Sony Gets Overzealous Moderating Gaming UGC

"LittleBigPlanet," which was slated to be one of Sony's biggest exclusive releases this year, has been causing Sony no end of headaches, first with a launch delay to apply a patch removing lyrics from the Koran from the game's musical track, and most recently with a community blowup surrounding the moderation of user-created content. Early in the game's lifecycle, it seems that Sony and Media Molecule, the game developer, were a bit overzealous when it came to taking down user-designed levels for age-inappropriate content and copyright infringement.

The problem was seized upon by the gaming blogosphere earlier this month when two of the most popular created levels, Azure Palace and World of Colour, were "moderated" out of existence, even though neither level appeared to contain any copyrighted intellectual property, nor mature content. Many users reported having their levels moderated for no apparent reason, and the notifications they received failed to shed any light on the matter. After numerous complaints and several online petitions, Sony and MM promised to clean up their act, telling a PS3 fanblog: "We want to ensure that creators' levels are only permanently removed if they warrant it. In most innocent cases a simple tweak to the level may be required and that's what we're working on communicating."

Of course, it's great that Sony wants to tell people why their levels are being removed, and it's perfectly reasonable to moderate adult content in an E-rated game. But it's not entirely clear why there needs to be such rigorous policing of intellectual property. If other UGC-centric games are any guide, the first thing users do once they get their hands on creation tools is create homages to their favorite games,movies, and TV shows. It seems pretty clear that these aren't exact copies, nor are they reasonably able to be mistaken for the original.

As consoles get more involved in the UGC space, this issue is going to continue to arise -- and developers and publishers who want to be involved in the space need to have a better solution than just moderating "tribute" content out of existence.

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