Poll Question 132 – Copyright Music in Mods?

18th July 2009

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

As I was working earlier this week I got messaged by a modder (who is gonna release a very cool EP2 mod soon), asking me what I thought about a particular band’s music and including it in a mod.

It’s a great question because it’s been done hundreds of times before but it’s never really talked about.

Of course, technically it’s wrong but like lots of things in real life, it’s almost accepted.

Personally I don’t have a problem with it, because it can actually cause sales to happen. Maybe there needs to be some kind of licence that says one piece of music can be used in a mod, if a link back to the official site is given in the documentation. And only one piece of music mod can be used in that way.

That’s a little unrealistic but the music industry really doesn’t have a clue how to approach modern day piracy and the Internet.

Anyway, back to modding.

There’s not enough music that is created specially for mods, there’s a limited choice from the games themselves, so it doesn’t really leave modders with many options.

What are your thoughts?

The Poll


  1. oddworld_chris

    There are plenty of websites around the Internet that focus on distributing and publishing unsigned bands and artists, and as you mentioned above, such exposure in a MOD may increase sales or knowledge of the bands actual existence.

    However the ethos of a band may be in direct conflict of the image they are trying to introduce for themselves if its incorporated into a MOD.

    Though you might have to go through pages and pages of “unique” styled music, stick with unsigned artists and as such 99% will be more then happy to accept an invite to have there music played, just shoot of a confirmation email first!

  2. Zanpa

    Go to Jamendo, and look for music that fits.
    Actually, I’ll have to check if the licences authorize this use…

  3. I am against to usage of licensed music without proper permission. It’s wrong. I’m actually against to usage of anything without permission of actual artist. It can be music, texture, model, script or anything.

    For example, I’ve found some extraordinary music for my mod that fits perfectly and it was licenced with Creative Commons which means I could use it by crediting the artists, but I didn’t just take them. I contacted to the company and asked for their permission directly. I didn’t need to, but I just wanted them to know what I was doing with their work. They’ve answered to me and said that it was OK, and would like to see my mod when it’s finished. That was great.

    I think that way because I don’t want people to use my work without asking me first. Yes, that’s the reason why I try to contact any artist whose work will be in my creations. It feels right.

    On the other hand using licenced materials from big companies like, for example Universal or Epic Records, well, just a pain in the arse. They won’t care as long as it is not something big, but if they find a way to take, they won’t stop and believe me they hurt you and they don’t care about you. They are just companies, not people. So be careful before using licenced stuff from big companies. That includes names. Like making a mod named Naruto or Batman.

    If you ask me, we don’t need to use licenced material, because there are lots great stuff on the internet that made by great artists and totally free to use. We just need to respect them.

  4. Senator33

    Being a musician and am serving on an orchestra board of directors, I can take heart with this topic.

    Since we charge for performances, we are required to abide by the rules of ASCAP and BMI; or possibly be fined thousands of dollars for using copyrighted material without permission.

    To keep control of music rental fees, much of the music we perform is public domain (composed before 1924), though we still have to use caution with recent editions and “reprints”.

    Since there is no charge for mods, it seems to me that music publishers or the above governing bodies would have no objections….but it might be worth checking out. Both organizations have websites.

    ASCAP: http://www.ascap.com/index.aspx
    BMI: http://www.bmi.com/

  5. Firstly civanT has it right. Spot on
    Secondly I do not like most of the music that comes with a lot of mods. Some are so bad that they can ruin an otherwise good mod. I mostly play with the so called ‘music” off.
    There are some brilliant modders but their taste in music and it’s suitability can leave a lot to be desired.
    Meanwhile, the cat wants attention; I know this because it’s sitting in front of me scween and oi cany cee anything.

    1. Clunkfish

      Yes I’m with Jasper on this. Usually, inclusion of the modder’s own taste in music involves very loud death metal that sometimes can’t be turned down. It seems to me that often the music is included because the modder likes it rather than because it suits the mod! I often find myself turning down or off the music in mods if I can.

  6. Kyouryuu

    civanT has it right. I’m also against the swiping of textures, music, and assets from other games and media. To me, it has a cheapening effect – it’s amateurish to be walking around a Half-Life 2 map and suddenly see UAC logos on everything. Or, likewise, to have the Foo Fighters suddenly blare through my speakers as I explore a cavern.

    Let me share with you a huge pet peeve of mine. It’s the way mods based on copywritten content are the ones that garner the headlines on the gaming blogs. Most recently, we’ve seen this with Left 4 Dead. Mods based on Resident Evil and famous zombie movies get all the attention while the truly original works are left within the confines of the modding community.

    To me, it’s easy to rip off someone else’s idea. There’s absolutely no skill in that; no creativity. It takes true talent to make something original and interesting. The only reason people resort to such lame content swiping is because they want all of the glory and attention and none of the work. Simple as that.

  7. firba1

    I personally don’t have a problem with it, but I think a problem is that if you use popular music in your mod. You might like the music, but the RIAA might not like it in your mod. Granted, it probably won’t be heard by anyone related to them, so it’s probably worth the risk. However, I’ve found there are huge repositories of great and free music (like the Newgrounds audio portal) which are encouraged to be used in projects like this. So, I think that there’s no reason for modders not to look in sites like these for their soundtrack.

  8. galocza

    i voted yes.
    i think a mod with copyrighted music (if it has any influence at all) will boost the sales for the musician.
    anyway, not everyone has the time/talent to write music for their mods.
    on the other hand, there are lots of less known artists who make their work available for free (as endorsement or simply because their goal isnt making money but to be acknowledged), so theres a lot of quality music to choose from on the net.
    if I could create a mod (and I cant) id probably couldnt resist the temptation to choose from my favourite songs for the soundtrack, that im certain of… 8)

    ps: it is a bit similar to (and very different from) the case when I compile a home dvd-video. I wont compose music for that, I search for music from my cd collection.

  9. galocza

    i forgot to include something to prove my point about the positive effect of copyrighted music in mods on sales :
    even if its not a mod, without deus ex:iw (ng resonance) I would probably have never get to know kidney thieves…

  10. SPY-maps

    i myself use lots of music in my sp-mappacks and sp-mods, and all without permission of the owners/makers of it.
    most of the times I do use music of other games that I did like much. this because those songs are fitting better in I think.

    i don’t think its that big of a problem, but, you do need to give the credits of the music to the owner(s), what means, at the end in the credits you do need to give credits to them.


  11. Joure

    Hmmm, I wonder, are there people like me who prefer playing certain games without music? I dunno why, but ever since half life 1 I Play the games without music, I found it personally so much more emersive … I think to me

    Doom3 did a very interesting thing with having something ambient in it, and not any real music. It added to the atmosphere, something I want to try and have in my mod, maybe, because I am still debating if I want any music in it at all.

    On the other hand, I play soul calibur 3, SF4, GT4 and most other games like MGS with music on and I’m equally enjoying it…

    I gues I found half life to be one of those game(s) fitting enough to play it without any music …

    On topic, I do think that when it comes to big names in the music industry it’s not that bad to use their work, but if you are going to use something from someone who isn’t famous at all, or a band that is trying to get there, asking them is the least you can do.

    Also I think that if you are goingto use music it has to really fit in the mod’s map’s theme.

    And I agree with what CivanT said too …

  12. Planetary

    Minerva mod used Valve’s copyrighted music, and look what happened to the guy. They hired him! Yikes!

    1. Kyouryuu

      That doesn’t count because the music files already exist in the game. You’re just referencing them from sound cues in the level. No different than leveraging the existing textures, models… or minor, little things like the engine itself.

  13. Ol" Scratch

    This is the problem with the RIAA/MPAA’s pogrom against their customers (you and me): they’ve got us thinking that every little bit of *something* should automatically have a fee attached to it.

    Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Once upon a time, there was a precept called “Fair Use”, in which is was okay for a person to take a piece of published material (no matter the format), and share it with a few others, as long as there was no monetary gain, and the originators were properly credited. This precept has been with humanity for millennia, and is an integral part of how culture is passed on from one generation to the next, from one culture to the next. Certainly, it has been abused in the past, but not nearly to the extent that the RIAA/MPAA would have you believe.

    Fast forward to today, and the corporatization of our governments (Coporate States of America, anyone?), and we see our “elected representatives” selling us out to the highest bidder–if you have any doubts about this, just check out the US’s economic collapse, and the hand those politicians had in it.

    Of course, the Internet and the easy access to pretty much any form of media has caused the big corporations to soil their Underoos out of sheer fear that they will lose control of what they think they “own”, and in their hypocrisy they insist on turning their customers into criminals, instead of pursuing the REAL criminals–bulk media pirates in Mexico, China, Russia, etc, that put out copies by the billions.

    That said, I think that the use of copyrighted music in a free-to-all mod falls under “Fair Use”, because the originator of the mod doesn’t see financial gain from the mod itself, not to mention the free exposure to the music from the mod itself. And this extends to the use of audio and video clips in audio or video works, as long as the work is distributed freely without charge, the use if fine. The second the author sell the work explicitly for a fee, then Fair Use is gone, and royalties must be paid. And let’s not lump “donations” in with that, as long as the donations are freely given, and not linked to the acquisition of the work.

  14. Silvio

    I think using part of a song in a lower quality than the original is supposed to be fair use.

  15. Winston

    Why would it be legally acceptable under fair use to distribute a song freely as part of a mod, when it would not be similarly acceptable to distribute it on its own?

  16. Planetary

    I’ve seen several mods (can’t quite remember which right now) solve the problem by using music from the Newgrounds audio portal, which is pretty much perfect for any purpose.
    Or they can make their own music, like Smod’s menu music.

  17. Crispy

    There are online libraries and there are people (usually independant artists) who let you use their music for free as long as it’s credited.

    I say it’s fine as long as you ask permission first, but taking without asking is wrong on a fundamental level. Even if you think it may produce a positive effect in the long run, it’s not your work, it’s someone else’s. Just imagine how pissed you’d be if a film about a serial killer featured the main character playing your mod. You might get a lot of new players, but it wouldn’t be on your terms. The game would be misrepresented.

    Do as you would be done by, I say.

    Regarding newer methods of distributing and copyrighting music. What about iTunes and Spotify? The more you support music this way, the sooner the industry will be forced to change their distribution and copyright methods.

  18. Pingback: C:15425 » Podcast 17

  19. If an author makes money from the mod in any way, he should have legitimately obtained music. As long as the author keeps it free and accepts no donations there’s a limit to how much the issue can really be pressed.

    1. Actually copyright law is very complex. it is better to get permission. most would probably say yes anyway as long as they are mentioned in the credits..You can check in with ASCAP
      http://www.ascap.com better safe than sorry and they can make you very sorry..These people have skyscrapers full of lawyers in $3000.00 Suits..

  20. I think most bands out there would not mind, exposure is exposure as long as they are in the credits…

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