Question about MZ EULA regarding plugin payment

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I've been looking at the MZ EULA (https://www.rpgmakerweb.com/eula) and trying to figure out what terms plugins are covered under if they incorporate any code from the core engine (since usually when you replace a function it involves copy-pasting the original function and modifying it). Basically, someone asked me if I had a ko-fi, and I wanted to see what was allowed under the terms of the EULA.

Here's the main part of the license granting permissions:
Article 5 (User License)
The Company provides a license for use of This Software in accordance with the following items only in cases when the User is the Authorized User.

(1) Production of original games (henceforth "User Games") using This Software (including computer programs which comprise This Software) and assets (including text, music, and images, etc.; henceforth collectively "Company Assets") contained within This Software. Furthermore, the User may not load, use, or otherwise utilize Company Assets into original games created with personally-created programs or game creation tools, etc. provided by a third party without the advance written consent of the Company.

(2) The transfer, lending, projection, public distribution, or enabling of transmission (henceforth collectively "Distribution, etc.") of User Games created pursuant to the previous item, regardless of whether compensated or uncompensated. However, note that the User must adhere to the "Terms of Game Distribution, etc." appended to This Agreement during said Distribution, etc.

It seems that
assets (including text, music, and images, etc.; henceforth collectively "Company Assets") contained within This Software
includes the core js files, so they're under the "Company Assets" banner and governed by those rules. (If the js files were classified under 'This Software', sharing plugins would be banned entirely since you can't redistribute This Software "in whole or in part" according to article 6 part 3. 'This Software' appears to only refer to the rpgmaker editor.)

We are granted the ability to redistribute "Company Assets" when distributing our games under article 5 part 2. However, if an Asset is part of a 'User Game', the license prohibits anyone to pull it out and use it elsewhere (so if I make a FossilQuest game, even if I give permission for people to use Fossil, they are legally prohibited from taking it out of the game, since Fossil contains Company Assets).
"The transfer, lending, projection, public distribution, or enabling of transmission (henceforth collectively "Distribution, etc.") of User Games created pursuant to the previous item, regardless of whether compensated or uncompensated. "
and
(3) Extraction of Company Programs or Company Assets from User Games and Distribution, etc. thereof (regardless of whether compensated or uncompensated) is prohibited.
(4) Extraction or modification of Company Programs or Company Assets from User Games is prohibited.

If we aren't distributing a whole game, we only are granted permission to share Company Assets under article 2, clause 3 of the appendix, with these limited terms (emphasis mine)
(3) Company Assets or those modified pursuant to the previous item may undergo Distribution, etc. with User Games produced with This Software. Furthermore, the User may not perform Distribution, etc. of individual Company Assets or those modified, or Distribution, etc. in combination with programs, etc. other than User Games. However, the User may duplicate, transfer, publicly transmit, or enable transmission of personally-modified Company Assets to other Authorized Users free of charge.

So it appears if we incorporate any pieces of the core js files into a plugin, they have to be treated like the other "company assets" - the same as incorporating any of the art or music assets into a piece of art or music (that is, the plugin must be redistributed free of charge, for use only by other authorized users of rpgmaker).


My interpretation is that taking donations for doing work is allowed, but you are prohibited from charging people in exchange for giving them any plugin that contains "company assets". (So a Ko-fi related to working on FOSSIL would be okay if I give FOSSIL away for free, but charging $0.99 a download for FOSSIL or restricting downloads to donors would be in violation of the EULA).

Is that a correct reading of the EULA? If not, what mistake did I make, and what are the proper permissions and restrictions on sharing the javascript files (and code derived from them)?

@MushroomCake28 would you be willing to chime in as well, since you're the forum lawyer.
 

Andar

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yes and no.

yes, you are not allowed to charge for edits of the included assets (especially not RTP-edits).

but when writing a plugin to link into the core files, you are not copying anything from the core files - you are replacing the core code with your own written code.
you can give licence to your own code, and even charge for it without problems exactl because you are not copying out the original code - that would be a stupid idea anyway because a plugin that copies the original function is absolutely useless.
 

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Andar nails it.

It all boils down to either it's an edit of a company owned asset (RTP), or if it's original. If it's original, then there are no restrictions and you are free to do as you please.

Code is different than other forms of asset. When it comes to code, it's not the individual words/characters in it that matters, it's the functionality and the logic. Expressions like Window_Base.prototype.initialize is not protected by the company's intellectual property or anything. So you can make a unique original plugin and that would be considered an original asset, free of all the restrictions, unlike an edit of an RTP image.

TLDR: An original plugin is an original asset, it's not an edit of the core code.

Disclaimer: Btw, I'm just helping folks around here with legal questions since I'm a law student (actually just graduated, but still have to attend the Bar), but I'm not affiliated to Degica in any ways.​
 

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Andar nails it.

It all boils down to either it's an edit of a company owned asset (RTP), or if it's original. If it's original, then there are no restrictions and you are free to do as you please.

Code is different than other forms of asset. When it comes to code, it's not the individual words/characters in it that matters, it's the functionality and the logic. Expressions like Window_Base.prototype.initialize is not protected by the company's intellectual property or anything. So you can make a unique original plugin and that would be considered an original asset, free of all the restrictions, unlike an edit of an RTP image.

TLDR: An original plugin is an original asset, it's not an edit of the core code.

Disclaimer: Btw, I'm just helping folks around here with legal questions since I'm a law student (actually just graduated, but still have to attend the Bar), but I'm not affiliated to Degica in any ways.​


I agree that examples like this:

Code:
var addNormaltoWindowBaseProcessCharacter=Window_Base.prototype.processCharacter;
Window_Base.prototype.processCharacter = function(textState) {
	//some plugins, like SRD_ShakingText, put in a full alternate character processing
	//version.  Obviously if this happens we end up with text AlTeRnAtInG between print
	//modes which is no good.  So if we need to stop processing this character, stop.
    this.fossilStopProcessingThisCharacter=false;
	this.processNormalCharacter(textState)

	if(!this.fossilStopProcessingThisCharacter)
	{
		addNormaltoWindowBaseProcessCharacter.apply(this,arguments);
	}	
}

Window_Base.prototype.processNormalCharacter = function(textState) 
{
	//dummy for injection
}

where you are injecting code (or writing your own code) definitely doesn't count as including 'Company Assets'.



However, what I'm more concerned about are cases where you include code from the original core scripts. Here's the original updateMessage function

Code:
Window_Message.prototype.updateMessage = function() {
    const textState = this._textState;
    if (textState) {
        while (!this.isEndOfText(textState)) {
            if (this.needsNewPage(textState)) {
                this.newPage(textState);
            }
            this.updateShowFast();
            this.processCharacter(textState);
            if (this.shouldBreakHere(textState)) {
                break;
            }
        }
        this.flushTextState(textState);
        if (this.isEndOfText(textState) && !this.isWaiting()) {
            this.onEndOfText();
        }
        return true;
    } else {
        return false;
    }
};

And here's what I use in FOSSIL to parse characters when word-wrapping. You'll notice that I'm including a large portion of the original code as part of this function.
Code:
Fossil.FixUpdateMessageWW=Window_Message.prototype.updateMessage;
	Window_Message.prototype.updateMessage = function() {
		const textState = this._textState;
		if(this._wordWrap)
		{
			if (textState) {
				while (!this.isEndOfText(textState)) {
					if (this.needsNewPage(textState)) {
						this.newPage(textState);
					}
					this.updateShowFast();
					this.processCharacter(textState);
					if (this.shouldBreakHere(textState)) {
						break;
					}else{
						//if we have word wrap we still 
						//will need to process all the text
						//so do it here real quick.
						//otherwise it loops through all text without printing it which means you get it all on one big line with no gaps
						while (!this.isEndOfText(textState)) 
						{
							if(!this._wordWrap)
							{
								//if we turn off word wrap or, stop fast rendering.
								return true;
							}
							if (this.needsNewPage(textState)) {
								return true;
							}
							this.processCharacter(textState);
							this.flushTextState(textState);
							//if we turn off the fast text we go back to normal processing.
							if(this.shouldBreakHere(textState))
							{
								return true;
							}
						}
						break;
					}
				}
				this.flushTextState(textState);
				if (this.isEndOfText(textState) && !this.isWaiting()) {
					this.onEndOfText();
				}
				return true;
			} else {
				return false;
			}
		
		}else{
			return Fossil.FixUpdateMessageWW.apply(this,arguments);
		}
	};

I believe this is the equivalent of making a sprite sheet that's Reid with a tophat - it might not be identical to the Reid contained in RMMZ, but from the neck down Reid is still a "Company Asset", and incorporation of any "Company Asset" can only be distributed for free.
 

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Well I don't know all the details of your plugin, but it should be fine as long as it achieves a new functionality that didn't previously exist by default in RMMZ. You are adding something new on top of an existing feature. What you are selling is that "new something", not the existing feature.
 

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a plugin that copies the original function is absolutely useless.
That's...not entirely accurate, actually. What if the only thing you need to change in a function is to have it read from a plugin parameter rather than a hardcoded value, and that particular value needs to be assigned before anything else is executed? You can't just alias the original function in that case because if you call it before your new plugin param assignment happens, your assigned value is not used properly. And if you call it after, well the original part just overrides your assignment with its hardcoded value. You need to copy and overwrite the whole function in that case, then change just that one assignment. And yes, there are a few poorly-coded functions like that in RM core files.

In short, you're putting a sombrero on Harold, but it's still Harold and thus not something you can just sell.
 

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Well I don't know all the details of your plugin, but it should be fine as long as it achieves a new functionality that didn't previously exist by default in RMMZ. You are adding something new on top of an existing feature. What you are selling is that "new something", not the existing feature.
I'm not sure if I understand the principle behind that. Could you explain it some more?

I have previously been taking great care not to copy any code out of plugins when working on FOSSIL, as I do not want to in any way redistribute something I don't have the legal rights to redistribute.

Are you telling me that it is legally allowed to copy parts out someone's existing plugin, edit them, and then sell that as part of a new plugin?

If not, what's the difference there between copying out of RMMZ and copying out of, I dunno, YEP_MessageCore. In both cases the license on the code being used doesn't allow for people to redistribute it for money.

Actually wait, this is dumb. I should ping a member of the staff since this is probably something that needs an official company ruling.

@Touchfuzzy what terms bind users when distributing '.js' files? Are they under the same terms as other 'Company Assets' in the EULA, or are there different (looser) terms?

Specifically
> Am I allowed to copy code out of the included .js files, make additions to it and sell the result (including the RMMZ code) for profit, outside a game?

(If you don't have an established rule yet, please ask the official guys in Japan - I want to make absolutely sure I have an official ruling on this)
 
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Intellectual property issues rarely have a clear set of concrete rules. There are general rules/principle, and then each issues are a case by case thing. If you copy paste the code and just slightly modify it to accomplish something similar to the existing code, then that would probably not be alright. If by contrast you alias existing functions and stay close to the original code because that's the only way to incorporate your new feature into an existing game engine, then that would probably be alright. Anything in between is a case by case thing.

Here's an example: you can't use a brand you don't own. Of course, this means you can't have a brand that is too close to an existing one you don't own. The test to determine if the brands are too similar is as follow: when using the brand (could be for instance a logo), would a non-expert reasonable consumer confuse your product with that of the company that owns the other brand? If the answer is yes, then there's confusion and you're in breach of the intellectual property of the company. If the answer is no, then you're not in breach. The general principle itself can't be used to say "you're 100% fine" or "you're 100% not fine". It's a case by case thing. There's a famous case in Canada of a chain of restaurants called Barbies which got sued by the company that makes barby dolls. Is there confusion in the mind of a reasonable consumer? The judges said no because it is clear that the restaurants didn't have any ties to the doll making company. But if for instance the restaurants had big barbies statues and toys inside each restaurants, they could have lost.

I know it's getting theoretical and a bit far from the subject, but this is just to illustrate that there's no black and white rule (and also because giving advices on a real existing case is legal advice, and I can't give that). Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it can be a bit more blurry.​
 

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@Touchfuzzy Sorry to ping you again in the same thread, but a second question:

I know if I combine assets from MZ and MV, then the end user will need both licenses. (For instance if I fuse Harold and Reid into the abominable Harreid, then people who only own one or the other won't be allowed to use it)

f02G3c4.png


Do end users of plugins that include code from both MZ and MV also need to own both MZ and MV in order to use them?
 

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Well, in software development, depending on the country and the laws it becomes rather confusing sometimes. So, here are my two cents on the subject.

If you are good with the code, you don't really need to just copy and paste, you can just simply redo the entire function with another approach and the function will do the same thing with different paths. Of course, in software development, due to mathematical theory, there is always a shorter, faster version of doing something, but I digress. Let´s put this into an example.

Let's suppouse that I want to create a functionality were I can have multiple instances of the items list based on some key, the simplest way to do that would be with a hashmap. So, basically I have to create a hashmap of the items list, but if you look at how RPG Maker handles items, well, items include not just simple items, it also includes armors and weapons. Anyway, there are methods that would have to be rewritten in order to make this functional and compatible with the original code from RPG Maker.
Now, this is were approaches got into play. How do you approach your rewrites, you could just copy and paste the original code and rewrite it to suit your needs. In this case, in escence, you are copying a part of the original code, but you are also adding your own code. In the end, the original method has now been rewritten and only looks similar to the original, but you have introduced a new functionality.
Another approach would be that you create something similar to an API, in which basically all your code is completely different and only uses the default methods in the original code to make your functionality work. In both cases, the code that you have created, is completely different from the original one, but the approach is different.

To a degree, what you are asking is the same thing that Oracle asked and latter sued Google for the use of the Java core code for their development of the Android JDK which in itself is based on the original JDK from Oracle's Java....both are Java, but Android Java owned by Google is a completely different rewrite and implementation of the Java code owned by Oracle and a Judge basically said..."They are two different things made for two different things". The whole case is much more complicated that what I describe here but the essence of the matter is similar to your question, you can look for that yourself.

You compare code to an image, but in this case, the comparison is not exactly the same, because images are easier to determine when there is a copy, an edit or something totally different....well 90% of the time. In code writting, determining when a code is completely different sometimes is not that easy and sometimes it is. It all comes down to what is written and for what purpouse is written, and even then it might not be that easy.
 

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Just want to give a heads up that I saw this. I'm just not feeling well so my brain processed about 1/10th of what I've read in this thread.

My first instinct is that it should be fine, as long as 1. You aren't selling the code for use outside of RPG Maker and 2. It isn't just like, one line different.

But, give me a day for me to get to feeling better and my brain to exit the fog to get a better answer.
 

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Just want to give a heads up that I saw this. I'm just not feeling well so my brain processed about 1/10th of what I've read in this thread.

My first instinct is that it should be fine, as long as 1. You aren't selling the code for use outside of RPG Maker and 2. It isn't just like, one line different.

But, give me a day for me to get to feeling better and my brain to exit the fog to get a better answer.
Okay, thanks.

Just to restate, to make sure that there isn't ambiguity about what I want to clarify with the people at corporate:

My concerns are that a strict reading of the EULA would prohibit both

(1) monetizing plugins that have base Yoji Ojima code incorporated, since the EULA says 'company assets' can only be transferred free of charge.

and

(2) giving plugins that have MV code to people using MZ (or vice versa), as that would constitute an infringement due to the recipient not being an 'Approved User' of the software.

If I can get approval for both of those activities I will be happy, but even getting a 'no' is much better than not knowing (since then I and my users won't find out we've been in violation for a long time). If both parties clarify the terms there's no problem with the interpretation.


=
To a degree, what you are asking is the same thing that Oracle asked and latter sued Google for the use of the Java core code for their development of the Android JDK which in itself is based on the original JDK from Oracle's Java....both are Java, but Android Java owned by Google is a completely different rewrite and implementation of the Java code owned by Oracle and a Judge basically said..."They are two different things made for two different things". The whole case is much more complicated that what I describe here but the essence of the matter is similar to your question, you can look for that yourself.

True, FOSSIL being interoperability software means that under both US and Japanese law there's huge extra fair use provisions (which would likely shake out as obviating the need for any license in court), but if I have to go to court I already lost, since fair use is an affirmative defense, lawyers are expensive, and anyway FOSSIL hopefully won't be the only plugin I ever work on.

You compare code to an image, but in this case, the comparison is not exactly the same, because images are easier to determine when there is a copy, an edit or something totally different....well 90% of the time. In code writting, determining when a code is completely different sometimes is not that easy and sometimes it is. It all comes down to what is written and for what purpouse is written, and even then it might not be that easy.

Obviously you can conceal a license violation quite easily, but if the other party doesn't notice that you've violated the license, that doesn't mean you're in compliance, it just means you're just sneaky enough to avoid getting caught.

We've had multiple events in the past where code created by Person A was taken by Person B, who then modified it and used it in paid plugins (in violation of the original license of A's code). Historically, the official rpgmaker stance has been that rewriting, modifying or adding new things to that code wasn't sufficient to nullify the terms of Person A's license, and that Person B was infringing; I would assume this will hold true even if person A happens to be Yoji Ojima.

The question isn't 'what would the situation be if person B hypothetically made the code look completely different' and more 'what is the situation for code that obviously is taken from person A'. I don't wanna sneak around here. Putting code written by Yoji Ojima into a plugin then selling it when Yoji's license is clear that selling the code is prohibited feels very sketchy, and trying to hide that the code is a derivative work by making unnecessary alterations feels even sketchier.

If I get Yoji/Kadokawa/Gotcha Gotcha's official permission then I'm definitely not in violation and code much more freely in the future; that's why I hope that we'll get an official statement.
 
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Okay, thanks.

Just to restate, to make sure that there isn't ambiguity about what I want to clarify with the people at corporate:

My concerns are that a strict reading of the EULA would prohibit both

(1) monetizing plugins that have base Yoji Ojima code incorporated, since the EULA says 'company assets' can only be transferred free of charge.

and

(2) giving plugins that have MV code to people using MZ (or vice versa), as that would constitute an infringement due to the recipient not being an 'Approved User' of the software.

If I can get approval for both of those activities I will be happy, but even getting a 'no' is much better than not knowing (since then I and my users won't find out we've been in violation for a long time). If both parties clarify the terms there's no problem with the interpretation.




True, FOSSIL being interoperability software means that under both US and Japanese law there's huge extra fair use provisions (which would likely shake out as obviating the need for any license in court), but if I have to go to court I already lost, since fair use is an affirmative defense, lawyers are expensive, and anyway FOSSIL hopefully won't be the only plugin I ever work on.



Obviously you can conceal a license violation quite easily, but if the other party doesn't notice that you've violated the license, that doesn't mean you're in compliance, it just means you're just sneaky enough to avoid getting caught.

We've had multiple events in the past where code created by Person A was taken by Person B, who then modified it and used it in paid plugins (in violation of the original license of A's code). Historically, the official rpgmaker stance has been that rewriting, modifying or adding new things to that code wasn't sufficient to nullify the terms of Person A's license, and that Person B was infringing; I would assume this will hold true even if person A happens to be Yoji Ojima.

The question isn't 'what would the situation be if person B hypothetically made the code look completely different' and more 'what is the situation for code that obviously is taken from person A'. I don't wanna sneak around here. Putting code written by Yoji Ojima into a plugin then selling it when Yoji's license is clear that selling the code is prohibited feels very sketchy, and trying to hide that the code is a derivative work by making unnecessary alterations feels even sketchier.

Obviously if I get Yoji/Kadokawa/Gotcha Gotcha's official permission then I'm definitely not in violation; that's why I hope that we'll get an official statement.
I think you are mixing two different topics here:
- If "reusing" code from core script from RPG Maker (any version) breaks the EULA.
- A plugin that "ports" code from different versions of the engine breaks the EULA.

For the first one, the short answer would be NO, there isn't any problem with reusing parts of the code. The reason is simple, RPG Maker, specially MV and MZ, but also XP, VX ancd VXAce, all are sold with the idea that anyone can mess with the code, so long as it is not redistributed as is to be used in a completely different Game Engine. Now, I understand that the wording makes it look like you can't copy part of the code to rewrite it...and this is were the programming language of choice comes into play. If you notice the pattern, all RPG Makers that allows you to mess with the code, use a programming language that allows you to "link" into the code without rewriting the orignal core code...basically the Alias part, not every programming language allows this kind of behavior.
Since RPG Maker base it's code in programming languages that are interpreted and not compiled, you can kind of "link" your code to the original, though in some instances you would require to completely rewrite parts of the original code but not the original files. What they don't want is basically that you grab the original code as is and sell it or use it in a different game engine...for example that you use the javascript code and use it as is in Unity and claim it as yours.
To put it in the most lamest example I could come with, if code is hamburguers and Degica/Kadokawa is McDonalds, you are allowed to be Burger King as long as you don't sell Happy Meals or Bic Macs and claim that you have the same recipe.

For the second topic, I think that Degica kind of already dealt with it easily....you must own both products in order to use both codes. Since in this case you are using code from one engine into another engine through a plugin that allows you that, then the most logical thing to do is to clarify it, it is allowed as long as you have purchased both RPG Makers, MV and MZ. You can see that the RPG Maker page already mentions this when purchasing some assets for MV, that you can use them in MZ as long as you have both softwares. Can you as a plugin developer really enforce that? I don't think so, I don't think that even Degica can with assets unless someone notices it.
To put it in the most lamest example I could come with, you are allowed to drive a car and a motorcycle as long as you have the corresponding driving licences.
 

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I think you are mixing two different topics here:
- If "reusing" code from core script from RPG Maker (any version) breaks the EULA.
- A plugin that "ports" code from different versions of the engine breaks the EULA.

For the first one, the short answer would be NO, there isn't any problem with reusing parts of the code. The reason is simple, RPG Maker, specially MV and MZ, but also XP, VX ancd VXAce, all are sold with the idea that anyone can mess with the code, so long as it is not redistributed as is to be used in a completely different Game Engine. Now, I understand that the wording makes it look like you can't copy part of the code to rewrite it...and this is were the programming language of choice comes into play. If you notice the pattern, all RPG Makers that allows you to mess with the code, use a programming language that allows you to "link" into the code without rewriting the orignal core code...basically the Alias part, not every programming language allows this kind of behavior.
Saying 'you can under some circumstances use specific techniques to get the same effect without redistributing portions of the original code' doesn't answer the question 'are you legally allowed to charge money for portions of the original kadokawa code outside of a finished game'.

To use your restaurant analogy, it's like asking 'is the McSalad vegan' and being told 'you can always eat a boxed lunch from home'.
 

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Saying 'you can under some circumstances use specific techniques to get the same effect without redistributing portions of the original code' doesn't answer the question 'are you legally allowed to charge money for portions of the original kadokawa code outside of a finished game'.
I would say...it depends. On what it depends? On the amount of original code. If you just changed the value of a variable without adding the option to the user to change that or that you basically just copied large parts of the code as is and sell it, then NO you can't, it is illegal and against EULA.

If you make a rewrite of the code, even if the end result does exactly the same but is more efficient or simplier or whatever but has no relation to the original code or has very little lines from the original, then YES, because now that is your code, even if it partially uses the original for technical reasons.

Again, this not only depends on what your code looks like, but also how and for what purpouse it is done and what techical requirements you need to fulfill to make your code compatible with RPG Maker. If I remember correctly, if you create a plugin with code from RPG Maker, you are actually forced to make it only available to RPG Maker and not for any other software, in any case, that is what you are legally forced to do, only available and compatible for RPG Maker.

To use your restaurant analogy, it's like asking 'is the McSalad vegan' and being told 'you can always eat a boxed lunch from home'.
Actually, that would not be a compatible analogy for this case...in my opinion :D
 

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