PROTECTING YOUR PROJECT FROM THIEVES.

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Red_Nova
The all around prick
7542
How to Protect your game from Thieves

Hello, everyone. I have a question that has been bothering me ever since I started working on my game. I have my own solutions to the problem, but I wanted to check with you guys, who have may more experience with this sort of thing than I do, and see if my solutions would work or if you guys would have better ones. I don't know if this should be an article or whatever, but depending on the information gained here, I might just repost this as something more significant than a random forum thread. I'm posting this because I couldn't find this same topic after searching the forums, so I hope I'm contributing something worthwhile. Anyway, on to the topic:

You see, making a game is all well and good. Posting images of works in progress is all well and good. It's great to get some feedback on your work in progress. But there is a major problem with doing this: This is the internet. And there are assholes on the internet. Assholes that will, without a second thought, take a copy of your game and post it on some other website, claiming it as their own.

This is the biggest reason why I've never even MENTIONED my development to other people, let alone post information about it online. Because there's no official copyright on your game, what's to stop some random guy in the forums to pull a Bill Gates and take a copy of your game, complete it with some shoddy patchwork, and post it as their own? Then, all the hard work you've done will be someone else's success. And, to take it a step further, the thief would then try to push legal action against you and claim that your work was actually their own.

I do understand that there is nothing actually physically STOPPING someone from reposting your work. What I'm trying to do is figure out ways that you can PROVE that you are the original owner if an aforementioned asshole pulls this stunt.

What to do about it:

I have come up with the following solutions to this problem. I ask that you read over these carefully, and critique these solutions, elaborate on them some, and/or even come up with your own original solutions. I'll edit this post with information as I see it coming.

1: Post encrypted files

Pro: As this is a no-brainer, I put this one first. With encrypted files, a potential thief would not have access to the assets, and therefore would not be able to edit the project itself.

Con: Honestly, I can't think of a con for this one. I think I just answered my own question, but let's keep going. Maybe one of you can think of a con for this method.

EDIT: I've gotten a couple of different suggestions for a con. Here's a quote that summarizes it the quickest:

author=eplipswich
Oh, there certainly is a con. Ever heard of decrypting? There are definitely people who are capable of decrypting files encrypted by different people.



2: Keep a repository of your game and assets in progress

Pro: A thief would not be able to have copies of the works in progress, so that alone could prove that you are the original owner. All the thief would have access to would be the completed project(Or completed work in progress), not have access to early stages of assets. For example, in the game I'm making, I have drawn all the character faces myself. But the last step I take before importing it to RPG Maker is applying an Anti-Alias filter. So I have two copies of each faceset. One with the filter, and one without. These copies would prove that I was the one who developed everything.

Con: A thief could claim that he/she doesn't have copies, and that I would put some sort of filter on the images to remove the Anit-Alias. The thief would then go on to claim that I'm just trying to make myself look like the victim.

3: Use the post date of the first time you put your project out there

Pro: No matter how soon the thief steals your project and posts it up on their own website, it will always be at a later date than when you did. So all you would have to do is take a screenshot of the first post you made or even provide a link to the first post, and then that could prove you were the original uploader.

Con: Remember when I made the Bill Gates analogy earlier? Well, going by that logic, a thief could make the claim that I completed it first, but that I stole from the thief.

4: Get a copyright protection

Pro: This is perhaps the most surefire way to protect your game. If you do this, you probably don't even need the above methods.

Con: It's costly(Hey! $35 is a lot for a guy on a budget!), plus it feels a bit... excessive. Especially if you're making a free game. Plus, the rules would get quite complicated if you're using other people's works in your own, like other people's facesets, scripts, or music. Using this method would surely degrade the quality of your game if you aren't good at drawing or scripting.


EDIT: And here are some methods provided by Archeia_Nessiah:

author=Archeia_Nessiah
1.) Self Dissolving Scripts. Basically make all your script files dissolve or check an important thing and then if it can't find that, it will corrupt data files. So if people tried to use it in their own games, yeah. It's not 100% fool proof, but for someone who knows very little RGSS and tries to steal your stuff, this would work.

2.) Clear all Switches and Variables Names. Basically Change the max to 1, then change it back to 500 for quick clear. At least it'd make things harder to find.

3.) Remember XYZ in rm2k3? If you can somehow do the same thing with RMXP-RMVXAce to read a specialized image format, that will already help you a lot.

4.) Clear all comments and make sure all the aliases in your script are made with your username or some such.

Audio Encryption is still impossible, unfortunately. :(


Well, those are my solutions. If you have any more, or want to discuss one of my own methods, please reply. Thanks!
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5236
A) if you live in the united states, anything you make is automatically copyrighted the moment you make it.

B) I've never heard of this problem, I feel completely confident that it's not actually a thing, and you made it up.

C) If you're giving the game out for free anyway, who cares if someone else is also giving it out for free?

D) The biggest con to posting encrypted files is that no one will play your game, because it will be flagged as a potential virus by every antivirus software on the planet. (Unless you use the built-in encrypter in RPG Maker, which can just be... unencrypted effortlessly by anyone.) Also, I'm not sure how the it would keep people from reposting your game? They can still post the encrypted game anywhere they want. Usually I only see this suggested by dumb noobs who are worried about people stealing their RTP edits that they spent a few hours on and using them in other games.

In summary you are paranoid and this is stupid.
This is the internet. As soon as someone says "Hey, you stole that ____ from ____" then you're into a world of controversy. Everything being essentially timestamped when it goes online just makes theft that much harder.
I think you are blowing this way out of proportion. Are you making a free game? If you are, chances are astronomically small that someone will want to steal your game and claim it as their own. Let's face it, most games aren't worth the effort.
Maybe some of the art assets would be interesting to steal if they are good, but the whole game? I doubt it.

If you're so worried, having a site with your game and info about it is probably the best way to prove it's yours. It also has the added bonus of advertising your game.
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
21217
On the subject, if you do see your work being thefted here on RMN and posted on projects here without your permission, let me or the moderators know. (unless you are Square Enix)
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7542
Wow. It's a bombshell of replies! Alright, this is cool.

LockeZ, Maybe I am paranoid. Maybe this whole conversation is stupid. But, with all due respect, just because you've never heard of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I have seen countless instances of work being stolen, even been a victim of it myself multiple times. Granted, the instances were small and pointless. (An essay I had written about video games being art for a class assignment had been taken and submitted to a school contest and had won honorable mention.) So if I can prevent something like that from happening with my game, I'm okay with being paranoid.

The reason I'm worried about this is because I'm hoping to someday use my game(s) on my resume when I eventually apply to join a development company. It sure would suck if I couldn't use my own game on my resume because someone else posted it and it got popular.


Again, I probably am blowing this way out of proportion, but what's wrong with a little backup plan when things go south? Remember Murphy's Law: "If something can go wrong, it will".
Melkino
solos collectors on purpose
2021
I once had to call out another user in the past for stealing my gamepage's entire CSS. The theft was extremely obvious too; the classes and id's were in the same order and my comments were still in there. So now it's compressed so that it looks like complete nonsense to anyone who looks at it. I still have the original uncompressed code in case I needed to edit things or prove anything, though.

Obfuscating code in general could help a little, like removing all comments and whitespace.
kentona
I am tired of Earth. These people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.
21217
Well, keep in mind RMN has like 1500 free games, and we haven't really encountered all that many instances where someone has submitted a game that wasn't theirs and claiming it as their own (maybe a dozen times in 6 years?), but we have had a few instances of people taking resources without permission. And people will share your game or mirror it elsewhere - heck, even some bot crawlers from places like Softpedia will do it automatically. But they leave things intact, including credit. No sense worrying about it - people like sharing things.

With any significant work, it is usually pretty quickly evident who is the creator. Being quiet about your project is probably working against you, in this regard, actually. Make a gameprofile! Mention your work! Start that Internet audit trail that links that project to you now! Don't delay! Act now!
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5236
author=Red_Nova
Again, I probably am blowing this way out of proportion, but what's wrong with a little backup plan when things go south? Remember Murphy's Law: "If something can go wrong, it will".
And what went wrong here is that you made yourself look like a conspiracy theorist in front of the RMN userbase and now have to start over with a new username out of shame.

author=Red_Nova
LockeZ, Maybe I am paranoid. Maybe this whole conversation is stupid. But, with all due respect, just because you've never heard of it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Yeah I mean I've had a guide I submitted to GameFAQs get sold by people on eBay. I'm not saying theft doesn't exist. But theft where they claim it was theirs all along and you're the one who stole it is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of, because it's literally literally impossible to do that on the internet. Maybe you have heard of this thing called google? It can find all the places where something was posted on the entire internet, and give a date for each of them.

Also, I hate that I have to write "literally literally" to distinguish from "practically literally"

author=Melkino
I once had to call out another user in the past for stealing my gamepage's entire CSS. The theft was extremely obvious too; the classes and id's were in the same order and my comments were still in there. So now it's compressed so that it looks like complete nonsense to anyone who looks at it. I still have the original uncompressed code in case I needed to edit things or prove anything, though.
Lol, this was me, I admit it. I still think CSS code isn't the kind of thing anyone should be able to claim dibs on, because the appearance of the page is going to end up exactly the same whether I use yours or not, the only difference is how long it takes me. It's not creative material, it's just a configuration, a way of making creative material. That's like writing an essay in MS Word, and yelling at someone else for plagiarism because they used the same application preferences as you.

But, I mean, despite the fact that I think it's completely ridiculous to care about, I still complied immediately, because technically you are right.
@kentona I second you on this: Being quiet works against you.

The more you post about your game, the more it becomes clear that you are the true author. Get involved early and no one will be in doubt about your work.

BTW: If someone would steal your idea and you can prove that, this *could* create some hefty "marketing" buzz for your game!
Simple. Don't post it online.
I'm gonna steal Snow Owl's entire game, and rename it Trials of Heshbucken.

Just because.
I do all of my art as custom and I do not give a single fuck if someone steals my art or not. (okay assuming I ever release something)
author=bulmabriefs144
I'm gonna steal Snow Owl's entire game, and rename it Trials of Heshbucken.

Just because.
Go ahead, as long as you don't change anything but the name.
Besides, I got sneaky "made by Owl"'s hidden everywhere.
Theft is a very valid concern, and this a fairly reasonable way to approach the issue. But as always, nothing can be discussed on RMN without someone trying to shoot it down... I mean, c'mon! Is not like taking these precautions are the equivalent of building a nuclear bomb shelter in your backyard and stocking up on non-perishable food. It's more like car insurance or making a will.

#1 Encrypted files may be easily un-encrypted, but it may be difficult enough to thwart a fraction of potential thieves (some people don't even know how to unzip a file). ...But I think the real argument against encrypting your project is that you're going to deter many potential players as well, specially as technology progresses over time and software becomes incompatible or something.

#2 and #3 are good measures, but like you said, #4 is probably the best way to go. It's true that everything is Copyrighted from the moment of its creation, but having it registered is a nice plus. If you really think your work is unique enough to deserve this additional and definitive layer of protection, I think $35 is a very little price to pay. For me, "expensive" would be like hundreds of dollars.

I doubt this subject alone warrants an article, though. But maybe if you focus it on copyright in general it would make a nice read.
I don't think he's being paranoid or whatever, and art theft does happen in RM Communities in general. I've seen it happen in PrinPrin 1.5, ahahaha...

But I think Art Theft only happens when a n00b does it and wants the quickest way out. I do have some suggestions though and I can't give away every counter measures I might have but some would be:

1.) Self Dissolving Scripts. Basically make all your script files dissolve or check an important thing and then if it can't find that, it will corrupt data files. So if people tried to use it in their own games, yeah. It's not 100% fool proof, but for someone who knows very little RGSS and tries to steal your stuff, this would work.

2.) Clear all Switches and Variables Names. Basically Change the max to 1, then change it back to 500 for quick clear. At least it'd make things harder to find.

3.) Remember XYZ in rm2k3? If you can somehow do the same thing with RMXP-RMVXAce to read a specialized image format, that will already help you a lot.

4.) Clear all comments and make sure all the aliases in your script are made with your username or some such.

Audio Encryption is still impossible, unfortunately. :(
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5236
Well, he's talking about people taking his entire game wholesale and claiming they're the ones who made it, not people taking sprites and backgrounds he drew or music he composed. None of your suggestions would actually stop that. What would stop that, though, is the invention of Google. Which is why I was LOLing earlier.

I'm actually morally against making your scripts unusable by other people. You're valuing your own reputation more than the improvement of the indie game community. If you can make other people's games better by doing nothing, you absolutely should, and you're a horrible human being for suggesting otherwise.

Art assets - drawings and music - are perhaps slightly different because they are creative works of art in and of themselves, with their own inherent value. I can see an artistically minded game designer caring more about preserving that art's value and vision than helping other people make better games. I don't personally feel that way about my own creations, but it doesn't bother me when other people do; I understand that they are artists first and game developers second.

Code, though, no. Code is just a means to an end; keeping it to yourself has no benefit. If another game would benefit from using your code, and you don't want them to, I will actually fight you. I will hack your game myself to get the code out of it, and host the new game that's using your code on my own webspace paid for with my own money if I have to. I will take you the fuck down. Because games are important, more important than any one developer's personal ego. You are a game designer, and you have an obligation to make games better! Not to make your game better, but to make games better! There is nothing special about your game that makes it inherently more worthwhile than the rest of the games out there. It might be more worthwhile than specific other games out there, but refusing wholesale to let any game at all benefit from your work except for one is just absurdly conceited.
author=LockeZ
I'm actually morally against making your scripts unusable by other people. You're valuing your own reputation more than the improvement of the indie game community. If you can make other people's games better by doing nothing, you absolutely should, and you're a horrible human being for suggesting otherwise.

I don't like the idea of commissioning someone for over 1000$ and have it be used by other people without my consent, without any changes and reaping the benefits of my hard work when I tried to rack up the money to get the systems I personally want to be customized for my own.. :| I think everyone has the right to choose what they want to share and what they don't want.

Code is still a viable asset that makes your idea come to life and if I want to share, then it should be by my own accord and not by someone else. And some people do consider their programming as Art. Don't be overly conceited.

I think I did my fair share of commissioning scripts for PUBLIC USAGE even and just because I want some of my own stuff personalize means it's not OKAY? That's just fucking stupid I'm sorry. I am so offended. I think you can still improve gaming by INSPIRATION. Not by BLATANT COPIES AND LET THEM GET THOSE SHIT WITHOUT LEARNING IT BY THEMSELVES. When learning is an integral part of indie game development.

Honestly in this kind of community, what IS the difference between a piece of art, a composed piece of music, or a script of some sort. Just because that is your belief doesn't mean it's okay. Everything that is created by anyone is important to them or other people, regardless of the quality OR WHAT IT IS.

By YOUR logic, all art, all music, everything should be freely available if it makes other games better. WHY IS IT JUST CODE? Seriously?
You could always pull a SnowOwl and put your username in the middle of random crap. Find and arbitrary default comment in the RGSS script, and throw your username in the middle of a technical sentence about what the script does. Not only will a thief probably not look for it, but even if they do look, they still might not find it. Copyrighting your game is only worthwhile if it's at least 30% full-custom resources, or a commercial project. In the case of a commercial project, you REALLY want to copyright the hell out of that thing. If somebody recreates your $10 game as a free one, you're screwed out of retirement.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5236
author=Archaea_Nessiah
I think everyone has the right to choose what they want to share and what they don't want.


That would be true, if the game belonged to you. But it doesn't. You belong to it. The games are the ultimate goal, and we are just one more tool used in their crafting.

You're halfway right: in a sense, there's no difference between a sprite, a song, a script, an engine, or a developer. They're all just tools to be used as needed to make the best games possible.
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