Using Spring 1944 for Commercial Machine Learning

I have posted a general question on SO about this. I’m wondering what this community thinks.

My questions are related to the CC BY-NC license. I have a task at work (a private-sector company) which requires me to build AI that can do general game playing. I would LOVE to use Spring:1944 to do training and analysis to learn “general game playing skills”. This is similar to what was done with Starcraft II/AlphaStar.

To be clear: I will not re-package, sell, or distribute Spring 1944 in any form. I will only use it as a machine learning environment.

OK, here are the questions:

  1. If I personally play Spring:1944 while getting compensated for my time by my company, does this community feel that would be in violation of the CC BY-NC license?
  2. If I create a machine learning agent that interacts with Spring:1944 in order to learn how to play, and get paid to do so, does this community feel that would be in violation of the CC BY-NC license?
  3. If the ML models derived from said analysis were later used for commercial purposes, does the community feel that would be in violation of the CC BY-NC license?
  4. If video captures of bots playing Spring:1944 were used in presentations related to this work (with full attribution to this community), would that be considered a violation of the license?

Some views of CC BY-NC are that any commercial use is prohibited. Other views are that only selling the components of the game or derived works of it is prohibited. There’s also the nebulous question of whether an ML model is considered a “derived work”.

Some of the work I would do would be to develop an ML interface to Spring RTS, tailored to Spring:1944 for deep learning. I want to release all src code back to the community when finished, but I can’t guarantee that will happen until I get company permission, etc. There is also a good possibility that we will publish the ML approach to the public domain at academic conferences, with attribution to the Spring 1944 community.

I could go on and on about the rich dynamics and complex tactical situations this game would provide for ML agents to learn from. The work this community has done is stellar. But I would not do anything I described if it violates the BY-NC license.

Thank you for your consideration!


While I’m not a lawyer, nor do I “own” copyright to any CC-By-NC assets in s44, I like that someone has decided to do some bot development with it : ) The last one doing something a few years ago has disappeared without a trace.

I personally think that (1), (2), (3) are fine (particularly if your ML model works with code/behaviour and not CC-by-NC covered art. GPL might apply to (2) and (3), as in your code that interacts with s44 can become a derived work.

(4) could be passable as long as it is not done commercially. There is some boring text here on what that might mean:

Use e.g. CC0 instead of public domain, pure “public domain” is legally problematic in many countries. Or even better, GPL!

Thank you for your reply. Everything you say makes sense and helps me feel better about doing the contemplated work with Spring 1944. :slight_smile:

Concerning (2) and (3), I’ll make sure to comply with GPL requirements. My understanding is that GPL requires me to make derivative works GPL’ed, but I am never required to distribute the code I write. When I said “release src code back to the community” that’s what I meant.

My intent for (4) would be along the lines of showing off what the bot learned. I would not be selling or even distributing the video captures. Per the FAQ you pointed me to: ‘CC’s NonCommercial (NC) licenses prohibit uses that are “primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”’ The key phrase here is the use of “primarily intended”. My primary intent is developing algorithms for general game playing. Not selling the artwork, or the game. Of course, that can be interpreted in many ways. I will get some counsel on that.

3 bothers me more than 4, but I am ok with all of them and am one of the original licensees. Should check with yuritch too.