xgermz wrote:Multiple themes was tried and worked very well on another un-named project, however it brought about a massive problem with the GPL, you cant share copyrighted material. Hence Battlestar, starwars, star trek themes, etc etc, you can code them but you cant share the code without opening a minefield. On one hand youd be forced to share due to the BNT GPL, but images are properties of others and sharing them is against copyright laws. They sometime turn a blind eye, if your doing it for personal use, but if someone slapped the pictures behind a paywall, then the lawyers would come knocking.
It is very important to keep separate discussions of copyright, and discussions of trademark. Keep in mind I am very specifically speaking about US law, other countries are wildly different!
Code, which is copyrighted, is entirely separate and different from images, which are handled under trademark law.
In copyright, under the GPLv2, what BNT was originally licensed under, if you *distribute* the code to the game, you have to share all your modifications (kinda, sorta, mostly). The details get a little tricky, depending on the way the code interacts with modifications, but the safe/easy interpretation is "If I use code under the GPLv2, then I probably need to share ALL of the code that makes up the game".
However, we switched to the GPLv3. In GPLv3, the "web services loophole" was closed. Meaning, now instead of having to distribute the code, if you RUN the code, like on a website, then you have to share. We very specifically wanted that behavior, because plenty of forks and spin-offs were made, that no one shared their improvements with us. Considering over a decade of coding, testing, development, and more went into BNT, that is pretty rude!
Note that NONE of that mentions images. Images are different. Entirely. Images are governed by Trademark laws. The GPL doesn't in any way react or involve itself in trademarks. So no, running the game doesn't trigger a requirement to share unique images.
However, trademark law is much, much stronger than copyright law in many ways. As you said, the lawyers for various groups (Lucas, now Disney, owner of Star Wars, for example) are very quick to sue people that use Star Wars trademarked images for games.
That is why we cannot have theme packs of popular stuff like Battlestar Galactica or Star Wars. Note, it IS possible for users to have them, but the distribution of them (and hosting of them on a website) could allow massive lawsuits.
Further, any website running BNT is much more likely to run Ads, to help pay for the costs. ANY form of earning revenue (not profit!) will make the lawsuit more likely, more painful, and much more expensive. So that is a big no.
The GPL isn't the issue at all. It has nothing to do with the images. The images are prevented by US trademark law, and yes, it stinks in some ways for us.
There is a whole different discussion to be had about what COULD be done with licensing for the images in the game, but .. that is a major discussion on its own. For some hints, check out PHPBB's history with licensed images in theme packs. It gets very complicated very fast.