a trademark is 250 bucks a piece... I doubt you'd want to do that with every sprite. This is another area where it is different from copyright. Copyright is by default, Trademarks is by explicit registering piece by piece.

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#24 2019-03-01 18:46:48

CrazyEddie
Member
Registered: 2018-11-12
Posts: 676

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

jasonrohrer wrote:

I hear you on Trademark, but so many of the elements of the work would have to be brought to bear as part of the trademark---it would really have a chilling effect on any and all derivative works.  I mean, is the milkweed plant trademarked?  Could it be used in someone's logo or icon?  If so, would that imply my involvement?

If I was going to do that, I might as well use copyright.

It is a quandary, alright.

Absent copyright, which you don't want to use for well-established reasons, or trademark, which you might be reluctant to use for the same reasons, your position with Christoffer and his team seems to come down to goodwill and moral suasion.

I hope you can all come to a resolution that satisfies everyone, and I wish you all maximum clarity of everyone's desires and constraints in the discussions, whether public or private.

Last edited by CrazyEddie (2019-03-01 18:49:26)

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#25 2019-03-01 18:53:48

lionon
Member
Registered: 2018-11-19
Posts: 532

Re: Open Letter to the Mobile Developers

Grim_Arbiter wrote:

I do feel like jason is in the right with his name needing to be branded as to not have this issue

Honestly as I read his non-license waver, he explicitly relinquished of this right... putting it in "public domain" and do whatever. not "copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software."

Which would make this very clear. And be in effect otherwise not be different.

BTW: This pitfalls are the reason why you should not write your own license, but use one of the very well tried OpenSource licenses available... And if you want to be cited, in future use a license that requires that. I recommend MIT (expat). It is constructed out of reason in this modern form, first taking you every right away and then give you give explicitly each right of use under this condition...

Last edited by lionon (2019-03-01 18:58:50)

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