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Artwork in Free Software

By simmons75 in Technology
Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 12:10:47 AM EST
Tags: Help! (Ask Kuro5hin) (all tags)
Help! (Ask Kuro5hin)

I started working on a simple game this week and decided to whip up some artwork. After looking around for some art, I grabbed some Povray models, rendered the models, and composited them with the GIMP. There is, however, a potential problem.


The problem is found in the README's of the models. Each model that I've chosen is free for use when used non-commercially. It's not a big deal to me, because I'm doing this for free and will distribute it for free. But is that all I have to worry about?

For instance, the license I'm releasing the game under (provided I don't lose interest first :-) is the GPL. I'm a little nervous about distributing images created thanks to free-but-restricted models, then loading them as sprites in a GPLed program. Is this a problem? Clearly, the pictures are not LINKED in any way to the Software, and they are not part of the Software, but they are going to be images that the Software depends on for displaying graphics.

Also, what if (God forbid) someone like Red Hat threw the game into an RPM and slapped it onto a CD? AFAIK Red Hat charges for distribution, packaging, and QoS, not software, but I gotta wonder. Would Red Hat have to treat my game as if it were not Free? How about Debian?

I would welcome any and all comments on the issue. It's my hope that by submitting this as a story rather than a diary entry that I'll actually get more than a few answers. ;-) A few things I'm thinking: perhaps I could add a line to the COPYING file that states that the images are not part of the Software, but since some of my code comes from other GPLed programs, I'm wondering if I'd have to get permission to do this from the authors of the original code. That, and I'm wondering if I'll have to get permission from the modelers despite the fact that they cleared the models for non-commercial use.

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Poll
POVray images:
o are still covered by the original model license 38%
o are separate from the model 27%
o look stupid 34%

Votes: 44
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o free for use when used non-commercially.
o Also by simmons75


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Artwork in Free Software | 18 comments (15 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Easy solution: ask! (3.66 / 3) (#1)
by gblues on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 03:25:37 PM EST

Presumably the README files for the POVray models have contact information? Write them and ask them to snail-mail you written permission to use their models in your game.

If they say no, deal with it. Find a different model, or make your own.

Nathan
... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
Heh, beat ya to it. :-) (3.00 / 1) (#2)
by simmons75 on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 04:56:28 PM EST

Or rather, I will. I'm working on the wording of this, because I'm kinda worried about it. Even though I'm not writing this game in a serious way (it's not going to be very advanced at all, and it's for fun) I'm approaching this as a series of proposals.

Well, the main reason I posted this to k5 was because I thought it raised interesting questions. What if you wrote, say, a windowmanager and shipped a few themes? What if the theme used a free-but-restricted picture? I'm sure there are many pople, when distributing free software, who only concentrate on keeping the code legal. (It's the only explanation I can think of for the number of unlicensed MP3 players and Napster clones. ;-)
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
Well... (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by amokscience on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 05:36:55 AM EST

Definitely ask the authors. Items prohibiting commercial use aren't allowed under the GPL as far as I understand the GPL. I had to deal with this in a project during college. My group couldn't reuse code that a previous group had used because it forbade commercial use.

On the flip side, artwork that is sufficiently altered is considered yours under fair use rules. Unfortunately I'm not aware of what percentage or metrics are used in this type of evaluation (I wasn't responsible for the artwork licensing).

Your raytraced models seem to lie somewhere in between.

You might want to also ask this question on the licensing forum on sourceforge.net. The clearest answers would come from the original authors (who can re-release items under differnt copyrights).

[ Parent ]
Rendered sprites are original 'derivative works' (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by Speare on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 07:30:19 PM EST

If you're using available 3d mesh/polygonal/voxel/patch models that you acquired legitimately, and you use them to render flat artwork, then you've transcended the license. The flat artwork is yours.

You chose the camera angles, the lighting, the materials, and in some cases, the poses and rendering scheme. The resulting work is your creation based on the mesh. It's an original derivative work, and derivative works aren't typically excluded by stock mesh or stock photo libraries' license agreements.

If you download warez copies of 3d mesh models that your buddy snicked from Viewpoint Datalabs, the issue isn't what you produce, but what you grabbed. It's the Napster issue: are you obligated to pay the publisher/creator of digital content, or not? I know plenty who say 'How much are a few thousand vertices worth? It's ultimately just a bunch of numbers.' I don't share that opinion.


[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
Is compiled code an original derivitive work? (none / 0) (#14)
by Cuthalion on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 09:41:36 PM EST

I don't know if legally this analogy holds, however the relationship between 3d mesh models and the resulting images seems very similar to that between C Source code and a compiled binary.

While you might legally be able to get away with letting redhat (or whoever) commercially distribute renders of those models. However what would be Best (what I'd want if it were my art-work) would be to either talk the artists into extending you a GPL-like license, or find new artwork.

An other option is to release your game engine under the GPL and a game that runs on it (levels, scripts, and sprites/models&textures) as a non-GPL package. Of course that sort of entails making your game engine very general.

[ Parent ]
Hair/2 (3.75 / 4) (#4)
by finial on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 08:52:24 PM EST

Quote: I'm a little nervous about distributing images created thanks to free-but-restricted models, then loading them as sprites in a GPLed program. Is this a problem? Clearly, the pictures are not LINKED in any way to the Software, and they are not part of the Software, but they are going to be images that the Software depends on for displaying graphics.
Aren't you hair splitting here? I admit, I don't know what POVray images are (although I can guess) but, if you are distributing something upon which your software depends, it seems irrelevant to me whether that "something" is LINKED or not. It is effectively part of the program whether it is code or not. Yes? No?

Say, for example, you wrote a really spiffy front end for an encyclopedia. You've got a new indexing scheme that is lightning fast and understands what you mean rather than what you said. So you decide to distribute it (sell it, give it away, whatever). But for data, you use the Encyclopeadia Brittanica data. It's not "part" of your program, your program just indexes and displays the data, but it's not your data to distribute. Or am I way off base here? Perhaps there is something about these models that makes them different from other sorts of raw data, but my hunch is there isn't and it should be treated the same way.

I had a contract at company that made spell checkers and they were adamant about not letting anyone use their word lists without licensing the product. Even if you wrote an entirely new front end, and required that the end user bought their product separate from yours, you still couldn't use it (according to the license). Whether or not you agree with that stand (I don't - I'm one of those who believes that if I bought it, I own it), that's what the license you must agree to says.

I think the bottom line is, if you are distributing anything with your product and your product depends on it, it's part of the product whether it's code or not.

Ah ... I just thought are these models not actually included in the final product, but the output generated from them is? I mean, is this like the output from lex/yacc that include in your code? If that's the case, I think you'd be fine.

Wow, you make me feel old. :-) (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by simmons75 on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 09:51:47 PM EST

>I don't know what POVray images are (although I can guess)

Well, POVray seems to have died off. It was a free raytracer that has its own, specialized language. The models in question are actually both written "by hand" and output by a modeling package.

Yeah, that's the dilemma. I'm not actually using the model files in the finished product, just the output of the ratracer. If enough people urge me here to talk to the original modelers (which I probably will anyway) then I'll do so, but I'm torn as to whether or not this is really necessary.
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
POV-Ray Dead? (4.00 / 1) (#7)
by Ming D. Merciless on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:08:04 PM EST

Well, POVray seems to have died off. It was a free raytracer that has its own, specialized language.
I'm sure the POV-Ray developers would disagree with this statement. Information about POV-Ray can be found at it's main here and specifically about upcoming version 3.5 here.
Or did you mean something else in your comment?

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[ Parent ]
Thank God! :-) (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by simmons75 on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:14:31 PM EST

> specifically about upcoming version 3.5 here.

A new version? SWEET! I love POVray to death and I'm glad to find out I was wrong. :-) I just grabbed the current source, saw that their website looked about the same as the first time I visited it, and assumed that the project was on its last legs. Great to know I was wrong. :-)

The list of new features sounds exciting--makes me wish I had been a math whiz so I could help.
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
POV-Ray is certainly not dead! (none / 0) (#16)
by DJBongHit on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:42:54 AM EST

What are you talking about? POV-Ray is still alive and kicking, is still being developed, and still has a huge following. Here is its main site. Also, take a look at the Internet Raytracing Competition, which I keep meaning to enter but never get a project finished in time. Most of the entries to its 2-month long rounds are made with POV-Ray.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
At least the licence is there... (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by enterfornone on Sun Dec 31, 2000 at 10:32:50 PM EST

The problem with art is there is often no licence, or people try to apply software licences to it.

For example I run icewm.themes.org. Most of the stuff here has no licence at all. Is it freely distributable or just from the web page? Can you modify themes, port them to other WMs or use their graphics in your own themes? Is it owned by the poster or VA?

I've been told will be addressed in the next version of t.o (the poster will be able to specify a licence). But since few are explicitly stating their licence what are we to assume? It's not our job to force people to supply a licence.

Another example, the Propaganda tiles are GPL (although no licence is mentioned for the post t.o page, and the link to the licence on t.o is dead). This no doubt means that you can distribute them and modify them as you please, as long as you supply the source. But what is the source, many of these tiles have original images that were modified and made seamless, doesn't GPL imply that these source images should be available too.

Point is, artists need to understand licencing issues. In your case they have and seem to have made their wishes explicit. The best you can do is clarify what they will allow you to do with work derived from their models. But at least they have given you a starting point and I would recommend assuming that non-commercial means just that unless they tell you otherwise.

This does mean that it can't be distruted on a commercial distro. I would suggest splitting you game into the free section and a non commercial section making it clear the licencing requirements of each. Of course, contact the authors and see what they want done first.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.

Slightly OT , but ... (3.66 / 3) (#11)
by Aidan_Kehoe on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 01:49:36 AM EST

One of the reasons John Carmack wasn't about to release full, new, games as GPL'ed software any time soon was that this model of distribution wouldn't go down well with Adrian and the other artists. Which, basically, implies that you should ask; software of which a huge proportion of the work involved is artistic, as opposed to coding, isn't going to remain rare enough for this to be a legal grey area much longer.

Images based on ray-tracings; hmmm. Someone else that seemed to actually know what they were on about posted below; I'd check that out. Moi, I haven't the faintest ... like almost every other poster here :-) .

--
There is no TRUTH. There is no REALITY. There is no CONSISTENCY. There are no ABSOLUTE STATEMENTS. I'm very probably wrong. -- BSD fortune(6)
Also slightly OT.... (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by FnordLord on Mon Jan 01, 2001 at 10:27:04 PM EST

RMS stated that he would like to see engines become Free, but the scenario should be protected in a manner similar to other copyrighted works. This is because the engine is a tool, which is used, and the scenario is a work of art, which is to be appreciated. I agree! Here's a real-world analogy that I think backs this up: the engine could be compared to the concept of an opera, which anybody is free to use or modify. The scenario is the content of the opera, which not anybody can copy or modify, until the copyright expires.

[ Parent ]
A bit OT, but not really (none / 0) (#17)
by DJBongHit on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:47:27 AM EST

If you don't want to use those models which may not be safe to use in a GPL'ed project, I'd be happy to help you out with some artwork... take a look at my other work and if you're interested, email me...

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

Ask the authors (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by Brandybuck on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 12:55:34 AM EST

Just ask the authors. Nine times out of ten they will give you permission. You won't be distributing the models, only the finished image.

Artwork in Free Software | 18 comments (15 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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