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Recently there was some discussion about how to license your mod. This can be a complicated topic, but it doesn't have to be.

Here I will list several common licenses, and what their main features are. Note that I only included those that are best suited to mods

  • CC0CC0 is about as close to "public domain" as you can get and still have a proper license. Basically this license says that you don't care what anyone does with your work, and you specifically disclaim all rights to it.
  • CC BYCreative commons attribution, this license basically says you can do whatever, but anyone who modifies or uses your work has to credit the author (you!).
  • CC-BY-SA: Same as the previous one, except if someone modifies or otherwise distributes your work they need to release their changes under the same license you used. This means that if your mod is included in a mod pack, the mod pack need to use a license that is compatible with this one.
  • Other CC License: There are more Creative Commons licenses, it may be worth checking them out in more detail.
  • MIT: The MIT license is a very popular open source code license. While it is designed for program source code, it can also be used for other content, such as mods. Basically this license says you can do whatever, so long as the license and copyright notice is included in any distribution.
  • ZlibYet another code license. This one allows you to use the content however you want, so long as you do not claim modified versions are the original, and you do not remove the license from any versions you distribute.
  • BSDLike the MIT license, the BSD license is designed for program source code and may be suboptimal for a mod. The common three clause license requires the same basic things as the MIT license, with the addition that the name of the original author (you!) cannot be used to promote works based on your mod without prior permission.

In short, I suggest CC-BY for most mods, CC-BY-SA being pretty good too. If you really could care less, just use CC0. MIT and BSD licenses are great for code, but really are not written for content. Most other licenses are even less suitable in one way or another. In any case, I strongly suggest you follow the link for the license that interests you most and read up on it before using it since I am not a lawyer :)

It is worth noting that if you harbor hopes that your mod will be integrated into the base game CC0 is probably your best choice. CC-BY-SA on the other hand is a very bad choice in this case.

I strongly recommend reading the next post (by copygirl) too, as that has more info.

Edited by Milo Christiansen
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Adding to this list:

  • UNLICENSE: Like CC0, shows intend that you want to release the work as public domain. It's shorter, however it's not as legally sound. That hasn't much to say, as we as modders would be unlikely sueing each other anyway. In fact, I believe MIT wasn't challenged in court yet either, so the same is true for it, and it's widely popular. So I would argue it's really about showing intention rather than being enforcable legally.
  • No license: To work on and release a mod, you don't need to use an open source license, or any license at all. By default, even if you don't put a "Copyright © <name> <year>" notice anywhere, you retain all (copy)rights to your code and nobody is allowed to use it. It's still possible to release the source code to your mod as well, for people to learn and copy "insubstantial" portions of code. This is called "Visible Source" as opposed to "Open Source" by the way.
  • Custom license: It's silly, but you can put together your own license text outlining what you want people to be able to do with your code and assets.
  • Mixed: On the topic of the distinction between code and assets, you can release your code as open source but, for example, keep all rights to your textures. This can be noted in your license file before the actual license text.

I personally use Unlicense and have used MIT in the past, and those are the ones I would recommend, myself.

However, it would be important to note why it makes sense to use an open source license for your mod in the first case, and what it means.

  • By licensing your mod under an open source license, other people are allowed to:
    • Copy parts of your code for use in their own mods. Substantial portions of code require retaining the original license in some form, such as in a comment at the beginning of a code file, or as a text file in a folder. Public domain licenses don't require keeping the license.
    • Redistribute the entirety of your code elsewhere, or create their own modified version of your mod (a "fork"), and release those those modified versions, as well.
    • Through creating a fork, people can contribute changes they make back to your mod. Or, since the changes will most likely be under the same license, you could just use them the same way they can copy, modify and redistribute your mod.
    • Technically, people can sell and profit from your mod unless you use a non-commercial type license, such as hosting it on a website with ads (9minecraft, anyone?). I wouldn't worry though, as I doubt anyone would willingly use these sites, with an official mod repository likely being supported at some point.
  • Not all licenses are compatible. Especially if you decide to go with a same-attribution style license or your own. This is why I prefer the more simple licenses that don't have any "special" clauses and are easy to read and understand.
  • When entering a name along with the copyright notice in your license, pseudonyms are fine to use, and recommended if you don't want to show your real name. There might be a slight upside with using your real name if you can use this modding project as part of a portfolio when you want to apply as a programmer, game designer / developer somewhere, or similar.
  • Theoretically, unless the license somehow doesn't permit it (CC-BY-SA would do this), the Vintage Story team could take your mod and integrate it into the base game. I doubt they'd do this without approaching you, and they'd probably safe themselves of any potential legal trouble by requiring you to sign a little waiver that gives them the rights to use what you created, anyway. But I suppose it's still an important point to make.
  • Don't worry too much about licenses right away if you can't decide. If you don't have a license, you can add it at any time. Once you've choosen a license, you can still at any time change the license if you'd like. Though in that case, do keep in mind that, technically, any version that still had the old license will stay under that license. This becomes a bit more difficult once multiple people work on a project, because then, everyone has a say in it as they own parts of it, so you all have to agree. This can be avoided having constributors sign a Contributor License Agreement (CLA).
  • I think it's important to note that ideas are not copyright-able. Even if your mod is closed source, as long as someone does not steal any of your code or assets, and simply reimplement this idea or concept from scratch, they have the right to do so. You may claim the person "stealing" your idea is a meanybutt, but that's just, like, your opinion, man.

Let's keep in mind that we're modding a game in our free time for our enjoyment, and we should be striving to collaborate and create something better than a single person or even a talented team of people can do. Let's allow each other to learn from, re-use and improve each others' creations without being too constricted by concepts of ownership in our virtual hobby.

We're still in early stages of modding, so we don't have an official or unofficial mod repository yet and neither do modpacks exist. Heck, we don't even have any significant amount of mods that have been released yet, so requirements and recommendations will most likely change in the future. This thread hopefully will still be a good starting point regarding licenses for anyone joining our adventure of modding Vintage Story! ♥

Edited by copygirl
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I am not a coder, so my opinions should be taken with a full spoon of salt.

After following the development of TFC since 2012, I always got frustrated whenever there was a major upgrade that broke compatibility with all the mods. I just could not understand if a idea was good why it could not be incorporated into the game.

One big example is the leather water sac. It was used by most players and it was always upsetting when we had to wait for the mod developer to update the mod.

I think that all mods should become available to the game developers without any restriction. If you post a mod on this website you are automatically rescinding all the rights to your code.

A simple disclaimer on the website would suffice for any legal matters. ( Not a lawyer either.).

This way the game would slowly incorporate all essential mods without the game developer needing to imagine alternative ways to accomplish the same task just so people would not say they are using the mods ideas.

Or is anyone here really hoping to make money over a small mod for VS?

I agree that it would be cool to have some kind of public recognition, but mostly I think a mod creator should feel great if his ideas ever made into the actual game.

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7 hours ago, tony Liberatto said:

I think that all mods should become available to the game developers without any restriction. If you post a mod on this website you are automatically rescinding all the rights to your code. A simple disclaimer on the website would suffice for any legal matters.

While I personally share this vision myself, I don't think it's a good approach.

I doubt a "single disclaimer" on the site would be legal OR fair. The very least is a clear "I give Anego Studios the rights to distribute, modify and sell any content submitted through this form" checkbox or something along those lines. The last thing we want is drama over the ownership of content in the game. In some way, we will have this whenever a official mod repository is implemented, I would think. At least regarding the distribution portion.

To some degree the "mod developer took too long to update the mod" issue will go away once we have a stable API with few to no breaking changes. Not to mention that, if the game developer likes a certain design idea, or perhaps had plans to implement it themselves, anyway, they shouldn't have to shy away from implementing the idea or concept themselves without using the mod's resources or code. Especially for something simple as a water sac. But for something that someone spent months if not years creating a custom experience, say Azanor's Thaumcraft or TerraFirmaCraft itself, you should be able to own what you made and decide over its use.

Lastly, I made my response thinking more about modder to modder relationships, building a healthy, friendly and productive modding community around this game, rather than how things should work between the game developers and modders. I think they'll approach us, either as individuals or the entire community, if requests or questions come up from their side.

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To reiterate what copy said, for common and simple stuff there'd be no 'intellectual rights' issue.  The guy who made the waterskin mod for TFC did not invent the notion of a waterskin.  Any more than VS invented the notions of logs, pickaxes, or wolves.  It would not be at all problematic for VS to subsume such things (albeit with their own assets and code).   But for truly custom experiences on the level of Thaumcraft, well, that's a different matter, from a PR standpoint at least, if not legal.

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9 hours ago, redram said:

It would not be at all problematic for VS to subsume such things (albeit with their own assets and code).

One of the things behind integrating mods would be the ability to integrate a mod directly. If the code is well written, just put it straight into the game with a few tweaks and call it a day.

For that case, either a legally sound public domain license (CC0), the author signing over copyright, or something similar would be needed.

I, for one, would prefer to use Zlib(for code)/CC-BY(for assets) for my mods and just sign over the copyright if the VS team wanted to use it. Other people may prefer to just use CC0 and skip the whole issue. Either way works.

Edited by Milo Christiansen

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That's a discussion that I had with Bioxx a few times, and hid answer was that it was not needed for him to add something to the game if someone had already made an addon.

In short, if you wanted to be sure that some feature would never make it into the official game all you had to do was to create an addon with that feature.

The problem is that after a while some addons were almost indispensable for the common player. Them the devs would just get tired and stop updating the addons.

I honestly do not understand what the problem is. One will always have bragging rights. What better compliment than to have your contribution incorporated into the game?

I am of course not talking about total conversions, they are a separate case.

The game is in such a early development, that there is just a ton to be done and I just don't want to see the developers avoiding some feature just because a modder bit them to that.

Maybe an idea would be to create a monthly mod contest, ( maybe with some small, or not so small compensation), where modders could enter their creation and the winner would have his mod officially entered into the game, with some special congratulations page on the website and all the bells and whistles to appease their ego.

I believe this would help to develop the game faster and at the same time, the game would own the rights to the code since it paid for it.

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22 minutes ago, tony Liberatto said:

was that it was not needed for him to add something to the game if someone had already made an addon.

That is a very shortsighted, and IMHO, wrong view point. Luckily Tyron does not seem to believe that (judging from the Discord discussion that spawned this thread).

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That's correct, I see no reason why not to integrate something into the game even if there's already a mod for that. I do understand bioxx his point on that though - if a mod added it, then he can focus on other game content instead, resulting in more game content overall for the players.

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By the way, someone pointed out the fact that the Creative Commons licenses (safe for CC0) are not recommended for code, in an unrelated discussion, so I thought I'd mention this here as well.

Quote

We recommend against using Creative Commons licenses for software. Instead, we strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed as “open source” by the Open Source Initiative.

Unlike software-specific licenses, CC licenses do not contain specific terms about the distribution of source code, which is often important to ensuring the free reuse and modifiability of software. Many software licenses also address patent rights, which are important to software but may not be applicable to other copyrightable works. Additionally, our licenses are currently not compatible with the major software licenses, so it would be difficult to integrate CC-licensed work with other free software. Existing software licenses were designed specifically for use with software and offer a similar set of rights to the Creative Commons licenses.

    ~ Creative Commons FAQ

 

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