Several answers for recent questions have included large tables of information that were taken from a commercially sold strategy guide. The content is very useful, but I'm a bit worried that we might be opening ourselves up to copyright violations. Is it OK for us to post information from these guides like this? Do users have to do something specific in their answer to make it legal?

Some examples:

What Titles and Rewards can be earned from the Chocobo Racing minigame?

What are the different monster attributes?

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5 Answers 5

It seems to me like this is the same ground that was covered previously with respect to website content, and in particular note this part of Oak's answer:

In my opinion: ... Copying a few lines from a strategy guide which is not available for free - should be avoided. At most it can appear paraphrased and properly attributed.

Note that it's not the accepted answer, and there wasn't really a consensus as near as I could tell ... plus it's difficult to paraphrase a table, and I suppose there's an argument that the information in the table is readily obtainable from anywhere (as long as it doesn't require access to protected source code).

Entering information from tables seems least likely to be a problem to me. Copying and pasting "unique" content, like strategies, would seem to be a problem. See this quote from nolo.com (from the page I link to below):

Rule 2: Are Your [sic] Competing With the Source You're Copying From?

Without consent, you ordinarily cannot use another person's protected expression in a way that impairs (or even potentially impairs) the market for his or her work.

I think one could make the case that we are competing with strategy guides.

Also, I am fairly certain that mechanically reproducing content, like scanning and uploading pages from a guide, would be a problem. (Fair use, as I understand it in the US, would likely not cover such a post.)

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There's however the fact that you can't copyright facts. –  badp Feb 13 '12 at 19:46
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correct - something that was pretty big in the US a few years ago when MLB tried (and failed) to prevent sites from using results from baseball games for fantasy sports. That's the source of my "least likely to be a problem" thought. It should be perfectly fine to note all that information yourself and post it; reproducing a table that already exists doesn't seem to be as much of a problem, especially if it's already sorted in a logical way ... what's the difference between copying and citing someone else's table and making your own? I'm not sure if there is a difference. –  Dave DuPlantis Feb 13 '12 at 20:25
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@badp paraphrase, then. Write that fact with your own words. It may be silly, but I otherwise feel it's pretty problematic copying any content from a non-free strategy guide. –  Oak Feb 13 '12 at 20:27
    
This represents my opinion more or less exactly, +1. –  Matthew Read Feb 13 '12 at 21:03

IANAL

If the information cannot be found in a source whose licence allows redistribution, or if the information cannot be reasonably compiled in a fairly straightforward means and without substantial time investment, then I would say no, you cannot reproduce the information without express consent.

If you can reasonably compile the information yourself in a short time span, then you still shouldn't copy someone else's work but it would be much harder to demonstrate the worth of such a work (eg for damages). I think this is a less clear situation ...

If you actually reproduce the table by research, using publicly available material, then it's your original work, even if it duplicates someone else's published table.

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I wrestled with this on one question I answered: I knew where about half of them were, and tried to weigh between:

  • Providing half an answer, which would lead the question to become a low-quality list as other people provide piecemeal answers
  • Providing no answer, even though I know half the answer, and if I had spent time finding the other half, my answer would not be substantially different than the strategy guide info (it's straight up facts)
  • Provide the full answer and attribute the whole thing—even the stuff I knew about—to the guide

I decided in the end to post the whole thing to ensure the question didn't devolve into a piecemeal list, but I purposefully cited the guide and made it community wiki to allow people to correct any information I got wrong and so I didn't benefit from information I did not personally find.

Now that I see someone is going around copying all the tables from the guide, providing them as non-CW answers (and even worse, citing me as justification for doing it), I see I definitely made the wrong choice. This is bad, and taking all the answers collectively, goes beyond what I would consider fair use: excerpting is fine, but copying large sections of a work in a way that would materially harm its salability is not.

I went ahead and flagged my answer for deletion (can't delete it myself since it was accepted).

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I deleted your answer because you asked for it, but I haven't had a chance to read this discussion to tell you if I agree or not... flag again if you want it undeleted (although I think you can do it yourself) –  jmfsg Feb 13 '12 at 18:27
    
@JuanManuel Thanks: only mods can delete mod-deleted posts, but I doubt I'll want to undelete this answer as I feel icky from the whole thing. –  user3389 Feb 13 '12 at 18:31
    
@Mark You may want to leave a ping on the asker's question and direct them to this Meta discussion, so they don't get confused as to why the accepted answer is gone. –  FAE Feb 13 '12 at 18:36
    
What about putting in the half you know and making it CW, so others can easily update it as they complete the game? Raven did that with the list of all dynasty weapons question for Heroes VI (gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/33945/…). –  Jason Berkan Feb 13 '12 at 18:39
    
@JasonBerkan Doing half and making CW is quickly going to result in the same thing. The very first Google hit is this, and someone is bound to copy & paste that into a CW answer about it. I don't know. I don't feel like Mark's answer was a problem. It's not harming sales any more than IGNs is. In fact, from what we've read, it created a sale! –  Sterno Feb 13 '12 at 18:39
    
@JasonBerkan I think at this point my knowledge is tainted: I guess I could only provide the seals I personally have on my save file, but that seems pretty weak. These straight up factual questions really give me a headache, as it's hard to demonstrate you didn't just lift it from a copyrighted source. –  user3389 Feb 13 '12 at 18:45
    
@Mark Is posting the IGN data (with proper link and attribution) a problem? That keeps us from losing the content, but is a more solid citation. –  bwarner Feb 13 '12 at 18:57
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@bwarner I think doing so would fail all four pillars of fair use: copied the work in whole, not using it for critique, using it for commercial purposes, and redirecting traffic (and thus, ad revenue) from a competitor. Linking to it would be fine, but a link isn't really an answer. –  user3389 Feb 13 '12 at 19:07
    
@MarkTrapp Which is what I was trying to capture in my post below. If we decide that taking information from a strategy guide shouldn't be allowed (even with citation) then every other question and answer on the site that has a website cited with the information posted in the answer should be removed or changed unless the website posted gives permission. I can't speak for everyone on the web, but when I see links to sources I usually head to the source to get the information first hand. –  Adanion Feb 13 '12 at 19:12
    
@Mark So you're saying you disagree with Grace's answer on meta.gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/705/…? –  bwarner Feb 13 '12 at 20:06
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@bwarner That answer of mine probably needs a revision because there are some unfortunate implications with my phrasings. I was only speaking about "copying versus paraphrasing", not about how much can be copied, or from where. –  Grace Note Feb 13 '12 at 20:25

So long as they cite the source I don't see a problem.

I've done some research into copyright laws and fair use, and I'm no longer sure if this would fall under fair use. Here's an excerpt from the U.S. Copyright Office website, on their page about fair use:

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”

Our site doesn't seem to fall under any of these, so I would say that we do not fit fair use. However, in my research it would seem the definition of Fair Use is very vague, and is often left up to the Judge to decide whether or not it would be considered "Fair Use", so it's still hard to say. Either way, it's probably better to er on the side of caution and not allow users to quote published strategy guides.

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What if they took a picture of that page of the book, and uploaded it as an image, but still sourced it? Would that be different? –  Sterno Feb 13 '12 at 17:09
    
In that case, I'm not sure. –  Wipqozn Feb 13 '12 at 17:11
    
There's also the question of what constitutes a proper citation. I think you need to include things like title, publisher, author, etc. –  bwarner Feb 13 '12 at 17:34

I was concerned with it as well, which is why I made sure to cite the guide when I created my answers. The biggest problem that I have with saying "Should we allow information from the guide to be available on our site" is this: What is stopping someone from finding the information from another source, be it Gamefaqs, Gamefront, PS3Trophies, or Joe Schmoe's random blog post and re-posting it here? In fact this has been done numerous times on this site for many different games. If we are going to have a problem with taking information from a game guide and re-posting it here, I think we should make that stance about taking information from another website or blog.

Taking pictures or scanning pages from a game guide, is in my opinion, a very, very bad idea (And is illegal without a doubt unless what you are taking pictures of is public domain).

As far as the answers that I posted that were linked by bwarner, I knew most of what I posted. I will admit that I didn't know them all. I could have loaded up the game to try and figure out what I was missing. I could have gone to Google, done some searches, and found the missing information. I chose to use the information from the guide, cite my source, and give the viewers a link to purchase the guide.

Regardless of the outcome of this discussion, I have changed my answers to what I knew without the guide and found the missing elements via the game or another website. I still stand with what I have said above and in comments. That is my opinion, and for now at least, I am sticking to it.

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In addition to what I have said in this post and my comment above, we have to go by the honor system when dealing with information online. Anyone can say, "Oh yeah I spent over an hour compiling this information while playing the game" or "This is why your SQL query isn't working even though I found out why thanks to another blog post I just read" This is the problem with the interwebs and why SOPA was gaining so much support from publishers and companies that produce information for the masses. –  Adanion Feb 13 '12 at 19:15
    
I would rather encourage people citing their sources than discourage it. –  Adanion Feb 13 '12 at 19:37
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The difference between using a guide as a source and using a free-access website as a source is that the latter usually explicitly permits re-use under certain circumstances, while the former prohibits re-use except in specific cases: a better analogy would be comparing information from a guide with information on a site that's behind a pay wall. That said, badp brings up a good point in this case: facts themselves can't be copyrighted, so that leaves a gray area. We may find a consensus that addresses your specific cases separately from the rest. –  Dave DuPlantis Feb 13 '12 at 20:21

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