Thursday, October 1, 2020

Know Your Rights

Genshin Impact. It's the cool new game that everyone's playing. Belghast is playing. Tobold is playing. TheRoyalFamily is playing. 

I was thinking of playing, too but so far I haven't even downloaded the game. Not because the download can be very slow, or so I hear. No, because I'm not sure if I should.

Before I started, I thought I'd just better read the small print. I'm one of those strange people who reads the instructions before plugging something in. I also take a look at the Terms of Service or the End User Licence Agreement before downloading or installing a new game. 

Okay, to be realistic about it, I don't always do it and I rarely read the whole thing. If it's a new game from a developer whose other games I already play, I take it on trust that the terms and conditions will be similar enough not to warrant a close reading. I still might skim-read them all the same, just to see if anything leaps out.

When the game comes from a company I've never heard of, though, then I take a good look at what I'm committing to by clicking those consent boxes. Or, as is more common these days, giving implied consent, merely by allowing the software to reside on my machine.

Genshin Impact has an exemplary T.O.S. It's clear and easy to follow and important parts are emphasized. The one element that's turned out to be quite controversial, the bit about the anti-cheat software, is near the top, and the advice on what to do if you're not happy about it is highlighted in bold:

"If you do not agree to any term of this Agreement, please do not, either directly or indirectly, use or access to the miHoYo Services in any way."


I thought about that. I'm not really bothered about anti-cheat programs as a rule. Over the years I've played plenty of games that use some form of anti-cheat software. Usually I just let it ride. I don't cheat so they don't affect me directly, by intent. I don't want other people to cheat if it's going to impact my own gameplay, so I can see how they're in my own interest. And I can't say I've ever noticed them slowing down my P.C. or anything like that.

Of course, we're all probably a little antsy right now about data collection. It's been a bit of a thing of late, hasn't it? It's never been a particular concern of mine but you don't have to be polishing your tinfoil hat to be just a tad uncomfortable about installing software from a source about which you really don't know all that much, so it can report back on your activities to someone you really have no idea who they are.

Especially when that software runs all the time, even when you're not playing the game. It seems that raised red flags for quite a lot of people. Enough, apparently, to get it changed. 

So now the anti-cheat program only runs while you play. That seems reasonable, doesn't it?

Only, being told in plain language not to play the game if you don't like the rules makes you think. It made me think, anyway. So I read the rest of the T.O.S. Carefully. All of it. And I found a few things I liked a lot less than an anti-cheat program.

There's a lengthy section on Intellectual Property rights I was none too keen on, for a start. I've run into this before. There was another game, an MMORPG I won't name (mostly because I'm not sure I can remember the exact title and I don't want to go research it right now) that I was thinking of playing until I read the Terms and Conditions and found they included signing away all rights to anything you ever wrote about the game anywhere, ever. 


As a blogger who only plays most games in order to write about them, that could be a bit of an issue. I'm already well aware that I don't own any of the screenshots I use and I'm fine with that but not even owning the amusing captions I give them? Really?

Genshin Impact doesn't go that far. By playing the game you agree to give up any and all rights to any "User Contribution" you make on any "websites, forums, communities, networks, or other interactive features" that form part of miHoYo Services, "including but not limited to any text, forum post, chat post, profile, widget, message, link, feedback, email, music, sound, graphics, picture, video, code, audio visual or other materials".

The rights you give up "irrevocably and unconditionally grant miHoYo a global, fully paid up, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, sub-licensable and unlimited right and license to use, copy, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works of, reformat, distribute, manufacture, sell, license, sublicense, transfer, rent, lease, transmit, communicate, publicly display, publicly perform, provide access to, or otherwise practice such User Contributions or any portion thereof, in any and all media, formats and forms, known now or hereafter devised." Which, I think you'll agree, is pretty comprehensive.

As far as I can tell, though, there's no attempt or intention to control or claim anything you might write or draw or record on services not supplied by miHOYO. Such as, for example, a blog hosted on Blogger.

No problem, then. It did make me wonder just what other games I play have to say on the subject, though. 


Daybreak's T.O.S. is very similar (Check 9: Submissions). So is Blizzard's (see D.4 - User Created or Uploaded Content).

Guild Wars 2, weirdly, owns your Account ID and Display Name, which might come as a surprise to those of us who've been using the same ident for longer than the game's been around. ArenaNet also owns all rights to any suggestion you ever made to them about how to run their game, something I'd be more than happy to cede if they ever felt like putting any of my ideas into practice.

Most disturbingly, they also lay claim to all our character names and "characteristics related" to them, whatever that means. I guess there's no re-making your GW2 characters in any other games even with the names changed.

"You acknowledge, and further agree, that You have no IP right related to any Account ID, any Account Display Name, any ArenaNet Message Board ID, any communication or information on any ArenaNet Message Board provided by You or anyone else, any information, feedback or communication related to the Game, any Character ID or characteristics related to a Character ID..."

Sometimes you don't have to play the game or even install it to sign away your rights. The Genshin Impact T.O.S. confirms that just looking at the website constitutes consent to the terms of the whole agreement:

"By making a registration or application for the Account, downloading the software of miHoYo Game(s), playing the miHoYo Game(s) (including but not limited to updates, upgrades, patches), browsing our websites, accessing various online operation or maintenance services, or otherwise accessing to any services provided by miHoYo, you are deemed to have read, understood, and accepted all the terms of this Agreement. " (My emphasis).

In other words, just by reading the T.O.S. I've agreed to be bound by the T.O.S.

I guess I might as well play the game, then. It's supposed to be pretty good.


  1. I guess what really matters is enforcement of said rules. I'm thinking of how if people say something like "kleenex" without enforcement of trademarks enough times that the company loses enforcement of said trademark. If this company declines to enforce the signing away of all rights, then this is pretty much a paper tiger.

    1. I think the GI one is notional. It's just legal boilerplate to cover any awkward situations. It's the GW2 one that puzzles me. That seems weirdly specific and targeted. What kind of IP is anyone likely to develop out of their Account ID or Display Name? Makes me wonder if they have something like streaming revenues in mind. It would be interesting to see someone get challenged over the use of an ident they used for both their content creation and their in-game persona when streaming the game.

  2. Does this mean that by reading about the TOS on your blog, I am now also bound by the TOS by the unlimited transitive property of legalese? This seems less like a legal document and more like the video tape from The Ring. "By thinking, planning, daydreaming, or becoming cognisant of miHoYo, you are deemed to be bound by all terms of this Agreement."

    1. Yeah, it's the enforcement that's the thing, really. Good luck trying to convince a court that reading the terms and conditions constitutes accepting the terms.


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