Risks Involved With BMBF

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Folks new to Beat Saber custom songs and BMBF in general have some specific questions surrounding the action of modifying Beat Saber to accommodate custom songs.

I’ll do the best I can to answer these questions based on my extensive research on Facebook and Oculus Terms of Service as well as my experience working with BMBF’s development, usage as a third party application (BeatMapper Tools, Playlist Editor Pro) and a long time end user of the product.

If you aren’t really clear about what BMBF is or what it does? Start here.

The bottom line is: educate yourself. Fully understand the nature of what you agreed to legally and you will have to make the decision on whether or not you are comfortable with the possible outcomes. I give you the facts (with a bit of conjecture).

Can I be banned for using BMBF?

Banned in this context usually means “Can Facebook take away my accounts and my purchases and lock me out of my Quest 2 if I use BMBF?”

BMBF is a tool that opens, patches and modifies the Beat Saber application to allow for custom songs and “modifications” to be functional while running Beat Saber.

This is 100% in violation of the Oculus Terms of Service.

You will not use, copy, adapt, modify, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, decrypt, attempt to derive the source code of, prepare derivative works based upon, distribute, license, sell, rent, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast or otherwise exploit the Software and Content, except as expressly permitted by Oculus or as permitted under applicable law.

Oculus Terms of Service 4.1.

As a violation of the Terms of Service, Oculus/Facebook are well within their rights to take actions against this.

We reserve the right to terminate your right to access and use the Oculus Products if you violate these Terms or any other terms or policies referenced herein, or if you otherwise create risk or possible legal exposure for us.

Oculus Terms of Service Paragraph 22.

The direct answer of “can you be banned”, in black and white is: Yes, the Terms of Service allow them to terminate your access to everything for failure to comply.

Will my Facebook account get me banned from Oculus?

Oculus’ Terms of Service adopted Facebook’s Community Standards on October 11th, 2020. You are agreeing to both Oculus’ TOS as well as Facebook’s TOS.

Should you violate Facebook’s TOS, they are within their rights to take action against you.

We reserve the right, in our sole discretion and where technically feasible, to disable your access to or ability to use Oculus Products that we believe present a health and safety risk or violate our Community Standards (also known as the Facebook Rules) and Conduct in VR Policy, agreements, laws, regulations, or policies. We will not incur any liability or responsibility if we choose to remove, disable, or delete such access or ability to use any or all portion(s) of the Oculus Products.

Oculus Terms of Service, section 3.

That is cut and dry. It doesn’t matter which TOS you violate, both accounts – your devices and purchases on those accounts – can be removed.

Facebook isn’t going to ban hundreds and thousands of people using BMBF, right?

A couple of common thoughts on this are “There is no way Facebook would ban everyone using BMBF – people would riot!” or “They know we’re only here to play custom songs – there is no way they are going to stop this”.

Facebook is a company in business to make money. They also have a decorum they must maintain with the government, other businesses and their stakeholders.

If custom songs start to cost Facebook money? There is no reason to think they would not take actions to stop this.

Custom songs contain intellectual property owned by someone else; the music files contained are copyrighted (usually) and the data files that synchronize Beat Saber have not been licensed by the rights owners of that song (unless you are the legal song owner). Laws vary from country to country, of course – but for the most part; the downloading, uploading and exchange of custom songs is not legal. The fact you can listen to music free on the internet does not give you license to use it in Beat Saber.

You are solely responsible for the User Content you make available through the Oculus Products and you represent and warrant that (a) you either are the sole and exclusive rights owner of all User Content that you provide, or you have obtained all rights, licenses, permissions, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to us the rights specified in this section; (b) the provision of your User Content, and our subsequent use of such User Content, will not infringe, misappropriate or violate any third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable laws or regulations; and (c) your User Content does not violate our Community Standards (also known as the Facebook Rules) and Conduct in VR Policy.

Oculus Terms of Service, Section 7.

Facebook also has legal considerations to take into account.

While they offload legal responsibility to you, the user (for which they can punish you if they like) – there are still music rights holders that could push Facebook into a legal corner. This is pure speculation – but there are only a handful of copyright holders that hold a majority of the rights to music. Should Facebook (through allowing custom songs – violating their copyrights – exist without resistance) displease these copyright holders, it could interfere with their chances of licensing music for DLC packs in the future.

There is an argument that if Spotify/YouTube/et al offer this music for free, then it is legal for this music to be used in Beat Saber. All of these sites have strict limits on what you’re allowed to do with that music they serve. For example:

The following is not permitted for any reason whatsoever:

copying, redistributing, reproducing, “ripping,” recording, transferring, performing or displaying to the public, broadcasting, or making available to the public any part of the Spotify Service or the Content, or otherwise making any use of the Spotify Service or the Content which is not expressly permitted under the Agreements or applicable law or which otherwise infringes the intellectual property rights (such as copyright) in the Spotify Service or the Content or any part of it;

Spotify Terms of Service, Section 9

There is a lot of ignorance of the law, but we’ll leave it at this. Custom songs are violating intellectual property rights and as such, Facebook/Oculus can take action against your account.

But they don’t have to ban people to stop it from happening. Modded apps are warned against use – and in the case of modded Beat Saber … are allowed to run anyway. Simply revoking that button stops custom songs and BMBF.

Wouldn’t they have stopped this already, if they were going to at all?

This is a complicated question. Let me start answering it by asking you a question.

Everyday on your way to work, you exceed the speed limit in your car. In fact, you’ve been doing this for years – and you’ve never been pulled over. Does that mean that the police condone you speeding?

Ludicrous, right? Of course they don’t. That means they haven’t caught you – or you’re not breaking the speed limit enough for them to find it worth the effort to stop you.

If you consistently drive 5 mph over the speed limit, is a cop going to pull you over? Probably not. Doesn’t make it legal, nor does it mean a different cop hiding behind that tree won’t actually pull you over at some point.

We can only speculate why Facebook is turning a blind eye to custom songs and Beat Saber. Here are my thoughts.

It directly benefits them to allow it: For now.

I’m not sure how many people love and adore Beat Saber’s core song selection. If you are a fan of that type of music (or you have no recourse – such as on PSVR) then perhaps you’re good with the product as it comes out of the box.

There is simply no way to argue that with custom songs, Beat Saber is far more valuable – as a vehicle to promote VR and a product to sell … and now as a Facebook owned property? Quite valuable to the Quest ecosystem.

People use this argument to explain why Facebook allows this to continue – it benefits them. But that doesn’t make it allowed by the TOS.

As long as the nature of custom songs makes them money and doesn’t cost them money in lost revenue or legal battles with the music industry? It is likely they will continue to turn that blind eye.

This doesn’t mean they condone or approve. This means that while it is convenient and beneficial, they can find something else to do.

They haven’t been called out on it by the music industry.

It is easy to think that huge repositories of songs should be “easy pickings” for copyright holders to find and target. I am one of the people that can’t believe one of these large intellectual property holders haven’t stopped these websites yet.

Truth is? The internet is a big place. You have blatant, easy to chase copyright infringement going on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 365 days each year through other means.

Even aggressive copyright holders like Nintendo (who serve Cease and Desists like they were free) can’t be everywhere and see everything all the time. Reddit is loaded with piracy – links hidden in Base64 encoded strings. Nintendo should be having a field day – but apparently they aren’t. They are busy chasing Team Executer. 😀

Honestly? We think VR is a Big Thing and is a massive industry with millions of users and it should be front and center in front of everyone. At this point? Custom songs aren’t likely worth their time to pursue legally.

If VR gets extremely popular, this could change.

Beat Saber on PC has custom songs built in and that is legal (and allowed). Why is Quest different?

The PC version of Beat Saber comes with a song editor, which stores the songs locally for the game to pick up, at runtime, and allow you to play.

As a side product of this ability, you can take custom songs that others have made and put them in the same folder as “your custom songs” and the game will play them.

This is not condoning copyright laws being broken by using copyright music or performing synchronization on said songs (which also requires a license).

But it does transfer the burden of legality to you. Being allowed by TOS to use custom songs on your PC edition, doesn’t make the nature of custom songs you download from the internet any more legal.

The question of course is … if PC users can do it, why can’t Quest users do it?

There is obviously nothing preventing it from happening – we do have BMBF after all and most of us are enjoying custom songs every single day.

No answer to that question exists (not that I could find, anyway) but again, we can speculate a bit.

The Quest is the crown jewel of Facebook’s crown.

After opening the bottle and letting the Custom Songs Genie(tm) out with the PC version, they may have encountered a situation where copyright holders they sought licensing from for DLC essentially said that they didn’t want to do business with them because of custom songs.

In May 2019, Beat Games said that custom song support was coming to Quest.

They did say it was coming … and the tweet is still there …

Over time, they have been called out on it and their response – cut and paste each time:

We are definitely planning to allow our players to play custom levels in the future. We just have to rethink the whole approach to make sure we are not violating any law or copyright rights.

Beat Games, May 28, 2019

What’s to think about? The PC version does it. Numerous other rhythm games on Quest (like Audica) do it.

This sounds like a rubber stamp stop gap to make the question go away.

What does this mean? Will it ever come? Was there really an incident that caused them to rethink it? Why aren’t they being transparent about it? Why has it been a year and a half and there is no change?

They got schooled during licensing negotiations?

As mentioned prior, they may have discovered that having an “open platform” (like the PC version) was somehow harming their negotiations with copyright holders when they were trying to license music for DLC packs.

The token of Good Faith(tm) would be to say “going forward, we’re not going to allow that” – and Quest was a casualty of this decision.

There was a technical challenge and they shifted priorities.

We know now that custom songs seems pretty easy on Quest; but perhaps in the beginning? It was beyond their abilities so they shifted their goals to other milestones in the product.

They didn’t want to write the editor.

If you have Quest custom songs? You would have to justify that (like the PC) with a song editor and they ultimately decided it was far too much work/effort/money (or maybe even impossible) to do it the way they wanted. So, no editor means no custom songs.

You would think they would be a bit more transparent about it, though.

I guess the bottom line is – if you want guaranteed custom song support? You need to be using Link or Virtual Desktop and playing the PC VR version.