Project Discussion Part V: Critical Thinking

Throughout this series, we’ve talked more about the practical side of the project such as layout and design. This is all relevant to the project, but we’re missing something here. What we are missing is all the critical questions that need to be asked. These are the underlying themes – even the reasons – for this project. This is not necessarily a question of why and how, but more raising the issues around them. This is the subject of Part V.

Q1: Sharing what?
Since my proposal is about sharing between people, a good starting point would be to ask what exactly it is they are sharing. My first thought would be about sharing of academic articles/journals/texts, as I wanted to make it easier for such communicating. We can 100% be sure that academics must talk to each other on projects.

I envisioned my approach to be similar to already existing styles. When a user uploads a file, it is logged and ‘stored’ on the system, which is the database. The user may view and makes changes to it or upload a newer version. If applicable, multiple users may also look and edit if it’s a larger project.

But what about anything other than a text document? Not necessarily photos or videos, but things like graphs, research findings, voice recordings? In most cases with other sharing sites, this wouldn’t matter as it involves the same principles of sharing as text documents do. Technical compatibility may come into it (different type of file etc), but generally the default files work. The purpose of the project is to allow people to share and communicate more easily with others; whether this is sharing text or visual items.

Now we come to some problems. This is largely to do with legal issues in terms of copyright. Whilst a piece of work that one does is ‘theirs’ but what happens when it is uploaded to an external database? Does that work still belong to them or is it ‘owned’ by the system? This is an issue that has long-term implications as it can be very easy to infringe on copyright.

Normally when signing up to new sites, you must consent to several terms and conditions. Not everyone reads it (me included), but these guidelines explain what happens to your work. Here is an example of the legal terms in the case of Steam’s Workshop component:

‘6. USER GENERATED CONTENT
A. General Provisions
‘User Generated Content’ means any content you make available to other users through your use of multi-user features of Steam, or to Valve or its affiliates through your use of the Software or otherwise.

You grant Valve and its affiliates the non-exclusive, irrevocable right to use, reproduce, modify, create derivative works from, distribute, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise communicate, and publicly display and publicly perform, your User Generated Content, and derivative works of your User Generated Content, in connection with the operation and promotion of the Steam site. If you use Valve cloud storage, you grant us a license to store your information as part of that service. We may place limits on the amount of storage you may use.

If you provide Valve with any feedback or suggestions about Steam, the Software, or any Valve products or services, Valve is free to use the feedback or suggestions however it chooses, without any obligation to account to you.

B. Content Uploaded to the Steam Workshop
Some games or applications available on Steam (‘Workshop-Enabled Apps’) allow you to create User Generated Content based on or using the Workshop-Enabled App, and to submit that User Generated Content (a ‘Workshop Contribution’) to one or more Steam Workshop web pages. Workshop Contributions can be viewed by the Steam community, and for some categories of Workshop Contributions users may be able to interact with, download or purchase the Workshop Contribution. In some cases, Workshop Contributions may be considered for incorporation by Valve or a third-party developer into a game or into a Subscription Marketplace.

You understand and agree that Valve is not obligated to use, distribute, or continue to distribute copies of any Workshop Contribution and reserves the right, but not the obligation, to restrict or remove Workshop Contributions for any reason.

Specific Workshop-Enabled Apps or Workshop web pages may contain special terms (‘App-Specific Terms‘) that supplement or change the terms set out in this Section. In particular, where Workshop Contributions are distributed for a fee, App-Specific Terms will address how revenue may be shared. Unless otherwise specified in App-Specific Terms (if any), the following general rules apply to Workshop Contributions.

·    Workshop Contributions are Subscriptions, and therefore you agree that any Subscriber receiving distribution of your Workshop Contribution will have the same rights to use your Workshop Contribution (and will be subject to the same restrictions) as are set out in this Agreement for any other Subscriptions.
·    Notwithstanding the license described in Section 6.A., Valve will only have the right to modify or create derivative works from your Workshop Contribution in the following cases: (a) Valve may make modifications necessary to make your Contribution compatible with Steam and the Workshop functionality or user interface, and (b) Valve or the applicable developer may make modifications to Workshop Contributions that are accepted for in-Application distribution as it deems necessary or desirable to enhance gameplay.
·    You may, in your sole discretion, choose to remove a Workshop Contribution from the applicable Workshop pages. If you do so, Valve will no longer have the right to use, distribute, transmit, communicate, publicly display or publicly perform the Workshop Contribution, except that (a) Valve may continue to exercise these rights for any Workshop Contribution that is accepted for distribution in-game or distributed in a manner that allows it to be used in-game, and (b) your removal will not affect the rights of any Subscriber who has already obtained access to a copy of the Workshop Contribution.-
– Steam Terms and Conditions

From that lengthy excerpt, the gist is that Valve has the ‘rights’ over any UGC that gets submitted into the Workshop. They have the right to distribute or change people’s work. In addition, Valve has the right to remove content at any time. This is standard practice nowadays. People don’t realise that even an innocuous wall post on FB is now ’owned’ by the system. The deal is that if you use Steam to promote your work, you grant Valve content rights over your design.

This is going to be slightly different for my own design. Strictly speaking, users would not be uploading UGC in the sense that they are creating something ‘new’ to sell. What they would be doing is uploading work in a similar manner, so with this in mind, I would probably adopt the same legalities. Users would use the system as a database for storage and sharing, yet because they use it, it would fall under that they use an external system to store their work.

Finish conlcusion.

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