Development Blog

Where we pretend to know how to code.

Distribution of content

Published: 2020-04-04

Author: Teddi

Or alternatively, why we don’t just give you CS:S content.

Years ago in GMod, it wasn’t uncommon to wait on a loading screen to download all sorts of content, content that often wasn’t owned by the server that was distributing it. Back then and even as late as 2012 / 13 the internet was still “wild west” enough that these things just weren’t a worry. Old people didn’t get it and didn’t understand how to internet so this was very much the norm. It wasn’t uncommon to find servers broadcasting entire self-hosted movies, running hosted jukebox systems (DJ for $150 anyone?) and content just being ripped, reused and abused without shame. The logistics behind some of why this happened is fairly straightforwards but it was “we’re not hurting anyone, why would anyone bother us?”

With everyone and their mother looking to move into the digital distribution landscape seeing Valve’s success with Steam, Valve did the ultimate move and released the workshop which changed the modding landscape as we know it. Assuming a developer added proper support to their game, mods became very much 1-click install processes and before you knew it you had Spongebob running around Skyrim like it was a completely normal thing!

There was however a fairly noticeable downside for the average amateur developer and that was policing copyrighted content not only got easier: it spurred some companies into actively hunting down and policing the usage of their content. To preface the next section; no one to my knowledge ever got sued within the GarrysMod community for usage of this content but there were plenty who got served up pretty quickly with DMCA notices. Commonly the reports would come from other indie developers, who weren’t happy their content was being shipped without permission (and profited upon). In more uncommon cases you even had some larger publishers come down and hit people over the head with a formal request via a lawyer and in the worst case I know of, a record company actually sent a cease and desist to a community that had a jukebox feature with threats that if they didn’t stop immediately then they’d be on the hook for obscene levels of money.

Back when I ran a server hosting company on the side back in the day, I had a fair few of these requests come through (though no record companies thankfully). It wasn’t unusual to get bogus claims (because hey community dramas) but the rate at which they were received showed that at the time: publishers were more than happy to C&D anything they felt wasn’t correct usage of their contents and to be fair: they were well within their right to do so. In many cases it can be an absolute pain though as often there isn’t an easy or affordable way to license this content. For years I’ve wanted to bring back the [BB] jukebox, but no such service exists where you can do so other than hosting your own radio station.

This leads me to a common complaint I often hear within [BB], why don’t we provide an easy way to get missing content, like CS:S?

The answer is pretty straightforwards: we toe a very careful line between infringement and what we think is possible to get away with. Most of the content we distribute is merely tiny bits of pieces of Valve content (alongside our own which we’ve created) in the sense it’s models and some materials. Valve generally don’t mind reuse of their content as long as you’re not distributing entire swathes of it. There’s also the fact that yknow, Valve also made CS:S and are perfectly entitled to being paid for their work.

But these content packs tend to distribute almost the entire game minus the binary which is a big nono. It’s rare but Valve have acted once or twice upon distribution of this content when it’s been freely available on the internet to download. If Valve were okay with it they would let it be hosted within the GMod workshop for free - but they’re not and you can’t get the content willy-nilly on workshop with a 1-click install.

We’re now at the point where we’re distributing our own content to replace the CS:S textures that Valve own. It’s easier (and better) for the player to be shipped and given alternatives that just “work” instead of following sketchy instructions. It also saves us from potential legal issues that really, no one at [BB] has the time or money to deal with and if people want to “upgrade” their experience, they can pay their dues for it. Copyright is a massive issue, far bigger than what extends beyond GMod and yet people never quite realise how deep the rabbit hole goes.

I recommend watching Tom Scott’s mini documentary on how copyright is broken (and how YouTube’s system isn’t). Everything in this very much applies to us as a community, a game and an industry. Just because we can (use the content), doesn’t mean they won’t (sue us).

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