You’ve worked on PC game mods before you became a developer in the major industry as an actual job. But that does make me wonder. Is there a chance those mods, and others that are publicly available online, may see legal attention, even if no money is involved? Like maybe they have copyrighted music or artwork, or other IP themed content like some Half-Life mods have for instance?

Yes. Legally speaking, it actually doesn’t matter whether you make money or not, copyright infringement is still copyright infringement even if the infringer doesn’t make a dime off of it. The owner of the IP is within their rights to choose what is and isn’t allowed with their property.

Let’s use a somewhat extreme example. Each of us owns the copyright to our own likeness. No one can legally use my likeness without my permission. No one has the right to make content of me without my permission. I can choose to license my likeness out for use in a video game or a movie or something and I can set the terms and conditions those creators must adhere to in order to retain my permission to use my likeness. It is up to my discretion who gets to use my face, voice, and so on.

Now imagine that somebody decided to take my likeness and deepfake me into pornographic content or white supremacist propaganda or something equally heinous, and then distribute it on the internet without my permission. As long as these people aren’t making any money off of it, should this behavior be allowed? In such a situation, even though no money is changing hands, my likeness would still be associated with things I do not want, nor did I ever give permission to. What if they depicted me as doing things deeply against my religious beliefs? What if they depicted me encouraging or participating in behavior that goes against everything I believe in? I would say no, this shouldn’t be allowed.

This sense of ownership and value extends to the works I create and own. When copyright is infringed, that value is potentially affected. I believe that the current intellectual property system, as it exists, is far from perfect - it is absolutely flawed. But I don’t think the solution is to throw it out completely, because I think that I should be able to own my ideas, creations, and likeness. I think that I should have a say in who gets to use my ideas.

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