It’s been over two months since I originally released a Fallout 4 mod called “Donald Trump Companion & Quest – fully voiced” on Nexusmods. The idea was to create a satirical impression of the current race for president in the US. Unfortunately, the mod was deleted by the staff just a couple of hours after it was posted, insisting copyright infringement.
Let me share with you my opinion about this. I’m not a lawyer, so I might be wrong eventually. But I’ve done some research and these are my conclusions.
Let’s take a little journey to the lands of copyright law. The audio assets for the character voices originate from speeches, rallies and interviews of Hillary and Donald. Undoubtfully they’re both U.S. citizens and their audio was recorded in the U.S., making the U.S. Copyright Law the most important here. Even though Nexusmods is located in the United Kingdom and the U.K. Copyright Law technically applies to them, you’d never see someone from the U.S. suing a person in a foreign country for something that would be absolutely legal in the U.S., right? But before we move to the U.K., let’s first have a look at the situation in The States.
In general, all speeches recorded to fixed media (video, audio) are copyright protected. The U.S. Law makes a few exceptions. For example, speeches of federal employees within the scope of their employment go to public domain and are not copyright protected at all. You can read it in all detail here. But let’s just assume every audio I used is copyright protected.
Now turn on your TV. Zap into a news channel or, even better: political comedy. What do you see? They show clips and cutouts from speeches of Trump, Hillary and many other politicans. They comment them and make fun of them. Some of these TV shows create patchworks of snippets and make the politicans say things they originally hadn’t said to make them look ridiculous. It’s great fun. But do you seriously believe these television channels asked permission to use the assets and got it? Surely not. The only reason they can legally do this is the Fair Use doctrine.
[…] the fair use of a copyrighted work, […] such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
So this tells us it’s completely fine to use small portions of copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism (including parody), comment, news, reseach, education and so on, as long as you’re not using a substantial part. Non-profit use even compliments that. That’s just exactly what I did, and I really fail to see a reason why a mod for a video game can’t be Fair Use. There’s no difference between a funny video clip containing snippets from speeches and a game mod containing the same. The mod might be interactive, but does that make it worse? I’ll gently suggest the opposite.
Let’s have quick look at Britain. Guess what, the U.S. isn’t the only country with such exceptions in their copyright law. You can actually find similar things amongst most western countries. The U.K. covers these in their Fair Dealing Doctrine, making the use legal even on that rainy island.
To end this ramble about the legal situation, let me point out one more thing. It’s what actually bothers me even more than the Fair Use thing. Why would you, as a file hoster, a service provider, take pro-active action against your mod uploaders when you don’t have to? A file hoster can’t be held responsible for the content the users upload, unless your service is designed for the purpose of illegal activities (e.g. the Megaupload case), which Nexusmods certainly is not. So when you’re taking down content without a qualified takedown request from a rights owner, you’re really unaware of what you’re doing. It doesn’t make any sense.
When the mod vanished from The Nexus, I immediately stopped working on it because I thought it wasn’t worth the time if I can’t have it uploaded on at least one of the major sources for Fallout 4 mods. Since Bethesda.net doesn’t allow “real-world political content” in their modding guidelines, I had nowhere to go. I had a few people message me, asking for permission to share the mod on reddit or elsewhere and I agreed. I didn’t really care much at this point.
Few weeks later, I stumbled upon a video of a YouTuber, Assassinhater, who had put my mod on display, showing a good share of the contents and dialogues. I couldn’t believe how many views that video got in such a short period of time. It’s been seen over 130.000 times and still counting. I read through many of the comments and I was amazed by the amount of them being positive. Some of them even inspired me for future content. So I decided to get back on it and open my own blog where I could host the mod and some other projects I’m working on.
This is the day I’m re-releasing the mod, now updated to version 1.1 with the following changes:
- Hillary Clinton NPC made talkable to. When doing the recruitment quest, you’re given the choice to bribe, threaten or attack/kill her.
This is one thing that’s actually based on player feedback. Some people found it disturbing that you were forced to kill the NPC in order to advance with the quest. I have to agree with that. When the vanilla game gives you quest that involves the fate of NPCs, you usually have multiple choices. You can bribe, threaten or attack. This is what I did here, giving you the choice. I took the chance to implement some dialogue lines with her that will hopefully make you at least smile.
- Fixed a bug that would let the player recruit Donald as a companion before the recruitment quest is completed.
- Fixed some typos in the dialogue subtitles and item names.
- Slightly altered Donalds face.
Updating from previous versions
If you already have v1.0 installed, it is safe to just overwrite the old files with the new ones. But please consider: I really encourage you to make a clean save and re-install the mod. The reason is that if you already finished the recruitment quest in v1.0, you’re missing out most of the “hillaryous” content from this update.
How to do that:
- Take all items from Donald, save and exit the game.
- Uninstall the mod, load the game, then save and exit again.
- Install the new version and finally load your savegame.
- You can now do the recruitment quest again and give him back his items.
This update pretty much focused on the Hillary NPC. Next update will focus on Trump and his yet incomplete dialogues and random shouts.
Until then, have a good one everybody.