The Player-Authors Project:
(An Empirical Sketch of the UGC Elephant
in Copyright’s Parlor)
Prof. Lastowka
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 2

A 1-year empirical investigation of UGC funded by the NSF
• Started ...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 3

Motivations
• Many people have written about UGC
– 100’s of articles...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 4

Motivations
• Divergent policy evaluations of UGC
– Pro: productive,...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 5

Project Design: Two Components
• 1. Online surveys:
– Group One: 411...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 6

Methodology: Choice of Platforms
• EAGER Grant philosophy = explorat...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 7

UGC = 3D Printing & Fan Fiction. But why video games?
• UGC in video...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 8

RESULTS
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 9

Survey Findings Overview
• The majority of video game players create...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 10

Survey Findings Overview
• Motivations differ substantially accordi...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 11

Survey Findings Overview
• Gaming platforms appeal to different dem...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 12

Survey Findings Overview
• Gaming platforms matter a great deal
– T...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 13

Survey Findings Overview
• Industry professionals disagree about UG...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 14

Platform Samples (3,300 or so items to code)
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 15

Platform Sample Findings
• The copyright implications of UGC popula...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 16

Platform Sample Findings
• Avatar platforms had a broad range of IP...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 17

Platform Sample Findings
• Most UGC was “original” and not referent...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 18

Platform Sample Findings
• Piracy and popularity is a bit tricky.
–...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 19

Platform Sample Findings
• However…
– There was a significant power...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 20

Platform Sample Findings
• An item from the “cream of the crop” (to...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 21

Platform Sample Findings
• A surprisingly small fraction of the UGC...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 22

Platform Sample Findings
• Great power comes with greater infringem...
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 23

Many other random findings, e.g. this about HP FanFic
Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 24

Thanks & thanks to the NSF for their generous assistance
• Full Sum...
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The player authors project

  1. 1. The Player-Authors Project: (An Empirical Sketch of the UGC Elephant in Copyright’s Parlor) Prof. Lastowka
  2. 2. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 2 A 1-year empirical investigation of UGC funded by the NSF • Started Sept. 1, 2012 • Report submitted Nov 30, 2013 – About 160 pages • Download PDF at: – http://playerauthors.rutgers.edu – Or SSRN • “Principal Investigator” = me – About 10 law students worked on the project – Assisted by 1 graduate student from Rutgers School of Communication, Nadav Lipkin
  3. 3. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 3 Motivations • Many people have written about UGC – 100’s of articles in law reviews and elsewhere, many books – Here’s B-F in my bibliography…
  4. 4. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 4 Motivations • Divergent policy evaluations of UGC – Pro: productive, democratic, diverse, authentic collaborative – Con: piratical, poor quality, parasitic, exploitative • Divergent characterizations of the general nature of UGC. – Industry story: UGC is primarily piracy • Braverman & Southwick (2009) state: “The threat is that a good percentage of the most heavily-viewed user-posted content is infringing.” – Remix story: UGC is primarily amateur parody, mashup, remix • Lessig (2008); Jenkins (2006) – Wikipedia: UGC is primarily altruistic (original) peer-production: • Bruns (2008) and Benkler (2006) • But where is the data? Who is right? • What are the dominant practices on UGC platforms? • Are Braverman & Southwick right that piracy = popularity?
  5. 5. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 5 Project Design: Two Components • 1. Online surveys: – Group One: 411 video game players • Demographics • Nature of UGC practices • Motivations for UGC practices – Group Two: 46 video game industry professionals • Demographics • Perceptions of UGC’s value • 2. Content analysis: – Random sampling of UGC production in thirty content populations. – Coding for: • • • • Copyright Implications Other IP implications Popularity and related metrics Other (ad hoc) characteristics
  6. 6. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 6 Methodology: Choice of Platforms • EAGER Grant philosophy = exploratory work • Our approach: – Sample a wide variety of UGC platforms – Go for broad and thin rather than thick description of specific cultures • N=100 (creates 10% margin of error with 95% confidence) • A “rough cut” approach (much better than no data!) • Our choice of sample platforms: – – – – 2D artwork: DeviantART, Sketch Club Photo Sharing: Flickr, Photobucket 3D Printing: Thingiverse Games: Avatars, Objects, Maps, Modifications, Machinima • Spore, The Sims, Second Life, LittleBIGPlanet, Minecraft, ModNation, Civ 5, Garry's Mod, Skyrim – Fan Fiction Sites
  7. 7. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 7 UGC = 3D Printing & Fan Fiction. But why video games? • UGC in video games is a massively and understudied phenomenon • Videogames, as an early form of digital & interactive media, have a long history of UGC “amateur” production practices • Minecraft – Minecraft = Linux + the Matrix – Minecraft = generativity (like the command line for 1980’s PC hobbyists)
  8. 8. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 8 RESULTS
  9. 9. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 9 Survey Findings Overview • The majority of video game players create and enjoy UGC – But only about half of players shared UGC online
  10. 10. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 10 Survey Findings Overview • Motivations differ substantially according to: – age, education, and gender – generally, older and more educated players skew toward intrinsic factors, whereas younger players skew toward instrumental motivations
  11. 11. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 11 Survey Findings Overview • Gaming platforms appeal to different demographics: – Wii players are generally younger – Xbox players are more likely to be in the 25-44 age range. – Older gamers are more likely to use PCs and mobile
  12. 12. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 12 Survey Findings Overview • Gaming platforms matter a great deal – The PC is the platform best fit for UGC in gaming. – The PS3 has a creativity edge over the Xbox 360 and Wii
  13. 13. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 13 Survey Findings Overview • Industry professionals disagree about UGC – Some love it and value it highly, others hate it • Most professionals do not appreciate the value of UGC to players
  14. 14. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 14 Platform Samples (3,300 or so items to code)
  15. 15. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 15 Platform Sample Findings • The copyright implications of UGC populations vary from platform to platform. – While almost all UGC practices raise some copyright issues, referential practices on popular platforms vary widely, even within specific genres of UGC.
  16. 16. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 16 Platform Sample Findings • Avatar platforms had a broad range of IP implications • E.g. Compare: – Minecraft = 35% referential, Spore = 4% referential – Hypothesis: These are communities with norms regarding remixing
  17. 17. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 17 Platform Sample Findings • Most UGC was “original” and not referential – Populations varied, but on almost all UGC sites, “referential” creativity was less common than “non-referential” creativity. – Hypothesis based on data: UGC practices should be understood as primarily generative of original works of authorship rather than primarily a form piracy or the creation of derivative works.
  18. 18. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 18 Platform Sample Findings • Piracy and popularity is a bit tricky. – Within total populations of UGC, we generally observed no statistically significant correlation between popularity of individual items and their referential or non-referential status. – In other words, making a picture of Harry Potter, as opposed to a nonreferential picture, would not result in any more views.
  19. 19. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 19 Platform Sample Findings • However… – There was a significant power law distribution in UGC popularity – 20 percent of UGC generally accounted for 80 percent of views and downloads. (Below = ModNations avatars)
  20. 20. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 20 Platform Sample Findings • An item from the “cream of the crop” (top 1-5% popularity) was more likely to be referential than a randomly sampled item from the total population – See e.g. ModNations for a pronounced divergence • Popular = 86% ref., General = 33% ref.
  21. 21. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 21 Platform Sample Findings • A surprisingly small fraction of the UGC surveyed constituted “remix” creativity – Scholarship on UGC often celebrates parodies, but the majority of fan works did not criticize the referenced original – Generally, less than 5% of referential works were clearly critical or parodic with respect to the work referenced
  22. 22. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 22 Platform Sample Findings • Great power comes with greater infringement possibility • Simple and less flexible UGC tool sets seem to correlate with a decrease in copyright issues. Conversely, more flexible tools and “denser” forms of authorial production correlated with higher levels of copyright issues. – When the public is given limited or constrained authorial powers in a narrow authorial medium (e.g. reconfiguring creature parts in Spore), the effect seems to be a reduced capacity for referential creativity • Spore avatars = 4% ref – When the authorial mode involves audiovisual work with a variety of components (e.g. machinima), copyright concerns seem to rise substantially. • Warcraft machinima = 76% ref
  23. 23. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 23 Many other random findings, e.g. this about HP FanFic
  24. 24. Rutgers School of Law – Professor Lastowka - Slide 24 Thanks & thanks to the NSF for their generous assistance • Full Summary Report at: – http://player-authors.rutgers.edu – Or SSRN
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