Flathub packages for legally ambiguous content. (Marathon Trilogy)

As a quick summary, I’ve made some Flatpak packages for Bungie’s Marathon Trilogy based on the open source Aleph One engine with the goal of publishing them on Flathub. The catch is that though Bungie released the game’s data for free many years ago, they did so without a license. I’ll let the Aleph One project explain further. (from GitHub - Aleph-One-Marathon/data-marathon-infinity: Bungie Studios' Marathon Infinity game files, for use with Aleph One.)

In 2000, Bungie released the Marathon 2 source code under the GPL 2 license, which led to the Aleph One project. The game content was not part of this release; the games were still commercially available at the time.

In 2005, Bungie made the Marathon game content freely available, at trilogyrelease.bungie.org. No content license was posted. The Frequently Asked Questions page includes this statement:

Wow… can I do whatever I want with this stuff?

NO. Bungie still holds the copyrights to these files. They’re allowing them to be distributed for free (mostly because you can’t buy them any more) - but they’re still Bungie’s intellectual property. You can’t, for example, sell them.

In 2011, Bungie released the Marathon Infinity source code under the GPL 3 license. The source code archive also included a CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 license, but its scope is unclear. It may only cover the design documents and other non-code files present alongside the source, and not the game data (which was not part of the archive).

In late 2011, Aleph One began distributing Marathon game content bundled with Aleph One binaries, in the spirit of the Trilogy Release page’s “free distribution” aim. Bungie announced these bundled downloads on their company site, so Bungie was aware of and tacitly approved Aleph One’s redistribution of the game content.

In 2021, Bungie granted the Aleph One project a limited license to distribute Marathon game content

Another example is the Marathon iOS project that has made the Marathon games freely available for the last decade. As far as I can tell, they don’t have a formal license to do this either: http://www.marathon-ios.com/

I talked with the Aleph One developer on Discord, asking if it would still fall under the Aleph License if I built and published it to Flathub and got this response:

treellama: the limited distribution license only applies to me, unfortunately. You’ll have to fall back to the “game content non-license”
treellama: I do not have a problem with you distributing it, but it’s between you and Bungie
treellama: one approach would be to open a PR with the flatpak build scripts and try to get us to integrate / upload it ourselves
slembcke: Ooh, right I was going to bring that up too. If you would want to make them part of the project or if that becomes an implied support headache that you don’t want.
treellama: yeah, I don’t know what to recommend honestly
treellama: the lack of a public license makes this a hassle
treellama: most packagers aren’t willing to touch it

Anyway, so while not enthused about a Flatpak version, they also don’t sound opposed to it if it’s not a major burden for them. Going that route might take a while though.

Looking for some guidance on how to proceed. It seems like there is a lot of precedent that this is in the spirit that Bungie released the game data, and that they approve… just not formally. Like most problems, the hard parts are not technical, but human. :slight_smile:

Also… I was wondering what the overall policy on publishing other organizations programs is anyway. As in there are plenty of packages that say “This package is not associated with [company that makes the program].” I guess this feels very similar. Repackaging somebody else’s free stuff.

There exists this: Adam / AlephOne-Marathon-Launcher · GitLab

Maybe you could just make a flatpak of the launcher and the game binary itself?

Hmm. Interesting. I had actually brought up the idea of building a similar launcher as a way to avoid pushing an extra support burden on the original developers. This is more or less what I had in mind already.

Another approach could be to use the “extra-data” source type in the manifest which is pretty much intended for this kind of thing. It means the data will be downloaded when the user installs the Flatpak, so it wouldn’t be hosted by Flathub.