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Intellectual Property and the Marketplace

Hi everyone,

We had our attention drawn to a note today pointing to some items in our in-application marketplace uploaded by creators, that may violate our content policies. 

I would like to use this opportunity to thank the original author for raising the issue, and clarify how we act in these situations. I will also outline what our policies are in finer detail; and some of the improvements we will be adding in the future. Read on for more details.

Firstly I would like to reiterate our appreciation to the community member who is raising these issues.

Creating a safe and responsible platform for third party IP requires good policies and good technology. But most of all it requires a commitment to the right kind of culture. We create that culture with our community and we encourage public discussion and comment on the subject.

As a user-generated content platform our creators are responsible for only submitting licensed and appropriate works. Creators agree to uphold our policies when they sign up. As we know individual cases can be complicated; we also have an review team, who check content submitted to the live server against a number of review tests which you can read here.

Two of those tests relate to intellectual property;

First; Third Party Content

Creators are not permitted to resell third party content without permission by the author(s). This rule exists to prevent profiting by selling assets imported from external marketplaces. Although this is often legal to do (depending on the marketplace, and licenses involved), we prefer to draw our own line, requiring items put on sale in our market to be the work of the creator, or have explicit permission granted by the creator.

For content incorporated into a larger work (such as for example, a room template, featuring trees and rocks properly licensed from the Unity Asset Store), we generally deem that acceptable (specifically; that the work you are doing is 'substantially original'); however taking those same items, and individually packaging them as furniture items, would be considered a violation. 

After nearly a year of operation, we are announcing one exemption to this rule; and that is a 'personal use exemption' - content properly licensed from a third party can be uploaded for personal use, provided that the original license allows for it; however it still cannot be listed in the marketplace (without explicit authorisation).

As always, there will be gray areas from time to time - particularly where for example, a creator has built or modified an existing asset which includes or builds on content created from another author. In these cases, we will lean towards permissiveness; and use the following factors when deciding whether a submission is OK.

  • Is there an original contribution to this submission?
  • Is the primary goal of the submission commercial? (i.e. is it for sale, or of commercial nature)
  • Are the authors appropriately credited (i.e. for content incorporating creative commons assets, are the copyrights listed in the description?)

In the longer term, we are also building towards a proper item derivation system (which we have been discussing since early in the year) to allow multiple collaborators on an individual item; although that will be more useful in the case of template items created explicitly for Sinespace.

Second; Brands and Trademarks

The second IP clause, relates to names, trademarks and other IP property - which must be explicitly authorised by the owner to be included. As a developer submitting content, you are formally indicating you have the proper rights to anything you submit - our review team has up, until now, assumed that is the case, except where the mark is recognised by the reviewer in question.

Since the start of this week have adjusted this procedure slightly to request our reviewers also perform an internet search for keywords prominently featured on products; if they are found, we will request the submitter to confirm they have an appropriate justificiation prior to review approval being granted.

What happens if something is infringing?

This brings us to the items brought to our attention today, while I will not discuss specific cases in public while we are undertaking investigation and possible action by our Review & IP team; I will address them in broad terms. (To do otherwise would be unreasonable to the creators in question, especially as they may be correctly licensed)

In two of the three reported cases, they regard use of unauthorised names, brands and/or trademarks - that is, to the best of our understanding, and indicated by the author, the 3D models (and associated resources) were created / acquired and submitted properly - however they featured names and trademarks which we are confirming their authorisation by the proper owners with the submitters.

Generally, we follow the EU Electronic Commerce Directive ("Notice and Takedown", which is similar to the DMCA takedown procedures in the USA), which requires us to act expeditiously upon becoming aware of unlicensed content. At this stage, we do not know if the content is unlicensed (as any such license would be between two independent third parties; and we have not received any formal complaint), however, as following our IP policies, we have requested clarification from the creators in question, and grant any such creator three business days to respond to a complaint of this nature. (Regarding the items in question this period is still ongoing - any action regarding these items will not occur until after this period has elapsed.)

There is generally three ways this can be resolved;

  • The Creator responds in the affirmative, verifying that they have the appropriate justification for utilising the IP (such as an explicit license). In this case, we do nothing.
  • The item is modified to remove the offending marks, and all owners are updated with the new version automatically.
  • The item is removed from the service, and purchasers are refunded at the Creators expense, as per our creator agreement.

The third item of content indicated today, refers to an sample asset provided by Unity3D as part of their demo assets - it was actually unavailible in the marketplace already; but due to a bug was appearing (even if not purchasable). We've hidden the item and are investigating the original bug causing it to appear. Generally speaking, an item uploaded of this nature would fall under the Personal Use Exemption outlined above; however should not be listed in the marketplace.

If you have any questions, comments - feel free to contact us; or if you have an IP infringement complaint; please read our IP complaint procedures.

Finally; we will note - we have added a 'Flag' link to our new upcoming website design already, for flagging potentially inappropriate content, and will add one to the in-application marketplace in a future update; however in the mean time, a support ticket letting us know will also be acted upon.

Image: 2017-10/mainbg-temporary.jpg

Written by Adam on Wednesday October 4, 2017

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