Today the Free Software Foundation released version 3 of the GNU General Public License. The new version of the license contains a lengthy patent license provision, copied below, that users should be aware of. Given that GNU GPLv3 might apply to some code used in your game, you should read it and make sure you understand all its ramifications. Give us a call if you need legal representation regarding open source contract issues, and we can discuss your situation.

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11. Patents.

A “contributor” is a copyright holder who authorizes use under this License of the Program or a work on which the Program is based. The work thus licensed is called the contributor's “contributor version”.

A contributor's “essential patent claims” are all patent claims owned or controlled by the contributor, whether already acquired or hereafter acquired, that would be infringed by some manner, permitted by this License, of making, using, or selling its contributor version, but do not include claims that would be infringed only as a consequence of further modification of the contributor version. For purposes of this definition, “control” includes the right to grant patent sublicenses in a manner consistent with the requirements of this License.

Each contributor grants you a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free patent license under the contributor's essential patent claims, to make, use, sell, offer for sale, import and otherwise run, modify and propagate the contents of its contributor version.

In the following three paragraphs, a “patent license” is any express agreement or commitment, however denominated, not to enforce a patent (such as an express permission to practice a patent or covenant not to sue for patent infringement). To “grant” such a patent license to a party means to make such an agreement or commitment not to enforce a patent against the party.

If you convey a covered work, knowingly relying on a patent license, and the Corresponding Source of the work is not available for anyone to copy, free of charge and under the terms of this License, through a publicly available network server or other readily accessible means, then you must either (1) cause the Corresponding Source to be so available, or (2) arrange to deprive yourself of the benefit of the patent license for this particular work, or (3) arrange, in a manner consistent with the requirements of this License, to extend the patent license to downstream recipients. “Knowingly relying” means you have actual knowledge that, but for the patent license, your conveying the covered work in a country, or your recipient's use of the covered work in a country, would infringe one or more identifiable patents in that country that you have reason to believe are valid.

If, pursuant to or in connection with a single transaction or arrangement, you convey, or propagate by procuring conveyance of, a covered work, and grant a patent license to some of the parties receiving the covered work authorizing them to use, propagate, modify or convey a specific copy of the covered work, then the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it.

A patent license is “discriminatory” if it does not include within the scope of its coverage, prohibits the exercise of, or is conditioned on the non-exercise of one or more of the rights that are specifically granted under this License. You may not convey a covered work if you are a party to an arrangement with a third party that is in the business of distributing software, under which you make payment to the third party based on the extent of your activity of conveying the work, and under which the third party grants, to any of the parties who would receive the covered work from you, a discriminatory patent license (a) in connection with copies of the covered work conveyed by you (or copies made from those copies), or (b) primarily for and in connection with specific products or compilations that contain the covered work, unless you entered into that arrangement, or that patent license was granted, prior to 28 March 2007.

Nothing in this License shall be construed as excluding or limiting any implied license or other defenses to infringement that may otherwise be available to you under applicable patent law.

---end of provision---

If you're looking for copies of patents, here are a few resources to help you out:
1) The USPTO web site. Great for getting text searchable copies
2) Google's patent site. Great for searching patents and reviewing text searachable results
3) Free searching and PDF copies of patents.
4) Free searching and PDF copies of patents.
I recently wrote a short article regarding Film Sanitization, the practice of removing objectionable content from a movie without the copyright owner's consent. Groups remove the sex, violence, nudity, language, drug use, etc., to create versions suitable for "families and children." This raises various copyright issues, discussed in my article, which you can download and read here. The initial conclusion is that those who sanitize films without the copyright owner's consent do so at their own risk.

Similar issues could very well arise with respect to video games, except that it's harder to remove just the objectionable content from a video game without the help and assistance of the game's developer, as evidenced by the "Hot Coffee" exploit for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In any event, some issues to ponder, and you might just find the attached article an interesting, if brief, read.

Ok, consider this post shameless self-promotion. Steve Chang and I were recently interviewed by a writer at, and are showcased in an article about playing video games at work.

Link to Article.
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