Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
07 May 2007
School claims ownership of student games
And I'm not surprised. What DigiPen is doing doesn't sound much different from what I've seen in a more traditional field.

For those who have gone through the higher levels of academia, there is usually someone else claiming some sort of copyright on your work. At my university, they have copyright on my PhD thesis. I have limited rights, but they own it. The same goes for papers submitted to journals: you're generally granted right to give copies away through a personal webpage, email etc. as long as you use the final copy that appeared in the journal. It's a rigged system.

So, DigiPen students, welcome to the real world.

If you're bothered by it enough, here's what I'd suggest: Create your work as an independent project on your own hardware and with your own software. Then create a derivative work, with a clear lineage that can be demonstrated if requested, and turn that derivative work in to the school. I don't know if it'd work in court (IANAL) but it's what I'd try. (This might be an idea that Ruffin's talked about on his personal blog, but I'm not sure. I'll let him speak up on that point.)

Labels: ,

--Matt Matthews at 21:06
Comment [ 8 ]

Comments on this post:

Theoretically students are supposed to be bring their best work and ideas to classes.

If doing so is just going to get them owned by the school then they would be fools to do that.

By Blogger JohnH, at 07 May, 2007 21:24  

DigiPen was founded by, and I think is partially owned by, Nintendo. A bad policy of DigiPen's reflects on the big 'N'.

By Blogger JohnH, at 07 May, 2007 21:41  

They already did that. Several of the digipen students wanted to pull their productions from the indie games competition in the wake of the SCMRPG scandal, and Digipen overruled them, as they weren't "their" games.

By Blogger Jeremy, at 07 May, 2007 21:44  

Yeah, that's my idea. Pub with your copyright under some open-source shindig, launder, deliver, and see what happens. "Poof", you've got duplicate copyright holders.

Now I do know that at that same university that unfairly owns copyright to your PhD (Matt), still has a policy that undergrad work remains copyright of the students, which I thought was interesting. So to a certain level, many can still bring their best stuff.

I'll try not to get on a long rant (& am too tired to be coherent right now). I'll just say that any public university that retains the right to partner and license "their" IP for a fee to corporations in a closed, exclusive manner is screwing their taxpayers. I'm still idealistic enough to think that the best/most public good is when the IP taxes fund are left publicly accessible. Matt's PhD university claims that partnering in this closed manner with corporations somehow doesn't go against their mission, but is right explicit in their copyright terms that faculty doing such closed partnering does. Hypocrites. Damnable hypocrites. /rant

Not sure which DigiPen is, but both USCs are public, at least one of which the article mentions.

By Blogger rufbo, at 07 May, 2007 23:10  

Not to detract from Rufbo's central argument (tax-funded IP should be publicly accessible), which I _completely_ agree with, but the USC mentioned is almost surely the University of Southern California, which is NOT public.

Why that's probably who's being referred to:
Gamepipe is hosted by their Viterbi School of Engineering. They offer a Masters in CS (Game Development), and USC offers a Video Game Programming Minor.

A reference other than me asserting that University of Southern California is private can be found here. It has been my experience that most people not from California (or having gone to a university there) don't know that USC is private, so it's not surprising, but in the context, I thought it'd be worth pointing out.

IANAL either, but there are two possible troublespots I see with Rufbo's plan of submitting only derivative work:
a)if the contract they make you sign giving them your rights is not naively written (a _big_ assumption), it could easily ensure that you transfer _all_ your rights in that work, including rights of any works it's derived from.
b) their plagiarism policy could (and probably should) demand original work when submitted for credit. Submitting a derivative is not unlike submitting a paper you wrote for one class to another instructor next semester.

It's also worth pointing out that regardless of what an institute's policy and claims are, they can be friendly and reasonable, or jerky and mean. Many institutions own your research products, but are very gracious about people spinning off and developing privately, taking what's nominally the university's software (or whatever) with them. I don't know if it was totally amicable, but SAS essentially started that way, for example.

Making you sign your life away up front is an indicator that they might be in the jerky and mean camp, but unfortunately you don't know until the work is done and they're either wishing you good luck with your endeavor or pushing your game around to places you don't want it.

By Blogger Bob, at 08 May, 2007 12:17  

Bob, thanks for the [other] USC clarification.

Two quick comments:
Making you sign your life away up front is an indicator that they might be in the jerky and mean camp,

That's why I never sign nuttin out of the box. A good rule o' thumb.

b) their plagiarism policy could (and probably should) demand original work when submitted for credit. Submitting a derivative is not unlike submitting a paper you wrote for one class to another instructor next semester.

Ah, I see another idealistic student who, at least were he in the humanities (which he ain't, in this case), hasn't caught on to instructor expectations. ;^)

Still, if you submit a work to a journal and it's accepted before you give it to a prof, it's still fair game, I believe. No plagiarism there. It's *your* work. Second, If someone wants you to transfer full rights and it's already in the, eg, Creative Commons, good luck. At least an interesting court case [that'll never happen].

By Blogger rufbo, at 08 May, 2007 12:43  

As I posted on GameSetWatch, DigiPen really only seems to be following the systems used by "real" universities as well as real world jobs themselves. DigiPen has been around for quite a while now, and had little reason to not follow that path when it was first introduced.

And after many years, people hadn't even found much reason to complain vocally until the Slamdance controversy when student wishes were overruled by DigiPen.

By Anonymous Baines, at 08 May, 2007 17:21  

Just because other people do it doesn't make it right. I'm working on my phd and I am quite irritated that stealing the ip of students is the status quo. From the simple fact of universities owning dissertations to things like services like Turnitin building their company on the backs of student IP, the fact is that students are getting ripped off. Hopefully something like the news about digipen will make people more aware of how unfair and backward ip laws and policies are in the USA.

By Blogger Bryan, at 09 May, 2007 13:22  

Contact Us

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]



Warm bile sold separately:

Browse Curmudgeon Gamer Memorial Library


Internet game search:

Classic: 02/2002 to 10/2005

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?