Minecraft Blogs / Article

"HE STOLE MY IDEA" or What is Copyright?

  • 5,579 views, 7 today
  • 25
  • 7
  • 38
mommaCarole's Avatar mommaCarole
Retired Moderator
Level 54 : Grandmaster Witch
When you've worked hard on something, whether it's a story, poem, piece of artwork, a computer program, music or digital art, nothing can burn your butt more than seeing it stolen and someone else claiming they made it. Intellectual property theft happens all the time, and the internet is the leading cause of the explosion of these thefts. It is so easy to copy pictures, stories, software, music, etc. from a relatively anonymous position.

When you decide to share your work online, you have to remember the key word in this sentence: sharing. There is virtually no way to protect your intellectual property rights when you put your work online. You may claim copyright, but what does that really mean?

Most simply put, copyright means exactly what it says: "the right to copy." When you create something, you immediately own the copyright to that creation. However, the creation must be 100% your own work, not a modification of someone else's work in any way. It can be similar to someone else's work, but you had to begin and end it from scratch.

Since copying Minecraft skins is a rampant problem, let's use that as an example. If you search through the website, you'll find many, many similar skins. Skins that are recolors of other people's work are copyright infringements. Skins that started from a base of someone else's work with different accessories (like Steve in a creeper T-shirt for instance) are copyright infringement. However, if someone built a dwarf skin from the first pixel up that looked remarkably like the Honeydew skin, it would NOT be copyright infringement (unless that person had a copy of the Honeydew skin open at the time and copied it pixel for pixel.)

Now in Canada and the US, you own the copyright on your creation from the second it existed in some tangible form (ie: as a scan on your computer, as a file on the internet, as a music score written on paper, or in a computer file.) The problem is, if you are going to claim copyright, you must have some form of proof that the creation is yours and that you are the first creator of that piece.

There are a couple ways to do this. I'll start with the most expensive way. Once you have created your work, you can apply for copyright through the government. In the US, applying for copyright costs $45. In Canada, it's $50. When you pay this fee, you submit your creation and it goes through the process. The copyright board checks to make sure that nobody else holds the copyright on your creation, and if it's clean, will give you the copyright. This right lasts your entire life, plus 70 years in the States, plus 50 years in Canada. What paying this money will do for you is this: in the States, you could be entitled to sue a person who infringed the copyright up to $150,000 without any proof that you personally suffered financial loss from the infringement. It's a kind of insurance, if you will. But remember, to sue someone you would need to hire a lawyer, go to court, and actually be able to collect the money from that individual. If you don't hold a government issued copyright, you would have to prove loss of income before you could sue for any amount.

A much cheaper way to prove copyright is to print out a hard copy of your skin schematic, put it in an envelope, and mail it to yourself for the cost of one stamp. When you mail the envelope, take it to the post office and ask them to date-stamp the envelope overlapping the flap in the back. Don't ever open the envelope when you get it back (or it would suggest tampering, which would invalidate your proof.) This is absolutely viable in a court of law, proving ownership of copyright, and it cost you less than $1.00.

Online, if you can prove by file-date stamp (under the properties of the file) that the file created date is the earliest of anything else, you have proven copyright. However, I do NOT believe that the file creation date would hold up in a court of law, due to the ability to modify files. However, for purposes of PMC, the file created date would be enough to prove you held the copyright.

One thing you CANNOT copyright is an idea. If you haven't actually made the item in question, you can't hold the copyright. For instance, you have a fantastic idea for a Minecraft mod and you post about it in the forums. Someone else comes along, says "hey, that's a fantastic idea" and codes it. The person who coded the mod is the copyright owner. If they're nice, they may credit you with the original idea, but they don't HAVE to. This is vitally important to remember. ANYONE can steal your ideas without any consequences if you make those ideas public, so no whining that "someone stole your idea."

I hope this article clears up some of the confusion around copyright. Owning the copyright to a skin, a mod, a texture pack, etc. means absolutely NOTHING unless you can prove that you lost income due to the theft of that work, UNLESS you have officially copywritten it. If you don't want others to use your work without your permission, do NOT provide the file for free online. That way, if they would like to use your work, they must ask you for the file, and by sending it to them, you have granted permission to use it. At that point, however, you have no control over what that person does with the file, including reposting it for free. You can ask to have our moderators take it off the website, but there are many, many websites out there, and we only control PMC. Remember this when you share your work.

Thanks for reading, my resources links for the above information are in the credits. For more information, check them out!
Creditwww.cipo.ic.gc.ca, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter0/index.html

Create an account or sign in to comment.

09/06/2012 8:09 pm
Level 39 : Artisan Grump
standyland's Avatar
lol paril stole your idea
09/07/2012 11:54 am
Level 54 : Grandmaster Witch
mommaCarole's Avatar
SEE?! I told you so!! LOL
08/18/2012 1:29 am
Level 17 : Journeyman Miner
Leigence2012's Avatar
Cool! Diamond for you!
07/22/2012 1:35 pm
Level 19 : Journeyman Architect
tylerhorton's Avatar
Thank you for posting this! VERY great post! :)
01/27/2012 5:50 pm
Level 60 : High Grandmaster Vampire
UnoWild's Avatar
Here lies the problem, "When you decide to share your work online", before people would publish things and to get it you would have to buy a copy. No everything is just a click away, then after editing it someone can distribute it freely. The trick is to host your work in a place that makes it hard for lazy people to get their hands on it. Using watermarks on images for example is a great way to protect your work. Most people have time to be creative but lack the energy to protect their works.-- to bad really, out society is getting more lazy by the minute. 8-/
11/29/2011 9:05 pm
Level 28 : Expert Pixel Puncher
lstgs2001's Avatar
Did he make it before you? If he did it's not copyright, copyright is when someone makes something already made and without permision.
11/06/2011 7:06 pm
Level 50 : Grandmaster Programmer
Uno803's Avatar
Nice explanation. I feel like I could pass a college-level court of law test now :P
10/24/2011 3:47 am
Level 30 : Artisan Toast
Conquer's Avatar
umm... could u make a shortened version, i just read Cyprezz's blog and thats long. I read the first paragraph then got tired, can you shorten it, or do a shortened version at the end?
10/14/2011 4:56 pm
Level 44 : Master Artist
BoyOfTheEnders's Avatar
In this post people are asking PMC To Give us the option to Use Creative Commons, on the site, when submitting Creations, Much like YouTube does! This is a re-occuring theme, something needs to be done about it.
This site Desperately needs this, before people actually do take legal action (Like myself).


Read more in the comments about it.
10/14/2011 9:32 pm
Level 54 : Grandmaster Witch
mommaCarole's Avatar
excellent post by Destiny! and a great idea too. We're certainly big enough to warrant a move like this.