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D20 -- A "Solution" to a Non-Problem?

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Lynne Simpson

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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As has been discussed ad nauseum on Usenet and on various email lists,
Ryan Dancey has stated that all AD&D-related fan material on the
Internet infringes on WotC's copyrights. His position is that WotC's
online policy does not grant a license or any type of permission to
create fan material but that it is a statement of intent not to
prosecute infringers. Further, he states that all infringing
derivative works become the property of the original copyright holder,
which in this case is Wizards of the Coast. [This latter point has
yet to be supported by any of the case law citations posted by Mr.
Dancey.]

He claims that the new D20 initiative will be a solution to the
problem. Authors will be able to produce fan material using parts of
the D20 system and will be able to sell their material, if they wish.
In return for this "privilege", authors must grant a type of "open
source" license to everyone else. This means that any work produced
under the license will be able to be copied, redistributed, sold, or
modified by anyone else. [In another thread, I noted that small
publishers would be competing with WotC to sell the same products, and
in such cases, the smaller publishers are at a significant
disadvantage. It's all well and good to give someone permission to
sell something that you also sell, but if you know that the deck is
stacked against them being able to compete with you, that permission
may not mean all that much. From this arrangement, WotC stands to
gain a substantial amount of free material.]

Anyone who visits a local gaming store is likely to see a number of
generic fantasy roleplaying source materials and modules on the
shelves. Some of these works use notation for character and creature
stats that is similar to AD&D notation. In some cases, other words
for Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution and
Charisma are substituted. Some products use plain text descriptions
and very few number stats.

I believe that people can *already* produce generic fantasy
roleplaying materials and sell them and that there is no need for
authors to sign away all of their rights under the D20 system. I'm
not a lawyer, but I believe that an author could take a number of
precautions to genericize the stats in the book so that he could avoid
claims of infringement. I have seen a number of generic products that
say that they are suitable for use in "popular roleplaying systems,
such as Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" and that "any reference to the
trademark is not authorized by Wizards of the Coast". Personally, I
would probably leave off any reference to AD&D, but it certainly
appears that some publishers feel safe enough in doing so.

In short, I think that the D20 system asks for too much in return for
a privilege that authors, to some extent, already have. Currently, an
author can't claim to be producing an *authorized* AD&D supplement and
can't use any of WotC's logos, but is gaining permission to use a D20
logo -- which, I might add, is NOT the WotC logo -- worth signing away
one's rights under the copyright law? I think that it is possible
that Mr. Dancey is trying to make it sound like authors are worse off
than they actually are in order to make the terms of the D20 license
appear more attractive to them.

Lynne
brada...@earthlink.net

Don

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Lynne Simpson <brada...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
news:5m17gsc4tgvl7ks1m...@4ax.com...
>[snip]

> In short, I think that the D20 system asks for too much in return for
> a privilege that authors, to some extent, already have. Currently, an
> author can't claim to be producing an *authorized* AD&D supplement and
> can't use any of WotC's logos, but is gaining permission to use a D20
> logo -- which, I might add, is NOT the WotC logo -- worth signing away
> one's rights under the copyright law? I think that it is possible
> that Mr. Dancey is trying to make it sound like authors are worse off
> than they actually are in order to make the terms of the D20 license
> appear more attractive to them.

After all the discussions on the whole "open" gaming stuff that WotC is
proposing, it looks to me to be one big scam. People should be free to
publish their own modules for whatever gaming system they want and not be
scared into this "open" gaming nonsense. There's no infringing on
copyrights or trademarks if you make an unauthorized module for D&D as long
as you're not copying large amounts of text from copyrighted WotC books or
abusing their trademarks (claiming that a module is "Designed for WotC's
Dungeons & Dragons RPG" is fair use).

- Don


Don

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
news:8e07fs$2ib$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...
> In article <8e05dm$j0c$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,

> "Don" <?@?.?> wrote:
>
> > There's no infringing on
> > copyrights or trademarks if you make an unauthorized module for D&D as
long
> > as you're not copying large amounts of text from copyrighted WotC books
or
> > abusing their trademarks (claiming that a module is "Designed for WotC's
> > Dungeons & Dragons RPG" is fair use).
>
> That's SO not fair use. "Fair use" of copyrighted material is
> established for the purpose of commentary, whether it be journalistic,
> review or parody. It's NOT for using someone else's material as a
> required springboard to make money yourself. That's illegal in pretty
> much every nation on Earth.

Creating a module for D&D is not using someone else's material. You're
creating your own material.


> You don't have to agree with it, but please don't cite fair use in this
> case because you're simply wrong to do so.

How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not fair use?


- Don

Don

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Testing <te...@test.com> wrote in message
news:65OM4.115571$8S2.1...@news1.rdc1.tn.home.com...
>
> "Don" <?@?.?> wrote in message
news:8e097v$kr3$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca...

> > Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
> > news:8e07fs$2ib$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...
> > > In article <8e05dm$j0c$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,
> > > "Don" <?@?.?> wrote:
> > >
> > > > There's no infringing on
> > > > copyrights or trademarks if you make an unauthorized module for D&D
as
> > long
> > > > as you're not copying large amounts of text from copyrighted WotC
> books
> > or
> > > > abusing their trademarks (claiming that a module is "Designed for
> WotC's
> > > > Dungeons & Dragons RPG" is fair use).
> > >
> > > That's SO not fair use. "Fair use" of copyrighted material is
> > > established for the purpose of commentary, whether it be journalistic,
> > > review or parody. It's NOT for using someone else's material as a
> > > required springboard to make money yourself. That's illegal in pretty
> > > much every nation on Earth.
> >
> > Creating a module for D&D is not using someone else's material. You're
> > creating your own material.
>
> Until you start using game terms presented in D&D Terms....Thus, you would
> have to use generic terms, and not use anything direct from any of the
> guides...Otherwise, if you use "Magic Missile", which in your adventure is
> listed on a mage's spellbook as a 1st level spell, you'd be infringing.

How is that infringing? If someone writes a module and describes an enemy
as being "a mage who primarily uses the first level Magic Missile spell",
how is that violating WotC's copyright in the PHB, for example? There is no
copying of WotC's expression of the idea of Magic Missiles. If the person
reproduced the entire "Magic Missile" first level spell entry from the PHB
word for word, that would be infringing on copyright.

- Don


Michael Scott Brown

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Don <?@?.?> wrote in message news:8e0b81$lok$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca...

> How is that infringing? If someone writes a module and describes an enemy
> as being "a mage who primarily uses the first level Magic Missile spell",
> how is that violating WotC's copyright in the PHB, for example? There is
no
> copying of WotC's expression of the idea of Magic Missiles.

You're still *using* their specific Magic Missile. No different from
putting Luke Skywalker into a novel.

-Michael


Michael Scott Brown

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Apr 23, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/23/00
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Don <?@?.?> wrote in message news:8e097v$kr3$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca...

> Creating a module for D&D is not using someone else's material. You're
> creating your own material.

If you use D&D game mechanics, you're using their material.

-Michael

Jerry Stratton

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <5m17gsc4tgvl7ks1m...@4ax.com>,
brada...@earthlink.net wrote:
>In short, I think that the D20 system asks for too much in return for
>a privilege that authors, to some extent, already have. Currently, an
>author can't claim to be producing an *authorized* AD&D supplement and
>can't use any of WotC's logos, but is gaining permission to use a D20
>logo -- which, I might add, is NOT the WotC logo -- worth signing away
>one's rights under the copyright law? I think that it is possible
>that Mr. Dancey is trying to make it sound like authors are worse off
>than they actually are in order to make the terms of the D20 license
>appear more attractive to them.

I dunno. Sometimes I think he's an idiot; othertimes I think he's a
complete idiot. But he's not so much of an idiot that he believes what
he's saying, so you might be right. Whenever he's faced with a real life
example, he either ignores it, or calls it parody--even going so far as
to call one item a parody because it's funny, and it's funny because
it's not funny, and that's like British humor!

I think it's pretty clear he doesn't believe what he's saying about
derivative works and copyright, but why he goes on saying it is
anybody's guess. Yours is better than mine, probably, which is that he's
trying to somehow scare the market into not creating things we have the
right to create. (Though I guess they overlap.)

Jerry
http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <8e05dm$j0c$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,
"Don" <?@?.?> wrote:

> There's no infringing on
> copyrights or trademarks if you make an unauthorized module for D&D as
long
> as you're not copying large amounts of text from copyrighted WotC
books or
> abusing their trademarks (claiming that a module is "Designed for
WotC's
> Dungeons & Dragons RPG" is fair use).

That's SO not fair use. "Fair use" of copyrighted material is
established for the purpose of commentary, whether it be journalistic,
review or parody. It's NOT for using someone else's material as a
required springboard to make money yourself. That's illegal in pretty
much every nation on Earth.

It's one thing to do Citybooks like Flying Buffalo does that are
sufficiently generic to be portable into nearly every gaming system with
the same amount of work -- they aren't AD&D books with names changed on
the stats. Do most people use them for AD&D? Probably. But they're not
making AD&D books under another name or, worse yet, applying
misunderstood fair use decisions incorrectly.

You don't have to agree with it, but please don't cite fair use in this
case because you're simply wrong to do so.


Sent via Deja.com http://www.deja.com/
Before you buy.

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to

> I think that it is possible
> that Mr. Dancey is trying to make it sound like authors are worse off
> than they actually are in order to make the terms of the D20 license
> appear more attractive to them.

Or, maybe he just disagrees with you. Nah, this is the Usenet: It's GOT
to be a conspiracy!

Testing

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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"Don" <?@?.?> wrote in message news:8e097v$kr3$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca...
> Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
> news:8e07fs$2ib$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...
> > In article <8e05dm$j0c$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,
> > "Don" <?@?.?> wrote:
> >
> > > There's no infringing on
> > > copyrights or trademarks if you make an unauthorized module for D&D as
> long
> > > as you're not copying large amounts of text from copyrighted WotC
books
> or
> > > abusing their trademarks (claiming that a module is "Designed for
WotC's
> > > Dungeons & Dragons RPG" is fair use).
> >
> > That's SO not fair use. "Fair use" of copyrighted material is
> > established for the purpose of commentary, whether it be journalistic,
> > review or parody. It's NOT for using someone else's material as a
> > required springboard to make money yourself. That's illegal in pretty
> > much every nation on Earth.
>
> Creating a module for D&D is not using someone else's material. You're
> creating your own material.

Until you start using game terms presented in D&D Terms....Thus, you would


have to use generic terms, and not use anything direct from any of the
guides...Otherwise, if you use "Magic Missile", which in your adventure is
listed on a mage's spellbook as a 1st level spell, you'd be infringing.

Jason

Jerry Stratton

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <65OM4.115571$8S2.1...@news1.rdc1.tn.home.com>, "Testing"
<te...@test.com> wrote:
>Until you start using game terms presented in D&D Terms....Thus, you would
>have to use generic terms, and not use anything direct from any of the
>guides...Otherwise, if you use "Magic Missile", which in your adventure is
>listed on a mage's spellbook as a 1st level spell, you'd be infringing.

Terms cannot be protected, except in the sense of a trademark where the
terms are used to say that "this was created or authorized by company
x". For example, I can say that I like or dislike Coca-Cola in this
post. But unless I pretend to *be* Coca Cola, I'm not infringing
Coca-Cola's trademark. I can have a character in a novel (or in an
adventure) drink a "Coke". Unless I position myself as *being* the
company who owns that trademark, or being somehow authorized by them,
I'm not violating their trademark.

Terms can't be copyrighted at all, so that's a non-issue.

If you believe otherwise, tell me how your use of "Magic Missile" in
your posting is *not* infringing, but my use of "Magic Missile" in an
adventure would be? You are clearly referring to the D&D Magic Missile
above. Should you be watching out for lawyers in the night? :*)

Jerry
http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/

Peter Seebach

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <8e07fs$2ib$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>You don't have to agree with it, but please don't cite fair use in this
>case because you're simply wrong to do so.

Probably; the interesting thing is that there's a specific case on the books
where someone was sued for creating an expansion rulebook for a game, which
referred back to the rules of the original game, and the fair use defense
was among those used. It looks to have been unnecessary, because the judge
felt that the rules didn't get any protection anyway, but it's not a hopeless
defense; the judge looked at it seriously, and did not conclude that it was
completely irrelevant, only that he could resolve the case without having to
decide.

-s
--
Copyright 2000, All rights reserved. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting & Computers: http://www.plethora.net/
Get paid to surf! No spam. http://www.alladvantage.com/go.asp?refid=GZX636

Peter Seebach

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <65OM4.115571$8S2.1...@news1.rdc1.tn.home.com>,
Testing <te...@test.com> wrote:
>Until you start using game terms presented in D&D Terms

Why? They don't own those terms. Copyright doesn't cover rules, single
words, or other things like that.

Peter Seebach

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <8e07ic$2k2$1...@nnrp1.deja.com>,

Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote:
>Or, maybe he just disagrees with you. Nah, this is the Usenet: It's GOT
>to be a conspiracy!

Well, it is suspicious how he carefully avoids responding to any post citing
relevant case law. I've pointed out the specific case law involving a guy
producing a set of additional rules for an existing game several times. Judge
ruled that referring to, and even in some cases *quoting*, the original rules
did not constitute any kind of infringement, because rules are not protected
by copyright.

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <3903ce7c$1$52004$3c09...@news.plethora.net>,
se...@plethora.net (Peter Seebach) wrote:

> Well, it is suspicious how he carefully avoids responding to any post
citing
> relevant case law. I've pointed out the specific case law involving a
guy
> producing a set of additional rules for an existing game several
times. Judge
> ruled that referring to, and even in some cases *quoting*, the
original rules
> did not constitute any kind of infringement, because rules are not
protected
> by copyright.

Couldn't it also be that he's not a lawyer and isn't interested in
putting his foot in his mouth by citing precedents that don't apply? I
mean, look at the shit he gets for saying that "Diablo" is a lot of
people's idea of a perfect D&D game.

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <8e097v$kr3$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,

"Don" <?@?.?> wrote:
> Beau Yarbrough <comic...@my-deja.com> wrote in message
> news:8e07fs$2ib$1...@nnrp1.deja.com...

> > "Fair use" of copyrighted material is


> > established for the purpose of commentary, whether it be
journalistic,
> > review or parody.

> How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not
fair use?

It's not A) a news report on the D&D game (which would let Eric Noah
discuss 3E until the cows came home, legally speaking), B) a review of a
D&D game or C) a parody of the D&D game.

Open. Shut.

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <newsw-942181.20392423042000@news>,
Jerry Stratton <ne...@hoboes.com> wrote:

> If you believe otherwise, tell me how your use of "Magic Missile" in
> your posting is *not* infringing, but my use of "Magic Missile" in an
> adventure would be?

Your post is a commentary on a copyrighted work, and thus protected by
the Fair Use provisions created by judicial decisions over the years.

Magic Missile in an adventure is not a commentary, but an attempt to use
someone else's intellectual property to make your product sell a bit
better. That's theft.

Joseph Oberlander

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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Such heavy-handed control is just going to kill the creative process.

Typical - they want it all. Can you say Microsoft/Apple/etc type
of corporate mentality?

OTOH,
I bet there are about 5 or 10 *authorized* suppliments, and the rest are
all unauthorized. I bet another gaming company or publishing house
could make a fortune on this by catering to these unauthorized suppliments.

Joseph Oberlander

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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> How is that infringing? If someone writes a module and describes an enemy
> as being "a mage who primarily uses the first level Magic Missile spell",
> how is that violating WotC's copyright in the PHB, for example? There is no
> copying of WotC's expression of the idea of Magic Missiles. If the person
> reproduced the entire "Magic Missile" first level spell entry from the PHB
> word for word, that would be infringing on copyright.
>
> - Don

It really isn't if they are creative - they just claim that they are using
the term from the first-edition books :) They make it just non-specific
enough to pass as generic. Everyone *knows* that they are for 3e, but they
are also generic enough to be useable in other systems.

Like I said, some bright soul is going to get rich from this non-authorized
mass of work - quite likely being the de-facto "authorized" version, much
like some web sites that I know. :)

Lynne Simpson

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to

Heh...he cites loads of case law all the time. We'd *love* for him to
cite some /relevant/ case law, but he hasn't. ;-)

Lynne
brada...@earthlink.net

Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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In article <39040838...@loop.com>,
Joseph Oberlander <oberl...@loop.com> wrote:

> I bet there are about 5 or 10 *authorized* suppliments, and the rest
are
> all unauthorized. I bet another gaming company or publishing house
> could make a fortune on this by catering to these unauthorized
suppliments.

Yeah, Flying Buffalo is the powerhouse of the industry today. (And, IMO,
their CityBooks are the best generic supplements out there.)

Ryan S. Dancey

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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Peter Seebach <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message news:3903cd8d$1$52003

> Probably; the interesting thing is that there's a specific case on the
books
> where someone was sued for creating an expansion rulebook for a game

Could you cite the case and reference? I seem to have missed the post where
you originally did so.

Ryan


Steve Miller

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Don wrote:

<< How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not fair use?
>>

You're abusing someone else's trademark.

But, of course, the 'net definition of "fair use" is:

If I can steal it, I can use it.


Steve Miller
Writer of Stuff

And Jesus, he knows me, and he knows I'm right.
I've been talking to Jesus all my life.
--Genesis, "Jesus He Knows Me"

JD Lail

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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On Mon, 24 Apr 2000 08:16:55 -0700, "Ryan S. Dancey" <ry...@frpg.com>
wrote:

Arneson vs Gygax et al on the Monster Manual II has been mentioned
elsewhere. That may be it. Then again maybe not. :)

L8R
Don Lail


-----= Posted via Newsfeeds.Com, Uncensored Usenet News =-----
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Michael Scott Brown

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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Steve Miller <nue...@aol.comDELETEIT> wrote in message

> But, of course, the 'net definition of "fair use" is:
>
> If I can steal it, I can use it.

So true.
<shakes head sadly>

-Michael

John Simpson

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
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On 24 Apr 2000 16:04:09 GMT, nue...@aol.comDELETEIT (Steve Miller)
wrote:

>Don wrote:
>
><< How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not fair use?
>>>
>
>You're abusing someone else's trademark.

Do you believe that software system requirements that, without
license, specify "Windows 95/98/NT" are somehow abusive of Microsoft's
trademark?
I agree that "designed for use with AD&D rules" is not "fair use" in
any legal sense, but how is it inherently infringing or abusive?
--
Peace,

John Simpson
Real username's in the URL
http://home.earthlink.net/~silverjohn
If someone asks if you're a god, say "Yes."
If someone asks if you're Sarah Conner, say "No."

King of The Reich

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
I've got an addendum to the earlier "'net definition of 'fair
use'". It's probably an earlier heard "proverb" but here it is
anyway:

Rule #1: Anything that isn't nailed down is mine.
Rule #2: If I can pry up the nails, it's not nailed down.

That's pretty much the internet for you.


* Sent from RemarQ http://www.remarq.com The Internet's Discussion Network *
The fastest and easiest way to search and participate in Usenet - Free!


Don

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
news:20000424120409...@ng-cg1.aol.com...

> Don wrote:
>
> << How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not fair
use?
> >>
>
> You're abusing someone else's trademark.

I thought it was fair use to refer to someone else's product just as long as
you've got the little TM thing and the notice that such-and-such is a
trademark of so-and-so company?

So, it's illegal to refer to another product?

- Don

Steve Miller

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
John Simpson wrote:

<< Do you believe that software system requirements that, without
license, specify "Windows 95/98/NT" are somehow abusive of Microsoft's
trademark? >>

Software system requirements do not equal RPGs. An adventure module works with
ANY pen-and-paper RPG.

<< I agree that "designed for use with AD&D rules" is not "fair use" in
any legal sense, but how is it inherently infringing or abusive? >>

Because it's an appropriation of WotC's trademarks. Why is it that you can get
all hysterical about the eeeeeeviiiiiil WotC plotting to "steal" fan material,
but think that abusing their trademarks is A-OK?

Oh, don't bother, I know the answer: If I can steal it, it's "fair use."

Steve Miller

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Don wrote:

<< I thought it was fair use to refer to someone else's product just as long as
you've got the little TM thing and the notice that such-and-such is a
trademark of so-and-so company?

So, it's illegal to refer to another product? >>

Putting a bug on a product cover that implies it's a WotC release is *not*
"referring" to someone else's product. It's trading on their reputation and
established market presense.

Don

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Steve Miller <nue...@aol.comDELETEIT> wrote in message
news:20000424184801...@ng-md1.aol.com...

> Don wrote:
>
> << I thought it was fair use to refer to someone else's product just as
long as
> you've got the little TM thing and the notice that such-and-such is a
> trademark of so-and-so company?
>
> So, it's illegal to refer to another product? >>
>
> Putting a bug on a product cover that implies it's a WotC release is *not*
> "referring" to someone else's product. It's trading on their reputation
and
> established market presense.

Putting a "bug" on a product cover? What do you mean by that?

I totally agree with you that that would be infringement implying the module
was a WotC release is *not* "referring" to someone else's product and is
infringment, but that's not at all what I was talking about.

- Don

Alan Kellogg

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
In article <20000424120409...@ng-cg1.aol.com>,
nue...@aol.comDELETEIT (Steve Miller) wrote:

> Don wrote:
>
> << How is the phrase "Designed for WotC's Dungeons & Dragons RPG" not
> fair use?
> >>
>
> You're abusing someone else's trademark.
>

> But, of course, the 'net definition of "fair use" is:
>
> If I can steal it, I can use it.

If it aint nailed down, it's mine. If I can pry it up, it aint nailed
down.

Alan

Jason Stitt

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Jerry Stratton wrote:
>
<snip>
>
> The term "Magic Missile" is not copyrighted. It is probably not even a
> trademark. Regardless, as long as I don't somehow use it to say that I
> am WOTC, I am not stealing anything. If you believe otherwise, go ahead
> and turn me in. I'm charging for the following, just in case you believe
> that it matters:
>
> Praxos is a wizard for use in an AD&D game. If you like this character,
> please pay me $1.50. Note that AD&D is a trademark of Wizards of the
> Coast, and I have no affiliation with them. This is not part of their
> official line.

"If you like this character, please pay me $1.50"? Perhaps that
should read "if you would like to use this character." ;)

<snip character>
>
> Second Level (1):
> Alter Self, Darkness 15' Radius, Shatter
> http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/

--
Jason Stitt

"The road to disasters is ordered by the righteous, planned
by the well-meaning and paved with their good intentions."
-Shin'a'in Proverb

Michael Scott Brown

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Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Peter Seebach <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message
news:3904ffdd$1$72508$3c09...@news.plethora.net...
> In article <#4dtebbr$GA.361@cpmsnbbsa04>,
> Michael Scott Brown <The_Z...@msn.com> wrote:
> > You're still *using* their specific Magic Missile. No different
from
> >putting Luke Skywalker into a novel.
>
> Quite a lot different. Read the caselaw on character copyright;
characters
> must be very distinctive to get protection, and cannot simply be
> representative of a type. I would argue that magic missile is just
> representative of a type of spells, and is not a distinct enough entity to
> get any special protection.

I would argue otherwise. I don't think a single FRPG in existence uses a
spell or game mechanic called "Magic Missile". Magical missiles abound -
but as soon as you say the wizard has the "1st level spell Magic Missile"
you're directly using D&D, and not in a way that is covered by fair use.
Fair use would be _mentioning_ that D&D *has* a thing called "Magic
Missile".

> The "their specific Magic Missile" thing refers entirely to a construct of
> rules and game balance - issues which copyright law does not protect.

<goggle> Magic Missile is a construct of "game balance"? Bah. "Merely a
construct of rules and thus uncopyrightable"? Double Bah. Come *on*, man,
THINK!!!! By your logic, we could just copy Magic Missile text directly
into our own games, since you seem to think that since it's part of game
rules then it can't be copyrighted.
The idea of a magical bolt of energy is generic. D&D's Magic Missile
bolt of energy is not.
This should be patently obvious.

Why do you insist on the right to steal their work?

-Michael

Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
John Simpson <see...@earthlink.net> wrote in message
> But the apologists will now chime in with "soft drinks are not
> games." I think your point is very well stated, and is indeed
> germane. References are not "abuse," nor are they infringements,
> especially when they are merely references to rules.

You are confusing references *to something's existence* with *using*
information from a reference work.

-Michael


Ryan S. Dancey

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Peter Seebach <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message news:3905036d$1$72527

> Okay, here's a URL for it:
>
> http://www.limbach.com/articles/allen.html

This case says a court found that the ideas in a game cannot be copyright.
That's an undisputed issue in this discussion.

In fact, in message:

http://x42.deja.com/[ST_rn=ap]/getdoc.xp?AN=607779632.1&CONTEXT=956632243.66
2306837&hitnum=43

I wrote:

"Were I to explain that uncopyrightable portion of the AD&D 2nd Ed product
line, I might write something like this:

character creation
------------------

* roll 3d6 each for six ability scores
* consult [chart] for effects of each ability score
* pick an alignment from these options [chart]
* pick a race [list]
* pick a class [list]

character information
---------------------

* characters have X hit points, determined by [formula]
* characters have Y Armor Class, determined by [formula]

combat system
-------------

* roll for initiative
* on initiative order, characters can attack, move, or take an action from
[list]
* if attacking, player rolls a d20, adds [situational modifiers] and
consults [chart of class level bonus vs. AC] to determine if attack was
successful
* if attack successful, player rolls on [chart] to inflict damage * if a
character's hit points reach zero or below, character dies * if at least two
combatants remain standing, repeat the process

And then there's a handful of miscellaneous rules like the proficiency
system, encumbrance, overland movement, etc.

Those are the "rules of the game" excluded by statute from copyright
protection. You'll note the many hundreds of games that essentially use
these rules without protest from Wizards of the Coast or even the former
regime at TSR."

---------------

In this particular case, the court found no way to seperate the idea
embodied in those rules from the expression of those rules. Therefore, the
court ruled that the only copyright at issue was the specific expression of
the rulebooks of Allen's games, and that the Academic Games League hadn't
created a derivative work because they hadn't used anything Allen held a
valid copyright interest in.

Specifically, the court said "Allen has not shown that it is possible to
distinguish the expression of the rules of his game manuals from the idea of
the rules themselves."

This establishes a test: "Given a copyrighted roleplaying game system, is it
possible to distinguish the expression of the rules from the idea of the
rules themselves?"

Allen failed to show that he could. I haven't seen any of the games
involved in this case, so I have no idea how close they relate to a
roleplaying game system. But note that the court did not say "it is
impossible to distinguish the expression of game rules from the idea of the
rules" - simply that Allen failed to do so.

Our argument would clearly be that, in the specific case of D&D, there >are<
distinguishable elements of the expression of the rules. As described in a
previous message on this topic [cited above], those do not include the
"basic rules of the game" but we would absolutely enumerate the specific
[non public-domain] classes, races, spells, monsters, and magic items
involved in the game system as "distinguishable elements."

We would also assert a selection, arrangement and presentation copyright on
the templates for classes, monsters and spells, and on "stat blocks" as used
for shorthand notation, as a collection.

The court also addresses the issue of derivative works. Noting the
"substantial similiarity test" and citing Lichfield v. Spielberg et al.

In that case, the court wrote: "We have stated that "[a] work will be
considered a derivative work only if it would be considered an infringing
work if the material which it has derived from a prior work had been taken
without the consent of a copyright proprietor of such prior work." United
States v. Taxe, 540 F.2d 961, 965 n. 2 (9th Cir. 1976) (emphasis added)."

In fact, in Lichfield v. Spielberg, the court references the Sid & Marty
Kroft case which has become something of a touchstone for the 9th circuit.
In Kroft, the court found that a series of McDonald's advertisements
(plainly shown to be inspired by the show "Puffinstuff" produced by the
Krofts) were derivative works because they were >similar to< - not
>identical< to a TV series created by the Krofts. Interested readers should
review this case because it demonstrates just how different the court
believes material can be and still be "similar to" another work.

Finally, there is the clear issue of "linkage". In Lichfield, the only
significant similarity between the original work and E.T. (the source of the
dispute) is that both works centered on stranded aliens. The court worte in
Lichfield: "There is no substantial [*1357] similarity, however, between
the sequences of events, mood, dialogue and characters of the two works."

Which brings us full circle to the statement I have made repeatedly that
only a court can determine if a work is derivative or not. Others in this
discussion have provided references for works found to be derivative when
very small amounts (as a percentage) of the total work was held by someone
else's copyright. Again, the question would have to be put to a court, and
the court would have to rule how much is "too much" when appropriating the
unique, copyrighted elements of D&D into a new work. A risk adverse person
would interpret the only safe answer to that test as "none".

Ryan

Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Robert Baldwin <rbal...@rio.STOPSPAM.com> wrote in message

> > You're still *using* their specific Magic Missile. No different
from
> >putting Luke Skywalker into a novel.
>
> So, call it "Mana Dart". See how really easy some of this is?

You'd think someone besides you and I could figure it out. :(


> ['Course, if you *do* use "optinoid", I now own your work, and the
> computer you used to create it. <g>]

Fie! Robert works for Hasbro!

-Michael

Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Steve Miller <nue...@aol.comDELETEIT> wrote in message
> << Name: Praxos
> Kindred: Human
> Strength: 16> Intelligence: 17> Wisdom: 11
> Dexterity: 13> Constitution: 14> Charisma: 10 >
>
> ... he switches the order of the stats and changes some of the phrasing.
This
> post is a really helpful example about how to share creations without
stepping
> on other people's property, IMO.

?? I don't see any significant variation from D&D here; however, "stat"
names are game-system indepdendent so it need not be inherently D&D stuff.
That issue's well settled.

> << Spells in Spellbook:
> First Level (2):
> Magic Missile, Read Magic, Unseen Servant, Change Self, Armor, Alarm


> Second Level (1):
> Alter Self, Darkness 15' Radius, Shatter >>
>

> Okay, if *these* are the kinds of references that people have in mind,
then I'd
> say there's no infringement going on. Without the D&D rules, this is
> meaningless blather.

But isn't that proof that they *are* D&D-dependent? "Meaningless
without other book" would seem to be an obvious red flag.
If the document instead described the general effect of each spell and
changed the names to non-D&D specific, then it would be properly insulated.
Ie;
Read Magic -> "Read Magical Writing";
Unseen Servant -> "Weak telekinesis" ...
This way, someone using this in D&D can ram in the D&D equivalents of
these and play away. Otherwise, the document is dependent on D&D for
meaning.

-Michael

Don

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Michael Scott Brown <The_Z...@msn.com> wrote in message
news:uYjB1Rmr$GA.231@cpmsnbbsa03...

> Peter Seebach <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message
> news:3904ffdd$1$72508$3c09...@news.plethora.net...
> > In article <#4dtebbr$GA.361@cpmsnbbsa04>,
> > Michael Scott Brown <The_Z...@msn.com> wrote:
> > > You're still *using* their specific Magic Missile. No different
> from
> > >putting Luke Skywalker into a novel.
> >
> > Quite a lot different. Read the caselaw on character copyright;
> characters
> > must be very distinctive to get protection, and cannot simply be
> > representative of a type. I would argue that magic missile is just
> > representative of a type of spells, and is not a distinct enough entity
to
> > get any special protection.
>
> I would argue otherwise. I don't think a single FRPG in existence uses
a
> spell or game mechanic called "Magic Missile". Magical missiles abound -
> but as soon as you say the wizard has the "1st level spell Magic Missile"
> you're directly using D&D, and not in a way that is covered by fair use.
> Fair use would be _mentioning_ that D&D *has* a thing called "Magic
> Missile".
>
> > The "their specific Magic Missile" thing refers entirely to a construct
of
> > rules and game balance - issues which copyright law does not protect.
>
> <goggle> Magic Missile is a construct of "game balance"? Bah. "Merely
a
> construct of rules and thus uncopyrightable"? Double Bah. Come *on*, man,
> THINK!!!! By your logic, we could just copy Magic Missile text directly
> into our own games, since you seem to think that since it's part of game
> rules then it can't be copyrighted.

Copying their text would be a violation of copyright. I think you need to
do less insulting and more thinking of your own.

- Don

Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Steve Miller <nue...@aol.comDELETEIT> wrote in message
> << ?? I don't see any significant variation from D&D here; however,
"stat"
> names are game-system indepdendent so it need not be inherently D&D stuff.
> That issue's well settled. >>
>
> The change of "Race" to "Kindred" and the swapping of the order was
plenty.
> It's about in the order of magnitude with any number of D&D copy-cats out
> there.

<laugh> Your memory's gotten soft, sir Miller! Or else mine just
glitched horribly and I'm about to eat shoe leather. Were not the stats'
order the same as were used for 1st Edition? I still have a hard time
putting that "D" after the "S" ...
At any rate, I would focus less on the order and more on that fact that
terms like "strength" and the like aren't copyrighted, they're generic
capability-category terms used by many game systems and so it's not
neccessary that they be references to D&D in order to have meaning.

> << But isn't that proof that they *are* D&D-dependent? "Meaningless
> without other book" would seem to be an obvious red flag. >>
>

> I dunno... it would depend on *what* book.

When that book's the PhB or the Monster Manual, I'd say the issue is
fairly open and shut.

> << This way, someone using this in D&D can ram in the D&D equivalents
of
> these and play away. Otherwise, the document is dependent on D&D for
> meaning. >>
>

> Which swings us back around to: How much of an RPG and its rules can be
> protected by copyright....

Substantially more than a lot of people seem to be crediting, I'd say.
<shakes head sadly>

-Michael


Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Don <?@?.?> wrote in message news:8e37mf$4tq$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca...

> > THINK!!!! By your logic, we could just copy Magic Missile text directly
> > into our own games, since you seem to think that since it's part of game
> > rules then it can't be copyrighted.
>
> Copying their text would be a violation of copyright. I think you need to
> do less insulting and more thinking of your own.

But, but, so many people here have been saying that game rules *aren't
protected by copyright* and thus there's no obligation to respect such!
Given that such plagarism is obviously a no-no to any fair-minded
person, someone in that camp really ought to re-examine just what they think
they know.

-Michael

Michael Scott Brown

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
Peter Seebach <se...@plethora.net> wrote in message news:39051ab5$1$72511
> Yes. And, thus, as long as WotC maintains this attitude, a risk-averse
> person ....

You mean, irrational coward.

-Michael


Roger Bonzer

unread,
Apr 24, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/24/00
to
In article <afo9gsgpp755p0kkq...@4ax.com>,
John Simpson <see...@earthlink.net> wrote:

>><< I agree that "designed for use with AD&D rules" is not "fair use" in
>>any legal sense, but how is it inherently infringing or abusive? >>
>>
>>Because it's an appropriation of WotC's trademarks.
>

> "Appropriation"? Does an author need permission to use the word
>Coke in a novel? Does a story which refers to somone making a Xerox
>copy "appropriate" that trademark?

I'm sure that a "designed for use with Star Wars RPG rules" adventure
would need permission to use Light Sabres or Tattooine -- from Lucasfilm
if from no one else. Otherwise WotC's license to LucasFilm for the Star
Wars RPG rights effectively become a license for *anyone* to publish
Star Wars RPG property for free. It seems reasonable that any "for AD&D"
adventure module that referred to Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, beholders,
mind flayers, Elminster, Magic Missile, or any other unique WotC creation
would need a similar license from WotC. Why should WotC be allowed fewer
rights to its intellectual property than Tolkien or LucasFilms?

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Roger Bonzer | Wishes may bring problems such that you regret them.
mino...@teleport.com | Better that, though, than to never get them.
| -- Into the Woods


Denakhan the Arch-Mage

unread,
Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
Hiya.

Steve Miller wrote in message
<20000424184801...@ng-md1.aol.com>...


>Don wrote:
>
><< I thought it was fair use to refer to someone else's product just as
long as
>you've got the little TM thing and the notice that such-and-such is a
>trademark of so-and-so company?
>
>So, it's illegal to refer to another product? >>
>
>Putting a bug on a product cover that implies it's a WotC release is *not*
>"referring" to someone else's product. It's trading on their reputation and
>established market presense.


I dont' think that's what he was saying. How I read it, he was asking
how refering to another company is infrenging.

Example:

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
"The Dungeon of Killer Shrews!"

...trapped in a multi-level dungeon, where rabid, undead giant shrews
lurk in every shadow! Can you and your brave friends escape alive?...

*This generic adventure is easily adaptable for use with such FRPG's as
Dungeons & Dragons, Rolmaster, MERP, The Arcanum, and other popluar systems*

**all trademarks belong to there respective companies and mention of these
trademarks are NOT sanctioned by their holder.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

AFAIK, that would be perfectly legal. That last part (:**all
trademarks...") would be more legalese and correct...but I think you get the
point.
Are you saying that simply *mentioning* D&D as a possible system that
the purchaser could use would be somehow "infrenging" on WotC's stuff?

^_^

Denakhan the Arch-Mage


Beau Yarbrough

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Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
In article <8e2e1j$lv6$1...@canopus.cc.umanitoba.ca>,
"Don" <?@?.?> wrote:

> I thought it was fair use to refer to someone else's product just as
long as
> you've got the little TM thing and the notice that such-and-such is a
> trademark of so-and-so company?

> So, it's illegal to refer to another product?

Please read my posts about what Fair Use entails. It's got a fairly
specific meaning.

Beau Yarbrough

unread,
Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
In article <1a6b80a3...@usw-ex0102-084.remarq.com>,

King of The Reich <eric_dobb...@excite.com.invalid> wrote:
> I've got an addendum to the earlier "'net definition of 'fair
> use'". It's probably an earlier heard "proverb" but here it is
> anyway:
>
> Rule #1: Anything that isn't nailed down is mine.
> Rule #2: If I can pry up the nails, it's not nailed down.
>
> That's pretty much the internet for you.

Hey, man, are you gonna keep those nails?

John Simpson

unread,
Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
On 24 Apr 2000 22:43:21 GMT, nue...@aol.comDELETEIT (Steve Miller)
wrote:

>John Simpson wrote:


>
><< Do you believe that software system requirements that, without
>license, specify "Windows 95/98/NT" are somehow abusive of Microsoft's
>trademark? >>
>
>Software system requirements do not equal RPGs. An adventure module works with
>ANY pen-and-paper RPG.

The issue, which you snipped, was a module specifically designed to
work with D&D rules. Software does not equal rules, but I see the
analogy as very close. And rules, as we've generally agreed, are not
copyrightable.

><< I agree that "designed for use with AD&D rules" is not "fair use" in
>any legal sense, but how is it inherently infringing or abusive? >>
>
>Because it's an appropriation of WotC's trademarks.

"Appropriation"? Does an author need permission to use the word
Coke in a novel? Does a story which refers to somone making a Xerox
copy "appropriate" that trademark?

You've published modules before, so I can understand your being
sensitive on this issue. However, I think you're overreacting. A
reference to a trademark is not of itself an abuse, any more than
shareware games for Windows are.
If you insist that a single use of the name D&D is something
horrible, you put Wizards in the very strange position of forbidding
anyone, anywhere, from Speaking The Name, Lest It Appear, or
something.


>Why is it that you can get
>all hysterical about the eeeeeeviiiiiil WotC plotting to "steal" fan material,

You may have me confused with someone else. I, for one, do not want
to believe that Wizards is about to steal material they didn't
create--no matter how often Mr. Dancey asserts a right to do just
that. I'm not even much of an author, so I have very little to lose
were Wizards to start cherry-picking. I would have loved to believe
that Mr. Dancey's pretensions would quickly be corrected by someone
with a lick of PR aptitude.
I thought I made it clear, though, that I am absolutely disgusted
with a company that continues to let its employees belittle and
threaten customers with incorrect legal opinions. I would be ashamed,
were I to work for a company that (however tacitly) approved of such
bullying. As a customer of such a company, I am about ready to sever
all ties. Predictably, though, there are those who can only see the
dimension you've mentioned.
Seems to me that when I brought this up with you before, you didn't
answer. You've already stated that you believe Mr. Dancey's claim to
ownership to be wrong. How do you feel about Wizards' allowing such
intimidation of customers (of authors!) to continue?
No, I don't think I qualify as hysterical in this matter, but I am
proud enough to refuse to be associated with Wizards' schizophrenic
policy, and am loath to see Wizards' control of the D&D game so badly
misused. How much of your own labor would have to be dismissed before
you would start complaining? You're an author, one who has worked for
a company that at least used to represent the pinnacle of creativity
and responsiveness to the fan community. How can you belittle outrage
at the change in Wizards' attitudes as "hysterical"?
Please don't assume that I want to sell modules, or that I have
produced anything worth stealing.


>but think that abusing their trademarks is A-OK?

Please let me in on what "abuse" of a trademark I've okayed. You're
saying that Invoking the Holy Name is wrong, but I don't yet see why.
What *do* you think of "system requirements: Win95/98/NT"? Does
inferior shelfware or shareware somehow "abuse" Microsoft? Should a
fan's crappy little module, labeled once with the name of the rules
system with which it's supposed to work, be seen as some sort of
crime?
I could well understand Margaret Mitchell's being steamed over
"Scarlett," but AD&D rules are not copyrightable. Why should the
label "works with D&D" on a fan's module be considered wrong?


>Oh, don't bother, I know the answer: If I can steal it, it's "fair use."

Sheesh. I'd prefer that you left me out of whatever else is going
on in your life.
I don't agree that saying "I like Coke" is wrong, and I don't see
anything wrong in a fan-produced D&D module's being labeled as such.
I *do* think that Wizard's logos and copyrighted material should be
respected, and any use of its trademarked game name should be clearly
labeled....but we're edging back toward a key point here: should a
module, which only assumes the use of non-copyrightable rules, be
ruled as infringing? If the author calls it D&D-compatible, but is
careful to say something along the lines of "not sanctioned by
Wizards," is that enough to underscore the unofficial nature of the
material?
If not, would you consider a fan to be okay if he left off the name
of the game system he was supplementing with his module?
--
Peace,

John Simpson
Real username's in the URL
http://home.earthlink.net/~silverjohn

"A gentleman is a man who knows how to play the bagpipes, but chooses not to."

Peter Seebach

unread,
Apr 25, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/25/00
to
In article <#4dtebbr$GA.361@cpmsnbbsa04>,
Michael Scott Brown <The_Z...@msn.com> wrote:
> You're still *using* their specific Magic Missile. No different from
>putting Luke Skywalker into a novel.

Quite a lot different. Read the caselaw on character copyright; characters
must be very distinctive to get protection, and cannot simply be
representative of a type. I would argue that magic missile is just
representative of a type of spells, and is not a distinct enough entity to
get any special protection.

The "their specific Magic Missile" thing refers entirely to a construct of


rules and game balance - issues which copyright law does not protect.

-s
--
Copyright 2000, All rights reserved. Peter Seebach / se...@plethora.net
C/Unix wizard, Pro-commerce radical, Spam fighter. Boycott Spamazon!
Consulting & Computers: http://www.plethora.net/
Get paid to surf! No spam.