The creator of Art of the Catch, the paid Skyrim mod that was removed from Steam earlier today, has posted a lengthy message on Reddit in which he says he didn't "steal content" to make the mod. In fact, while he acknowledged that using content from the Fores New Idles in Skyrim mod without permission was "a bit crappy," he claims that Valve told him specifically that creating a mod dependent on another mod's content would not cause any problems.
The mod maker, going by the name "Chesko," wrote in the post that Valve invited him to take part in the rollout of the paid mods program about a month and a half before it went live. He knew there would be backlash, but he also believed that "there was an opportunity to take modding to 'the next level,' where there are more things like Falskaar in the world because the incentive was there to do it." And while he wasn't happy with the 25 percent cut being offered to modders by Valve/Bethesda, he decided to take part because "it was an experiment I was willing to at least try."
The complexities of modding, compressed by the tight deadline, led to "a lot of questions surrounding the use of tools and contributed assets, like FNIS, SKSE, SkyUI, and so on," he wrote. Because of that, he reached out to Valve to determine what was and wasn't permissible, and was told, "I am not a lawyer, so this does not constitute legal advice. If you are unsure, you should contact a lawyer. That said, I spoke with our lawyer and having mod A depend on mod B is fine—it doesn't matter if mod A is for sale and mod B is free, or if mod A is free or mod B is for sale."
That's where things start to get murky. Instead of contacting a lawyer, as it now seems he should have, Chesko went ahead and and built the Art of the Catch mod, which requires a separate, free animation package that contains an FNIS behavior file.
"Was this a risky, perhaps bold, thing to go ahead with? Yes. Was it a bit crappy of me? Also yes," he wrote. "But it was a risk I took, and the outcome was largely dependent on the FNIS author's reaction to the situation. He was not happy, so I took steps to resolve it. I did not 'steal animations' or 'steal content'." He added that he's been in contact with Fore, the maker of FNIS, and that they've smoothed things out.
But he's also been in contact with a lawyer from Valve, who clarified that, in accordance with policies outlined yesterday, the mod, and Chesko's other work, will be marked as unpurchasable but will not actually be removed from the Workshop, despite his demand that it all be taken down completely.
"He stated that they will not remove the content unless 'legally compelled to do so,' and that they will make the file visible only to currently paid users," he wrote. "I am beside myself with anger right now as they try to tell me what I can do with my own content. The copyright situation with Art of the Catch is shades of grey, but in Arissa 2.0's case, it's black and white; that's 100% mine and Griefmyst's work, and I should be able to dictate its distribution if I so choose."
For now, Chesko's work, minus the Art of the Catch, remains available on the Skyrim Nexus.