Up until today we have had a policy of not allowing users to request or receive donations from other users on the Nexus sites. This has included things such as mod authors asking for Pay Pal donations in their file descriptions. This policy stemmed from a long running rule on Bethesda's official forums, dating all the way back to the launch of Morrowind where asking for donations, or even talking about the prospect of donations is not allowed. The reason is very simple; it's a legal grey area. In between EULAs and contracts, no one really knows the full extent of the law in this regard and it's been better for everyone that the matter is just kept a closed book so we don't open pandora's box.
It's never been a big issue on the Nexus because, as the largest source for Oblivion and Fallout modifications we helped to ensure this policy remained intact, so Bethesda have never had to look too deeply at the matter. In essence, we enforced the policy because our relationship with Bethesda, and ensuring modding isn't more hassle than it's worth for them (so they continue to release SDK's for their games), is more important than mod authors receiving donations. And I'll stand by that thinking.
The truth of the matter is that I coded a donation system on the Nexus many months ago, before the launch of Steam Workshop, in anticipation of any changes that the integration with Steam Workshop might bring. There's a 13 page thread in the private mod author forums, where I discussed the various options with mod authors that I started months ago as proof of this. Those changes were put on hold until we could tell whether Bethesda's policy or endorsement of mod author donations changed with the Steam Workshop integration. Steam Workshop did not offer any direct donation or payment methods, however, with the launch of Steam Workshop several mod authors have questioned recently why Bethesda/Valve were allowing mod authors to request donations on the Steam Workshop in their file descriptions, but we weren't. I assumed that, actually, Bethesda weren't allowing it, but instead were just unaware that mod authors were doing this. So this seemed like the perfect time to rock-the-boat a little and enquire further on this matter.
So I fired off an email to Bethesda this morning and we had a conversation on the matter. It was good to know that Bethesda and I are on exactly the same page in regards to this subject. However, I have now received a confirmation that if users want to ask for donations on their page then that should be fine. Which is good news. The worry is in the further ramifications, like mod authors trying to offer their services, support or files for money in any shape or form and that's something I agree with absolutely.
It's great to know that Bethesda do not have a problem with mod authors receiving voluntary donations from other users (and they used the analogy of a tip jar) but we need to make sure that's all that donations are used for. Voluntary donations are fine, but let's list some of the things that aren't fine so we're completely clear:
- Asking for donations in exchange for password protected files or additional content e.g. offering your own kind of DLC for mods in exchange for donations. All mods must remain completely open, and completely free. You cannot offer additional content for donations.
- Asking for donations in exchange for updates for your uploaded files e.g. saying "for every £10 I receive I will update my mod with new fixes and features".
- Asking for donations in exchange for help or support e.g. saying you won't help someone to install or fix problems with their mods unless they donate to you.
- Offering incentives for people who donate to you
- Anything that isn't just a straight forward, voluntary donation, in exchange for nothing
We have to be strict on this because there are bigger legal ramifications at stake when money is being exchanged. Because of this, and because I don't want file descriptions to be spammed full of "PLEASE DONATE TO ME" messages, we are going to enforce a rule of absolutely no donation solicitation on the Nexus. That means you cannot ask or talk about donations in your file descriptions, profile pages, comments or private messages. And we mean that. We have updated our Terms of Service
I have coded a donation system in to every Nexus site that you can now configure in your preferences area. First things first, the donation system is completely optional and you most definitely do not have to use it. It's completely opt-in, so if you want to accept donations you need to fill in the required fields in your preferences.
When you fill in your donation preferences you can set where you would like donation links to show. At the moment you can set them to show on your profile page and/or all your file pages and it's a simple toggle to turn that on or off. Once on, new links will show on the pages you selected, with a donation button and text reading "Like what this author does? Consider donating money to this user through Pay Pal to help support and encourage them.". That's it. All donation links on all files are in the same place, so if a user wants to donate to you, they will. So remember the no solicitation rules in regards to donations.
I hope that this new feature within the community will be used, because god knows mod authors deserve any support and encouragement you're willing to give them, but I hope it's used properly and not exploited. We'll be monitoring the situation very closely to ensure that's not the case.