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Updated Xbox content rules aimed at protecting IP
Updated Xbox content rules aimed at protecting IP
October 10, 2012 | By Mike Rose

October 10, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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    12 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing



Microsoft has updated its "Game Content Usage Rules", describing what gamers can legally use in terms of gameplay footage, screenshots, music and other elements from Microsoft video games.

The list, found on the Xbox website, details various scenarios and caveats that the company says users must take note of before using assets from games like Halo and Forza in their videos and for other entertainment purposes.

On items featuring assets from Microsoft games, for example, users must now include the following clause either on a website containing the content, or at the start of a video, with a link to the rules:

"[Name of the Microsoft Game] Microsoft Corporation. [The title of your Item] was created under Microsoft's "Game Content Usage Rules" using assets from [Name of the Microsoft Game]. It is not endorsed by Microsoft and does not reflect the views or opinions of Microsoft or anyone officially involved in producing or managing [Name of the Microsoft Game]. As such, it does not contribute to the official narrative of the fictional universe, if applicable."

Elsewhere, the newly stated rules say that the names of Microsoft's video games may not appear in the title of videos, on YouTube or otherwise.

"For example, we don't object to 'Red vs. Blue'. We don't object to 'Operation Chastity'" the rules state. "But we do object to 'Halo [insert the title of your Item here]'". Having Microsoft game titles in the video title can potentially confuse consumers, says Microsoft.

Notably, the rules also state that if a user creates something new in a Microsoft game's universe using Microsoft's assets, this automatically grants Microsoft a license to use the content "without obligation to pay you anything, obtain your approval, or give you credit."

"This means that if you add to the game universe or expand on the story told in the game with 'lost chapters' or back story or anything like that, distribution of your story or idea may appear in a future game without any compensation to you," says the company. "It also means we can put your Item on a Microsoft site or property like Halo Waypoint if we want to."

The full rules can be read over on the official Xbox.com website.

Frank O'Connor, director at Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries, responded saying that these guidelines "have been out there for months," and added, "The language isn't designed to stop kids streaming their games, or covering their costs, it's designed to stop big companies from using somebody else's IP to run a business."


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Comments


Michael Alexander
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I can see where they're coming from on this, though I don't really like that they feel they actually need to go this far. The actual test will be in implementation of their new rules. They know that practically no one read the terms, conditions, agreements, etc out there. So, when it comes to enforcement, will they take a heavy handed voiceless DMCA Takedown approach, or perhaps create form letters to send to those suspected of violating these rules for a more personably approach?
I don't have high expectations from Microsoft, so I expect a DMCA flood fairly soon. I haven't read the new rules completely, but from the example that was given, it would seem a lot of these 'violations' can be avoided with a simple change in title. If you are making a Red v Blue-esque game based on Halo, or whatever MS IP, just don't include the name of the source game in the title, and include that in the credits as the source material. Infringement averted. I highly doubt it would be this easy, and the cynic in my thinks Red v Blue is only getting a pass due to the huge following it has and the insane amount of backlash MS would get from trying to shut it down. I love Rooster Teeth and they do great work.
Here's for hoping that MS shows a little restraint and common sense here. We can all dream.

E Zachary Knight
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I don't really understand the need for Microsoft to redefine "fair use" for its fans. We already have a fairly well understood legal definition of fair use in the US and many other countries. The fact that Microsoft limits fair use far beyond what is actually legally acceptable is something I take issue with.

Additionally, these "rules" are rather one sided. While we cannot use their assets for for profit means along with a strict requirement to disclose anything and everything, Microsoft has allowed itself free reign to take and use anything and everything the community creates without the need for payment or disclosure. That is rather insane.

Bob Philhower
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I expect that the language about free use of user-generated content was primarily intended to avoid lawsuits based on alleged infringement. No matter what storyline is chosen for Halo N+1, there is probably some user who once created something vaguely similar. If the studio was not protected, then the release of a new game would be accompanied with a set of lawsuits that would create expenses and bad publicity during the game launch.

Alternatively, MGS, 343, etc could studiously avoid being exposed to any user-created content relating to their universes to avoid being "tainted". Of course, that would take some of the fun out of creating a popular franchise.

Michael Rooney
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I'd imagine that these rules apply to things that normally fall outside of fair use. I don't think Microsoft has the power to limit fair use.

Ex. Red vs. Blue is not covered under fair use. Technically without these rules Microsoft could demand at any time that Red vs. Blue take down all of it's content. With these rules, Red vs. Blue would be legal if it followed the rules. I'm sure RvB has already been excepted given their relationship with Bungie/343, but it's a reasonable example.

I think what you are missing is that Microsoft is expanding what one can legally do with it's content, not limiting it. It's just that they've never explicitely stated what one can legally do up till now, so people will view it as a limitation rather than an expansion.

E Zachary Knight
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Michael,

How is Red vs Blue not fair use?

Also, there is a huge difference between what one is legally allowed to do and what Microsoft allows one to do.

The legality of what one is allowed to do is judged based on these four factors:

1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

2. The nature of the copyrighted work

3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole

4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

These four factors were designed to be as permissive as possible while still allowing the copyright holder a fair ability to control the majority of the uses of their works. Microsoft is limiting much of this.

Lyon Medina
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I agree with Michael R. in that the rules before were never clearly stated. I for one am all for this because it now sets a standard and keeps other businesses, (like Machinima.com for instance) on notice. There is a lot of abuse within the Machinima making field and a little regulation especially ones that are promoting care for the franchise(s) are welcome in my heart.

Of course it all depends from here on out how they use these new regulations. If they see fit to punish every person for simply putting (Halo) -insert favorite franchise here- then its abusive. If they keep these rules, but only take care of heavy offenders that specifically make money by posting horrible videos that are made in bad taste I.e. "Halo 5 Release Date Announced!", "Halo 4 Ending leaked!" , "Tear gas grenades in Halo 3!". We will see how they use these new rules. If they abuse them then Microsoft will see how the community should and probably will react. We just won't use their games, and that is something I know they do not want.

Michael Rooney
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@Zach: Fair use in machinima is not something that's safe to assume. There's quite a lot of stuff on it; stanford law did a series of talks on it (available on itunes for free). If you start with the assumption that machinima is fair use, it's easy to get alarmist over this, but that's not an accurate assumption to make.

E Zachary Knight
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Michael,

Ok, but you still have not told me *why* Red vs Blue is not fair use. You don't even provide a link to the talks you mention. Not even a title.

So let me take a stab at why I believe it to be fair use vased on the four factors I listed.

1) Red vs Blue is a comedy series using animation from the Halo games. It is released for free, but with advertising to make money. Making money is not a disqualification for fair use.

2) Halo is a video game that has a serious tone. Red vs Blue are comedic videos. Very different from the source material.

3) Red vs Blue uses graphics and animations from the Halo series, however that makes up only a small part of the source material.

4) If Red vs Blue has an impact on the Halo franchise, it is certainly not a negative impact. It certainly doesn't replace a need to buy a copy of the game.

Based on these four factors (an a more well spoken attorney) Red vs Blue could withstand an infringement claim by Microsoft in court. Which is probably why Microsoft has never pursued legal action.

What these new rules lead me to believe is that Microsoft is trying increase its control over the actions of its fans while at the same time creating an "agreement" that it can harvest whatever it wants from those same fans.

Michael Rooney
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I didn't tell you how it's not fair use because you gave the 4 qualifications for it, of which only 1 applied (#4), which isn't enough to really stop a lawsuit from happening.

Here is a link to their podcast (http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/center-for-internet-society/id
131237275); The most applicable presentation is currently #92 from 4/24/2009.

Dave Ingram
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As a gamer, I can tell you that if I can't find a Youtube video titled "[Microsoft Game Title] Gameplay Video," I will not be buying the game. As a journalist, I think it's an unwise decision to not allow amateur Youtube game reviewers to include game titles in their video titles. I understand the negative things they are trying to defend against, but they are stifling quite a bit of free marketing with this move, as well.

Joe Zachery
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Agreed Reviews site, and their journalist can be bought off. If the everyday gamer has and opinion of a game they bought. I may listen to it a lot more than a site that is covered in advertisement of that game. When you pick and choice who can and who can't. It seems like you are trying to decide who and what people can say. This is the first Halo since Bungie felt the franchise. So people are really going to judge this game harshly. Please don't limit the opinions of people by hiding it from the people.

Lyon Medina
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As a "Amateur" Machinima maker I know these rules have no real effect against any of my videos. I think your not understanding what is the new rules are. Reviewers are not credited (or not a part of the subgroup listed) of the under this new rule. They are evaluting a game and thus giving an opinion on the product that is not directly linked the products following, but more the reviewers.


I know there are videos right now on youtube that break the rules right now currently and have over 30,000 views because (in this case) Halo 4 is in the title.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybj3LmvMHgE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDMSQXwLvR8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EfiPx_ioEc&feature=related

Trying to regulate versus eliminate.


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