Update: ChalkyBrush has since apologised (opens in new tab) for the borrowed assets and removed them for the game—a swift and clean solution. Hurrah.
Original: Roshpit Champions, the headline game mode in Valve's Custom Game Pass initiative through which creators can charge $1 for in-game extras, has been found to use assets (opens in new tab) from other mods and games without their creators' permission.
Icons and art from other Workshop projects, like the Adamantine Samurai Helmet (opens in new tab) from the FrozenYoroi Warrior set (opens in new tab) and Admiral's Boots (opens in new tab) taken from Resolute Seafarer (opens in new tab), are widespread. One sharp-eyed Redditor managed to identify a set of boots (opens in new tab) cropped and recoloured from World of Warcraft artwork (opens in new tab).
'Borrowing' and reusing assets in mods is commonplace, of course, but the situation becomes complicated when money is involved. The murk in deciding who has ownership, who gets a cut and what permissions are required bears unfortunate similarity to Valve's first paid modding project in which a paid-for fishing mod was found to incorporate another creator's animations without permission. That outcry led Valve to end the initiative.
Roshpit Champions creator ChalkyBrush took to Reddit to defend himself, stating, "Anything submitted to the workshop is Valve's property and can therefore be used in Valve's game. Roshpit Champions is subject to the same rules, making the game also a property of Valve's. You can use any of the code or concepts of Roshpit Champions within the bubble of Dota 2 as well. If there were a way to add proper credits, maybe that would be a good way to show appreciation."
This is a point of contention. The rules governing user-generated content (section 6D in the Steam Subscriber Agreement) read, "you represent and warrant that the Workshop Contribution was originally created by you (or, with respect to a Workshop Contribution to which others contributed besides you, by you and the other contributors, and in such case that you have the right to submit such Workshop Contribution on behalf of those other contributors)."
In addition, Section 2A states that when you upload content to the Workshop you grant a non-exclusive licence for other users to download your contribution for "personal, non-commercial use (except where commercial use is expressly allowed herein or in the applicable Subscription Terms)".
ChalkyBrush's second paragraph is not conciliatory: "Crusader Boots OK, I didn't think a low-res screencap of a screencap would be an issue. The picture is awful anyway and probably needs a replacement. Does blizzard care though? In the end, Blizzard is the only one with the right to complain about this low quality image existing in this little sub-realm of Dota 2. If Blizzard or Valve informs me that this is an issue, I will replace this image."
This discovery is a blow for the fledgling Custom Game Pass—when our Chris Thursten interviewed Valve (opens in new tab) on how it had learned from the paid modding programme, it made a point of addressing copyright and ownership.
"The community ... had concerns about the potential for stolen content in paid mods," Valve told us. "The Dota team's curation of the process addresses this, requiring a custom game to be free of copyrighted materials to be considered for a pass."
That process still requires some fine-tuning.