Filmmaker, Filmmaker make me a film

Summary:And Lionhead Studios (now owned by Microsoft), as it turns out, means that pretty literally.  My last post triggered a fascinating discussion in the comments about what one may or may not do with machinima films created using The Movies.

And Lionhead Studios (now owned by Microsoft), as it turns out, means that pretty literally.  My last post triggered a fascinating discussion in the comments about what one may or may not do with machinima films created using The Movies.  The Movies is a unique combination of authoring tool and game.  Those who buy it and use it can create digitally animated, 3D modeled movies — but according to the applicable license terms the creator's ownership of the end result extends only things that were not supplied with the program: 

[W]ith respect to any game movies you create using the in-Program movie making feature ("Game Movies"), you will retain ownership of your Game Movies, excluding any and all content within your Game Movies that was either supplied with the Program or otherwise made available to you by Activision or its licensors, and such content shall remain the exclusive property of Activision and its licensors subject only to the limited license granted herein.

I would need to defer to someone who has actually used the product to confirm, but I believe all the raw materials — "actors," sets, etc. — are supplied with the program.  This sets up a cumbersome "joint ownership" situation, to say the least.  As Ruth Logie pointed out, it's a little like Microsoft retaining ownership of the raw materials of your novel — letters, punctuation, etc. — because you wrote it in Microsoft Word. 

The Movies capitalized on the fact that so many were enjoying making their own creations out of their favorite games.  As Wired News put it when the product was first released,

Several bustling online communities and tens of thousands machinima later, it's obvious that the world was waiting for a quick-and-dirty way to create computer-animation flicks. Until now, most machinima have been made by geeks who know enough about coding to re-purpose video-game engines like the open source Quake III engine to make their movies. Or they had to know their favorite MMORPG or first-person shooter well enough, and be patient enough, to manipulate, pose and film their in-game characters performing scenes.

Both styles of machinima-making have built-in limitations: Either you have to code, or you have to be willing to film your bodice-ripping romance using gnomes and orcs.

Enter The Movies' creator Peter Molyneux, who told Wired News for that same story, "We wanted you to be able to make your own unique movie in no way controlled or defined by us. I think that's what we've achieved."  The Movies' license terms (and the terms of use for the site Lionhead provides for users to post their creations) fail to bear that statement out.  If Lionhead/Microsoft are serious about empowering users, they need to either revisit how user rights are defined, or implement a process whereby filmmakers can obtain use permissions in a streamlined way.  Short of that, filmmakers using The Movies find themselves saddled with the sort of silent partner only Danny DeVito could love.

Topics: Microsoft

About

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law. For further details please see her professional background and speaking schedule. Denise's career is characterized by her passionate engagement in intell... Full Bio

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