So. It happened again. This time is Zynga, who have cloned Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower without giving any proper credit. They will earn money on the ideas and the creative work of other people. People who, being a small studio of three, cannot likely afford to sue the big ones.
Now, let’s talk copyright. Copyright was invented for a very simple reason: to encourage the production of creative operas by protecting them against theft and copy. Unfortunately it seems to work only for the wealthy and powerful big companies, these days: they can lobby to promote draconian laws as SOPA and ACTA, they can afford lawyers and so on. They are forbidding something was once natural: the creation of derivative operas (like Joyce’s Ulysses, to give a quite famous example). But while crying for the damages caused by piracy they seem to have absolutely no problem in stealing other people’s work. Especially if these people are too weak to take a stance against them. And we are seeing this more and more and more.
Just to be clear
I know very well that nothing is really created, that everything you come into contact with influences you in one way or another. I also know that copyrighting game mechanics and ideas is simply not possible (and stupid), because it would mean to stop having game genres (and to stop exploring certain ways of intend games). I’m even tolerant with piracy, which I think is inevitable and in some ways even positive. For sure I don’t like DRM or walled gardens, even if I can live with them if the added value they give me is enough. I think that the consumer should be treated with more respect, not like she’s a thief. Given all that, I also think a line needs to be drawn. And we have to find a good way to encourage creativity without this becoming a weapon in the hands of who’s rich and powerful. We need to protect in a clever and fair way all the intellectual properties, being the owner Zynga, Nimblebit, Vlambeer or Electronic Arts. We need to allow derivative operas but to stop who clones the work of other people.
Clones can’t be a weapon
And there’s one last problem, which is related exactly to what Zynga did with Nimblebit. A few months ago, Zynga tried to acquire the small team. They refused. Then, the cloning happened. This sound damn bad. It’s like they retaliate against not having obtained what they wanted. It is a nasty and vicious behavior, sadly famous in my country. We call it “mafia”, here. You think it’s a bit too much? Well, other people think the same. Nicholas Lovell, for example:
For me, that puts the cloning in a different light. It’s not just shameless copying of creativity by a heartless corporation: it’s a punishment and a threat. I can now imagine the approach from Zynga’s mergers and acquisition team to a small indie with an interesting game.
I’m a big fan of this Jarmusch quote:
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
But heck, let’s try to take our things somewhere, not just carbon-copy them.