Skyrim Mod Making $46,501 A Month Accused Of Stealing Code

For a while now, a development team has been working on releasing a mod called Skyrim Together that would allow players to jump online and make their way through Bethesda’s RPG together. And for almost as long, they’ve been facing long-standing accusations of having stolen code from another team.

The guys behind SKSE (Skyrim Script Extender) have for years been feuding with the Skyrim Together crew over allegations of code theft, with SKSE even going so far as to write this in their code’s licence:

Due to continued intentional copyright infringement and total disrespect for modder etiquette, the Skyrim Online team is explicitly disallowed from using any of these files for any purpose.

That of course hasn’t stopped Skyrim Together from working on their project, which is accepting backing on Patreon and is raking in over $46,501 ($US33,000) a month at time of posting.

The mod scene is always full of drama, and projects like mod packs that bundle a lot of other people’s work and pass it off as their own have always been a source of controversy.

But a mod that’s making money off other people’s work, when modders tend to do what they do for love and release it for free is a big deal, and so are these accusations. For the technically-minded they’re spelled out in this thread.

In response, a Skyrim Together team member posted this comment on Reddit:

“We have had disagreements with the SKSE folks in the past, I have tried to communicate with them but they have never replied, so we stopped using their code. There might be some leftover code from them in there that was overlooked when we removed it, it isn’t as simple as just deleting a folder, mainly our fault because we rushed some parts of the code. Anyway we are going to make sure to remove what might have slipped through the cracks for the next patch.”

To which an SKSE member replied:

So, to be clear - you are saying that you:started using our codethen asked for permissionnever got permissioncontinued using iteventually removed part of it yet somehow left some of it incontinued to charge for access the entire time?promise to totally clean up a now licence-tainted project?”

The Skyrim Together team’s Patreon page says they “hope to release the first stable version of the mod during the year 2019", but the same Reddit post in which they defended their use of SKSE’s code also says “We are far from a real release, currently the mod is unstable and has a lot of features disabled.”


    Yeah we stole it, but then we stopped....we'll sort of, we tried to stop but can't be stuffed getting rid of all the stolen code just yet, but we will....maybe.

    Over forty grand a month worth of serious, 'money on the table' interest from fans for unofficial, unsupported, co-op that doesn't even fucking work for a game that came out pretty fucking close to a decade ago, and Bethesda comes up with...

      "Yo guys! We heard you like to be resold things from previous games, that you love shitty co-op interaction, limited customisation, questionable server stability and basically non-existant end game activities!"
      - Bethesda, 2018

      Though upon rereading that, it occurs to me it could also be from Bioware this year.

      I kinda wanna know how they built a co-op version of Skyrim faster, and in a far more playable state than it took '76 to metastasise. Also, how are Beth not suing the taints off these modders?

        Strictly speaking, the most they can do is a cease and desist. Dealing with Patreon is a bit tricky when it comes to copyright law and the whole commercialisation and profit thing.

          The cease/desist is what I meant. I should have said 'unleashed the lawyers' rather than 'suing'. They were pretty quick to take th C/D route with the team doing the New Cali and that NV conversion.

          Last edited 02/03/19 2:01 pm

    Mentioning modpacks, I have a question regarding something similar.

    Lately for me, Kotaku's Highlight Reel episodes on YouTube have had adverts. Where do people stand on something like that? Kotaku don't make those videos, they're all user submitted.

    The only thing Kotaku do are stitch them together, and occasionally do a small lead-up voice over. Unless of course it's YouTube adding in the adverts and not Kotaku.

      There's the occasional article which is just ~10 words and a link to a video too. Or others which are basically just a summary of another article with a link to the original at the bottom. Always correctly attributed, sure, but when ad revenue is involved it seems a bit shady.

      Any example of the reel? Youtube ads usually interrupts video and have yellow loading bar.

        The episodes in the last few weeks.

        Literally I just got my phone out and clicked on Episode #462 and an advert played at the beginning. I watch every episode, either on my tablet, phone or TV and lately there have been adverts on all mediums.

      Personally, most of Kotaku's Youtube content I would absolutely prefer to go elsewhere to see better with two exceptions... Those being anything by Tim Rogers, and Chris Person's Highlight Reel.

      As weird as this might sound, I'd say Highlight Reel is hands down one of the better 'shows' they have... Even taking into account the fact it is user submitted content and there are probably hundreds of channels that do highlight videos. Something to be said for clean editing and commentary I guess.

      The vast majority of highlight videos I come across I simply cannot watch due to the half-assed effort with which they have been thrown together, their awful commentary, etc.

      Stonemountain64 is basically king of highlight videos on Youtube as far as I'm concerned, but Highlight Reel is easily one of the most solid runners-up.

        No doubt about Highlight Reel being great, my friends and I watch them (or catch-up on the ones we've missed out) whenever we all get together.

      The Highlight Reel articles ask people to submit their own videos for inclusion in future compilations. So that's a case of the copyright holders giving Kotaku permission rather than Kotaku going out and swiping other people's work.

      You could argue the ethics of monetising a compilation video, but there is a pretty simple way to prevent your video being monetised this way: don't submit it.

    The mod community would be a lot healthier if they adopted a culture of applying standard licenses to their work up front like the free software/open source communities do. If you're explicit about how you want your work to be used, then you're less likely to get this sort of drama. Yes, people might ignore the license, but there's generally obvious who is in the wrong.

      I'd kind of assumed the blockquote in the article was an excerpt from the SKSE license, but it appears to be the entire thing. It doesn't say anything about how people can use the provided source code: it simply prohibits certain individuals from doing anything with it.

      The stupid thing is that this is effectively the default protection copyright offers. Obviously they want to allow people other than the Skyrim Online team to do more with the code, but they don't spell out what those permissions are.

      This isn't to say that the Skyrim Online/Together folks are blameless. If there is no license information on some code, you should be assuming that default copyright protection applies, which means no modification or distribution rights. If they wanted to build on top of the SKSE code, the first thing they should have done is ask the original authors to put a real license on the code.

    Sounds to me like Bethesda should lob a stack of cash at both of them and say "Please help us..."

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