Paul Marino has an interesting post over at his Thinking Machinima blog about The French Democracy (see previous post) and the possibility of game companies censoring Machinima.
To me, this just highlights the need for Machinima tools that are independent of proprietary games and game engines. The Achilles heel of the art form at the moment is the fact that most Machinima creators are using someone else's intellectual property to create their work. A situation where a games company owns the copyright on your work is a situation ripe for censorship. Paul asks if as a supplier of technology, do the games companies get to dictate the how, what and why tech is used? My answer is that if they choose to, they do have that right.
From an intellectual property standpoint, using Halo to create Red Vs. Blue is not the same as using Photoshop to create a poster. Adobe has no ownership of the creative material used in a poster, they just make and supply the tool used to create it. On the other hand, if I use Halo to create a piece of Machinima, Bungie is not only supplying the tool I am using (the video game) but also much of the creative material as well (the textures, 3D meshes, levels, etc. within the game). Even if you extensively mod them what you're doing is still comparable to what Danger Mouse did with The Grey Album - remixing someone else's work without permission. Artistically brilliant? Sure. Technically illegal? Well, that too.
Regardless of how you feel about copyright issues, if Machinima is going to continue growing and developing as an effective medium for telling original stories, there is going to have to be a Photoshop for Machinima. The only question is who is going to make it and when?