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.