Elearning, Machinima and the Law

One of the great take-aways of Learning 2006 for me was Machinima. Now there’s some IP follow-up that is due for anyone considering using Machinima content for training. I think machinima is a powerful, effective and low cost alternative technique to “from scratch” 2D/3D animation, graphics and video production for e-learning. However, as always, one needs to be respectful of intellectual property (IP). A blog posting that I recently found is a good reminder of that.

But first, a little background. In February of 2007 I posted some information on machinima when I was fortunate enough to snag Tom Crawford as a guest speaker for an Adobe eLuminary web seminar titled Machinima: When Video isn’t Video [description at bottom of page here, direct link to recording here (free registration req’d)]. By the way, Tom did the best job I have ever seen of formatting/encoding machinima clips for use inside Adobe Connect, but that may be a whole other seminar topic.

Since then I have been openly wondering about using imagery and recorded screen captures of Flight Simulator X and other tools for training. Hopefully, Microsoft and other vendors will make their IP policies clearer regarding this use case. It seems the use case for the elearning developer is not to use game storyline, but to co-opt it as a graphics or animation generator. I’m really not sure how this plays into their IP policies.

In August of 2007, Mark Methenitis of The Vernon Law Group posted some informative discussion and commentary on Microsoft and machinima on his blog Law of the Game. from the original post, Microsoft’s New Content Usage Rules: A Small Step for Machinima

Microsoft has set forth an interesting new content policy, found here, that seems to be giving the non-profit machinimist a break. In fact, I would go as far as to say this is really what needed to be done, but only addresses half of the issue.

The rules boil down to this: You can use the following games:

  • Age of Empires (all versions)
  • Flight Simulator (all versions)
  • Forza Motorsport (all versions)
  • Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, and Halo 3 (when released)
  • Kameo
  • Perfect Dark Zero
  • Project Gotham Racing (all versions)
  • Rise of Nations (all versions)
  • Shadowrun
  • Viva Piñata

to make machinima, provided you put the following disclaimer on it:

[The title of your Item] was created under Microsoft’s “Game Content Usage Rules” using assets from GAMENAME, © Microsoft Corporation.

The blog entry goes on to list the rules Microsoft requires (which you really should read from the Microsoft Xbox.com page), but I prefer Mark’s witty Carlin-esque summary.

Consider these the 7 Deadly Sins of Microsoft Machinima. In short, they are:

  1. Hacking
  2. Obscenity
  3. Profit
  4. Audio
  5. Other IP
  6. Fanfiction
  7. Piggybacking

When using machinima techniques, I doubt that corporate trainers will ever intend to hack, cuss, directly profit, pirate audio, abuse IP, craft fan fiction or support derivative works (piggybacking), BUT even the best of intents doesn’t mean that use for corporate training is legally acceptable to the IP owners. I hope that Microsoft will clarify the IP issues regarding use of game-generated images or image sequences for non-game corporate training purposes at the upcoming Microsoft DevCon 2007 or the related/co-located AvSim 2007 conference & exhibition.

In an interesting and relevant turn, the AvSim 2007 conference features guest speakers including both Capt. Mark Feuerstein, the Project Pilot for Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ 747-8 program and commercial pilot and flight instructor, Erik Lindbergh– grandson of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I wonder what their thoughts on training “fair use” might be.