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I'd like to be able to tag my cartridges with a simple set of license terms, e.g. all rights reserved/GPL 3/Apache 2/MIT license for the code, all rights reserved/CC4 ATTR-NC-SA/CC0 for the art. There are other potential uses for cartridge metadata fields.

Tagging the cartridges instead of using freeform comments would allow forums or databases to offer queries or different behavior. Tagging the catridges themselves instead of their corresponding lexaloffle forum posts would allow the license terms to follow the p8/png files as they are distributed.

Separate licenses are necessary for the code and for the art. You can't apply a CC license to code and have the intended effects, nor can you apply a code license to art without introducing ambiguity.

Tagging could take the form of simple specified fields in comments at the top of the source area. We already use the first two comment lines for the cartridge label. Possibly improved would be a set of optional "field: value" comments in the same block. Title, author, version, code license, art license, maybe even author contact fields (forum handle, Twitter handle, email address).

-- title: galagala
-- version: 1.2b
-- license_code: mit
-- license_art: cc4-attr-nc-sa
-- author: dddaaannn

Going a little crazy, author fields could be repeatable, and could contain role info and contact info. Maybe just:

-- author: Dan <dddaaannn,@dan_sanderson,[email protected]>
-- author: Foo (music) <foobar,@foobar>

In theory we could just crowdsource some of these conventions. For now, the lexaloffle forum is the main place where cartridges are shared (and it's a nice place and a major feature of Pico-8!), so it's the best place to start supporting some of these. Pico-8 itself draws the cartridge label and ideally would use a few of these fields to do so. Strict conventions for certain enums (e.g. "apache2" for Apache 2.0) would keep them easy to type.

P#12026 2015-07-29 20:22 ( Edited 2015-10-09 01:38)

:: Jauq

I want this for voxatron cartridges as well. The only thing is its not like anyone can steal our ideas, Pico-8 and Voxatron carts can only be played by people who have the virtual consoles... and every cart posted is in a record here...

If the carts become usable by a much larger audience to the point where we can sell the games, then this would be necessary.

P#12027 2015-07-29 22:53 ( Edited 2015-07-30 02:53)
:: jonbro

all pico-8 and voxatron carts already exist under a permissive license

P#12032 2015-07-30 01:55 ( Edited 2015-07-30 05:56)

jonbro: Ah. I looked at that but apparently only noticed the bit about an implicit non-exclusive license to the BBS to distribute.

I want to distribute under a permissive license, but the stickler in me that's followed licensing terms for 15 years wants a more thorough license than a casual "make your work available to other users to use and remix provided that attribution is provided where appropriate" (what is "work", what is "use" and "remix", what is "appropriate"). I'm 100% OK with mandating MIT/CC4-ATTR (for example) for everything posted to the BBS, but I'd rather link to those specific licenses and clarify code vs. art than leave it assumed. For example, can I make a third-party cartridge database populated with everything posted to the board so far? Can I sell access to it? Can I add a splash screen with my logo to every cart I distribute, as long as I make reference to the posting user's username? I know this sounds theoretical right now, but the more stuff we post, the bigger a problem vague licensing might be in the future.

Regardless, I think a set of common comment tags might still be useful to define now, so we can build features around them. That third-party cartridge database might be able to do interesting things. When we hit 1,000 carts, I might want to be able to search by license, so I can hunt for code and assets that I can use in my own game that I intend to release with a given license.

I'm also fine with flagging as WAI in the name of smallness. There's already a way to add title, author, and version to the label and to the BBS post, and anyone who wants a specific license compatible with the BBS terms can just declare it in a comment and with in-game text. We'd just forgo the advantages of making it machine readable.

P#12033 2015-07-30 02:19 ( Edited 2015-07-30 06:19)
:: Mason


Regarding the forum's license terms, I'd prefer if the permission only extended to pico-8 or voxatron projects. I mean, so that a person would be able to use my work in their own pico-8 project, and sell that pico-8 project, but not sell t-shirts with my design, and not use my work in a different engine.

I don't expect things to be immediately/ever changed to suit my specifications. But I don't feel comfortable posting artwork to the bbs under the current terms.

P#14758 2015-09-30 10:04 ( Edited 2015-09-30 14:04)
:: zep

Thanks for your thoughts on this everyone. I'm working on a scheme that is a subset of ideas suggested here, but could be expanded in future if needed. How about this:

  1. Remove the first sentence from the terms of use.
    "By submitting PICO-8 or Voxatron cartridges and assets to the Lexaloffle BBS, you are agreeing to make your work available to other users to use and remix provided that attribution is provided where appropriate."

So, by default, no rights are granted by the author except for Lexaloffle to distribute them while listed on the BBS.

  1. Cartridges can be tagged with a single license: CC4 ATTR-NC-SA either as part of the submit process, or attached afterwards.

  2. The CC4 tag shows up quite visibly on the cartridge when viewed in the BBS. For most users this tag will just mean "can remix". (and I hope: "should remix").

It's still possible to attach a different license the old-fashioned way (code comments / information in accompanying post or archive), and we lose searchability in that case. But I would contend that most cartridge authors wanting to share, and remixers would be happy with CC4 ATTR-NC-SA.

If it looks like there are other common usage patterns emerging in the future -- for example, many people posting with no license attached but a note saying 'feel free to use this in your pico-8 projects', then it would be possible to add extra license tag options to accommodate that. But to start with I'd like to err on the side of simplicity to keep the process frictionless and easy to understand for the average user.

Any thoughts?

Would you be content with simply no license (and no rights granted to other users in the terms of use)? Or would the non-commerical use clause in CC4 ATTR-NC-SA help in your case?

P#15143 2015-10-08 15:17 ( Edited 2015-10-08 19:17)
:: zep

Here's what it would look like. First, an extra checkbox on the cart submission page:

Attach the license for existing carts:

Licensed carts show up with the orange CC4 mark: (ignore debugging comment)

P#15144 2015-10-08 15:27 ( Edited 2015-10-08 19:27)
:: Juju

That would be a good idea, some license option to allow people to tell what the users can do with their carts. CC4-BY-NC-SA sounds good to me. Of course, you'd have to clarify what happens when you don't put the CC4 license, like, it's pretty much public domain, or all rights reserved? And a way to eventually put a custom licence in the future (like GPL or MIT) would also be interesting.

P#15145 2015-10-08 15:48 ( Edited 2015-10-08 19:51)

I would still like to choose my own licensing terms.

P#15148 2015-10-08 16:16 ( Edited 2015-10-08 20:16)

I think freedom to choose is important, but ultimately I like to view PICO-8 as a meduim where sharing and the artform are emphasized, so there is value is restricting or de-emphasizing some choices. My biggest concern is licensing conflicts, having two similar licenses that are incompatible prevent you from creating a derivative of both works is an unfortunate situation I'd like to avoid. Still: people should be encouraged to submit works regardless of what license they prefer or deem necessary.

So I don't think we should encourage alternate licenses too much. You don't want to end up in a situation where two licenses that grant essentially the same uses prevent content from being used in the same cart. (For example, CC-NC and GPL are not quite compatible.)

Ideally, we should have one license option that most people use. IMO if anyone wants to be more restrictive, that's best accomplished with an in-game license statement, or clarifying text in the thread. This is under the assumption that CC4-licensed games are the best for the community, which I think is about right.

P#15149 2015-10-08 17:01 ( Edited 2015-10-08 21:01)
:: zep

If you don't use the CC4 license, nothing happens -- it stays all rights reserved like any other work that doesn't have a license attached to it.

It's also still possible to choose your own licensing terms or to attach a different license, just by stating them in the accompanying post or in the source. For example, Terrain Renderer 1.01 has a WFTPL license notice at the top of the code section.

The reason to pick one particular license is to catch 90% of users who just want to remix and have their carts remixed, without needing to choose from multiple licenses or know what they mean when searching. The assumptions I'm making are:

  1. Most cart authors just want a simple way to do worry-free collaboration.
  2. CC4 ATTR-NC-SA is aligned with that group. Using non-commercial and share-alike is to reduce concern of work being ripped off in some way.
  3. Having no license (and no rights granted in the tos) is an equally convenient and safe alternative for authors not interested in open collaboration, which I imagine is the second largest group.
  4. Encouraging standardized licensing to some degree reduces the risk of multiple licenses interacting with each other in annoying ways.
  5. Carts that need a different license or custom terms are still not /that/ inconvenient to set up. Just less visibly licensed as such, and harder to search for (although the generic post tags could also be used for this).
P#15152 2015-10-08 17:31 ( Edited 2015-10-08 21:36)

I'm not very good with legal lingo, but what I'm getting is that CC4 will allow for people's intellectual property to be safe from being sold for a quick buck?
Also, people may get confused with the "cc4" thing, so I propose we put that as "protected" or something.

P#15163 2015-10-08 21:01 ( Edited 2015-10-09 01:01)

+1 for encouraging one dominant optional license and for that license to be CC4 ATTR-NC-SA. I like how doing this through the BBS makes it easier to set up (than my original suggestion, which requires knowing and implementing a code syntax). Looks great!

Skyrunner65: The "NC" part of the CC4 license prohibits selling the original work or derivative works. "NonCommercial" is defined in the license terms as:

"NonCommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation. For purposes of this Public License, the exchange of the Licensed Material for other material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights by digital file-sharing or similar means is NonCommercial provided there is no payment of monetary compensation in connection with the exchange."


The purpose of Creative Commons is to specify licensing terms such as this one in a way that's legally enforceable in multiple countries. Using the "CC4 ATTR-NC-SA" shorthand with a link to creativecommons.org is an explicit and specific but quick way to refer to all of the terms and legal language in the license.

"protected" is vague and actually the opposite of what is meant. It's licensed. The default license (at least in the U.S.) is All Rights Reserved, which has fewer allowances than a CC license.

P#15169 2015-10-08 21:38 ( Edited 2015-10-09 01:38)

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