Copyright infringement (fwd)

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John Michael Martz

Jul 21, 1994, 9:22:14 PM7/21/94
I thought you all might be interested in this response that was sent to
a post I made on the D&D Usenet group. You will see both my comments on
an article on copyright infringments and TSR responses (you should be able
to easily tell the difference). I post this article to these groups
(sorry for those of you who get it twice) because I know that there are
several net supplements that use TSR names (such as my DARK SUN Net
Handbook) and gaming elements (e.g., "rounds", "turns", even "hit dice"),
and I think that we should know TSR's position. I've also Cced this note
back to TSR. I will also post a copy on
As an editor of a net supplement that uses a TSR-owned name (i.e., DARK
SUN) and describes _unique_ supplemental rules (e.g., spells, monsters,
psionic powers)--I don't scan published material--that rely on elements of
TSR's AD&D gaming system (e.g., HD, rounds), I am concerned about TSR's
position. Note, I do not dispute/begrude them their rights. My concern
is the status of the net-supplements--yes, specifically the DSNHB, but my
concern is not limited to my net book. Anyway, if I'm to use my work on
the DSNHB and the various net books I've read as a guide, I know that
there are a lot of "keepers" of various net suplements that put a lot of
effort into producing high quality items. I know that there are also very
many creative people who contribute to these "publications." I would hate
to see all this creativity and effort go to waste. That is why, I am
interested in hearing more about the "TSR-in-cyberspace" idea mentioned at
the end of this post. I am also interested in fostering a _civilized_
discussion of these issues (please, no TSR bashing), not only here on this
list/newsgroup, but also with TSR (and you wondered why I included their
email address :-) ). I hope that TSR moves quickly into cyberspace, not
only for their own sake (because it is BIG out here), but for the sake of
the gamers who enjoy creating and reading net supplements.
Well, that was rather preachy. If you've made it this far, thanks.
Don't forget to read the article below :-).


* John M. Martz: Psychology Dept, UNC-CH * *
| CB# 3270, Davie Hall | B = f(P,E) |
| Chapel Hill, NC 27599 | --Kurt Lewin |
* JOHN_...@UNC.EDU * *

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 94 17:43:21 EDT
Subject: Your question

From: (John Michael Martz)
Subject: Re: Copyright Infringement
Date: 19 Jul 1994 14:49:50 GMT
Organization: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Lines: 60
Message-ID: <30gp6e$>
References: <30eum7$>

In article <30eum7$>,
Rob Repp <> wrote:


>We ARE aware of the fact that people want to be able to share their
>efforts with others, and we're trying to find a way to manage licenses to
>allow this without giving it all away.. In the meantime, any software,
>etc. which uses TSR copyrighted names, material, etc. is unlawful.

While I don't begrudge TSR its rights, I do have a concern/question. As
we all know, there are numerous netbooks out there, many of which use TSR
copyrighted names--I won't mention any names :-) except the one I edit,
the DARK SUN Net Handbook. And what about discussion lists that take the
names of TSR worlds? Taken to the extreme, how about directories on ftp
sites that have TSR names or even PBeM (play by e-mail) campaigns, which
translate descriptions into text? Am I to understand that DARK SUN (a
copyrighted name, I assume) cannot be used in any of them? How are these
different from a DM photocopying parts of a map for his "real world" game,
spells for a "real world" spell book, or lending a TSR product to a
player? Taken to an extreme, how about a newspaper publishing the words
DARK SUN in a product review?

There are permitted uses for our copyrighted material. None of the ones you
mentioned is permitted without specific permission or license. The netbooks,
spell lists, table revisions, etc. that use our copyrighted names,
characters, monsters, tables, or elements of our gaming systems are
infringements. Obviously, there is an enforcement issue. It would be
difficult to enforce copyright against a single gamer who makes a single
xerox of a single map. On the other hand, there is no way we can tolerate the
unlicensed use and extensive use of our copyrighted material in huge public

I make no money from my efforts editing the DARK SUN Net Handbook. The
DSNHB has been well-recieved by DARK SUN enthusiasts. The authors retain
all the rights to the material, so they can submit it to TSR publications
if they desire (at which point, they would probably turn their rights over
to TSR). I don't scan in TSR material. I refer readers to the proper TSR
materials when necessary (e.g., I wrote some paraelemental spells,
refering the reader to the Earth, Air, Fire, & Water supplement for a
description of the paraelemental spheres in DS). I'm even considering
writing a brief review of each of the DS supplements for the next edition
(which vary from good to excellent, IMHO).

The status of your profitability isn't in dispute. The fact remains that
people who write stories in settings we've created, using characters,
monsters, local details, etc. that we've created are infringing on our
copyright. Creations such as spells, magic items and monsters that use
elements of our gaming system to describe them are also infringements. We
have put a huge effort for a long time into perfecting the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
you know today. The elements that go into it are copyrighted.

While I can see your concerns about software, I do not see them about
netbooks (assuming that they contain original material and aren't simply
scanned versions of TSR products). I think you risk stomping on a LOT of
free advertising and creativity that fuel a growing game/setting, such as
DARK SUN. I can only assume that the DSNHB helps feed interest in DS
products--it even includes an extensive bibliography of DS-relevant
publications (i.e., modules, supplements, DRAGON articles, DUNGEON
articles)--I know it does mine; I religiously purchase any new DS
novel/supplement because I want to stay on top of the setting (I only buy
the "epic" modules because I've found the modules a bit too expensive and
not a match for the high quality of the supplements).

Let me include a copy of a policy letter we just drafted recently. Here goes:

As we have begun to explore the online community in depth, we've found many
avid gamers and fans. We're interested in providing you with the best in
gaming products that meet our own standards of quality, as well as suiting
your needs and interests. We know that many gamers develop campaigns and
other materials entirely for their own use. We think this is great!
However, when gamers begin sharing their creations with the public, whether
for profit or not, they are infringing our rights. If we don't make an
earnest attempt to prevent this infringement of our trademarks and
copyrights, our ownership of these extremely valuable assets may be

A gamer in this situation has a few options. He can strip every TSR
trademark and all copyright from his creations before putting them in public
(i.e. "genericize" the adventure). Or he can share his creations with the
public in a way that is licensed and approved by TSR. This is the more
desirable solution, as it protects our rights, and still leaves room for
gamers to share their creative expressions.

Sometime very soon, we're going to create a place where gamers can legally
upload and share their creations, including modules, stories and software. At
that time, I'd be happy to work with you to give your product a base to work
from. We are definitely interested in fostering goodwill among customers,
and we'd like to see our upcoming effort as a pilot project. Eventually, we
want gamers to be able to turn to TSR in cyberspace as easily as they do in a
hobby store.

>Thanks for your interest.

You're welcome.


Rob Repp | InterNet:
Manager, Digital Projects Group | InterNet:
TSR, Inc. | CompuServe: 76217,761
__________________________________ | GEnie: TSR.Online AOL: TSR Inc
All opinions are my own, not TSR's | 414-248-3625 Fax 414-248-0389

* John M. Martz: Psychology Dept, UNC-CH * *
| CB# 3270, Davie Hall | B = f(P,E) |
| Chapel Hill, NC 27599 | --Kurt Lewin |
* JOHN_...@UNC.EDU * *

Kendall Bullen

Jul 21, 1994, 11:11:06 PM7/21/94
to (John Michael Martz) wrote to All on 7/22/94,

JM> because I know that there are several net supplements that use TSR
JM> names (such as my DARK SUN Net Handbook) and gaming elements (e.g.,
JM> "rounds", "turns", even "hit dice"), and I think that we should know
JM> TSR's position.

Are these terms ('rounds' and 'turns' and 'hit dice') trademarked? (Never mind
the fact that other gaming systems use those terms as well.) I understand that
Dark Sun is trademarked (oops, should I have placed a tradmark symbol next to
it? am I allowed to refer to TSR without a tradmark symbol as well?) . . . just
wondering about the possibility of going overboard here.


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