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  #301  
Old August 16th, 2007, 09:52 AM
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Originally Posted by hunter View Post
That won't help if your company is based in a country that honors and upholds copyright law. But it is often much cheaper to have it printed there and shipped here than to have it printed here!
But lesson No. 2 means that my "company" has no assets. Just rent a new trailer and re-incorporate with a new Roman numeral after the name.


[EDIT: For the record, I have no desire to enter the publishing business. This is all "tongue in cheek" speculation for fun to me.

I have enough challenges at work explaining to biologists and civil engineers at government agencies tasked with protecting the environment, that filling in a wetland, building a hotel complex on the site and planting weeds in the storm water pond will actually benefit the environment and my project meets the "public interest test". Did you know that migrating birds are part of “interstate commerce”? A safe nesting site benefits the protected birds and is “in the public interest”.

I do not need copyright lawsuits to make life interesting.]

Last edited by atpollard; August 16th, 2007 at 10:10 AM..
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  #302  
Old August 16th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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Would help if you can tinker the mechanics around a bit too, but basically yes.

Let me be a bit more specific however, we are talking about the actual mechanics. And you better be damn careful how you do it. As tbeard was saying, it's not something that has ever really been tested in the courts. If you do it and you do get hit, you better be able to prove that what you have is original material even though the concepts and mechanics are from another system.
Breaking my own rule...I'd like to point out a couple of risks.

The US Copyright office probably has the most succint explanation of copyrighting games:

The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or methods for playing it."

"Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles."


http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html

However, this statement could be misleading. The name or title of a game isn't protected by copyright, but *is* protected by trademark (a completely different section of the law).

So while you can recreate the rules to D&D, you'd better NOT name your game "Dungeons and Dragons" unless you yearn to get to know Hasbro's legal team... And in the RPG context, many things can be trademarked, such as titles of games, names for systems (like, for instance "D20 System"), names of monsters, etc. From the WOTC OGL, a list of things *not* covered by the OGL (and probably trademarked):

"Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master, Monster Manual, d20 System, Wizards of the Coast, d20 (when used as a trademark), Forgotten Realms, Faerûn, proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items), places, Red Wizard of Thay, the City of Union, Heroic Domains of Ysgard, Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo, Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, Infinite Layers of the Abyss, Tarterian Depths of Carceri, Gray Waste of Hades, Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, Nine Hells of Baator, Infernal Battlefield of Acheron, Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia, Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, Twin Paradises of Bytopia, Blessed Fields of Elysium, Wilderness of the Beastlands, Olympian Glades of Arborea, Concordant Domain of the Outlands, Sigil, Lady of Pain, Book of Exalted Deeds, Book of Vile Darkness, beholder, gauth, carrion crawler, tanar’ri, baatezu, displacer beast, githyanki, githzerai, mind flayer, illithid, umber hulk, yuan-ti."

In addition, while game rules cannot be copyrighted, I think that game settings should be copyrightable in the same way that characters and "scenes a faire" in novels can. I've seen no law on this (yet), but I strongly suggest that you don't lift the Greyhawk setting for your new game.

Also, as you noted, game mechanics (like many ideas) *may* be protected by patents. The good news is that patents are expensive to get and I am unaware of any patents for RPG rules. WOTC was awarded a patent on the collectible card game strategy (applied for in 2002; announced in May, 2007). However, the award of a patent only creates a presumption that the patent is valid. This presumption can be overcome if the defendant can produce sufficient evidence that the patent is invalid. I have not heard that WOTC has sued any other CCG manufacturers (yet).

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Originally Posted by hunter View Post
A very interesting experiment going on right now is OSRIC which is basically an OGL version of AD&D. It is based on the d20 SRD only where they felt they couldn't directly based it off the original AD&D system. Which goes to my point about something released as OGL that might have potential problems if WotC decides they want to challenge it. If I as a publisher chose to produce material using OSRIC and WotC later decides to challenge it and does manage to win, they could and likely would force me to recall any remaining books in the distribution channel (which I would have to refund) and destroy the remaining stocks.
In my opinion, anyone who relies on an OGL has an affirmative obligation to comply with its terms. The WOTC OGL explicitely address this point:

"If You are contributing original material as Open Game Content, You represent that Your Contributions are Your original creation and/or You have sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this License."

So, the (example) OSRIC people are agreeing that they will only license material that they have the legal right to license in the OGL.

"You agree not to Use any Product Identity [i.e., things not covered by the OGL], including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity."

Here, the OSRIC people are agreeing to not use non-OGL material in their product unless they have the legal right to do so.

In my opinion, it's incumbent on anyone who relies on *any* licensing agreement to understand its terms and conduct reasonable due diligence to determine if the licensed material is, in fact, owned by the licensor.

I think I now understand your concern, Hunter. The OGL may be a wonderful thing, but it is still a serious legal contract. Unrepresented non-lawyers should always be careful when relying on such contracts. And while game companies will typically have experience with contracts (and lawyers to review them), casual gamers probably won't. In that case, caution is warranted. At the very least, a gamer should NEVER assume that everything in a work is Open Content. The most sensible (and safe) approach is to assume that *only* material in the SRD (referenced by the OGL) is Open Content. And, of course, OGLs may vary; be sure to read the one that's applicable to your situation. (Mongoose uses the Wizards of the Coast OGL).

Anyone who wants to publish something should probably allocate some money to get an opinion from a lawyer...

If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the OSRIC folks will not run afoul of WOTC unless they do something really stupid, like use trademarked terms that are not covered by the OGL.

It is interesting that Kenzer & Co chose to explicitely license the AD&D system from WOTC when they published Hackmaster. I suspect that they did this so that they could use AD&D text, images, and terms verbatim without worry. If they didn't, I think that WOTC could have made a strong case for both copyright infringement and trademark infringement (if they desired to do so).

Quote:
Originally Posted by hunter View Post
AThat won't help if your company is based in a country that honors and upholds copyright law. But it is often much cheaper to have it printed there and shipped here than to have it printed here!
I'd add that unauthorized distribution of a copyrighted work is itself a copyright infringement, subject to the copyright laws of the jurisdiction in which the work was distributed. So printing the work in China won't help you if you distribute it in the US.

[Mandatory CYA disclaimer]: I am a lawyer, but I'm not YOUR lawyer. What I post in this forum is not legal advice and should not be relied on by anyone. Any legal opinions or information that I may publish here are exclusively for purposes of entertainment. No reader should ever rely upon any legal opinions or other information published here — not even just a little bit! If you need legal advice, HIRE A LAWYER. duly licensed to practice law. I don't even pretend to be as careful in what I may spout off with here as any lawyer must be in advising and representing real clients.

Last edited by tbeard1999; August 16th, 2007 at 01:54 PM..
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  #303  
Old August 16th, 2007, 01:47 PM
Andrew Boulton Andrew Boulton is offline
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Mongoose Traveller: Copyright Litigation in the Far Future...
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  #304  
Old August 16th, 2007, 02:04 PM
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Addendum--

An example of not complying with the terms of the OGL (and possibly jeopardizing others who rely on it) might be the Mongoose deal.

Mongoose must have MWM's permission (under its agreement with MWM)to legally license Traveller material as Open Content under the OGL--and I'm pretty sure it does.

If Mongoose didn't have the right to license Traveller material as Open Content under the OGL, MWM would be able to sue for copyright infringement and require Mongoose to remove the material, pay damages, etc. In addition, MWM would be able to enforce his rights against folks who used the Traveller material and assumed that Mongoose had the right to license Traveller material via the OGL.

The sensible thing to do -- especially if you're gonna sell your product -- would be to simply ask MWM whether Mongoose has the right to license that material via the OGL (and keep the email). Ideally, MWM would confirm this on the Far Future website, to keep from being asked that question a thousand times.
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  #305  
Old August 16th, 2007, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew Boulton View Post
Mongoose Traveller: Copyright Litigation in the Far Future...
More like Trademark Litigation....hehehe...

TBeard:

WOTC has sued to enforce their trademark on the specific mechanic of "Tapping" cards.
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  #306  
Old August 16th, 2007, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aramis View Post
More like Trademark Litigation....hehehe...

TBeard:

WOTC has sued to enforce their trademark on the specific mechanic of "Tapping" cards.
Haven't seen that one, but I just found that WizKidz has sued WOTC and is attempting to get a declaratory judgment that the WOTC patent on CCGs is invalid.
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  #307  
Old August 16th, 2007, 03:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tbeard1999 View Post
I think I now understand your concern, Hunter. The OGL may be a wonderful thing, but it is still a serious legal contract. Unrepresented non-lawyers should always be careful when relying on such contracts. And while game companies will typically have experience with contracts (and lawyers to review them), casual gamers probably won't. In that case, caution is warranted. At the very least, a gamer should NEVER assume that everything in a work is Open Content. The most sensible (and safe) approach is to assume that *only* material in the SRD (referenced by the OGL) is Open Content. And, of course, OGLs may vary; be sure to read the one that's applicable to your situation. (Mongoose uses the Wizards of the Coast OGL).
Exactly! And thank you for posting your other points. All great advice!
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  #308  
Old August 16th, 2007, 03:21 PM
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Exactly! And thank you for posting your other points. All great advice!
Thanks. Sometimes, I forget that most other gamers aren't lawyers...

And honestly, I hadn't really considered the effect of the OGL from the standpoint of a casual gamer rather than a game publisher.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by tbeard1999 View Post
It is interesting that Kenzer & Co chose to explicitely license the AD&D system from WOTC when they published Hackmaster. I suspect that they did this so that they could use AD&D text, images, and terms verbatim without worry. If they didn't, I think that WOTC could have made a strong case for both copyright infringement and trademark infringement (if they desired to do so).
My understanding is that the Kenzer Hackmaster license was in return for a settlement by WotC on an infringement suit by Kenzer over KoDT. I may be wrong though. That license just ended by the way.
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Old August 16th, 2007, 04:06 PM
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My understanding is that the Kenzer Hackmaster license was in return for a settlement by WotC on an infringement suit by Kenzer over KoDT. I may be wrong though. That license just ended by the way.
From what I just skimmed, there was never a suit betwixt WOTC and Kenzer & Co. Rather, they settled things without litigation and pretty quickly. The employees of Kenzer & Co. are apparently under a Nondisclosure Agreement (very common with settlements) so it's unclear exactly what they argued about. The most common speculation -- never confirmed or denied by K&Co or WOTC as far as I can tell -- seems to be that K&Co disputed WOTC's inclusion of KODT strips in its Dragon Magazine CD-ROM compilation.

In any case, getting an AD&D license for the Hackmaster system makes a lot of sense to me. While K&Co could assert a number of defenses -- satire, noncopyrightability of systems, etc. -- it would be FAR cleaner and less costly to simply get WOTC's agreement that Hackmaster was OK.

Has K&Co made any announcements about whether Hackmaster will continue after the license expires?

EDIT: Found an answer. From Wikipedia, the Source of All Knowledge in the Cosmos:
On July 11, 2007, Kenzer & Company announced that their license agreement with Wizards of the Coast would expire in August of that year. The loss of the license means that existing works containing licensed text would not be reprinted and that future editions of the game would not contain material copyrighted by Wizards.

Last edited by tbeard1999; August 16th, 2007 at 04:09 PM..
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