My thoughts on the current Custom Game Pass copyright issues

The Custom Game Pass is an in-game purchasable item that grants you additional content and features in select Dota 2 custom games. If you want the long version head over here, but in short its a nifty way of supporting Dota 2 map makers without alienating the playerbase or making the custom games annoying to play. 

One of the reasons I was rather optimistic about the whole system, despite the paid Skyrim mods fiasco, is because Valve stated that they would be carefully selecting which games are allowed to participate in the program.

As a proof of concept, Valve started the entire Custom Game Pass system with a single game - Roshpit Champions. However, a mere day later it was found out that Roshpit Champions uses  few "borrowed assets" which brought the entirety of Valve's curation efforts in to question, and once again refueled the same complaints that were leveled against Skyrim's paid mods. Here's what happened, and how I propose we solve the issue once and for all:

The discovery of copyrighted material within Roshpit Champions is the work of Darkswordfish who painstakingly went through the entire game, and its files, in order to see which were lifted from the Steam Workshop, community artwork, or even other games. In total, Darkswordfish found ~17 cases where Roshpit Champions used art assets from other users, and even one that was taken from Blizzard's little known game, World of Warcraft.

Eventually, one of the developers behind Roshpit Champions came out and defended the group by saying that there was no infringement intended, and that the majority of the artwork, besides the WoW boots and parts of one model, has been either bought or used with permission. Here's the message:

Hi, I just saw this thread. I'll address each class of issues:

Workshop Art - Anything submitted to the workshop is Valve's property and can therefore be used in Valve's game. Roshpit Champions is subject to the same rules, making the game also a property of Valve's. You can use any of the code or concepts of Roshpit Champions within the bubble of Dota 2 as well. If there were a way to add proper credits, maybe that would be a good way to show appreciation.

Crusader Boots - OK, I didn't think a low-res screencap of a screencap would be an issue. The picture is awful anyway and probably needs a replacement. Does blizzard care though? In the end, Blizzard is the only one with the right to complain about this low quality image existing in this little sub-realm of Dota 2. If Blizzard or Valve informs me that this is an issue, I will replace this image.

House Model - The house model is a modified version of a house that was posted to Hive Workshop where the creator called it a demo map. I messaged the creator of that map months ago saying I thought his map was beautiful and the best in all of Dota 2 modding, but I never received a reply. I think he is extremely talented. Saying that the entire map looks like a rip-off copy paste is not giving fair credit to the hours we've put into hammer building the map. I'm sure you could take pieces out of the map of Roshpit Champions and put it into your game as well.

Music - There are 5 custom sounds in this game, and all of them were bought off Audiojungle for $1.

Everything here was put together in the name of making a fun game and there is no shady intent of screwing people out of what's theirs. Moving on, I will be careful in making sure that all assets can fairly be used.

Even though it might seem like I'm attacking Roshpit Champions here, that's not my intention as I highly doubt a bunch of people working on a Dota 2 mod for fun were ever thinking about ripping other people off. The artwork for the boots and house will end up being changed in the coming weeks, and Roshpit Champions will be fully in the clear.

The reason I brought this whole topic up is because modding, and I include custom games in this, is a highly community orientated activity that simply wouldn't exist without a vibrant scene behind it all providing support, tutorials, encouragement, and yes, even artwork. And for the most part, this sort of interconnectivity works perfectly as mods are constantly dissected, improved, and then released for others to build upon. The end result is that the quality of mods goes up, more people find their way in to the modding scene, and everyone's happy.

Roshpit Champions copyright issues

Roshpit champions - one of the most popular Dota 2 custom games

However, as soon as you bring money in to the equation the whole system breaks apart. Roshpit Champions managed to get most of their art for free, likely because the artists knew it couldn't be monetized so what's the harm, but what happens from now on? Should aspiring map makers have to make expensive deals with artists in order to make sure they're in the clear, or should they "steal" the work of others until they've made it through Valve's curation and then finally pay for the art?

Thankfully, there is a simple way of solving this. Introduce a community marketplace, similar to the Unity Asset Store, where artists, modelers and other creative members of the community can submit their work for others to purchase and use in games for a relatively small and reasonable fee. This will not only solve the issue of copyright and rights attribution, but it will also increase the quality of models and artwork available in Dota 2 because where there is a market, and especially one that's 10+ million big, there is plenty of money to be earned from producing great pieces.

It will take a fair bit of effort on Valve's part, but to me the benefits seem obvious, especially when you consider how much headache they will be able to avoid when they inevitably attempt to introduce this system to other games.

Either way, I look forward to seeing what Valve says about this whole incident as it does put their curation team in question since they couldn't even curate a single game, yet they want to do hundreds.