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Sigurð Stormhand

Why Delta-patching mods is immoral: a theoretical proof

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Why Delta-patching mods is immoral: a theoretical proof

Proposition: Using Binary Delta-Patches to circumvent an author's prohibition against modifying their files is immoral if not illegal.

To consider the question we must ask, firstly, what is the purpose of delta-patching and secondly what is the effect. By "effect" I do not mean only the practical effect of the patch on the mod in question, but also the effect on the parties involved - namely the modder, the patcher and the user. A utilitarian argument has been advanced in favour of delta-patching, that the harm caused to one person (the modder) is outweighed by the benefits to the patcher and the users, I will accordingly be seeking to disprove this assertion.

It has been well established here, and is generally understood, that a binary-delta patch *which encompasses an entire file* can be used to transform that file from one version (the version on the modder computer) to another version (the version on the patcher's computer). The practical effect, therefore, is exactly the same as uploading a new file for others to download.

If the practical effect is the same as uploading a new file it follows that the effect on the parties involved is also the same as uploading a new file. The moral question then becomes whether or not, in either case, harm comes to any party involved and whether that harm is justified. If there is harm, and it is not justified, then the action of delta-patching is immoral.

The position of the modder: The modder spends a certain amount of time, quite possibly hundreds of hours, working on his mod. He then uploads it to the Internet and offers it free of charge, usually with an attached End User License Agreement (EULA).

The position of the patcher: The patcher downloads free of any charge except the conditions of the EULA. He then breaches the EULA in spirit if not in fact when he seeks to impose *his* artistic vision upon the mod and re-upload it  He spends less time on the mod than the modder and presumably has a proportionally lower investment in his patch that the original mod.

The position of the User: The user downloads the patch and applies it.

Question of harm:

The modder specifies the terms under which the mod may be used in his EULA and offers his mod only subject to these terms. If these terms are breached, such as a prohibition on modifying the base files, the modder suffers harm. Firstly, he suffer breach of copyright, but he also suffers because his original vision and intent for the mod are compromised. If the modder is deeply invested in the integrity of his work then he may also suffer emotionally.

Against this it may be argued that the original Bethesda employees suffer the same compromised artistic vision as the modder. However, there are several crucial differences. Firstly, Bethesda offers the game (the artistic vision) on the understanding it can be modified; secondly, when a modder makes a new mod they do not alter the original materials, they either add to them or replace them with new versions in a new BSA/as loose files; thirdly, Bethesda receives remuneration from the modder and the user etc. - they are paid.

The patcher seeks to use Delta-Patching to subvet the modder's EULA and their expressed wishes. This may be legally grey but it represents an attack on the modder as an artist nonetheless. By prohibiting the Patcher from exercising his artistic vision is could be argued that the moder is inflicting harm. However, the crucial difference is that the modder, contrary to Bethesda, offers his work in good faith free of charge on the understanding it will not be modified. If the patcher then modifies the work he breaks faith. Further, the modder does not prohibit the patcher from realising his won vision of a mod - he simply witholds his own work as a starting point.

Without the original mod or the patc the User he would have nothing to patch. It could be argued simplistically that by siding with the patcher he sides against the modder. However, this assumes that the user is aware of the harm he causes the modder. If he is not aware then he potentially suffers harm at the hands of the patcher alongside the modder by being made unknowingly complicit in the modder's compromised vision and emotional distress.

Conclusion: The greatest harm is suffered by the modder and far outweighs any harm suffered by the patcher. Note that degree of harm is important as well as the number of people harmed, the significance of this point is demonstrated by the modern prohibition against (for example) post blood sports, or gladiatorial combat. The modder offers his work in good faith whilst the patcher offers his patch in bad faith. The argument that the user benefits and his enjoyment of the patch outweighs the harm caused to the modder is probably moot given that you cannot prove that the user is ware of the harm he causes the modder and that he would use the patch if he was. If the user is aware and uses the patch anyway he is also acting in bad faith. The only one not acting in bad faith and harmed is the modder, and he is also the one who suffers the most harm.

Therefore, using binary delta-patches to circumvent a modder's EULA is immoral because it causes unjustified harm to the modder far out of proportion caused to the other party by preventing them from using the patch.

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4 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Yada yada also etc. 

Are you bored or something? How can you invest so much energy in such ridiculous and insignificant issue. I did some mod related work for more than 14 days. I am not even finished and i feel like i am 100 years old. During that i am laughed, ridiculed, banned, blocked, insulted and trying avoid people with virtual shotguns protecting their virtual property. And here you are talking about how is modder emotionaly harmed by delta patches that even don't modify mod itself. 

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5 hours ago, Shadowblade said:

For me, the first question would be:

"What is delta-patching?"

:D

 

It's a means of modifying a file, any file, at the binary level to make it confirm to a different version of that file, basically. The word "binary" refers to the literal 0's and 1's, the "delta" is the difference between the 0's and 1's in two given versions of that file.

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1 hour ago, Zierry said:

Are you bored or something? How can you invest so much energy in such ridiculous and insignificant issue. I did some mod related work for more than 14 days. I am not even finished and i feel like i am 100 years old. During that i am laughed, ridiculed, banned, blocked, insulted and trying avoid people with virtual shotguns protecting their virtual property. And here you are talking about how is modder emotionaly harmed by delta patches that even don't modify mod itself. 

I had some time on my hands, yes. However, I hardly think the issue is insignificant if it's got people so upset. Every community I've ever worked in has released mods with "terms and conditions" or what have you with the expectation those will be respected - if the community no longer wants to respect those terms then modders should stop adding that to their readme.

It comes down to this - modders provide something for free - there's an argument going around that users have no moral obligation to modders, if that's the case then modders have no moral obligation to users either. 

Would you argue that modders are not obligated to provide any support if they release a mod? Or does basic human decency not obligate them to some degree?

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I can see where you are coming from, but I can't agree with your perspective.

Before considering the argument: the delta patch does not actually encompass the whole file, it only contains the edits that a user makes to a mod. This is important, because if it did so, it would constitute a re-upload of the file itself. What it actually constitutes is similar to an ESP override patch, which is functionally useless without the master file.

Starting with the positions/use cases. You note how the author could have spent hundreds of hours on the mod, but you downplay the time that the patcher has spent on the file - the patcher may have spent countless hours meticulously patching to ensure the mod works with other mods in their setup (as many modders like to do with xEdit). You also do not explain the motivations of the patcher, only stating that their goal is to break the EULA - in actuality, they are not going to produce a patch solely for this purpose. This is also apparent with the user: you state rather plainly that the user "downloads the patch and applies it", without explaining why they might want the patch and what the end result is for them. To omit this is to not address the elephant in the room - i.e. what the delta patch is actually for. Notably, in the vast majority of cases, these patches would be made to improve compatibility or performance for the end user and enable an experience that may otherwise have been impossible. I don't think you can call the post a theoretical proof when a key part of the theory is left out, and some positions are favoured over others before the conclusion is reached.

Regarding notion of harm. Firstly, I don't think it's valid to say that an author suffers harm from breach of copyright alone when there are no damages. The patcher uploading a patch for free does not hinder the original author financially - there is no loss. Any traffic that reaches the patch page will in fact serve to increase traffic to the original mod, since a delta patch is a derivative and cannot be used without the original file. Suffering due to a breach of original vision is also flawed when the original vision is still intact and available publicly - it has not been removed. If the argument is that there exists another version of the mod with a differing exhibit, then the original mod should not have been released publicly: it cannot be expected that a mod, itself a derivative, uploaded to a community of modders, will not be derived. The concept of modding is to take the original vision of a developer and build your own vision from it - to prohibit the same use on mod users is, in my opinion, hypocritical. Lastly, emotional distress - I can't relate with this because I don't see how the publishing of a derivative work, likely for compatibility, that is offered for free and without the removal of the original content, should cause significant duress. While I can't rule out that someone might be upset by this, I think the proportion of authors that would take offence to such a patch would be sufficiently slim for this to not be a concern from a wider community perspective. 

Regarding the conclusion - the patcher would not, in the vast majority of cases, be offering their patches in bad faith. What would be the point? In fact, it would be in good faith - to improve the experience of users of the mod in conjunction with other mods. If you are concerned about troll versions of a mod, you only need to look at how many of these are tolerated or used by the community right now. Are there many troll ESP override patches for mods causing modders emotional distress or suffering due to breach of original vision? No, but there are many compatibility patches that are widely appreciated by the community. In fact, functionally a delta patch is no different to an ESP override - only the implementation is different. And yet we have ESP overrides already, and the vast majority of the community is content on their usage.

So overall, I think the argument changes significantly when the sufficient detail is provided to the patcher and user cases, and when the purpose of these patches is explained. I do agree with your argument if the patches were solely looking to troll or ruin a work, but the precedent with ESP overrides shows that this is not a concern, and almost all patches are presented for the benefit of the community. If any such troll patches arise, existing community guidelines and site terms of service can deal with these cases. Besides, a joke patch with no obvious use is unlikely to get much, if any, traction.

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How about a mod  "M1" adding the following content: "+A+B+C+D"

Then creating a mod "M2" doing "-C" with the requirement to apply it after the n1

End result will be "+A+B+D"

And even  "M3" doing "+Cz"

Here we go, we have "+A+B+Cz+D", without altering M1 package, is it "legal" ?

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22 minutes ago, ManuMods said:

How about a mod  "M1" adding the following content: "+A+B+C+D"

Then creating a mod "M2" doing "-C" with the requirement to apply it after the n1

End result will be "+A+B+D"

And even  "M3" doing "+Cz"

Here we go, we have "+A+B+Cz+D", without altering M1 package, is it "legal" ?

In my opinion, it's certainly beneficial. The '-C' or Cz' could be the compatibility bridge that makes it work with another popular mod M4, that users have been dying to use in conjunction with M1. Since the editing of the mod by the delta patch is done locally, I would say its legal (in the vast majority of countries anyway, that follow a Western precedent on modification of software for own use) - but I don't know. Regardless, I think it goes beyond whether its legal or not to whether or not it helps people in a positive way. And if people can get enjoyment out of playing M4 and M1 together, I'm all for it.

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7 minutes ago, layton452 said:

In my opinion, it's certainly beneficial. That extra 'Cz' could be the compatibility bridge that makes it work with another popular mod M4, that users have been dying to use in conjunction with M1. Since the editing of the mod by the delta patch is done locally, I would say its legal (in the vast majority of countries anyway, that follow a Western precedent on modification of software for own use) - but I don't know. Regardless, I think it goes beyond whether its legal or not to whether or not it helps people in a positive way. And if people can get enjoyment out of playing M4 and M1 together, I'm all for it.

The "+Cz" would have been directly validated/allowed by original creator then, or even included in whole original package if it was THAT beneficial.

I think we may have more to deal with:

A very large mod which itself include some useful material (ie: textures, IA scripts, environment...) that could be "isolated" with the "masking" method posted above. I have no idea if such thing has ever happened in this community.

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Just wanted to chime in, as I have been following the discussion that resulted in this post and I have some opinions. I am going to (mostly) ignore the argument about artistic integrity, since my feelings on that would probably lead to unnecessary arguments. 

Beyond anything else, I don't understand how morality comes into this at all. Could it be considered rude? Yes. Could you release a delta-patch in such a way that makes you seem like an absolute ass that should be banned from the community? Sure. But even someone acting like the most sanctimonious, self-righteous, "I am helping you out here" a$%($*&&, is not doing anything immoral by releasing a delta-patch. 

Some counterarguments to your points (bold is done by me to show where I am focusing):

10 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

It has been well established here, and is generally understood, that a binary-delta patch *which encompasses an entire file* can be used to transform that file from one version (the version on the modder computer) to another version (the version on the patcher's computer). The practical effect, therefore, is exactly the same as uploading a new file for others to download.

I disagree completely. Many people are against replacer patches, yes. But that is not because the edits are done to the plugin directly*, but because it allows the mod user to not have to download your mod, they can just download the edited one. Delta patches won't work without the original plugin already being in place, so the biggest argument against replacer plugins is not valid here. 

That also means that the next paragraph can be ignored, since it is predicated on the practical effect being the same. 

10 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Note that degree of harm is important as well as the number of people harmed, the significance of this point is demonstrated by the modern prohibition against (for example) post blood sports, or gladiatorial combat. 

Really? You are going to compare a person being upset because someone else wanted to change something the first person created, to people being killed for entertainment? Really? I want to keep this response entirely based on facts, but I can't ignore the ridiculousness of this point even being brought into this discussion. 

 

 

Now, since this rant did not come out of nowhere, I am going to talk about the thing that prompted it (this is where I no longer ignore artistic integrity). You are under the impression that the primary use of Netrve's planned tool that would allow delta patching will mostly be used to make changes to mods because the patcher doesn't like something about it and thinks it should be different. Yes, those sort of patches would be made, but I don't agree that they would be the majority. There are thousands of mods that have been abandoned, and yet have issues. Many can be fixed by normal patches (i.e. a mastered plugin that requires the main one to be loaded), but not all of them. Deleted records, corrupted plugins (due to misuse of TESSnip or some other reason), etc...), those require actual direct edits. Those still probably aren't going to be as common as people who want to port an abandoned mod from Skyrim LE to Skyrim SSE. If you can't get a response from the original author, and their permissions are unclear (not prohibiting porting the mod, just not outright specifying that it is allowed), you either have to give up or port it anyway and take it down if they complain, and a lot of people say you should do the later. A delta patch to (for instance) change the form version from 43 to 44 so the mod works in SSE would still require the original plugin to be downloaded from the LE site (mod author still gets downloads). Someone completely porting the mod would mean the original author gets none of those downloads. 

And regarding artistic integrity: a mastered patch would violate artistic integrity just as much as a replacer patch would. The ONLY argument against replacers vs mastered patches (beyond the stupidity of direct edits in most cases) is that you are also distributing the entirety of someone else's work. So if you don't want to allow delta patches because of artistic integrity, compatibility patches and non-replacer fix patches would also have to be blocked. 

 

It is also entirely possible that using this tool for plugins will be the least common use.  Fixing broken meshes, mis-sized textures, poorly coded scripts (or scripts broken by changes made to the base game**), those are the best uses I can see for his planned tool. And again, this will primarily be used for abandoned mods. Most people will message the author about the fix (if it is an actual fix****). Yes, there will be the occasional dipshit who releases a patch rather than try and contact the mod author about something being broken***, but those people are going to exist regardless of if delta-patching possible or not, and I don't want to let the idiotic minority ruin things for everyone. 

 

The final complaint against delta patching (which also applies against normal patches): troubleshooting. As managing author of Scrap Everything for FO4, I have to deal with a lot of people thinking SE broke something when it is actually another mod, or the result of using the F(*^^$#* ini edits which I EXPLICITLY WARN PEOPLE NOT TO USE UNLESS THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING°. As a result, I am frequently telling people how to find the actual culprit (or to stop using those ini edits).

If someone mentions a bug that was already fixed, I tell them to update. If they are using the latest version and I know that someone has made a delta patch, I would make it clear that it is fixed in the current unpatched version and they need to talk to the patcher. That said, the patching tool (from what I understand), will not contain the instructions that would be required to change the wrong file into an identical match. So if a patch is made with an old version of my mod and I update the plugin, the patch probably won't work at all. If it doesn't already work that way, it would be a simple matter of mentioning that as a good feature to Netrve, not denouncing the tool as evil.

4 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Would you argue that modders are not obligated to provide any support if they release a mod? Or does basic human decency not obligate them to some degree?

And no, I would not agree that basic human decency obligates them to some degree. If I give you are bike for free, and it turns out the gears are locked up and need to be cleaned/lubricated before it will work, I won't feel bad about refusing to fix it first. I am not in the least bit obligated to get it in fully working condition, to the point that I could make $50-$100 off of it if I sold it, but am still giving it away. It would be obvious from looking at it that the bike needs work, and for mods the comment section serves the same purpose. If a modder refuses to fix it and also delete any comments about the issues, then yeah, you have a valid complaint about that person being an ass. 

 

*Yes, most people on the xEdit discord abhor the practice, but that is because it is usually better to have a separate patch, not because it is any more or less rude than a separate patch.

**As an example, Bethesda changed how scrap recipes for FO4 were handled, so that if more than one recipe is made for the same base object, the one with the latest formID (by load order) will be used for determining the yield when scrapping. Note that this is not talking about overrides, this is two different records (with different FormIDs) with the same record in the Created Object subrecord. 

***I am the managing author of Scrap Everything for FO4, as the original author has invited me as a co-author and recently stepped back from modding entirely. I have had many complaints about the scrap yields, wanting things to not be scrappable, etc..., as well as a mod that purports to fix a bug caused by Scrap Everything when it actually doesn't even touch the record in question. The bug is caused by other mods, but when I asked the author to remove the mention of SE (which is not a required master, because they are completely unrelated), they just blocked me from the mod instead and deleted my comment (along with any other comment pointing out the same thing). But that king of person is in the minority. 

****and if it isn't they will still probably message the author, and just be told that it works that way intentionally. And since the only good reason to have a replacer plugin instead of a patch is for actual fixes that can't just be resolved with an override, the person wanting a change will most likely just release it as a mastered patch. 

°I only have them in the installer because people complained when they were removed, but the next update is going to remove them from the main installer and make it a separate download. Because I am sick of idiots shooting themselves in the foot and then complaining to me about it. 

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Are there any real examples that this has been done in today's world of modding a Bethesda game?

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8 hours ago, Zierry said:

Are you bored or something? How can you invest so much energy in such ridiculous and insignificant issue. I did some mod related work for more than 14 days. I am not even finished and i feel like i am 100 years old. During that i am laughed, ridiculed, banned, blocked, insulted and trying avoid people with virtual shotguns protecting their virtual property. And here you are talking about how is modder emotionaly harmed by delta patches that even don't modify mod itself. 

Are you having a bad day or what?

There is no reason of being rude.

Anything that has to do with modding needs to be brought up.

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If delta patching is considered morally and legally acceptable, then I posit this scenario:

I take 3 text files, their content is completely unimportant. I run a delta patch on each one of those files against one file from any random mod with 3 files in it. The end result is the patch produces a binary perfect copy of that mod.

According to people saying delta-patching is completely legal and morally right, I can therefore distribute this delta-patch along with the 3 original text files I authored myself and there's nothing anyone anywhere could do about it.

Personally, the absurdity of this is obvious, but this is precisely what anyone supporting this is saying you can do without consequences.

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41 minutes ago, Arthmoor said:

If delta patching is considered morally and legally acceptable, then I posit this scenario:

I take 3 text files, their content is completely unimportant. I run a delta patch on each one of those files against one file from any random mod with 3 files in it. The end result is the patch produces a binary perfect copy of that mod.

According to people saying delta-patching is completely legal and morally right, I can therefore distribute this delta-patch along with the 3 original text files I authored myself and there's nothing anyone anywhere could do about it.

Personally, the absurdity of this is obvious, but this is precisely what anyone supporting this is saying you can do without consequences.

From the description of the tool, the delta patch will only contain the differences between the two versions, so in that scenario the patcher would have to purposefully tell the tool that their random file is the original, misusing the tool. 

In that case, the entire contents of the original mod would be in their patch, it would be no different than a replacer, and if they posted it on the nexus it would be taken down. But that is not a legitimate use of the tool, and using it as an argument against allowing the tool to exist, is like using the fact that someone uploaded a copy of Far Harbor to nexusmods as a reason that the site should be taken down. 

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I've worked extensively with patches to software projects in the past (what with working with Linux distro projects). Can definitely tell you that any delta-based patch will still be licensed under the same terms of the original work, and thus be a derivative in some way. Usually in those cases its to forward fixes from later versions or add specific functionality required or desired by the distribution, but the work is unambiguously under the license of the original application.

It's still gonna be the same for Skyrim mods, making a patch to alter one original mod into an altered version is still gonna be a derivative and still going to be licensed under the original terms the author put on the project, just by existing.

And to be frank, you might as well just make a override plugin that depends on the original mods to make your desired changes. You'd get the original mod the attention it needs, and it's more honest about it being a derivative work. Plus most mod authors will be fine with these kinds of overrides, after all it still depends on the original files

Modifying the original file by way of patching it into a replacement plugin is still gonna derive from the original plugin, it's not that much different from downloading and installing a plugin replacer.

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24 minutes ago, VIitS said:

From the description of the tool, the delta patch will only contain the differences between the two versions, so in that scenario the patcher would have to purposefully tell the tool that their random file is the original, misusing the tool. 

In that case, the entire contents of the original mod would be in their patch, it would be no different than a replacer, and if they posted it on the nexus it would be taken down. But that is not a legitimate use of the tool, and using it as an argument against allowing the tool to exist, is like using the fact that someone uploaded a copy of Far Harbor to nexusmods as a reason that the site should be taken down. 

So if you acknowledge that this scenario would result in a takedown, what's the difference between that and patching any combination of mods to result in a new file? That new file would also be subject to takedown for exactly the same reasons.

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2 hours ago, Arthmoor said:

If delta patching is considered morally and legally acceptable, then I posit this scenario:

I take 3 text files, their content is completely unimportant. I run a delta patch on each one of those files against one file from any random mod with 3 files in it. The end result is the patch produces a binary perfect copy of that mod.

According to people saying delta-patching is completely legal and morally right, I can therefore distribute this delta-patch along with the 3 original text files I authored myself and there's nothing anyone anywhere could do about it.

Personally, the absurdity of this is obvious, but this is precisely what anyone supporting this is saying you can do without consequences.

Delta patches, when used correctly, are designed to ensure the user downloads the original content - they won't function without first having the original file downloaded. This is in the same manner that ESP patches have the original file as a master.

If however, someone takes a mod I make and copies everything into a new ESP as new records, they achieve the exact same result as the scenario you mention - they've generated the original mod, without the need for a master. ESPs and delta patches alike have this potential for exploitation, yet as a community we are all used to and promote ESP use for patching.

The problem does not lie with the technology (delta patches) but what is created with them. However, no blatant copy of an ESP is allowed on sites such as the Nexus and any delta patches that are equivalent in this regard are sure to be removed. 

 

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53 minutes ago, Arthmoor said:

So if you acknowledge that this scenario would result in a takedown, what's the difference between that and patching any combination of mods to result in a new file? That new file would also be subject to takedown for exactly the same reasons.

It's the source. Any delta patch which attempts to build a mod with an empty or invalid source is fraudulent, since in order to use a blank source to patch a mod it must carry the original mod in the delta patch itself.

In the correct use case, an original mod is used as the source, and so the delta must carry the edits that are necessary e.g. for compatibility, which do not constitute the original work.

This is equivalent to overriding ESP content in a new ESP that is a child of the original mod (correct usage), or copying everything in to a new ESP without a master (fraudulent). 

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7 hours ago, layton452 said:

I can see where you are coming from, but I can't agree with your perspective.

Before considering the argument: the delta patch does not actually encompass the whole file, it only contains the edits that a user makes to a mod. This is important, because if it did so, it would constitute a re-upload of the file itself. What it actually constitutes is similar to an ESP override patch, which is functionally useless without the master file.

Firstly, thank you for taking up the opposing case - I honestly appreciate someone to have this debate with.

This point is only relevant if the mod is solely an ESP, many mods will also include textures, meshes, animations etc. that are needed to make a mod work. In that circumstance you still need the original mod to make the replacer esp work and in that circumstance the delta-patch achieves the same as the replacer.

7 hours ago, layton452 said:

Starting with the positions/use cases. You note how the author could have spent hundreds of hours on the mod, but you downplay the time that the patcher has spent on the file - the patcher may have spent countless hours meticulously patching to ensure the mod works with other mods in their setup (as many modders like to do with xEdit). You also do not explain the motivations of the patcher, only stating that their goal is to break the EULA - in actuality, they are not going to produce a patch solely for this purpose. This is also apparent with the user: you state rather plainly that the user "downloads the patch and applies it", without explaining why they might want the patch and what the end result is for them. To omit this is to not address the elephant in the room - i.e. what the delta patch is actually for. Notably, in the vast majority of cases, these patches would be made to improve compatibility or performance for the end user and enable an experience that may otherwise have been impossible. I don't think you can call the post a theoretical proof when a key part of the theory is left out, and some positions are favoured over others before the conclusion is reached.

I don't want to down-play the amount of work the patcher does, but I do want to emphasise that it's proportionally less than amount of work the original modder does - and so the investment is less. I think this scales with the complexity of the mod, which is to say the amount of time the patcher spends goes up as he works with more complex mods that modders invested more time in. It's important to emphasise here that the reason to use a delta-patch rather than a replacer or a patch esp is to circumvent the author's EULA. Under any circumstances a patch esp or replacer would be preferable - unless you don't have permission for such.

You note that the purpose of a delta-patch is to "improve" the experience for the user, but this is at the cost of violating the original modder's work. My argument is that the user's perceived benefit is significantly less than the potential harm to the modder. Any claim of harm to the user implies that they are entitled to have two mods not designed to work together in their load order and are harmed by not being able to have this. To be honest I see this as an unjustified sense of entitlement because the user exerts no real effort to procure the mods, as opposed to the modder who makes them and is entiled to recognition for their work.

Also, I'd like to point out that delta-patches are not a priori immoral or unethical (that's a better term, so I'm going to use it from now on), rather they are unethical because their purpose is to circumvent the EULA - i.e. the wishes of the original modder.

7 hours ago, layton452 said:

Regarding notion of harm. Firstly, I don't think it's valid to say that an author suffers harm from breach of copyright alone when there are no damages. The patcher uploading a patch for free does not hinder the original author financially - there is no loss. Any traffic that reaches the patch page will in fact serve to increase traffic to the original mod, since a delta patch is a derivative and cannot be used without the original file. Suffering due to a breach of original vision is also flawed when the original vision is still intact and available publicly - it has not been removed. If the argument is that there exists another version of the mod with a differing exhibit, then the original mod should not have been released publicly: it cannot be expected that a mod, itself a derivative, uploaded to a community of modders, will not be derived. The concept of modding is to take the original vision of a developer and build your own vision from it - to prohibit the same use on mod users is, in my opinion, hypocritical. Lastly, emotional distress - I can't relate with this because I don't see how the publishing of a derivative work, likely for compatibility, that is offered for free and without the removal of the original content, should cause significant duress. While I can't rule out that someone might be upset by this, I think the proportion of authors that would take offence to such a patch would be sufficiently slim for this to not be a concern from a wider community perspective.

Whilst financial harm is the most common type of harm cited in court cases there are other types of harm, such as harm to reputation or emotional/psychological harm. Further, the fact that you cannot demonstrate harm doesn't actually invalidate copyright - it simply means you can't assert it against someone. Also, it's worth pointing out that the purpose of copyright law is to protect the moral right which someone has to their original work. In this case I would argue the law is derived from moral reasoning, rather than the law being necessary to justify that reasoning. I'd also point out that your argument hinges on delta-patches being used for compatibility, but in most cases authors will allow patches for compatibility and therefore I think it is more likely that this will be used, as I said, to impose a different artistic vision on the mod. Further, I would note that I am not, and have not, argued that mods derivative of other mods are unethical or immoral. Others may argue this position but I am not - I am arguing that circumventing an author's EULA as a means to go against their express wishes is unethical.

7 hours ago, layton452 said:

Regarding the conclusion - the patcher would not, in the vast majority of cases, be offering their patches in bad faith. What would be the point? In fact, it would be in good faith - to improve the experience of users of the mod in conjunction with other mods. If you are concerned about troll versions of a mod, you only need to look at how many of these are tolerated or used by the community right now. Are there many troll ESP override patches for mods causing modders emotional distress or suffering due to breach of original vision? No, but there are many compatibility patches that are widely appreciated by the community. In fact, functionally a delta patch is no different to an ESP override - only the implementation is different. And yet we have ESP overrides already, and the vast majority of the community is content on their usage.

The accusation of Bad Faith arises not from the intention of the patcher towards the user but from the intention of the patcher towards the modder, and also his assumed refusal to engage the modder in constructive discourse (asking to make a patch or replacer). Most modders will allow esp overide patches and they are preferable to binary patches because they do not effect the original files. Indeed, one of the reasons we have not had binary patches in Bethesda games before now is that they are simply not necessary.

7 hours ago, layton452 said:

So overall, I think the argument changes significantly when the sufficient detail is provided to the patcher and user cases, and when the purpose of these patches is explained. I do agree with your argument if the patches were solely looking to troll or ruin a work, but the precedent with ESP overrides shows that this is not a concern, and almost all patches are presented for the benefit of the community. If any such troll patches arise, existing community guidelines and site terms of service can deal with these cases. Besides, a joke patch with no obvious use is unlikely to get much, if any, traction.

I maintain that violation of the original author's wishes is unethical and finding a way around their EULA or statement of copyright which is enforced by the Nexus and other service providers is unethical. Your argument assumes that delta-patching will be used purely for the purposes of compatibility but this is merely an assumption. You also apparently assume that the mod author would not allow patching for compatibility, or that the patcher is under no obligation to ask.

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7 hours ago, VIitS said:

Just wanted to chime in, as I have been following the discussion that resulted in this post and I have some opinions. I am going to (mostly) ignore the argument about artistic integrity, since my feelings on that would probably lead to unnecessary arguments. 

Beyond anything else, I don't understand how morality comes into this at all. Could it be considered rude? Yes. Could you release a delta-patch in such a way that makes you seem like an absolute ass that should be banned from the community? Sure. But even someone acting like the most sanctimonious, self-righteous, "I am helping you out here" a$%($*&&, is not doing anything immoral by releasing a delta-patch.

Simply put, everything we do should be moral and ethical - that's my position in life.

7 hours ago, VIitS said:

Some counterarguments to your points (bold is done by me to show where I am focusing):

I disagree completely. Many people are against replacer patches, yes. But that is not because the edits are done to the plugin directly*, but because it allows the mod user to not have to download your mod, they can just download the edited one. Delta patches won't work without the original plugin already being in place, so the biggest argument against replacer plugins is not valid here. 

That also means that the next paragraph can be ignored, since it is predicated on the practical effect being the same.

As I noted above, not all replacer esps remove the necessity of the original mod - if the mod has a BSE then you still need the original more, so I'm afraid your criticism is misplaced.

7 hours ago, VIitS said:

Really? You are going to compare a person being upset because someone else wanted to change something the first person created, to people being killed for entertainment? Really? I want to keep this response entirely based on facts, but I can't ignore the ridiculousness of this point even being brought into this discussion. 

As an extreme example that not all harms are equal and harm done to a few can outweigh harm done to many? Yes. The argument has been made that many users outweigh one modder, I simply used an extreme example to highlight why this is not necessarily the case. 

7 hours ago, VIitS said:

Now, since this rant did not come out of nowhere, I am going to talk about the thing that prompted it (this is where I no longer ignore artistic integrity). You are under the impression that the primary use of Netrve's planned tool that would allow delta patching will mostly be used to make changes to mods because the patcher doesn't like something about it and thinks it should be different. Yes, those sort of patches would be made, but I don't agree that they would be the majority. There are thousands of mods that have been abandoned, and yet have issues. Many can be fixed by normal patches (i.e. a mastered plugin that requires the main one to be loaded), but not all of them. Deleted records, corrupted plugins (due to misuse of TESSnip or some other reason), etc...), those require actual direct edits. Those still probably aren't going to be as common as people who want to port an abandoned mod from Skyrim LE to Skyrim SSE. If you can't get a response from the original author, and their permissions are unclear (not prohibiting porting the mod, just not outright specifying that it is allowed), you either have to give up or port it anyway and take it down if they complain, and a lot of people say you should do the later. A delta patch to (for instance) change the form version from 43 to 44 so the mod works in SSE would still require the original plugin to be downloaded from the LE site (mod author still gets downloads). Someone completely porting the mod would mean the original author gets none of those downloads. 

And regarding artistic integrity: a mastered patch would violate artistic integrity just as much as a replacer patch would. The ONLY argument against replacers vs mastered patches (beyond the stupidity of direct edits in most cases) is that you are also distributing the entirety of someone else's work. So if you don't want to allow delta patches because of artistic integrity, compatibility patches and non-replacer fix patches would also have to be blocked. 

Again, I addressed this above - Netve has specifically said he is writing his tool to circumvent the rules around altering mods - because he doesn't think modders are entitled to have those rules followed. The purpose of the patch itself is of less importance than the intention to violate the modders wishes in a way you can get away with. I maintain this is unethical behaviour. If you want to patch something make a patch esp.

7 hours ago, VIitS said:

It is also entirely possible that using this tool for plugins will be the least common use.  Fixing broken meshes, mis-sized textures, poorly coded scripts (or scripts broken by changes made to the base game**), those are the best uses I can see for his planned tool. And again, this will primarily be used for abandoned mods. Most people will message the author about the fix (if it is an actual fix****). Yes, there will be the occasional dipshit who releases a patch rather than try and contact the mod author about something being broken***, but those people are going to exist regardless of if delta-patching possible or not, and I don't want to let the idiotic minority ruin things for everyone. 

Again, you can contact the original modder and offer them a fix - if the modder has left the community and their wish is that their mods should not be altered that is ultimately their prerogative. It's direclty analogous to respecting the wishes of the dead - something which is literally the case for some modders - especially some who worked on Oblivion. Case in point, Hana, Arthmoor and I recently did some work where we needed a transparent snow texture. The best snow texture out there for Oblivion, and the one most commonly used, was made by Qarl, but as Qarl passed away some years ago we could not ask his permission to modify it - even though we almost certainly could have got away with doing so. Instead, we used the 4K upscale of the original vanilla texture which was released free to use and modify.

7 hours ago, VIitS said:

The final complaint against delta patching (which also applies against normal patches): troubleshooting. As managing author of Scrap Everything for FO4, I have to deal with a lot of people thinking SE broke something when it is actually another mod, or the result of using the F(*^^$#* ini edits which I EXPLICITLY WARN PEOPLE NOT TO USE UNLESS THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING°. As a result, I am frequently telling people how to find the actual culprit (or to stop using those ini edits).

If someone mentions a bug that was already fixed, I tell them to update. If they are using the latest version and I know that someone has made a delta patch, I would make it clear that it is fixed in the current unpatched version and they need to talk to the patcher. That said, the patching tool (from what I understand), will not contain the instructions that would be required to change the wrong file into an identical match. So if a patch is made with an old version of my mod and I update the plugin, the patch probably won't work at all. If it doesn't already work that way, it would be a simple matter of mentioning that as a good feature to Netrve, not denouncing the tool as evil.

And no, I would not agree that basic human decency obligates them to some degree. If I give you are bike for free, and it turns out the gears are locked up and need to be cleaned/lubricated before it will work, I won't feel bad about refusing to fix it first. I am not in the least bit obligated to get it in fully working condition, to the point that I could make $50-$100 off of it if I sold it, but am still giving it away. It would be obvious from looking at it that the bike needs work, and for mods the comment section serves the same purpose. If a modder refuses to fix it and also delete any comments about the issues, then yeah, you have a valid complaint about that person being an ass. 

Whether basic human decency obliges you to give your friend a working bike or not would depend on whether you warned them it was broken before you gave it to them. If you did not warn them then I'd argue you're obliged to either fix it or at the very least take it back if they don't want it any more.

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13 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

It's a means of modifying a file, any file, at the binary level to make it confirm to a different version of that file, basically. The word "binary" refers to the literal 0's and 1's, the "delta" is the difference between the 0's and 1's in two given versions of that file.

Oh, OK! Yes, even *I* can understand that! :D

 

Cheers!

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5 hours ago, Arthmoor said:

If delta patching is considered morally and legally acceptable, then I posit this scenario:

I take 3 text files, their content is completely unimportant. I run a delta patch on each one of those files against one file from any random mod with 3 files in it. The end result is the patch produces a binary perfect copy of that mod.

According to people saying delta-patching is completely legal and morally right, I can therefore distribute this delta-patch along with the 3 original text files I authored myself and there's nothing anyone anywhere could do about it.

Personally, the absurdity of this is obvious, but this is precisely what anyone supporting this is saying you can do without consequences.

Do you remember that guy at the old BSF who released a Non-Oblivion Portal mod (later closed by the mods and the link removed IIRC) that was basically a mod of your Skyrim Open Cities without the Oblivion portals?

I think that would be the same as what you said.

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2 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Simply put, everything we do should be moral and ethical - that's my position in life

You misunderstood my point. I don't think that morality is involved here at all. You can be rude without being immoral, and I think that (with the exception of someone misusing the tool in a way that results in the delta patch containing the entirety of the plugin like Arthomoor's proposed situation), the worst a delta patcher could be accused of is rudeness, and that rudeness is usually subject to interpretation. 

 

2 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

As I noted above, not all replacer esps remove the necessity of the original mod - if the mod has a BSE then you still need the original more, so I'm afraid your criticism is misplaced.

Maybe I wasn't as clear as I meant to be, but while requiring you download the original mod is one of the main arguments against replacers, the other is how much of the original author's content you have in your released file. A replacer is like spellchecking someone's published book and providing it to other people. A delta patch is like a an automated script that book to correct the misspellings that will do absolutely nothing if the person getting the script doesn't have the original work. The delta patch only contains the words that word changed and the locations in the book that those words exist at.

One could argue that the delta patch actually has less of the original work than a normal mastered plugin would. If you (for instance) released a delta patch for Scrap Everything that reduced the component reward from scrapping (a semi-common request). The delta patch would have the location in the file that those values exist, and the new values. A mastered plugin would have the entire COBJ records copied over with the values changed. To use my book analogy, rather than just having the edited words it would have the surrounding paragraph as well. 

3 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

As an extreme example that not all harms are equal and harm done to a few can outweigh harm done to many? Yes. The argument has been made that many users outweigh one modder, I simply used an extreme example to highlight why this is not necessarily the case. 

It is not "an extreme example", it is a false equivalence. 

2 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Again, you can contact the original modder and offer them a fix - if the modder has left the community and their wish is that their mods should not be altered that is ultimately their prerogative.

As a counterpoint: Spring Cleaning for FO4. As it stands, it is completely broken. This is because Bethesda's precombined disabling system is a janky mess that can be broken by you looking at it funny. I made a patch (non-replacer) that makes it work again. My patch was a result of two things: me spending the time to figure out why the ITMs Nverjos had resulted in precombineds and previs being disabled, which was only possible due to improvements to the xEdit definitions that made it easy to identify precombined REFRs, and changes Bethesda made to the game engine that meant worldspace edits in .esp files didn't cause the cell reset bug (previously the bug could only be avoided by making your mod a .esm). Nverjos stopped modding before either change that enabled me to develop my patch occured, but without my patch Spring Cleaning would be basically unusable these days. Instead it has gotten tens of thousands of new downloads (at minimum) since I made my patch. 

If Bethesda made a fundamental change to some of the records that meant that overrides weren't enough and I had to make a replacer or Spring Cleaning would crash, then delta patches would be the only way to fix that. It would be completely unusable, through no fault of Nverjos. There have been significant enough changes to furniture records in FO4 that I had to delete and recopy some of the furniture records in Scrap Everything that we added names/keywords to fix some bugs that were occurring. 

2 hours ago, Sigurð Stormhand said:

Whether basic human decency obliges you to give your friend a working bike or not would depend on whether you warned them it was broken before you gave it to them. If you did not warn them then I'd argue you're obliged to either fix it or at the very least take it back if they don't want it any more.

And I brought up the analogy to telling them it is broken for mods. If a mod author has abandoned a mod before realizing it is broken, the comments section functions the same as telling your friend the bike is broken. If you give it to them and don't realize it is broken, because it worked fine the last time you used it, you are not knowingly do anything wrong. 

4 hours ago, Arthmoor said:

So if you acknowledge that this scenario would result in a takedown, what's the difference between that and patching any combination of mods to result in a new file? That new file would also be subject to takedown for exactly the same reasons.

As others have explained, it is a matter of what the patch contains, not what the result is. If a patch contains only the changes and the locations that those changes should be applied, then it is completely different from a replacer plugin, or a "delta patch" that is applied to a blank .txt file and contains literally the entire contents of the plugin. You seem to think the only thing that matters is the result (in this case, an edited plugin rather than a plugin with a mastered patch), and that the method used to achieve that result doesn't matter at all. 

If you are arguing that, instead of a blank text file, you create the delta patch using an unrelated mod as the source and your edited version of the mod in question as the target, and use that to make a delta patch that doesn't require the original plugin while ending with the edited plugin, you are being deliberately obtuse. That would be just as much a misuse of the tool as the first would, and would be even more obvious if the required "source" file doesn't come in the download. If that is not what you mean then I apologize and would like clarification. 

 

Let me ask you this, of both Arthmoor and Sigurð Stormhand: what would your stance be if someone uploaded an xEdit delta patch (which would be generated the same way, by comparing two different versions of the same plugin), and gave "install instructions" of installing the delta patch like a normal mod, loading it in xEdit with the master (as would be required, since the plugin is made a master when you generate a delta patch), then using (deep) copy as override with overwrite to copy the entire contents of the .esu delta patch into the original mod plugin. The result would be the same as using Netrve's binary patcher. The method would only differ when it comes to the program used. 

I can misuse xEdit's delta patch functionality in the same way you were suggesting. If I make a blank plugin, use it as the source for the delta patch and point to the edited mod plugin as the "updated" plugin, my .esu delta patch would contain the entire mod. If I then uploaded it, it would be taken down for the same reason a normal replacer would be: because that is basically what it is. Does that mean that you think Elminster is supporting mod mod piracy by creating the delta patch functionality just because someone can misuse it?  

Or for a more extreme example if you only care about legality: programs like Bittorrent are probably used for piracy more than they are used legitimately. The makers of those programs are not legally forced to remove them from their site, because there are legitimate uses for peer-to-peer file transfer software. The fact that those programs are widely misused doesn't make the program itself illegal. Where things differ is, the makers of a lot of those torrenting programs intend them to be used for piracy as the primary use, and thus the making and distribution of those programs could be considered immoral. Netrve is not intending for people to misuse his planned program to make patches that don't require the original file (plugin, mesh, texture, etc...), the intended use is to actually generate the patch using the original and edited versions of the file. 

If you think he should make it so people can't use it in that manner, then give suggestions for how to prevent those misuses. I am not a programmer, but I imagine it would be possible to make the patch making software calculate how much of the file was changed (byte for byte), and not allow a patch to be made if more than x% of the file is different. Whether x would be 50%, 15%, or 1% would need to be determined, but that would prevent you from making a binary patch that doesn't require the original file. 

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1 hour ago, VIitS said:

You misunderstood my point. I don't think that morality is involved here at all. You can be rude without being immoral, and I think that (with the exception of someone misusing the tool in a way that results in the delta patch containing the entirety of the plugin like Arthomoor's proposed situation), the worst a delta patcher could be accused of is rudeness, and that rudeness is usually subject to interpretation. 

Well, again, I don't think there's any instance where morality isn't applicable. A delta-patcher could also be accused of being callous and uncaring of others' feelings. Everything we do has a moral dimension.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

Maybe I wasn't as clear as I meant to be, but while requiring you download the original mod is one of the main arguments against replacers, the other is how much of the original author's content you have in your released file. A replacer is like spellchecking someone's published book and providing it to other people. A delta patch is like a an automated script that book to correct the misspellings that will do absolutely nothing if the person getting the script doesn't have the original work. The delta patch only contains the words that word changed and the locations in the book that those words exist at.

In this instance the delta-patch is like a set of new pages, you unbind the book, replace the pages and re-bind the book. Regardless of the intent the effect is that it is no longer the published manuscript - it is a new book.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

It is not "an extreme example", it is a false equivalence.

It's not meant to be equivalent, but analogous - for reason I have now twice explained. Not all harm is equal

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

As a counterpoint: Spring Cleaning for FO4. As it stands, it is completely broken. This is because Bethesda's precombined disabling system is a janky mess that can be broken by you looking at it funny. I made a patch (non-replacer) that makes it work again. My patch was a result of two things: me spending the time to figure out why the ITMs Nverjos had resulted in precombineds and previs being disabled, which was only possible due to improvements to the xEdit definitions that made it easy to identify precombined REFRs, and changes Bethesda made to the game engine that meant worldspace edits in .esp files didn't cause the cell reset bug (previously the bug could only be avoided by making your mod a .esm). Nverjos stopped modding before either change that enabled me to develop my patch occured, but without my patch Spring Cleaning would be basically unusable these days. Instead it has gotten tens of thousands of new downloads (at minimum) since I made my patch. 

If Bethesda made a fundamental change to some of the records that meant that overrides weren't enough and I had to make a replacer or Spring Cleaning would crash, then delta patches would be the only way to fix that. It would be completely unusable, through no fault of Nverjos. There have been significant enough changes to furniture records in FO4 that I had to delete and recopy some of the furniture records in Scrap Everything that we added names/keywords to fix some bugs that were occurring.

In your example have you tried to contact the original author? A quick check of Nverjos' author page shows he added a new friend in February 2018 and was also active in 2017, he released his original mod in 2016, the year you originally released the patch on Nexus

Given that the original author was still active you had the opportunity to contact them and offer to take over the mod, rather than releasing your own patch. If you didn't try to contact the original author then your argument is invalid. You assumed non-consent, and by so-assuming you probably guarantee never getting consent. So, actually, this is a perfect example of a patcher going off on one instead of doing what they should have done - collaborate with the original author. That's the way to make better mods - not delta-patches.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

And I brought up the analogy to telling them it is broken for mods. If a mod author has abandoned a mod before realizing it is broken, the comments section functions the same as telling your friend the bike is broken. If you give it to them and don't realize it is broken, because it worked fine the last time you used it, you are not knowingly do anything wrong.

You would be surprised the number of modders who remain active and respond to PM's despite being retired - like me.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

As others have explained, it is a matter of what the patch contains, not what the result is. If a patch contains only the changes and the locations that those changes should be applied, then it is completely different from a replacer plugin, or a "delta patch" that is applied to a blank .txt file and contains literally the entire contents of the plugin. You seem to think the only thing that matters is the result (in this case, an edited plugin rather than a plugin with a mastered patch), and that the method used to achieve that result doesn't matter at all.

It's a matter of what the patch contains and what the result is. The result is important, the method isn't really.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

If you are arguing that, instead of a blank text file, you create the delta patch using an unrelated mod as the source and your edited version of the mod in question as the target, and use that to make a delta patch that doesn't require the original plugin while ending with the edited plugin, you are being deliberately obtuse. That would be just as much a misuse of the tool as the first would, and would be even more obvious if the required "source" file doesn't come in the download. If that is not what you mean then I apologize and would like clarification. 

I'm sorry, but I still don't see a legitimate need for this tool.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

Let me ask you this, of both Arthmoor and Sigurð Stormhand: what would your stance be if someone uploaded an xEdit delta patch (which would be generated the same way, by comparing two different versions of the same plugin), and gave "install instructions" of installing the delta patch like a normal mod, loading it in xEdit with the master (as would be required, since the plugin is made a master when you generate a delta patch), then using (deep) copy as override with overwrite to copy the entire contents of the .esu delta patch into the original mod plugin. The result would be the same as using Netrve's binary patcher. The method would only differ when it comes to the program used. 

I can misuse xEdit's delta patch functionality in the same way you were suggesting. If I make a blank plugin, use it as the source for the delta patch and point to the edited mod plugin as the "updated" plugin, my .esu delta patch would contain the entire mod. If I then uploaded it, it would be taken down for the same reason a normal replacer would be: because that is basically what it is. Does that mean that you think Elminster is supporting mod mod piracy by creating the delta patch functionality just because someone can misuse it? 

This point, at least, has some meet to it. xEdit does a lot of things, it isn't intended that you will use it to patch files to get around a modder's expressed wishes. Netrve has explicitely said they have created the delta-patch system because it is "safe" by which they mean "legal" where modifying the base plugin is not.

1 hour ago, VIitS said:

Or for a more extreme example if you only care about legality: programs like Bittorrent are probably used for piracy more than they are used legitimately. The makers of those programs are not legally forced to remove them from their site, because there are legitimate uses for peer-to-peer file transfer software. The fact that those programs are widely misused doesn't make the program itself illegal. Where things differ is, the makers of a lot of those torrenting programs intend them to be used for piracy as the primary use, and thus the making and distribution of those programs could be considered immoral. Netrve is not intending for people to misuse his planned program to make patches that don't require the original file (plugin, mesh, texture, etc...), the intended use is to actually generate the patch using the original and edited versions of the file. 

If you think he should make it so people can't use it in that manner, then give suggestions for how to prevent those misuses. I am not a programmer, but I imagine it would be possible to make the patch making software calculate how much of the file was changed (byte for byte), and not allow a patch to be made if more than x% of the file is different. Whether x would be 50%, 15%, or 1% would need to be determined, but that would prevent you from making a binary patch that doesn't require the original file. 

Are you aware that Bittorrent clients, and the protocol itself, used to have a 0% upload setting? That was removed quite some time ago to remove the legal loophole of "oh I'm only downloading pirated content, not uploading."

So, yes, you can use a torrent client for illegal purposes, but it's not possible to use one to avoid doing something illegal. This is the opposite of what Netrve is trying to achieve.

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10 hours ago, Hana said:

Are there any real examples that this has been done in today's world of modding a Bethesda game?

Good question - there may be a few xEdit scripts but in general, no. What seems to have changed, though, is that people are seeing binary delta-patching as a way to avoid doing things like contacting mod-authors or, you know, taking any regard for modders' wishes.

It's interesting, really, historically delta-patching hasn't really been a thing in Beth games becausae you can just layer plugins on top of each other and that's better than delta-patching because you don't risk damaging the original file.

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