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Author Topic: Using Mandelbulber for a commercial iOS game  (Read 4157 times)
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amichail
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« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2012, 05:49:37 PM »

Unfortunately there is no rigorous algorithm to decide that. Works that have even only a slight component of art in addition to the craft are open to interpretation. Fractal imagery may arise from strict algorithms, but there is definitely art involved in the many choices that the person is making who ultimately guides the computer to a final image.

In extreme cases, a judge will make the decision of what is and what isn't similar enough to be legally treated as a copy (or plagiarism).
Compilers are usually counted as a purely technical detail. The idea is that all the creative achievement is in the source code. The compiler carries out a purely mechanical process that requires no creativity and does not add anything essential. (This may not be the whole truth, but it is the usual legal view.)

In any case, the copyright always extends to both the parameters (the "source code") and the images defined by those parameters (the "compiled executable"). Since the compiler doesn't add anything essential, it does not influence copyright.


What do you think of this response on Quora regarding this issue?

http://www.quora.com/Copyright-Law/How-does-one-use-a-free-fractal-program-to-generate-imagery-for-a-commercial-game-without-getting-into-copyright-problems
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hobold
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« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2012, 04:32:49 PM »

As long as Mandelbulber is just a tool, then the works created with it are the intellectual property of the artist. The programmer of Mandelbulber has no rights to such original works. The mathematical idea for a particular type of fractal can indeed not be protected by copyright law.

The parameters for a specific fractal image, in my opinion, can be copyrighted. That's because they are often all that's required to create perfect copies of the image. In some sense, the parameters are a heavily compressed representation of said image.

So, to sum up: pictures rendered with Mandelbulber are not derived from Mandelbulber in the legal sense. But pictures rendered from example parameters are derived from those examples. Presumably, the parameter files are covered by the same GNU Public License that governs that program's source code (I have not checked if the examples come with a separate license, so you better make sure).

The GPL is very specific about the user's rights and obligations of derivative works. If you re-render example images with just a few tweaks to the existing parameter files, then your parameter files are clearly derivative works. Thus the GPL extends to your parameter files, and you have to make them freely available to the public.

There is a grey area when you keep making more and more changes as you tweak parameters and explore the fractal. Eventually you may have moved so far from the parameters you started from, that nothing essential remains. Then these parameters will be viewed as your own original work. The GPL will not gradually slither across the whole chain of small tweaks; it will only look at the milestones that you actually release. So the gap between the original example file and your heavily modified end point of a long journey could easily be too wide for the GPL to cross.

There is no well-defined point at which the more and more modified file switches from being mostly a derived work towards being mostly your original work. As far as I can tell, that changes from jury to jury, from judge to judge.


And one final note of caution: I am not a legal authority. If you rely on me, abandon all hope. angel
I am merely applying common sense to prior examples.
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Iggshuybiryel
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« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2013, 05:23:30 PM »

I know this is an old post, but because the issue remains an ongoing and important one, I think it requires further attention as I do not believe it has been adequately addressed in the previous posts. I offer my opinion with a disclaimer: if you act upon my input, you take the consequences and full responsibility for your actions in your own hands and upon your own head. My opinion is no more or less valid than anyone else's, although I genuinely believe that history will bear me out as having been correct on this. I intend nothing but respect toward the previous poster's on this topic, but I have to speak my mind for the good of the community, both here on this forum and in the greater forum of public opinion on the relevant issues.

what do you want? that we give our blessing to your theft? all you're asking here is how to avoid asking the image creator. the starting parameters of mandelbulber are meant to give you a clou of what is what in this program and not to to give you copyright free imagery for your commercial project. if you want to use them, ask buddhi for permission. or at least name the names.

This was a completely unnecessary and spurious response to an issue that has not been properly established before the courts as to whether parameters can indeed be copyrighted. The OP is simply seeking here a valid response on the issue of copyright protection. Accusing him of being a thief in no way promotes or protects the interests of the community of hobbyests, artists, and professionals who use the software being discussed. Completely over-the-top responses like this harm the credibility of this community and cost the developers precious good will.

Amichail, you might want to contrast two simple questions:

1. What would you consider theft of your commercial iOS game, i.e. your effort and intellectual property?

2. What would Buddhi consider theft of his work on Mandelbulber, i.e. his effort and intellectual property?

This should lead you naturally to another question:

3. Why should Buddhi not be entitled to the same rights as you?


You see, Buddhi chose to release Mandelbulber under an open source license. But that does not mean he gave up his copyright. It simply means he granted the users (i.e. you among others) certain rights in exchange for certain obligations. You should honour his rights just as you expect your rights to be honoured.

(BTW, it's not the GPL that "taints" derived works. It's programmers who steal GPL'ed code that "taint" their derived work themselves by violating their obligations. If you use Mandelbulber without permission, you might end up having to open up your game in the "share alike" sense.)

I think this confuses the actual issue with another issue. Parameters and software copyright are not necessarily one and the same. The parameters themselves are, after all, only parameters in a math formula. As such, I see no reason that copyright could ever be extendable to them. Granted, we live in an era in which somehow Americans (and a good many Westerners) believe that every idea should somehow remain in the ownership of the person who conceived it, but discovery of a fact does not grant ownership or copyright to that fact. Fractals are factual data that have been discovered, and only the expression of those facts may be copyrighted. But I will return to this momentarily.

I strongly doubt a court would find that you've got copyright of the entire set of fractals that is possible to generate from your parameters. Even a couple of clicks would likely find a  new creation in the safe zone: "To be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a "new work" or must contain a substantial amount of new material. "

You're able to copyright images or videos, not an entire subset of a mathematical equation.

This has been the most sensible response to the issue at question in the OP.

i don't know the exact translation but in copyright issues justice often classifies works about their "level of originality". i strongly doubt, that amichail's project would reach a protection deserving level of originality, when graphics are recognizable modifications of existing parameters. ok a hypothesis - i didn't see a result.


what you want is a free of charge illustration for your novel, not a template.

No. You are misapplying the copyright for an image and thinking it creates some sort of umbrella of protection for an entire set of images that have not been generated as yet by anyone simply because they exist as a subset of parameters to a mathematical formula. Your analogy is false and illogical.

Technically yes. But the maker of this word processor would typically grant an explicit license to their customers to freely use those templates. That is because the software vendor wants those templates to be a feature of their package.

However, when you asked if you could use slightly modified example images from Mandelbulber, the analogous word processor example would be more like this:

If you use a word processor that comes with example novels, do you need permission to print and sell (possibly slightly modified) copies of those novels?

And the answer is: it depends on the license that governs the use of the novels. By default, the copyright owner, who copied those novels to make them available to you, does not have to grant you the right to make copies yourself.


If you don't want to go hunting for fractal vistas yourself, talk to someone who does. Don't just take their work without even asking the author. I realize that you're probably neither rich, and nor a fortune teller who can accurately predict the possible revenue from the finished game. So you are very reluctant to invest considerable sums upfront. That's fine. There will be fractal artists out there who understand that. I am sure you can work out something that both parties can live with.

(It could well be that we're making much ado about nothing here. Maybe Buddhi would grant you the right to using some example images, just for the chance of exposing a larger audience to 3D fractals. The point is, without asking him directly, you will never know.)

Although this is a less emotionally charged response than the others, it still follows after the fallacy that somehow the discovery of a set of parameters to a given mathematical formula grant copyright to the entire subset of every image possibly generated for that fractal expression ad infinitum. Some courts might support the assertion, but I have to believe that justice would eventually prevail and strike down any such foolish nonsense for the sake of the greater good. Yes, the greater good. Copyright protection works both ways, or should when the system isn't dysfunctioning.

As long as Mandelbulber is just a tool, then the works created with it are the intellectual property of the artist. The programmer of Mandelbulber has no rights to such original works. The mathematical idea for a particular type of fractal can indeed not be protected by copyright law.

The parameters for a specific fractal image, in my opinion, can be copyrighted. That's because they are often all that's required to create perfect copies of the image. In some sense, the parameters are a heavily compressed representation of said image.

So, to sum up: pictures rendered with Mandelbulber are not derived from Mandelbulber in the legal sense. But pictures rendered from example parameters are derived from those examples. Presumably, the parameter files are covered by the same GNU Public License that governs that program's source code (I have not checked if the examples come with a separate license, so you better make sure).

The GPL is very specific about the user's rights and obligations of derivative works. If you re-render example images with just a few tweaks to the existing parameter files, then your parameter files are clearly derivative works. Thus the GPL extends to your parameter files, and you have to make them freely available to the public.

There is a grey area when you keep making more and more changes as you tweak parameters and explore the fractal. Eventually you may have moved so far from the parameters you started from, that nothing essential remains. Then these parameters will be viewed as your own original work. The GPL will not gradually slither across the whole chain of small tweaks; it will only look at the milestones that you actually release. So the gap between the original example file and your heavily modified end point of a long journey could easily be too wide for the GPL to cross.

There is no well-defined point at which the more and more modified file switches from being mostly a derived work towards being mostly your original work. As far as I can tell, that changes from jury to jury, from judge to judge.


And one final note of caution: I am not a legal authority. If you rely on me, abandon all hope. angel
I am merely applying common sense to prior examples.

In part you are correct, but you have missed the mark. I offer you a better analogy regarding these parameters. We've all heard of Cinderella. Let's say that her story hasn't yet been written, but I write the first synopsis of the tale. By your reasoning, I should get copyright to all possible expressions of Cinderella because I have captured all that is necessary to reproduce that exact story. But you may say that I simplify the matter too greatly because I am not accounting for artistic expression and variations in culture, language, and individual sensibilities. I say in reply that you are making that very same error. You cannot protect a set of parameters. You can only protect the expression itself. Disney does not get rights to every iteration of The Little Mermaid, just as the hypothetical author would not get the rights to every tale from rags to riches. Otherwise you are claiming that the images generated by the parameters afford no possibility of artistic expression or values judgment, and if this is so then the images themselves would not be copyrightable. Surely, you are not making such a claim. 

Discovery of a fact cannot be copyrighted. Formulae cannot be copyrighted, just as recipes cannot be copyrighted. Let's look at the .gov post concerning this topic in general: "What does copyright protect? Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed. ... How do I protect my recipe?
A mere listing of ingredients is not protected under copyright law. However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a collection of recipes as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection. Note that if you have secret ingredients to a recipe that you do not wish to be revealed, you should not submit your recipe for registration, because applications and deposit copies are public records." In other words, if you don't want others to use your parameters, don't publish them. I do not claim that the exact image parameters aren't protected de facto, only that parameters for a given mathematical expression are not protected. For all of these reasons, as soon as the OP changes the camera inputs sufficiently the expression is no longer a derivative work, and the new image generated should belong solely to the OP.
A Beer Cup grin
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David Makin
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« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2013, 05:46:42 PM »

In any program that facilitates the production of output - such output as created by anybody *is not* within the copyright of the author of the program *but* solely within the copyright of the person who created the output (assuming said output isn't a trivial copy of someone else's work). In the case of any "plain" formula e.g. the z^8+c Mandelbulb with what is generally a default full-view such things cannot really be copyrightable IMO.
However if the colours/lighting viewpoint etc are changed significantly from the defaults if starting with *just* the formula and not a pre-saved parameter file then the work is eminently copyrightable.
In the case of the program itself *derivative work* means derivative *programs* not parameters for images or images themselves that are created using the program. The two are quite distinct.

However to put it simply : If you want to create a program based on the source from an existing program without breaching copyright then ask the author of said program for permission. If you want to use a parameter file or image created by someone else then ask the creator of said parameter file or image - *not the program creator* as it's nothing to do with them, unless of course they also created the parameters or image.
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David Makin
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« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2013, 05:56:50 PM »

Also you can't copyright any publicly available mathematical formulas or publicly available algorithms for rendering - for instance almost any competent programmer could write a fractal program to render fractals with just about every gadget and gizmo and rendering trick used in either Mandelbulber or Mandelbulb3D *as long as they don't directly copy anything* from said software (or Xenodream, or UF or whatever).

The simple fact is that just about every technique used in fractal rendering and indeed in 3D rendering generally is in the public domain *provided you write code from a publicly available description of the methods* (i.e. not even GNU) rather than copying from existing code with any type of license at all.
Of course, unless you've got some enhancements of your own in mind, writing new versions of any fractal software is pretty pointless.
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taurus
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« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2013, 09:22:59 PM »

I know this is an old post
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maaaany text
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and the new image generated should belong solely to the OP.

hello and welcome to the forums!
maybe you want to visit the meet and greet section, before turning this place upside down wink

Like most people here, I drew the logical consequence out of this discussion. I don't publish parameters anymore.
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Syntopia
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« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2013, 10:21:32 PM »

I think this page about Apophysis offers a convincing discussion about copyright of fractals and their parameters:
http://www.acm.uiuc.edu/~troys2/tutorials/copyright.html

In short: parameters are not copyrightable. But if you use them to create an image from them, that is clearly a copy of the original image, you are breaking copyright law.

The simple fact is that just about every technique used in fractal rendering and indeed in 3D rendering generally is in the public domain *provided you write code from a publicly available description of the methods* (i.e. not even GNU) rather than copying from existing code with any type of license at all.

There might still be patents on public available 3D rendering techniques. For instance, the Marching Cubes algorithm (used to create polygons from volumetric data), has been used extensively and there are many implementation in both free and open source. However, until the patent expired in 2005, you were not allowed to use it without paying royalties.
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Iggshuybiryel
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« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2013, 11:49:20 PM »

I think this page about Apophysis offers a convincing discussion about copyright of fractals and their parameters:
http://www.acm.uiuc.edu/~troys2/tutorials/copyright.html

In short: parameters are not copyrightable. But if you use them to create an image from them, that is clearly a copy of the original image, you are breaking copyright law.

There might still be patents on public available 3D rendering techniques. For instance, the Marching Cubes algorithm (used to create polygons from volumetric data), has been used extensively and there are many implementation in both free and open source. However, until the patent expired in 2005, you were not allowed to use it without paying royalties.


I'm not sure if I understand you, but if you are saying that creating an image using the default parameters excluding the camera details, shaders, and etc. so that the resultant image is unique, I disagree. If you are saying that by using the parameters inclusive of the camera settings one is violating the law, then I concur as that is obviously a breach of copyright--which is what I attempted to say. Somewhere is a grey borderland in the center of the two, a no-man's land that should be avoided at all cost. But to imply that you can copyright an image of a discovered shape, in this case a 3D fractal, in such a way that would prohibit any future use of that same 3d shape that would be like saying someone could copyright a cube or a cone, if they weren't already known, and that all future images of cubes would infringe upon the rights of said discoverer.


MAAAAANY TEXT to you, too. Thanks.  angel Is there an emoticon for snarkiness? smiley

As for introductions, duly noted. Sorry for the breach of netiquette, but I simply cannot abide intolerance against people asking simple questions. This is important stuff. I found this thread because I was doing my own search on the forums for the very same type of information. The response by the community in some respects left a bad aftertaste. Welcome to the Interwebz. ::modified for the sake of clarity only::  That's actually an excellent link, btw. I agree with that 100%. And it was said so much better than I could have said it.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 06:21:39 AM by Iggshuybiryel » Logged
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