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Update: Valve has now taken it down.


Here's a "fun" one for you. The developers behind the free and open source RTS named 0 A.D. (pronounced “zero-ey-dee”) have announced that someone (they don't know who) has put it up on Steam.

This is sometimes the perils of open source, as there's a lot of people out their looking to make a quick-buck and they don't care who they burn in the process. To be clear, the version of 0 A.D. that has released on Steam (with it missing the second dot in the name), is not actually from the people who make the game — even though Wildfire Games are listed as the developer on Steam it's not them. Confusing right? Valve allowed it and approved it, so it does make me curious what legal checks are even done for this to happen.

I was notified of this on Twitter, with the official 0 A.D. account tweeting:

Turns out the only reason @YouTube added the game back is because somebody uploaded 0 A.D. to  @Steam without our consent. It also explains the typo in the name…

Another tweet sent today by the 0 A.D. team:

IMPORTANT: The person who released the game on steam today is charging 8€ for it. Please do not buy it. The game is free and always will be. It might contain viruses and other malware.

I imagine it doesn't have anything nefarious inside it, otherwise you really would have to wonder what Valve are doing…

Looking on the official game forum there's a topic asking about it, the developers seems to be at a loss as to what is happening.

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Liam Dawe 21 Oct, 2022
Yes Steam pulled it, noted right at the top of the article.
play0ad 22 Oct, 2022
So I went around and asked STK, Super Tux, Warzone 2100 Zero-K and Wesnoth.

Zero-K:

Quoting: NRHD
Quoting: play0adDoes anyone know if Zero-K had to relicense before going on Steam?
ZK did not relicense before going to Steam and afaict this kind of threat was never evaluated
Quoting: play0adMy question is more along the line of can a gpl2/ccbysa project go on steam without CLA
Plenty others did i think. Wesnoth is gplv2 and is on Steam

Ah:
QuoteAnother case is when you have an optional feature to interface with a proprietary application on the system, for example a FOSS communication program that has the functionality to access the address books of third-party applications, including proprietary ones like Outlook. In this case the library isn't required at all for the main functionality.
If steam is optional this interpretation lets you off the hook
QuoteNote that you'd probably be violating the GPL if you use any third-party GPL code or libraries unless the proprietary library is part of the operating system. So don't use third-party GPL code and third-party proprietary code together. (Of course, if you're not distributing the third party library OR you're using only your own code, it would probably be legal, but you'd be building a software combination that's illegal to distribute in a working form.)

SuperTuxKart:

Quoting: BenauStan most contributed stk agreeded on that, the rest will be cleared after 🇦🇶 is taken out Actually stan supertux project is a better asker


SuperTux:

Quoting: Semphris(Lesuperchef) SuperTux does not use Steam's library, which is proprietary
Some people said the author of PhysFS also did a library that would allow GPL apps to use Steam's library, but I haven't looked into it

It seems he did https://github.com/icculus/steamshim so at worst we could use that.

Wesnoth:

Quoting: Pentarctagonmy understanding is that it's not an issue since we don't use the steamworks sdk for anything.
https://partner.steamgames.com/doc/sdk/uploading/distributing_opensource says
QuoteBut I saw a GPL-licensed application on Steam!
This can happen if the author of the code that is GPL-licensed has given the permission to do so. The author can of course always (a) decide to grant Valve a different license than the author grants everyone else or (b) decide that what the Steamworks SDK does is just a communication with a service that does not invoke the copyleft requirement of the GPL.
but we just plain don't use the sdk in the first place
Quoting: play0adAsking cause 0 A.D. has no CLA
So we can't get the consent of all past and dead contributors to do it
It seems to me like it's possible but I have yet to find a source that actually does it ^^
yeah, wesnoth has no CLA either, so we couldn't relicense even if we wanted to.
well, technically contributors agree to "GPL 2 or later", so if needed at some point we can say it's GPL 3 rather than GPL 2
but that'd be it

Quoting: pleasereadthemanualIf you're curious how that relicensing exercise panned out for VLC (they did get it relicensed in the end), here's their press release on the matter: https://www.videolan.org/press/lgpl-libvlc.html

Yeah I remember reading about this. It was when I looked for the apple store. Most of the links I consulted then are in that question.

https://opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/9500/is-apple-allowed-to-distribute-gplv3-licensed-software-through-its-ios-app-store

Asked BAR as well and they said they were waiting for that roadmap to finish:

Quoting: ⛏ PtaQ ⛏We have a checklist of stuff we wanna do before Steam
You only have one shot at it and we wanna makes sure it is in the best shape possible (and infra is ready for the influx)
https://www.beyondallreason.info/development/steam-release

Asked Warzone 2100 as well seems like they have a copy cat that do not bother to update it.
Quoting: pastdueNothing done through or with the Steam build supports the project, unfortunately.
A brief summary of the history of the Steam build, and the individual who uploaded it:
- We reached out prior to his release with an offer to collaborate, and raising potential concerns and issues. He was fairly unreceptive and is now largely unresponsive.
- He packaged the 3.3.0 public release, but incorrectly, so we can’t really even help debug issues with it. He continues to leave the package with outdated releases.
- Legitimate questions / concerns on the Steam forums continue to go missing (i.e. are deleted), instead of being addressed, as relayed to us by numerous community members.
- At the moment we're far more focused on working on improving the game and the infrastructure around it to support all of our new contributors.
- So we encourage folks to avoid the Steam release and just download directly from wz2100.net, GitHub, or SourceForge.


TLDR; Seems it's possible, with or without hacks depending on that SDK linking issue.


But in our case that doesn't solve the infrastructure problem and the fact that a huge number people on the lobby could kill the lobby VM and all the other services we have running on our server, and that the lag in late game could be a major turn off for players, ruining the reputation of the game on steam and elsewhere.

A question we get often is how many developers are there working on 0 A.D. to which the answer is it's complicated. There is a big contribution bar to match the level of quality we want to achieve, and there are few resources to review and ensure that the contributions match the criteria.

We have two senior C++ senior devs, and one of them is mostly AFK, the rest is junior to mid level and cannot review the contributions we actually need, such as threading and other performance improvements that could make it so we can go on platforms to get more players.
slaapliedje 22 Oct, 2022
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Quoting: ElectricPrismUbuntu has a paywall for their OS download

RedHat charges yearly licenses and the Linux Kernel doesn't flip out on them for it.
Never seen a paywall for Ubuntu. And you can get a free developer download for Redhat.
emphy 23 Oct, 2022
Quoting: ElectricPrism...

Ubuntu has a paywall for their OS download

...

Just checked, and at the moment they don't have one. As far as I know, they never had one. The "worst" I recall having seen from canonical in this area is a pre-download donation request which was easily skipped.
ssj17vegeta 24 Oct, 2022
I think it's a perfect opportunity to thank Wildfire Games for this gem that is 0 A.D, one of the first open-source RTS that was actually really good-looking and fun to play back then (more than) 10 years ago.
slaapliedje 24 Oct, 2022
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Quoting: emphy
Quoting: ElectricPrism...

Ubuntu has a paywall for their OS download

...

Just checked, and at the moment they don't have one. As far as I know, they never had one. The "worst" I recall having seen from canonical in this area is a pre-download donation request which was easily skipped.
Yeah, no clue why someone ever thought there was a paywall for it. Hell, they used to offer sending you physical CDs for free. I know, I still have some.
cprn 8 Dec, 2022
First of all, sorry for replying to an old comment but I don't visit GOL often any more.

Quoting: ElectricPrism
Quoting: cprn
Quoting: ElectricPrism[...]3. The Legal Angle

On #3 -- the Legal Angle -- strictly speaking there is nothing wrong with charging money for GPL software.[...]

There are two types of copyrights - I'm not sure what's the legal term in English but one type is money related and the other one is bragging rights. You can never get rid off bragging rights - you're the author and you cannot "sell" or "give away" being an author.

I'm not really sure what you're referencing or which region of the world.

Most if not all of the EU, I guess. It seems the proper English name for the personal aspect of authorship (bragging) is "moral rights" or sometimes "personal copyrights" and the proper English name for the economic aspect of it is just "copyright" or "proprietary copyrights". What I meant is one cannot pretend to be the author even if they have obtained the right to sell a piece of code. Of course one can just take a GPL licensed project and put it on Steam for money but they have to put it there as themselves and if they do so "as is" without asking the original authors for a special lease or some kind of one-off license, they'll most certainly violate parts of the project that aren't GPL licensed, like media files or trademarks.

Quoting: ElectricPrism
Quoting: cprnSo no, strictly speaking it's not okay, to just "redistribute" the project and take money for it.

I know it seems shitty, but people charge to redistribute FOSS all the time.

Not really. What people charge for is mostly the work around the project, e.g. services they provide like hosting or support. Also they don't pretend to be the author and they clearly attribute the authors + distribute the source code and license. And if they do change the source (to fit their packaging) they do so in general manner and send the patches upstream. If they wouldn't, AFAIK it'd violate most of FOSS licenses.

Quoting: ElectricPrismZorinOS ( https://zorin.com/os/pro/purchase/ ) is a distro which packages and sells collections of free software.

Ardour ( https://community.ardour.org/download?platform=win&architecture=x86_64&type=compiled ) sells copies of its software when you select Windows or Mac installation.

ElementaryOS had a paywall to download their OS ( And then all of you flipped out on them )

Ubuntu has a paywall for their OS download

RedHat charges yearly licenses and the Linux Kernel doesn't flip out on them for it.

They're a distribution. When you put work in compiling packages together, integrating them, preparing an installer, a set of guidelines for how to put new packages into your distribution, often a dedicated package manager, when you host your own repositories, on top of that provide support, etc., you can take money for it even if all of the software you compiled together is free of charge.

Quoting: ElectricPrismFlatHub could easily have a free repository with [ slow speed ] and one with [ fast speed ] and throttle the slow one and sell access to the [ fast speed ] legally to make a quick buck -- the same goes for any Linux distro with repos. It would be 100% legal.

Absolutely, as long as they don't pretend to be the authors of that software and they only act as a mirror and everything in their repository is actually licensed in a way that allows for that distribution. Mind you games, i.e. media files, often aren't.

Quoting: ElectricPrismThere's really not much difference between a maintainer who repackages for Steam or a FOSS Game and then shoves it into the AUR ( https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/0ad-git ), or Debian ( https://packages.debian.org/stable/0ad )

Both are repackaging and redistributing.

AUR is distributing installation scripts (PKGBUILDs) and not the software itself. That software is being downloaded by said scripts from the original authors or from different repositories. It's more like someone here posting a link to a software instead of the software itself (e.g. a link to GitLab instead of the content of a source file). Also maintainers are often people directly involved in a project or sometimes there's an explicit permission for adding a project to a repository included in the package (especially when it comes to media files).

Quoting: ElectricPrism
Quoting: cprnIt'd have to be "redistributed" under a different name and with at least some (if not all) media files replaced or missing.

Not really. If there were a AppImage and they simply redistributed it without modification AFAIK that would fulfill all obligations just fine.
If you ZIP a directory full of mixed licensed files it doesn't absolve you of the obligation of keeping to that licensing. If you link to a ZIP file hosted by someone else, it's okay. I'd guess it's the same with AppImages. And FOSS licensing mostly lets you do it as long as you do so free of charge and e.g. attribute the original project.

Quoting: ElectricPrism
Quoting: cprnOn top of that a clear attribution to original product would have to be made.

This is a moral argument, which directly contradicts the part you wrote before ("It'd have to be "redistributed" under a different name") -- which go ahead and argue it, i'm not going to disagree -- but again from my original post I prefer to stick to the legal requirements.

Yeah, I agree the way I wrote it in that post is unclear. IMHO it'd have to legally be one or the other. Either all of the parts of the project that aren't licensed for direct redistribution would have to be replaced - that includes titles, trademarks, media files - or individual licenses for above mentioned parts would have to be fulfilled however needed, e.g. by proper attribution.

Well, what I meant before is either now clear or even more convoluted but I hope it's the former. It's hard to speak about such matters when you aren't native with a law degree on top and possibly the whole matter is regarded in the foreign legal system.


Last edited by cprn on 8 December 2022 at 12:06 pm UTC
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