I have a task at work which requires me to build AI that can do general game playing. Contemplating this task, I have found several games that I would like to use in doing training and analysis to learn "general game playing skills". This is similar to what was done with AlphaStar. Most of the games in question are released GPL for src code, but the graphics and music are CC BY-NC.

  1. I will not be redistributing the game software or associated media at all (just using it for machine learning).
  2. I will be playing the game manually at first to understand the mechanics and getting paid to do so.
  3. I will be using the game for machine learning, and the ML will not be "looking" at the graphics nor "listening" to the music, only analyzing strategy and such.
  4. The product of the analysis will result in ML models which may be used for commercial purposes later.

    • Concerning #2 - If I got fiscally compensated for my time playing a CC By-NC game, does this violate the license? It's not much different from people who play such games in tournaments for prize money I think.
    • Concerning #3 - If I told a machine to play a CC BY-NC game while I get paid for it, would I be violating the license?
    • Concerning #4 - If I trained ML using a CC BY-NC (or BY-SA or BY-ND) game, and my company used the trained models for commercial purposes would this violate the contract? (It's a similar question to this one.)

Does the answer to any of these questions change if the src code is GPL and the media is CC BY-NC?

For reference, Blizzard has released this EULA which basically says you can use the Starcraft software in order to build AI which you are allowed to sell, but you cannot re-sell the starcraft software itself (nor modifications thereof.) I know this is different from a CC BY-NC license. But it's a great idea, because it opens the market to bot developers to build bots by interacting with their software -- in turn hyping up the game and increasing their user base to other types of users. My use of CC BY-NC games for a similar purpose can only be beneficial to such game creators right?

  • 2
    The NonCommercial part of the CC BY-NC license only applies when you share the game or create a derived work of the game. This means that for playing the game yourself, you are fine. There might be a problem if the ML model is considered to be a derived work of the games used to train it. Feb 21, 2020 at 10:51
  • Thanks. That's an interesting point about the ML model being a derived work. Let's say for sake of argument that I am a professional gamer (which I am not). And let's assume that I play a BY-NC game and get good at it, then enter a tournament and win some money. I think most people would argue that this is legal use of the BY-NC software. The question is: Is the "neural model" in my brain that I "trained" to be good at the game any different than an ML model? And if I entered a bot based on the ML model into a bot tournament and win some money, am I in violation of the license?
    – thayne
    Feb 21, 2020 at 15:38
  • I am not sure if the learned model is a derived work or not. A big difference between the "neural model" in your brain and the ML model is that you can share the ML model with others, but you can't do that in the same way with the model in your brain. Feb 21, 2020 at 15:46
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    No Creative-commons NC licence is Free / Open Source. Feb 22, 2020 at 13:34
  • Using something is not copying it. If you are not copying it, then you can not breach copyright (no matter what the licence says). So long as you complied with the licence when you copied it, then all should be OK (so can a licence restrict what you do? I always get one entity to do the copying, and another to use. Thus putting in a legal separation). Feb 22, 2020 at 13:39


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