Two new chipmusic communities appeared online quite recently: chipmusic.org and chipcoalition.com. It seems that they both went online as a reaction to the drama at at 8bitcollective – the largest chipmusic community for the past years.
Founder and admin Jose Torres designed his BleepBloop Gameboy USB cartridge which became a popular alternative to previous transfer-solutions. However, the code that Torres used for the project was identical to that of the GB Cart Flasher. GB Cart Flasher was developed by “two polish IT-students” in 2007/2008 (sourceforge, reinerziegler.de). It is a hardware+software solution to transfer data between Gameboy and hi-tech computers. But only information, no products for sale. Torres used the code, eventhough the original authors prohibited “any kind of commercial work” in their manual. He later published an explanation for why he didn’t do the code on the “simple microcontroller on the cartridge”. He didn’t have the time to write his “own version of the code” so now he would work on a “revision”.
In connection to this a number of threads concerning the issue were deleted and several well-regarded users were banned, such as low-gain and e.s.c who were admins, and kitsch-bent who supposedly did not receive his batch of cartridges for his vendor site. Several threads that concerned these bans were consequently deleted, or shrugged at by Torres. He has also been blamed for not delivering carts that were paid for. It’s not difficult to imagine the shitstorm that followed at 8bc after Torres’ behaviour. Especially considering that he had previously banned x|k for not shipping his Midines on time, introduced restrictive rules about selling products at 8bc, and deleted threads about the competing product Smartboy because they were using other people’s code (in fact, the same code that Torres used).
At best Torres did what he did due to valid private reasons that we are not aware of. At worst, he protected his plan to make a living off 8bc. In November he announced that he had quit university, turned 8bc into a corporation, and would work on it full-time. He brought in two new people (to manufacture cartridges) in an 8bc office that he was now renting. So now, 8bitcollective is both a corporation, and a community. Many 8bc-members are arguing to disregard of the drama to keep the community alive. They might even use the paypal donation button to help pay for the server fees. We can only wait and see what will come out of this.
One larger question here is if a community is doomed when it becomes large-scale and money gets into the picture. Maybe the 4chan-owner would agree, being $20,000 in debt but keeping 4chan ad-free. If you base a community on centralized control, there is a bigger risk of power abuse. Then again, maybe that’s better than the more “anonymous” control that’s going on elsewhere. You can be killed by Google, closed down by your ISP, cave into cease and desist letters, or have your Internet connection shut down altogether. In a way, there is something oldschool and refreshing with a non-anonymous censorship á la Torres. Atleast we know who did it (since admins like e.s.c and dotdummy were kind enough to talk to me).
The other question concerns authorship and licensing. Why didn’t anyone manage to get hold of the “two polish IT-students”? Would they care about it if they knew about it? If the GB Cart Flasher was properly licensed, would people have reacted differently to what Torres did, or would Torres have refrained from using the code? I am one of those who question the relevance of licenses, as for example with the current case of Voddler violating a GPL-license (who owns and defends a collectively produced GPL-software?).
And on a different note, can Torres claim ownership to 8bc? Just like with Piratebay, 8bc cannot only be described as founder+server+domain+brand. 8bc wouldn’t be much without songs, messages, memes, pictures and software that was made by others. That is probably not what Torres refers to when he says “this is my site“.