Selling WAD files: the answers!
From time to time, the same questions pop up in the Doom editing forums
(the doom-editing mailing list and the
rec.games.computer.doom.editing newsgroup). People ask if it is
legal to sell WAD files or to release them as shareware and what would be the
problems with the copyright laws. Very often, the answers to these questions
are incomplete or incorrect and the debate goes on without any real answers.
Here is a copy of an article that I posted in r.g.c.d.editing. This
is my attempt at answering all these questions to the best of my knowledge.
Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and I could be wrong in some cases. I am
not an employee of id Software or Raven Software (although I wish I was,
sometimes...), so these opinions are my own and may differ from theirs.
From: Raphael.Quinet@eed.ericsson.se (Raphaël Quinet)
Subject: *** Selling WAD files: the answers! ***
Date: 8 Dec 1995 14:32:52 GMT
I will try to explain the various points which are related to the copyright
issue regarding WAD files. This will hopefully end the debate that has been
going on in this newsgroup for some time...
But before that, I want to give three reasons why you should NOT sell any
WAD files. I don't want to harm id Software or the Doom community by
revealing the truth, so please consider this first:
- Since December 1993, several hundreds of WAD files have been created and
distributed for free. You have probably played several dozens of them.
These WAD files were created with freeware or shareware editors, using
the example of other WAD files and the guidelines given in the Unofficial
Doom Specs or other tutorials. Most of these programs and documents were
created by people who spent a lot of time on this without being paid. If
you create a WAD file, you are using tools made by others and you benefit
from the experience of the hundreds of levels that were distributed for
free. If you respect all these people, do not try to sell them something
which is based on their work.
- You can use WAD files with Doom because id Software did not try to prevent
you from doing it. If they loose their faith in the Doom community, they
will try to protect themselves and prevent you from using third-party
levels with future games (such as Quake). Well, they won't actually do
this because the ``openness'' of Doom made its success, but they could for
example make sure that the only way to create third-party levels is by
using their own editor, which would come with a strict license regarding
the distribution of new levels. In that case, they would have the right
to sue anybody who tries to distribute a level created with their editor,
if it wasn't done according to their license. I don't want this to
happen! Think of what would happen if the new WAD format for Quake was
patented: all of a sudden, all third-party editors would become illegal.
- If you really want to sell a WAD file because you spent so many weeks on
it that you think you deserve to be paid for your work, then do not try
to sell it on your own. Sell it to id Software instead. If your WAD is
really good, then maybe they will pay you for it and distribute it in a
new collection of levels. If they don't accept it, then your WAD is
probably not good enough to be sold anyway. This will keep the standard
to a high level. If all WAD authors would start selling their levels,
there would certainly be a lot of crap on the market and we would all
loose in the end. Even if a WAD was sold for a small price (say, $5),
would you spend hundreds of dollars in order to try several of them and
eventually find a good one?
After these warnings, here are the reasons why it would be legal to sell
- The WAD format is not patented and any patent claim is likely to fail
because the format is too simple and is already used by lots of programs.
It's like if you wanted to patent the bubble sort algorithm (historical
note: someone tried, and failed). So if you have a program which creates
WAD files, there is no legal restriction in creating those files (unless
these restrictions are in the license of that program). There are lots of
programs that can create and use these files.
- Anything that comes from the IWAD (doom1.wad, doom.wad, doom2.wad,
heretic.wad or hexen.wad) is the property of id Software or Raven Software
and may not be extracted or re-distributed. The only exception is the
shareware IWAD file which may be distributed, but only in its original
format (i.e. the whole shareware game). In other words, if you create a
level which includes some textures or sounds that were extracted from the
IWAD, it would be illegal to distribute it. Even modified textures would
fall in this category, because the original artwork is copyrighted (if you
are sued for copyright infringement with your modified textures, it would
be up to the jury to decide if id's artwork has been copied or not, and I
wouldn't rely on that if I were you).
- Including references to the textures is not the same as including the
textures themselves. A WAD which uses the textures created by id Software
without including the wall patches (images) does not infringe any
- The Data Utility License tells the authors of third-party editors that
the license for their program must include a statement saying that it is
illegal to sell the files that are created by the editors. Although
several authors signed this license with id Software, most of them didn't.
So you can use most of the editors safely and do whatever you want with
the WAD files that you create. You could also use old versions of the
editors which were released before id Software came with the Data Utility
License (this is the case for DEU 5.21, which was released in May 1994,
just before I received and signed the D.U.L.).
- One cannot claim that WAD files can only be used with Doom and thus fall
under its license, because this is not true any more. There are several
programs which can use WAD files even if you don't have Doom or any game
based on the Doom engine. These programs are legal because the D.U.L.
does not apply to them: that license was written mainly for programs which
use id Software's source code for the Nodes builder (IDBSP). For example,
utilities such as BSP (which was derived from my independent Nodes builder
code in DEU 5.1 and not from IDBSP) are not subject to the D.U.L.
- Keep in mind that Doom, Doom II and the Doom logo are trademarks of id
Software, inc. So if you want to make profit out of a WAD file or add-on
for Doom, you have to be careful about that. But usually, you should be
safe if you put a trademark notice somewhere in the documentation and if
the word "Doom" is only used for information purposes, and not for
In summary, it is perfectly legal to sell WAD files under some conditions.
And while I'm opening Pandora's box, I should also add that it is perfectly
legal to create WAD files for the shareware version of Doom or Heretic, or
for the demo version of Hexen. It is also legal to distribute (or sell) a
brand new IWAD file created from scratch, which would have the effect of
transforming any shareware version into the equivalent of the registered
game. But this would not be an easy task because you have to create new
levels and new textures, but also new color palettes, new fonts, etc. This
means more than a Total Conversion, which is already very complex.
If you have other questions, I suggest that you read the Copyright FAQ first.
I think you can find a copy of it in news.answers. I don't know if it is
also available on WWW. Otherwise, get in touch with a lawyer, but think
twice before posting a followup to this article if you don't know the law.
Note: if tried to verify all these points to the best of my knowledge, but I
may be wrong in some cases. Some countries or states have slightly different
laws regarding copyrights and trademarks. Don't sue me for that.
Remember: even if you can sell a WAD file, DO NOT do it! This would:
You would gain a little, but everybody would loose on the long run (including
- show a lack of respect for the Doom community (all people who gave you
their levels for free),
- annoy the people at id Software who could then decide to protect themselves
for future games,
- discourage other people from creating levels or editors for free, and
- slow down the development of future games and game editors.
This article is Copyright (C) 1995 by Raphaël Quinet. You are allowed to
distribute it outside the Usenet news group rec.games.computer.doom.editing
or the doom-editing mailing list, but only if it is distributed verbatim,
including this copyright notice. Distribution of parts of this message
outside these two forums require prior approval from the author.