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FIA sends out “cease and desist” letter to modding Teams

Appearantly the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) have send out a “cease and desist” letter to several modding teams working on mods resembling FIA governed cars and series. A cease and desist letter is a request to a party to halt an activity and not take it up again or face legal action. It is rumoured that more unauthorized modding projects are under investigation, including hardware mods. In essence, it is not yet known if this crusade will only impact the open wheeler series, or if it will apply to more related racing series.

One of the modding teams that where recently hit are the F1ASR team. They where working on an a Ferrari 643 F1 and Formula 1 1992 mod. After receiving the cease and desist letter, the team announced that they will suspend work on the mods till further notice.

It looks like this will not just stop there. A month ago we at Bsimracing received a cease and desist letter from a well known brand requesting us not to post or promote any to their brand related software and Hardware mod news. VirtualR.net received a similar Formula 1 related “cease and desist” request only a few months ago.

The last few years it has been discussed and debated that with the growing Sim Racing popularity also the rules of the game could get stricter. A while ago the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) announced a long term partnership with Polyphony Digital (Gran Turismo), revealing that there might be an FIA sanctioned Sim Racing championship in the making. With federations such as the FIA involved Sim Racing could soon become a sport. As with all sports, advertising and sponsorship will have their influence on what can and cannot be done.

The Modding scene also changed allot the last few years. With high detailed and higher quality models, the risk of being associated with a product is becoming apparent. High quality mods could also be seen as competition for licenced material by the established companies. Then there are trends such as payed modding and sponsored leagues and teams that might open up a can of worms when it comes to copyright infringements and people creating revenue with it. The multiple cross-platform conversions that appear lately have also raised attention and could become an issue in the near future.

The Sim Scene is taken more serious and is now recognised as a business platform by many marketeers out there. While that is ultimately a good thing, it will change the way the established companies look at our little niche community. The bigger the market becomes, the more opportunities it will create for marketing. These opportunities will generate a bigger competition. If Sim Racing and the commercial world get even closer, there might be no room left for ” tolerated art” such as modding. Sim Racing livery services such as used in LFS and the “Trading Paints” project for iRacing might become a topic of discussion soon. Fingers crossed.

 





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  • monsterZERO

    This is pretty scary… I feel like if you’re not charging money you should be free to create whatever you want. I can totally understand if you are charging money for an FiA governed series, but as long as no money is exchanging hands, where is the harm. All this will do is stifle creativity and harbour (even more) animosity towards the “big” guys (FiA, Porsche, etc…)

  • Matt Orr

    Well as if that ain’t a kick right to the testicles.

  • Steven Ciofalo
  • Dinca Andrei

    We were in “cages” for some time but now it seems that they decided to slowly close the door….
    We might see MODs out from “no name” just to protect themself….

  • Darin Gangi

    They sent me one about a year ago to take references to F1 mods out of our forums.

  • Fredrik

    Well how is that in legal terms then? I can agree With you but I’ve always wondered if that rule is something that the modding community just made up or if the Law actually says so. Regardless, i think FIA:s lawyers can make it sound like we are doing something else or find something to get it overwith. Definately does’nt hope that the only f1 we can drive is in codemasters Versions…

  • anon

    The problem is that the legal situation is not entirely clear – whilst works of art or photographs can be produced under certain pieces of legislation that allow for fair use, there is no clear precedent for what happens if somebody was to make a digital model and to distribute that.
    After all, no modding group has yet been able to actually risk being sued by a manufacturer. Without a legal precedent that could be pointed to as a legal defence, most modding groups are in a position where, if they are hit with such a demand, they usually have to comply because they can’t take the risk of losing.

  • ftrracingtv

    Well that’s the end of modding
    May aswell just stop doing my game design course as FIA will be on to me if I start making something they own

  • ftrracingtv

    Way to kill our fun FIA

  • http://www.protosimtech.com ProtoSimTech

    The problem is, no one wants to become the first “legal precedent”. It’s a massive risk. With the huge amount of money behind the FIA, taking them on would be an exercise in futility. That in itself is disturbing.

    I don’t see the harm in essentially creating artwork that portrays the real life counterpart, especially when it’s completely free.

    However, you have to consider the fact that someone might not purchase the sim unless it had a particular mod available. At that point, the FIA could claim that the sim itself is profiting from their product because that person is purchasing the mod specifically for one car. Proving that, on the other hand, would be almost impossible.

    I long for the early days of F1 99-02, or Sports Car GT, or even the original rFactor. Good times.

  • http://www.pitlanes.com Rich Goodwin

    Don’t call things “Formula one”, ” formula1″ or “f1″. They’re copyrighted. Done.

    The Formula Extreme doesn’t cause Reiza issues, does it?

  • RichardHessels

    As soon as mega media companies like Sony join organisations like FIA they first will eliminate all amateur competition.
    So their own half baked products will look better.

  • Jay Ekkel

    When you do there mods there is always the chance this happens, the questions is not if it will happen but when! And in the last years the variables have changed a lot! but int he end, like it or not, from a legal point of view they have the rights to do this.

    To use a cupcake example. Lets say you make and own cupcakes and you own the rights to make and distribute the cupcakes. So when someone that then starts making your cupcakes and gives them away for free, you are a threat not an asset…

    Same applies to the car industry, I know I work with them daily.

    The license part of the car industry in the last few years has turned into a profitable big business for them, not longer about “being out there” its about making money on it. As soon as money becomes part of it, you know these letters will be send out more often then int he past.

    Just my 2p!

  • OllieC

    release an ‘official’ mod with no branding and fake liveries etc, then an unofficial upload with the real skins etc, easily done.
    FIA are really a bunch of shits for many reasons but we knew that anyway

  • fisicoF1

    Just want to add that FIA can’t do a shit as long as we’re (modders) not taking money for it. Just to point that out :P

  • AussieStig

    I think the FIA might want to worry a little more about why people are not going to F! races, or why their television audiences are dwindling. To put it simply, the reasons for these two fundamental problems are the FIA themselves, they want to have their fingers in so many pies, making people pay extortionate viewing fees to watch the races on live to air TV, charging astronomical ticket prices to watch what has been, lets face it, at least for the last 5 years essentially one sided racing. Their popularity is at an all time low. The fact that they are now going after sim racing and modding is another sign of greed. Ok they can protect their interests, that is their right, but instead of nurturing what could be a great source to generate more interest in F! they are alienating the very people that go to or watch their races in the first place.

  • http://www.revvin.net/ Revvin

    I’m just surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. When you charge so much for a license for your IP then your licensees would expect you to protect it else the license diminishes in value.

    Of course this will likely never happen but perhaps a licensing system based on the project using the IP would be better. Those like Codemasters who are producing a high volume multi-platform title would pay more while the mod team who want to make a free mod pay less, although then I suppose Codemasters would seek a lower fee if a lot of mod teams bought a license as the market would be diluted.

    I respect their right to protect their IP I just wish there was a better way of handling this business.

  • Clive Lomax

    Sickening…. of course this would probably not happen if the software developers who own the licences would actually produce software that handled like the real thing instead of something designed to make the racer feel like a talented Hollywood movie hero.

  • e_r_n_i_e

    This car licensing thing is really weird. The normal way is (or should be) that if manufacturers want to promote their brands, they need to invest money for advertisement and commercials.

    Quite the opposite happens when it comes to car licenses for gaming. It’s a paradox situation, that the manufacturer gets money from the developer for the opportunity to promote their cars in a game/sim. And with all the graphical improvements the last years, modern games can really make these cars shine and promote them almost lifelike.
    So not only the car manufacturer get its brand freely advertised, but also he get payed for the marketing.
    I think it should really be the other way around.
    Just imagine that Lamborghini comes to Simbin “Hey, we want our cars in your racing sim. Here are 500.000€.” …….. oh wait ….. i’m just dreaming. ;)

  • coops17

    FIA OMG its free advertising for YOU on popular sims i thought all publicity was good publicity.

  • F1Racer

    I couldn’t disagree more about it being the end of modding. I think there are ways around these things, both legitimately and if this kind of modding is pushed underground. Either way I don’t see it ending.

    What I do wonder is if a modder ignored these cease and desist letters how far the FIA would really take it. So far it has been very easy work for them to scare people off with just a letter.

    But if I make a livery for a car, an official F1 livery, how is that not my artwork ? How does is differ from me sketching, painting or even rendering an F1 car ? They can’t stop me sketching or painting and I’ve had no issues with my renders either.

    I’d say make your mods, make them with fictional (but similar) names, change the car models slightly and put them out there. Then let an artist make some liveries that are for personal use in case someone wants to make a 3D model… and… they just happen to fit that mod.

    Either that or the modding goes underground and files are dished out privately. It will only end if the modders let it.

    Look how many movie torrents are still out there every day despite so many efforts to stop it. This is a drop in the ocean in comparison.
    Also maybe the FIA should consider giving out their official F1 licences to people who know how to represent the sport (business) in a better way than Codemasters do. Oh they may sell on mass with the consoles but they have no idea or no desire to satisfy the sim-racing community. Crammond managed to appease all levels of skill and STILL no-one has learned from that and we’re talking over a decade now.

    That’s my opinion, it may not be correct or popular but I’m sticking with it.

    Is the guy making F1 skins for Reiza’s Formula Extreme also going to get a scary letter ? I think there are grey areas here and loopholes. It’s just knowing how to make use of them.

  • F1Racer

    It’s not really a case that no money is being charged, its that they feel threatened by our free stuff as it *might* affect their commercial stuff.
    If F1 mods affect Codemasters sales I would be very surprised. Most people who get these mods have already made their mind up on CM’s F1 attempts already and not because of the existence of F1 mods.
    If the mods do affect CM’s sales, first that will be almost impossible to prove and secondly the impact would be so minimal it wouldn’t be worth having a full court case over.

  • F1Racer

    Not true. Just to point that out :)

  • F1Racer

    +1 on that.

  • pixels

    so if you are a money grabbing lawyer and the LAW is on your side. and you are confident about that! then why are you giving fore warning to a group of hobbyists that don’t make money from said “product”. This is nonsense. FIA cant do sweet fanny adams about a non profiteering replication design project that amounts to a copy.

  • Wayne Reed

    I have been looking into this and i have found out something that the FIA don’t want you all to know. The only thing they can have you for is the use of “Formula 1, F1, Formula 1 World Championship” and 2 or 3 more. The cars that are in F1 our owned by the teams NOT the FIA So it would have to be the teams that take you to court as they own the rights to that car. The same goes for the tracks. It is only the track owner that can take you to court as they own the rights. The FIA do not own any rights other then to the NAME. Do not be pushed around buy the FIA they cant touch you. And i can also tell you that even if anybody takes you to court as long as you are not making money from it they will only tell you its kinda wrong.

    There was case some years ago with a guy doing painting of Disney stuff and he was doing it for free to build his work up. Disney took him to court and they lost. They lost because he was not making any money from the paintings so know copyright law was broken.

  • http://www.virtua-lm.cm/ Freddy Stapersma

    what if you call your work art as a artist impression of sertain cars in a format you can drive.
    I am an artist, our 3dmakers, sound engeneeers are all artists creating art and for art sake giving it away?

    Many paintings around of racecars for sale.. will Fia attack them too??

  • http://www.virtua-lm.cm/ Freddy Stapersma

    hmm could be FIA is talking on behalf of the teams?? who knows.
    I also know a guy who needed to pay big money for copyright from ACO.

  • Wayne Reed

    Yeah there is a chance that the teams could be using the FIA to do that but in a court the teams could only charge you on a team by team case. I would wait for them to speak up. I would say to any modders that are doing mods is to contact the teams and see how the land sits. Because if a team says yes to you doing it as long as you never do it for money ect then the FIA will have to put up with it.

  • http://www.virtua-lm.cm/ Freddy Stapersma

    Older F1 cars that are sold to new owners to drive in historic races Can FIA still claim that too? I know historic F1 is also owned by FIA. But there is no manufacturer that can say to a new owner. how to drive the cars. repaint them or do whatever with them. The new owner has the rights over the cars and painting?
    so what about F1 2013 cars?? impossible.. all they can ask is to delete everything related to FIA. NOT by teams if you ask me.

  • Jay Ekkel

    Normally when entering a race series and especially the big ones, digital rights for the cars/team liveries are normally assigned or co-signed with the series organisers. Organisers don’t own the rights, but they can act on behalf of the series and make these claims.

    Artist impression/artistic freedom is a grey area though. Nowadays cars, and their shapes, or parts of their design are trademarked which makes it harder for somethings to happen though.

  • William Mazeo

    When we needed to make new physics for our online leagues we got help from an ALMS engineer. Great guy, helped a lot with info about how things works, real downforce values (prototypes), etc.
    Not saying his name cuz who knows what could happen…
    Anyway I don’t think this will affect anyone. Some games have F1 cars with different names and nobody is saying anything, they even make money on it. I guess FIA just want to stop the groups doing F1 cars and making money with them on mods and online leagues, and to be honest FIA is right if this is what they want.
    I only hope this won’t scare all modding teams or at least they can find ways to post their stuff in safer places. Especially now that AC is getting better.. damn..

  • Slaven Ćorluka

    and this is why Ive stopped watching F1. Its become just all about money and greed, and to think to what point they would take it, as forbidding few blokes to make some F1 cars for free as a mod. Disgusting.

  • Bram Hengeveld

    We have had the same letter at http://www.racedepartment.com a year ago and keep getting them from time to time. The sender is not the FIA but a company that acts on behalf of the FOM.

    All they do is roam the internet for so called breach of their rights but if you read the letter closely its not a cease and desist letter, but good old internet bullying, but apparently for some teams and websites this is already enough to get (and spread) panic.

    Just answer the email kindly, ask for proof (which they don’t have as they just focus on trigger words, not actual content) and carry on. Their emails have a nice case number in the subject line to impress the receiver. I have returned all the emails kindly and added my own case number (looks really professional :D)

    By posting this kind of news constantly you are giving them exactly what they want: publicity and successfully spreading of fear.

    We will not remove any F1 mods that are created by users from scratch unless they provide and submit exact proof of what rule the particular modder is breaching. Still waiting on a proper explanation.

    What they should go after instead are teams and individuals that sell F1 branded content for money without a license.

  • Paul

    FIA is very much an organisation of the bygone era. A little forward thinking would appreciate that modding teams contribute to the user fan base and provide an awful lot of (free) publicity for FIA governed series. I would have thought the more publicity for a brand, the better especially as it’s created by non-profit groups.

    Sending out legal letters to stop people from helping to promote your own product seems like a crazy idea.

  • Realkman666

    Big companies prefer control over free advertisement. Besides, all these projects can make their partner Codemasters look bad in comparison. Hopefully they don’t try to screw with Reiza, they’ve named their stuff vaguely enough at least.

  • Realkman666

    “A month ago we at Bsimracing received a cease and desist letter”
    I think they know what they received. They probably stepped it up a notch since last year.

  • Realkman666

    No one wants to race an FXO or an FZ250 any more. That’s why they can charge money for it. Of course, when it comes to big series, it’s even easier. DTM gets 10x the sales of Teuton Touring Extreme 2014.

  • Realkman666

    Not yet. They better not start with Reiza.

  • Realkman666

    I guess it’s a user problem. Stop paying attention to labels and drive what feels right, like the Formula Extreme, Reiza, Classic, and such.

  • balumi

    There’s a contact form on the FIA website: http://www.fia.com/contact-us

    … and they just received some stupid hate message :). Probably a waste of time. But it won’t hurt if they know that this really damages FIA’s reputation in this community. Just in case anyone else wants to waste their time…

  • Gerardo

    Release the mods under a GPL or CC license —> “fair use” or “fair dealing”. If you don’t have profit intentions and only takes it as an artistic expression or altruistic work, so, the FIA and others cannot do ANYTHING.

    Other important thing… the modders have to share too, especially if use GPL license.

  • Dinca Andrei

    Were do i get a license to make a livery for this beauty

  • General Rush Hour

    “You know, back when I was a texture artist for RSR, we were working on the NAGT mod for rFactor. I contacted a few of the racing teams to gather some pictures for some texture work. Those teams were so happy to give us whatever we needed to get the mod done. They even told us they would test the mod for us, and give us feedback.

    To me, that’s the attitude to have. It brings awareness to the sport.”

    I had a similar experience, i needed unsprung weights of suspension components one time and i simply emailed Mclaren GT3 teams and they were extremely helpful in giving me the data i needed.

  • Gerardo
  • http://www.bsimracing.com/ Wim

    Not the same case Bram. The cease and desist letters I received personally came from the McLaren Group. And it was a genuine cease and desist letter. I got in contact with them. It was surely no so called “internet bullying”. That said, it is something that involves the community. So i don’t see why it cant be discusses o a website, or being communicated by modding teams.

  • doctor1985

    FIA Mafia!

  • Renato Simioni

    As Jay says, game licensing is an industry because there is demand for it. Adding these brands add value to the product as it thus sell more. Car companies (and now apparently institutions that live off milking the sport) figure there is money to be made of it. Why give away the free exposure when you can charge for it?

    The “solution” could be to put the focus on selling the driving experience, rather than the brand. This might never fly for AAA blockbusters like Gran Turismo but hardcore sim racers should be satisfied with the experience of racing (for ex) a 600 HP, slick-shod, high downforce machine on 4 wheels irrespective of what you call it. Give it a theme rather than a brand, and focus on the simulation of that experience. That´s what a what a sim racer should be interested in most of all and thus what a developer should be selling, rather than spending an absurd figure on a label. Until they start trademarking car handling and engine notes anyway :)

  • Renato Simioni

    Not for now. See above :)

  • dumberdog

    I don’t like the way FIA is dealing with this issue, their one and only focus should be real world racing not virtual. Maybe that’s because F1 has it’s own Codemasters licensed videogame or due to the more recent cooperation with Sony and Granturismo, i don’t know why for sure. Modding is what makes us love racing in the virtual world, all the passion and joy involved, all the friends gathering in communities around the world….Don’t take it away from us simracers you will regret deeply!!

  • Tiago Guerreiro

    The so call Illegal modding will be well known in the future……. They want to control everything and to be honest they will fail!!

  • Mario Strada

    That’s the way to go. I would even make the original mod look like the default rFactor cars. A grey box with green wheels.
    Another model to look at would be how the Chinese can actually manufacture and sell copies of the Ford F150 and other cars (even though the build quality is atrocious). I’d think that’s a bit more of an infringement.

  • Realkman666

    Strangely enough, I would take such a thing more seriously. It wouldn’t be about prestige, preconceptions or rim sizes, but pure physics. Engine placement, tyre type, suspension, weight distribution, but not brands.

  • Renato Simioni

    Of course, I stated the point vaguely but it applies to what ure saying. You cant trademark a specsheet.

  • DanG

    I think that one reaction of the modding community should be an open letter (like Mercedes did a few days ago). In the actual situation the FIA lawyers know that the modding teams will just give up doing what they do, because they can not take the risk. But I am quite sure that they do nothing wrong. Maybe such an open letter can attract people from the community, which have the professional background to speak up against the FIA.

    In my opinion the fun I get from simracing is not only about the immersion of driving, it is also the virtual recreation of real races and series and the fact that the collection of all these lovely modded cars builds up a virtual museum. I enjoy very much the work of Reiza, but I do not want to miss the real cars with real skins and real drivers.

    Dan

  • APC900

    I knew my concern for the 2014 F1ASR mod was warranted the minute I saw a CM 2014 trailer.
    How far will the FIA go?
    Will it restrict the threats to just use of the F1/ Formula1 name, logo etc… or will it continue to include the car’s likeness?
    Big business seems to be it’s own worst enemy.
    Greed really is a ‘bitch’ in today’s business model.
    It seems, it’s no longer sufficient to win over your competition by making a superior product. Now all a company has to do is cry foul, step back and let a licensing authority step in.
    I believe that’s probably what’s happening here.

  • Chris Wright

    What else is there to say other than inevitable.

  • DonCorleone

    (FOWC) lawyers contacted me too and I had to shut down my rfactor site which provided download links for pretty much all the published F1 mods for rFactor. My WHOLE hosting account was suspended because of this one site when I first ignored this threat, (i run around 10 websites), so my only change was to delete all the content within the site to access my other sites. This is fookin stupid…

  • F1Racer

    Yes I think it will. The music industry failed and had to wake up to the new digital ways, the movie industry failed and had to wake up too.
    This is a different deal though tbh as the amount of people the F1 mods reach is so so tiny that you wonder why the FIA are so worried about it, let alone even bothering.
    Modders should all sign a cease and desist letter to the FIA telling them to cease sending them these letters and get a damn grip.

  • Fabio Pittol

    I guess bashing on FIA won’t really help our case. OK, they’re not the openminded of the companies, but for sure they are not alone in this market. We’ve already seen it happens with Porsche.

    For me, this issue is much related to ever growing discussions about modding state nowadays.

    The whole gaming industry changed a lot lately. And also, our little niche has grown. It’s a double-edged knife. As close as we get to the real world racing in order to get data etc. we get their attention to our once underground world.

    I think that’s an opportunity for us all to rethink how we mod/work and adapt.

    We got used in getting things for free. And it’s ok, since there are people willing to do things for free. But we’re also seeing great modding teams vanish. As the complexity increases also does the amount of time required to develop high quality stuff.

    I don’t think that having the money to pay for something good is the problem. Just look at how the sim-oriented hardware market has grown, and yet how expensive the products are.

    And I’m not here deffending paid mods. I just think that’s the time for us to start looking at all the options available.

    Maybe in the future Kickstart campains will be an option. A mod team contacts the license holders, evaluates the amount of money need to produce the content and see if people backs it up.

    Maybe some license holders will see the market as the aviation companies do. Various aircraft developers, regardless of the platform, have been able to get Boeing’ and Airbus’ licenses. Even releasing products with very different levels of quality.

    And also, I’m not really sure the limiting to brandless spec-based cars, as some people suggested, would be a solid solution. If we look at the past, and see how ISI’s attempt to have only fictional cars and tracks went, and also look at foruns and blogs and see people requesting specific cars every single day, doesn’t seem our community as a whole is ready/willing to have only “single-car similar to F1″, “single-car similar to DTM” etc.

  • Chris Wright

    I’m sorry but that’s just not realistic, merely idealistic.

  • Gerardo

    Bye bye Democracy, welcome Corporatocracy.
    Marvel has the copyright of the word “superhuman” and “superheroe” (yep is hilarious), imagine if tomorrow start to require money to each person to say that word? or Nestle for using the world “joy”? That sounds fair to you?
    I’m in the IT industry, 90% of the code I write I release under BSD licensed and yet I have a very good life. You can live by you work and don’t claim for something like “I have a right delegated by God”. The ideas are in the air, the money has to do with work.
    If Gartner Inc (father of ERP software) send me a threatening letter because I work on a project of ERP software (and open source) they can get me to die in a fit of laughter.
    Take this example, if a group of savages who’s behind of thepiratebay.se give battle to all corporations, then the modders to have a NONPROFIT hobby doesn’t have to be afraid of anything.

  • Chris Wright

    Well whatever the philosophical considerations, these letters will have the desired effect. Whether it’s corporate bullying or not, rights owners have the law on their side and it is for them to judge what a serious copyright infringement constitutes in the context of their businesses and to decide on the course of action. The same right, indeed as modders who have had their creations used without permission by others.

  • Gerardo

    Is common sense, not a philosophical debate. ;)
    Ask for details of what law is violated (country, law name/number), and so on.
    If the modders will use GPL or CC besides being protected from these attacks, they have to accept that others take their work to modify, reuse, etc. provided they do not have profit intentions.
    This strange model for many people “works” in the real world, more than 80% of the servers on the planet use open source software.
    Another little example, you can download the Android source code, do what you want with it, modify, remove or add parts/components, etc, recompiled it, puts it another name and voila, you have your own OS and Google Inc is not going to send a threatening letter.
    Your only responsibility will be to publish the source code, don’t sell the software, and put all authors in the credits.
    Nobody buy a recipe… ;)

  • Professional Operator

    Solution? Private forums. Private leagues. Private modding.

    To hell these fools.

  • Professional Operator

    I don’t think the problem here is paying for “something good”. Everyone will end up buying stuff they like.

    The BIG problem now is FIA is trying to stop us from playing/modding our favourite content on our favourite Simulators because they signed a deal with Sony and Poliphony Digital. So they are trying to stop modding in order to kill the competition and gather more people into that big corporate crap Gran Turismo became nowdays.

    They are now in the position to deny licensed cars to PC Sim racing games even if PC Developers want to pay money for that license. What if a company like ISI tomorrow want to license an official “FIA GT3″ championship?
    FIA will obviously say NO because of the deal with Poliphony.

    Will this be enough to stop people? NO! Password protected forums, with private leauges and private mods wil rise. And moderators in order to prevent their small forum out of big corporation eyes will IP ban all those people suspected of being a spy.