Roblox’s “new” complex copyright problem
On March 22nd 2022, Roblox will be legally required to purge their heavily copyright-compromised “free” developer asset library or face the music from the record industry. This has caused an uproar within the developer community surrounding Roblox, as the purge will break many of the community created games.
The outcry has been huge, even more so on the official Roblox developer forums. The largest issue being that many of the developers are most likely crossing paths with copyright law for the first time.
It isn’t a secret that Roblox have purposefully profited from audio uploads to the asset library. Part of the process requires a transaction fee, this is needed for a developer to enter a new asset into the library. But that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
Many of the assets uploaded to the library have been put there by users without any respect for copyright law. Roblox has turned and maintained a blind eye to the copyright abuse while cashing in on the upload fees until a recent 200 million dollar class action lawsuit got them in hot water with the music industry’s heavy hitters.
According to one Reddit poster, the 22nd of March is the end of the ”good faith agreement” that had granted Roblox 6 months to clean up the problem. One can infer from their recent announcement that Roblox have been sitting on their hands for those last 6 months, given that only 14 days notice have been provided to their users/developers.
I did some digging through SEC documents and found some detailed information that while it doesn’t make this any better – it does clarify things some.
Why March 22? March 22 marks the end of the six month good faith agreement between the music industry reps and Roblox that was part of the settlement.
Music industry would agree not to sue in exchange for Roblox taking on the task of gutting copyrighted content and continuing to do so going forward. For six months, that is what Roblox presumably did and reported as much in their filings.
However, as of March 22 Roblox is no longer protected by this agreement, and you can bet that there will be interested parties working around the clock scouring Roblox for any possible misuse of copyrighted music or sounds that they can sue for.
Blood is in the water now. It’s clear from Roblox settling that a case against them would likely hold and the music industry is fresh out of good faith come 3/22.
The solution when you can’t find a way in six months to reliably screen for copyrighted music (much less control bypassers)? Shut it all down. Eliminate the possibility of risk by privating everything over 6 seconds long.
They are going to have to do the same with other assets too. It’s clear from what I read that it is necessary to in order to keep from getting sued.
There was a strong focus on continuing to try to find a reliable way to allow users to upload assets while rigorously screening them. They are well aware of the financial implications of taking a hit over these draconian measures – it’s spelled out in the numbers.
Does knowing this make this any less painful for developers? Not at all. It will have serious impact on untold thousands, if not millions of games due to the blanket approach of taking it all private.
They will continue to cater to the well-paying safe-bet corporate clients who want to market and sell on Roblox – but from the statements I saw they are going to continue to look for ways to keep their core player-developer vision intact without being sued. There are plenty of litigious parties out there that will dig deep for infractions.
I’m not making excuses for the poor deployment of this, but maybe it will shed some light on why March 22 is a hard deadline./u/atypicalgamergirl
I’ve only recently discovered Roblox, and in turn found my music has been on the platform for the last 8 years, and is now used in a swathe of Roblox games without even so much as attribution.
These are games that earn their developers and the Roblox company real living-wage levels of money and we-the-uncredited indie don’t see a cent nor do we get “free exposure” since we’re uh, uncredited. That’s a bit of a smack in the nethers to put it mildly!
From my perspective, Roblox’s decision to make all audio clips longer than six seconds unavailable to developers it is the right move. Its a business decision that makes sense. The content library is totally and utterly compromised.
From the perspective of an unaware/naive developer this will be a harsh wake up and a bit of an unforgiving lesson, though the consequences of this move will at the very least point the developer firmly in the right and correct direction, helping them to build themselves a robust and legitimate reputation as ethical content creators.
As an uncredited, seemingly angry composer (I’m not) you might assume I want to see my material completely deleted from Roblox, that is not the case at all. Instead I’d like there to be a route to help acquire customers for myself organically on Spotify and other music services where my stuff is available legally and conveniently, I can then earn my fair share of income for my work too. I could request a fee or direct royalties from a developer, but realistically these developers are likely not going to be able to stomach the price.
A contradiction we are all seeing today is between Roblox’s 3rd party child protection terms and the upcoming deadline that require developers to abide by the law and license all content properly- in reality any developers that are using content provided for free under condition of attribution are immediately in breach of the license the second it goes live on March 22nd.
This is a major problem with such things licensed under Creative Commons attribution licenses and similar, that are then invalidated if missing visible, usable hyperlink attribution.
A few days ago a developer proactively reached out to me requesting to retain free usage of my illegally hosted unlicensed work for their game, this is what tipped me off to the whole thing.
After a bit of research I found that the developer earned a significant living wage from this game. Yikes.
Before we have lawyers rattling their briefcases here, I need to emphasise that getting lawyers involved especially across international borders is never going to end well for the small indie no matter what, I’ll explain for the unaware.
I write this as someone who has been accused by an armchair lawyer of not “enforcing my rights”, here on Reddit. I have a wife, only two cats and a mortgage. Finances for an indie just do not permit that sort of brazen behaviour with money.
So it got me thinking (intensely, I can attest) what exactly is the solution here. What do I want out of this? It took me a few hours literally sketching out and mulling over some ideas on my iPad. Ideally, brand awareness. Desirably? An organic increase of “foot traffic” on existing streaming services.
Solution With A Spin
I created for the developer that contacted me a 3D object (a nice one) for use in Roblox, requiring the object to be present in the areas of the game where the song/music is used, and produced a license contract that stipulates the precise conditions such as where the object must be and how it must be clearly visible to all players when the composition is used.
The developer happily signed it yesterday and voluntarily produced evidence of it already working in-game. But its just a logo!– it is more than that. Sure, it is a logo, and a compromise and it is also proper and official shiny brand awareness.
Collaboration is key. Here we have helped a developer bridge the maw between invisible unattributed outright theft to creating the environment where organic returns and goodwill far outperform any short term gains from petty legal action. On Roblox.
Reputation is hard to gain and easy to lose and there just isn’t enough money in the world that can remove a permanent shit stain from an indie-creators reputation after being an asshole to another indie-developer for a fraction of monetary scraps in return.
The game will be updated/server restarted this Tuesday, so before the Roblox deadline.
I am aware that the specific solution in this post may only apply for a very small niche of developers and composers. However, a proactive developer is more likely to succeed than one that has to listen to rattling briefcases.
Concerning brand awareness, googling my personal name actually returns more pornography than actual accurate results, so that 3D object is a very specific shape.