The Official Scoop on D&D Copyright Issues

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Melissa Tarkington

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Mar 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/31/00
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As the submissions editor of a soon-to-be-launched roleplaying games
web site, I have watched the recent discussions regarding Wizards'
online policy with a great deal of interest. The statements that
implied that Wizards owns all material created by fans and posted to
the Internet were obviously of concern to us, and I didn't feel right
about accepting submissions from authors without getting all of the
facts. I recently wrote to Peter Adkison, the CEO of Wizards of the
Coast. I have his permission to forward his reply to the newsgroup.
Included below is my email to him, followed by his response.
============================================================
TO: le...@wizards.com
CC: ma...@wizards.com
Hello,
I am the submissions editor for a roleplaying games
portal that will be launching in May 2000. My
partners and I have read Wizards' online policy many
times, and we are certain that we will be able to
ensure that any D&D-related material posted on our
site will be 100% in compliance with it. That being
said, Ryan Dancey has made some comments on
rec.games.frp.dnd (and perhaps some other places as
well) that have given us cause for concern. He has
stated publicly that the company's position is that it
owns all D&D-related material that has been created by
fans and posted on the Internet. Is this really the
company's official position?
Whenever authors submit material to be considered for
posting on our site, they will click a button that
indicates that they have read our guidelines and that
they understand what it means to have their material
posted on our site. If Wizards' position is that it
owns this material because it has been posted to the
Internet, then I feel that I owe these authors the
courtesy of cautioning them about this before they
submit material to us, and I will modify our site's
submissions agreement accordingly.
Recently, I have seen some rather heated discussions
about Wizards' online policy on various e-lists and on
one newsgroup on the Internet. It would be greatly
appreciated (by a number of people, to be quite
honest) if this matter were cleared up, one way or
another. At this point, I believe that the only way
to effectively put this issue to rest in the online
RPG community would be for the legal department and/or
Mr. Adkison to make an official statement on the
matter. That's probably a lot to ask, but given the
discussions I've seen over the last few months, I
think it will take something along those lines to
truly set the record straight.
Sincerely,
Melissa J. Tarkington
============================================================
Dear Melissa,
First of all, thank you for caring enough about this topic to write
to us and get the information straight, firsthand.
Here's the scoop.
Anything that someone writes is theirs, to the extent it does
not infringe on something that is already owned by someone
else.
If someone writes an original story about a fantasy warrior
who treks across the wasteland destroying ogres and trolls
(public domain monsters that nobody owns), that story belongs
to the writer.
If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
one can use the story without the other's consent.
By the way, just to make sure, I ran this answer past
Brian Lewis, our General Counsel (legal guy). So this
is an answer both from the CEO AND the legal
department. :-)
Feel free to pass this along to any of those discussion
forums where you think it might be helpful.
Stay on target,
Peter Adkison
CEO, Wizards of the Coast
Sector Head, Hobby Games, Hasbro


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

FoulFoot

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Mar 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/31/00
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> If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
> owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
> this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
> that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
> one can use the story without the other's consent.

I guess then the better question (and maybe it's already been hashed out
here in detail) is, "what does WoTC own?" I assume when they say they own
"beholder", they're saying that the name "beholder" (as it applies to a
monster) is trademarked. Is there a listing of what terms they've
trademarked? Such terms as "hit point", "armor class", etc would be of
particular interest.

Regardless, I believe WoTC has also stated that they're not looking to
attack every Tom-Dick-and-Harry who's innocently posting their module up for
public viewing. They are well aware -- and have publicly stated -- that the
rabid attitude of the old TSR was probably instrumental in creating such a
negative bias among fans. They really don't want to further alienate
anyone. However, they still need to make their legal copyrights known, lest
someone take unfair advantage of their property ("advantage" equating to
"selling for profit").

Let's all relax.

Scott

Bryan J. Maloney

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Mar 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/31/00
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But what if one writes a MODULE that refers to the GAME RULES for a
"Beholder"? Game Rules are not covered under copyright. I think THAT
matter has to be cleared up.

PS: "Beholder" is, as far as I know, not Trademarked by anyone, either.

Ryan S. Dancey

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Mar 31, 2000, 3:00:00 AM3/31/00
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Mark W Brehob <bre...@cse.msu.edu> wrote in message

> If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
> does WotC claim they would own the rights to it?

There is no such thing as the D20 open source license.

If you are referring to the Open Gaming License (see
www.opengamingfoundation.org for more information) the answer to your
question is "you own the copyright to the original material you contribute."

> Do they have the right to publish it at that point?

Under the terms of the OGL, yes.

> Can I make money off of such a derivative work?

You will not get a fee or a royalty if someone else publishes the work, but
if you choose to do so, you are welcome to charge whatever the market will
bear.

> Could they?

Yes.

Ryan

Eric Noah

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Thanks, Melissa, for sharing this with us. :)

Eric Noah
D&D 3E News
http://www.rpgplanet.com/dnd3e


Mark W Brehob

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Melissa Tarkington <melira_...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> Dear Melissa,
> First of all, thank you for caring enough about this topic to write
> to us and get the information straight, firsthand.
> Here's the scoop.
> Anything that someone writes is theirs, to the extent it does
> not infringe on something that is already owned by someone
> else.
> If someone writes an original story about a fantasy warrior
> who treks across the wasteland destroying ogres and trolls
> (public domain monsters that nobody owns), that story belongs
> to the writer.
> If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
> owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
> this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
> that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
> one can use the story without the other's consent.
> By the way, just to make sure, I ran this answer past
> Brian Lewis, our General Counsel (legal guy). So this
> is an answer both from the CEO AND the legal
> department. :-)
> Feel free to pass this along to any of those discussion
> forums where you think it might be helpful.
> Stay on target,
> Peter Adkison
> CEO, Wizards of the Coast
> Sector Head, Hobby Games, Hasbro

Wow, talk about a non-answer. Or at least one I don't understand. So lets
try again. If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
does WotC claim they would own the rights to it? Do they have the right to
publish it at that point? Can I make money off of such a derivative work?
Could they?

That's 4 questions. Anyone know the answers? I'm guessing the answer is
"we don't know yet."

Ideally WotC would allow anyone to write an adventure with the D&D rules.
Rules, spells, etc. which are in publications by WotC could not be
reproduced. That is I could have a mage, level 2, with the spell magic
missile, as an NPC. But I could not explain how the spell works or how the
combat system worked, or anything of that nature. I would be able to
_sell_ the material. And heck, I'd have to state clearly in BIG font that
it is an unofficial D&D product and that WotC owns D&D, PHB, and what ever
else I refer to. WotC would be free to refer to my product in the same way
in theirs.

Now the above would introduce a real "free market" for D&D stuff. It seems
darn unlikely that WotC wants that kind of a competitive market. In fact it
is unclear that _I_ really want that market, the 3rd edition D&D books would
certainly go up in price so that WotC would make money somewhere. Unless
WotC could consistently come out with a better product than everyone else.
(Likely, but a bit scary for WotC)

So instead I would hope that WotC would allow such a module/expansion to be
published when money is not asked for. Further that WotC would not be able
to use the material in any form other than the complete and unaltered form
without permission. And lastly that WotC would not be allowed to sell the
material without permission. So they _could_ take my module and post it to
their website. But I would get credit for it. And they wouldn't be making
money off of my hard work while I got zero. (minus selling banner ads etc.)

That seems darn reasonable. It might open up issues about WotC stealing
other peoples ideas, but heck, if I write a story or module _today_ WotC has
to worry about that same issue.

My thoughts.

Mark

--
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ http://www.cps.msu.edu/~brehob ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~Mark Brehob: Ultimate Player, Gamer, Computer Geek~~~~~~~~~~

Eric Noah

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing...

Peter Adkison only addressed the issue of using WotC copyrighted material IN
GENERAL. Nowhere did he address the whole OGL or D20 system license
agreement. That's a completely separate issue.

All he's saying is if you write a story about Elminster from the Forgotten
Realms, you can't legally post it or publish it, and neither can WotC.

Eric Noah


"Mark W Brehob" <bre...@cse.msu.edu> wrote in message

news:8c3k6c$2c1k$1...@msunews.cl.msu.edu...

andrew davies

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Mark W Brehob <bre...@cse.msu.edu> wrote in message
news:8c3k6c$2c1k$1...@msunews.cl.msu.edu...
> Wow, talk about a non-answer. Or at least one I don't understand. So
lets
> try again. If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
> does WotC claim they would own the rights to it? Do they have the right
to
> publish it at that point? Can I make money off of such a derivative work?
> Could they?
>
> That's 4 questions. Anyone know the answers? I'm guessing the answer is
> "we don't know yet."

I think what he's saying is that the rights to making any profits out of the
information would be jointly held by both the original author, and by
TSR/WotC/Hasbro (sorry, I lose track on who owns what hehe).
If neither the original author, nor TSR/WotC/Hasbro wanted to make money
(i.e. they both got together and agreed a profit split/royalties payment)
from this, then either one could release it to the public domain. This is of
course assuming it got past the lawyers in the first place <G> ???

> Ideally WotC would allow anyone to write an adventure with the D&D rules.
> Rules, spells, etc. which are in publications by WotC could not be
> reproduced. That is I could have a mage, level 2, with the spell magic
> missile, as an NPC. But I could not explain how the spell works or how
the
> combat system worked, or anything of that nature. I would be able to
> _sell_ the material. And heck, I'd have to state clearly in BIG font that
> it is an unofficial D&D product and that WotC owns D&D, PHB, and what ever
> else I refer to. WotC would be free to refer to my product in the same
way
> in theirs.

Again, I thnk that writing one would be considered acceptable, as long as no
money was being made from their Intellectual Property, and it wasn't a copy
of an original TSR/WotC/Hasbro owned D&D Adventure ???

First off, they are a business, and the first aim of a business is normally
to make a profit. In this case this is done by either having created a
recognizable brand name, or buying one and then creating an environment to
sell it in. I for one would be annoyed if someone then used this loyalty in
the brand name to try and sell shoddy merchandise to the public, so i can
understand the fact that they would want to protect the name.
I don't know what in D&D is actually trademarked, in fact i would be
interested to know ( anyone from TSR/WotC/Hasbro out there ? <g> ). I would
echo back to the original comment saying joint ownership - implying that if
the print anything from a 3rd party source, that an equal share in the
profits would be the minimum restitution required ( i'm aware of the States
being a trigger happy country when it comes to lawyers hehe).

Let the flames commence, Asbestos Newsreader currently on order, hehe.

Andrew

jbs

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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On 1 Apr 2000 01:42:36 GMT, Mark W Brehob <bre...@cse.msu.edu> wrote:

>Wow, talk about a non-answer. Or at least one I don't understand. So lets
>try again. If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
>does WotC claim they would own the rights to it? Do they have the right to
>publish it at that point? Can I make money off of such a derivative work?
>Could they?
>
>That's 4 questions. Anyone know the answers? I'm guessing the answer is
>"we don't know yet."
>

>Ideally WotC would allow anyone to write an adventure with the D&D rules.
>Rules, spells, etc. which are in publications by WotC could not be
>reproduced. That is I could have a mage, level 2, with the spell magic
>missile, as an NPC. But I could not explain how the spell works or how the
>combat system worked, or anything of that nature. I would be able to
>_sell_ the material. And heck, I'd have to state clearly in BIG font that
>it is an unofficial D&D product and that WotC owns D&D, PHB, and what ever
>else I refer to. WotC would be free to refer to my product in the same way
>in theirs.
>

>Now the above would introduce a real "free market" for D&D stuff. It seems
>darn unlikely that WotC wants that kind of a competitive market.

But that's the point. If you don't explain how the spells work or the
combat system works it's not competitive. People buying your book
still have to buy a 3E DND PHB to get the full benefit. That's in
WotC best interests *and* yours.

>In fact it
>is unclear that _I_ really want that market, the 3rd edition D&D books would
>certainly go up in price so that WotC would make money somewhere. Unless
>WotC could consistently come out with a better product than everyone else.
>(Likely, but a bit scary for WotC)

No. The point of OSG is to help WotC sell more PHB. The more they
sell the less likely they are to raise the prices.

>So instead I would hope that WotC would allow such a module/expansion to be
>published when money is not asked for. Further that WotC would not be able
>to use the material in any form other than the complete and unaltered form
>without permission. And lastly that WotC would not be allowed to sell the
>material without permission. So they _could_ take my module and post it to
>their website. But I would get credit for it. And they wouldn't be making
>money off of my hard work while I got zero. (minus selling banner ads etc.)

If it's your work then they couldn't steal it from you like you're
worried about. They'd face the same problems you'd face if you stole
their work.

>That seems darn reasonable. It might open up issues about WotC stealing
>other peoples ideas, but heck, if I write a story or module _today_ WotC has
>to worry about that same issue.
>
>My thoughts.
>
>Mark

jbs

Sheitan

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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> > If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
> > owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
> > this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
> > that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
> > one can use the story without the other's consent.
>
> I guess then the better question (and maybe it's already been hashed out
> here in detail) is, "what does WoTC own?" I assume when they say they own
> "beholder", they're saying that the name "beholder" (as it applies to a
> monster) is trademarked. Is there a listing of what terms they've
> trademarked? Such terms as "hit point", "armor class", etc would be of
> particular interest.

Hmm.... so do we have to start using "hit ports" and "armour class" in all
our modules? I'm sure we could make a long list of non-trademarked
substitutes.....

"Dracolurch"
"Illithilid"
"Behorder"
"Bazatu"
"Taneri"

etc. etc.

> Regardless, I believe WoTC has also stated that they're not looking to
> attack every Tom-Dick-and-Harry who's innocently posting their module up
for
> public viewing. They are well aware -- and have publicly stated -- that
the
> rabid attitude of the old TSR was probably instrumental in creating such a
> negative bias among fans. They really don't want to further alienate
> anyone. However, they still need to make their legal copyrights known,
lest
> someone take unfair advantage of their property ("advantage" equating to
> "selling for profit").
>
> Let's all relax.

Yah, I agree that they're most likely doing this for legal reasons in case
it matters later rather than with a deliberate attempt to try and steal
people's work.

- Sheitan

Randolpho The Great

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Melissa Tarkington wrote:
<snip for brevity>
Ok, here's my big poser:

Why does WotC claim the rights to a beholder? Does WotC claim the rights
to all of their generic monster/race names? Like Elves, Orce, Ogres,
Goblins, Demons, Balrogs, and the like? That goes a bit far, doesn't it?
I guess I could understand a few specific monsters (such as the beholder
;p), but *all* the monsters?

--
Randolpho

Attend OmniCon, March 25, 2000!
http://users.multipro.com/honna/Omnicon.html
Questions about OmniCon? Email them to frs...@tntech.edu

Randolpho The Great

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Steven Jones

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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I didn't know that WOTC owns the creature, 'beholder'. I assumed it was
from ancient mythology and was the origin of the expression 'beauty is in
the eye of the beholder'. Can anyone clear this up?

Jerry Stratton

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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In article <3TcF4.12956$Y4.2...@news1.rdc1.il.home.com>, "Eric Noah"
<eric...@home.com> wrote:

>Let's make sure we're talking about the same thing...
>
>Peter Adkison only addressed the issue of using WotC copyrighted material
>IN
>GENERAL. Nowhere did he address the whole OGL or D20 system license
>agreement. That's a completely separate issue.

Well, neither the poster's question to Peter nor the current subject
mention OGL/D20. I suspect the poster was worried about actual D&D
modules and such, which Ryan seems to be saying are illegal under his
opinion. That's a separate discussion which has been going on in the
rec.games.frp.misc newsgroup, among others. My opinion is that he's
wrong. I replied to his latest claim by posting a commercial module for
D&D. It wasn't a *good* module, but that's beside the point legally :*)

>All he's saying is if you write a story about Elminster from the Forgotten
>Realms, you can't legally post it or publish it, and neither can WotC.

And it may not even have been answering the question the original poster
wanted answered, which related to "D&D material". It's one thing to
write a story which includes a creature called a 'beholder' that looks
like a D&D beholder (assuming for the moment that beholders were made up
for D&D), and another thing entirely to write an adventure which
includes the note that a beholder exists here and gives game stats on
the creature. One is a character from a work of fiction, the other is a
piece of game rules.

The former might or might not be legal, depending on the circumstance.
The latter definitely is legal, (as long as it doesn't look like you're
claiming to be WOTC or are approved by WOTC when this is not true).

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

Staffan Johansson

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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The expression "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" refers to the fact
that beauty is a subjective thing - what one person considers beautiful
may not be considered so by a second person. In other words, the concept
"beauty" is inherent to the person beholding the potentially beautiful
object, not in the object itself.

The monster "beholder" (as in, a big ball with a big mouth, one big eye
and ten small ones) was AFAIK invented in D&D. I've seen ripoffs of it
in various computer games (Ultima and Doom comes to mind), but the D&D
beholder is the original.
--
Staffan Johansson (bal...@crosswinds.net)
http://www.crosswinds.net/~baloosj
"Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time."
-- Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

Arivne

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Melissa Tarkington wrote:
>
<snip>


>
> Dear Melissa,
> First of all, thank you for caring enough about this topic to write
> to us and get the information straight, firsthand.
> Here's the scoop.
> Anything that someone writes is theirs, to the extent it does
> not infringe on something that is already owned by someone
> else.
> If someone writes an original story about a fantasy warrior
> who treks across the wasteland destroying ogres and trolls
> (public domain monsters that nobody owns), that story belongs
> to the writer.

> If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
> owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
> this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
> that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
> one can use the story without the other's consent.

> By the way, just to make sure, I ran this answer past
> Brian Lewis, our General Counsel (legal guy). So this
> is an answer both from the CEO AND the legal
> department. :-)
> Feel free to pass this along to any of those discussion
> forums where you think it might be helpful.
> Stay on target,
> Peter Adkison
> CEO, Wizards of the Coast
> Sector Head, Hobby Games, Hasbro

If I understand this correctly, Mr. Adkison is saying that any writing
which contains any word claimed by WotC is partially owned by WotC, and
the writer must get WotC's permission to use it.

"Use" presumably includes publishing for profit (and I agree with that).

However: what else does "use" mean? Posting to Usenet? Putting it on a
web site? Being sent via email?

Does the restriction apply to original materials posted to this NG, such
as house rules, campaign information, and so on, which happen to include
a WotC-owned word?

Perhaps Mr. Adkison would like to clarify what he meant by "use", and to
what materials it applies?


Arivne

Eric Noah

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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The owner of copyrighted material is the only one who is legally allowed to
copy, distribute, perform, display in public, or create derivative works
from the material. So you can WRITE all the Beholder stories you want, you
just can't publish, post on a bulletin board in a library, put on your web
page, and so forth. You could probably send copies to friends and family,
but a mass e-mailing to a discussion group or something would fall outside
of fair use.

Eric
http://www.waunakee.k12.wi.us/midlschl/copyright.htm

"Arivne" <ari...@home.com> wrote in message
news:38E60593...@home.com...

Eric Noah

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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I should add that WotC's online policy is quite a bit more liberal than what
I described here. Their policy ( at
http://www.wizards.com/contactinfo/TSR_Online_Policy.asp ) indicates that
they are mostly interested in keeping you from publishing/posting large
chunks of their copyrighted text. They specifically indicate that you can
make and post your own adventures and other material as long as you keep
them original. They even say they don't really mind if you use a couple of
their pieces of copyrighted artwork. So they have a bunch of rights that
they're chosing to not exercise because it's good PR, too hard to monitor,
or whatever other reason you care to think of, plus they are acknowledging
that the game is intended to be used to create derivative work as long as
it's original and for non-profit type web sites that are just for fun.

However, blending Peter's comments in would also indicate that even with
their implicit permission from the Online Policy, you still aren't the "sole
owner" of works you derive from other copyrighted works. Neither is WotC.
That's all he was saying -- they can't publish your derivative work but they
might possibly have legal ground to to keep you from publishing it (if it
somehow made WotC look bad -- contained lots of profantiy or other
situations like that).

Finally, you can't copyright single words or brief phrases. Those can be
trademarked, though. So Dungeon Master is a trademarked term. I don't
believe any of the "game lingo" is trademarked -- hit points, armor class,
saving throw, and so forth. And the Online Policy specifically says you can
use their "word trademarks" on your non-profit web pages.

Eric


"Eric Noah" <eric...@home.com> wrote in message
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The Wraith

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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On Sat, 1 Apr 2000 18:54:09 +1000, "Steven Jones" <ste...@tsn.cc>
wrote:

>I didn't know that WOTC owns the creature, 'beholder'. I assumed it was
>from ancient mythology and was the origin of the expression 'beauty is in
>the eye of the beholder'. Can anyone clear this up?

The beholder, as in the monster in the MM, is a creature invented
wholesale for (A)D&D. It is not out of any mythology.

As for the old saying, a beholder is one who beholds, which is to say,
a person who sees something. In other words, the perception of beauty
depends on the viewer. It has nothing to do with mythology.

--
Now, by popular demand, a new .sig!
I still can't think of anything witty to say, though.

The Wraith

The Wraith

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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On Sat, 01 Apr 2000 02:21:57 -0600, Randolpho The Great
<randolph...@yahoo.com> wrote:
>
>Why does WotC claim the rights to a beholder?

Probably because they made it up - as in completely and utterly,
straight out of someone's head - or, rather, someone at TSR did and
WotC now owns everything that TSR owned when it was taken over.

>Does WotC claim the rights
>to all of their generic monster/race names? Like Elves, Orce, Ogres,
>Goblins, Demons, Balrogs, and the like?

I rather doubt it. For the truly generic ones, they could well claim
copywrite on their specific write-ups of the creatures, but they
obviously wouldn't be able to copyright the names (since you can't
copyright individual words or short phrases), nor could they get any
sort of trademark they could enforce (since the terms are out of
common mythology and fiction and have been in general use since long
before TSR even existed, and thus any court would toss the case out on
its ear).

For the Balrog, I doubt they would try to claim much at all. It's not
worth getting sued by the Tolkien estate. (Tolkien invented Balrogs.)

Sean K 'Veggie Boy' Reynolds

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Mark W Brehob wrote:
> Wow, talk about a non-answer. Or at least one I don't understand. So lets
> try again. If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
> does WotC claim they would own the rights to it? Do they have the right to
> publish it at that point? Can I make money off of such a derivative work?
> Could they?

He's not talking about the D20 license. He's talking about right now,
fan material, written posted on the net. D20 and OGL is a totally
separate issue.

Again: Peter's comments have nothing to do with the D20 system or the
Open Gaming License. Issues for those who concepts have not been worked
out yet because the licenses aren't _done_.

--
Sean K Reynolds - game designer, computer artist, web guy, bigmouth
http://www.seankreynolds.com

Sean K 'Veggie Boy' Reynolds

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Randolpho The Great wrote:
> Why does WotC claim the rights to a beholder? Does WotC claim the rights


> to all of their generic monster/race names? Like Elves, Orce, Ogres,

> Goblins, Demons, Balrogs, and the like? That goes a bit far, doesn't it?
> I guess I could understand a few specific monsters (such as the beholder
> ;p), but *all* the monsters?

Except for specific expressions of "classic monsters" (for example, the
specific D&D culture, favored weapons, and alignment tendencies common
to D&D elves), those "classic monsters" are not owned by anybody. Anyone
could make a book or a game or a movie about elves, but if they were D&D
elves, they would be violating Wizards' copyright (note that Wizards
currently lets you create your own non-profit stories and adventures
using D&D elves).

A beholder, however, is a unique D&D creation and Wizards owns it
entirely. You could make a new creature that is called a beholder, but
if it resembled the D&D beholder you'd be standing on very shaky ground.

Oh, and there are no balrogs in D&D (there may be things that look and
act like balrogs, but there's no creature with that name).

Sean K 'Veggie Boy' Reynolds

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Jerry Stratton wrote:
> And it may not even have been answering the question the original poster
> wanted answered, which related to "D&D material". It's one thing to
> write a story which includes a creature called a 'beholder' that looks
> like a D&D beholder (assuming for the moment that beholders were made up
> for D&D), and another thing entirely to write an adventure which
> includes the note that a beholder exists here and gives game stats on
> the creature. One is a character from a work of fiction, the other is a
> piece of game rules.
> The former might or might not be legal, depending on the circumstance.
> The latter definitely is legal, (as long as it doesn't look like you're
> claiming to be WOTC or are approved by WOTC when this is not true).

Using a D&D beholder in a story or a game product (it makes no
difference which) without Wizards' permission is a copyright violation.
The current online policy gives you permission to do so as long as
you're not trying to make money with it.

Jerry Stratton

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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In article <38E6522E...@earthlink.net>,
"news"@@@seankreynolds.com wrote:

>Jerry Stratton wrote:
>> The former might or might not be legal, depending on the circumstance.
>> The latter definitely is legal, (as long as it doesn't look like you're
>> claiming to be WOTC or are approved by WOTC when this is not true).
>
>Using a D&D beholder in a story or a game product (it makes no
>difference which) without Wizards' permission is a copyright violation.
>The current online policy gives you permission to do so as long as
>you're not trying to make money with it.

It makes a huge difference, because using the rules for beholder is not
a copyright violation. You cannot copyright rules. Here is a
modification of my adventure, "The Empty Well". I am attempting to make
money with it. I do not need your permission. (See
http://www.deja.com/getdoc.xp?AN=604363147 for the original posting.)

The Empty Well

by Jerry Stratton

This is an adventure that can be used with Advanced Dungeons and
Dragons, 1st edition, and probably others as well. Neither Jerry
Stratton nor "The Empty Well" are affiliated with the makers of Advanced
Dungeons and Dragons, which is currently owned by Wizards of the Coast.

"The Empty Well" is Copyright 2000 Jerry Stratton, and is distributed as
shareware. Please send $0.02 if you use this adventure. You may, of
course, send more, and I would like it very much. I am trying to make as
much money as I can from this adventure.

Map of the Wilderness surrounding the well

-------
| |
|barn |
| |
-------
--
< > <-- well
--


Map Key:

Barn:

The barn used to hold bulls, but now holds only bullshit and one
minotaur. The minotaur will attack on sight, but otherwise sits around
all day reading "Gord the Rogue" novels. (If any character is wearing
"Gord the Rogue" t-shirt or other licensing material, the minotaur will
attempt to strike up a conversation during battle.)

Minotaur: AC 6, MV 12, HD: 6+3, hp 27, A 2, D: 2-8/1-4, Align: CE.
Languages: Minotaur, the common tongue. The minotaur has no treasure,
unless you're a Gord fan. He has the whole set. Also, if you're a
farmer, there's a whole bunch of bullshit here. Bring a portable hole.

In the attic of the barn is a beholder. It hates Gord the Rogue and
reads nothing but Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. The attic is covered
with Dragonlance posters and books. The beholder has the entire
Dragonlance collection. The beholder will only attack if one or more of
the party make a denigrating reference about the Dragonlance series,
Tracy Hickman, or Margaret Weis. Beholder: AC 0/2/7, MV 3, HD: 10, hp
59, A 1, D: 2-8, Align: LE. Special attacks and defenses abound. See
your rulebook for details.

Well:

The well is empty. In the sense that there is no more water in the well.
At the bottom of the well is a city of Piraguatoi. Piraguatoi are tiny
faerie that love to cause mischief. Anyone disturbing the well is likely
to release a swarm of 3 to 60 of these flying trouble-makers, and there
is a 25% chance that the swarm will follow that character for the rest
of their natural born life.

Piraguatoi information:

Frequency: Never. Very common in stupid satirical modules.
No. Appearing: 1,000-10,000
Armor Class: -2
Move: 2/30
Hit Dice: 1/4 (1 hp)
% In Lair: 100% (unless attached to an individual)
Treasure Type: J, S
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 0
Special Attacks: On a successful hit by a Piraguatoi, characters must
save vs. Spells or jump up on the nearest soapbox and expound for 1-10
rounds.
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: 50%
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Size: T
Psionic Ability: Nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil

If you are using one of Wizard of the Coast's/TSR's official worlds, this
adventure might fit best somewhere in the lands of Glantri, the Bone
March,
just outside of the city of Waterdeep, or within the wards of Ypsilanti.
All it really needs is an area of the world where people dig wells where
there is no water, build old barns full of crap, and go on forever about
things they don't know anything about.
http://www.hoboes.com/jerry/

Deirdre M. Brooks

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Apr 1, 2000, 3:00:00 AM4/1/00
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Sean K 'Veggie Boy' Reynolds wrote:
>
> Oh, and there are no balrogs in D&D (there may be things that look and
> act like balrogs, but there's no creature with that name).

Not since the Type VI Demons were renamed. :-)

--
Deird'Re M. Brooks | xe...@teleport.com | cam#9309026
Listowner: Aberrants_Worldwide, Fading_Suns_Games, TrinityRPG
"If you loved me, you'd all kill yourselves today."
-- Spider Jerusalem | http://www.teleport.com/~xenya

Allister Huggins

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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Nate Edel wrote:
>
> The Wraith <wra...@powerup.com.au> wrote:
> % The beholder, as in the monster in the MM, is a creature invented
> % wholesale for (A)D&D. It is not out of any mythology.
>
> Well, the name "Beholder" for "floating eye creature" is unique to D&D. I'm
> pretty sure I've read stories with similar creatures which are too early to
> be influenced by D&D.

Not likely. Beholder is one of the few original monsters that TSR
designed for the 1E Monster Manual. Everything else was taken from
pre-existing sources, or so I've been told.

Allister H.

R. Serena Wakefield

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
to
On Sat, 1 Apr 2000 18:54:09 +1000, "Steven Jones" <ste...@tsn.cc>
wrote:

>I didn't know that WOTC owns the creature, 'beholder'. I assumed it was
>from ancient mythology and was the origin of the expression 'beauty is in
>the eye of the beholder'. Can anyone clear this up?

In that expression, "beholder" simply means "one who beholds," as in,
beauty is in the eye of whoever is looking at it.

The big ball-shaped creatures with eyestalks and one big central eye
are wholly, 100%, unequivocally a creation of TSR, Inc.

--
R. Serena Wakefield
Visit Serena's Gaming Dojo at http://welcome.to/serenasdojo

RANDOMLY GENERATED THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and quacks like a
duck it is probably just a tool of the conspiracy.

Staffan Johansson

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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Matthew wrote:
>
> Err. the Balrogs were in OD&D - called Roaring Demons I believe.
> And halflings continue to exist.

But the point is that they aren't Balrogs and Hobbits, because those
creatures are owned by the Tolkien estate.

Sean K 'Veggie Boy' Reynolds

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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Jerry Stratton wrote:
> It makes a huge difference, because using the rules for beholder is not
> a copyright violation.

It makes absolutely no difference, because Wizards owns beholders just
like how LucasFilm owns wookies. Whether you put them in a story, an
illustration, or an adventure, it is a copyright violation.

Wizards' current policy, however, gives you permission to do certain
things that the law does not explicitly allow.

Your adventure, by the way, does not necessarily use Wizards' beholder,
because there's nothing to indicate it its Wizards' creature other than
the name.

The Wraith

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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On 2 Apr 2000 00:36:31 GMT, Matthew <matthe...@icqmail.com> wrote:
>I can hear you, Nate Edel, can you hear me?
>>The word "Balrog", AFAICT, is an invention of Tolkien's, and like
>>"Hobbit", is property of the Tolkien Estate, although Balrog-like
>>demons and Hobbit-life halflings are present in earlier works. Hence
>>their removal from oD&D, and the presence of type-6 "balor" demons and
>>halflings in first edition.

>
>Err. the Balrogs were in OD&D - called Roaring Demons I believe.
>And halflings continue to exist.

Yup, and IIRC, TSR got in trouble for their use of the term "Balrog"
at one stage. And for the use of the term "hobbit" in the original
rules.

The terms "halfling", "Balor" and "Roaring Demon" were later
inventions.

Jerry Stratton

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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In article <38E6EC1B...@earthlink.net>,
"news"@@@seankreynolds.com wrote:
>Your adventure, by the way, does not necessarily use Wizards' beholder,
>because there's nothing to indicate it its Wizards' creature other than
>the name.

And the reference to the rules. And the alignment, hit points, number of
attacks, damage per attack... even without those, however, anyone who
has any knowledge of D&D will know, on reading that adventure, that this
is the D&D beholder.

If you're saying that "The Empty Well" is legal because the "beholder"
mentioned there isn't specifically the D&D beholder, when it obviously
*is* the D&D beholder, then I'm not sure how your position differs from
mine. Obviously, you believe that the beholder *can* be used in an
adventure legally, since I did, everyone knows that's the D&D beholder,
and you're saying that's not an illegal use of it.

Just to make sure that we're talking about the same thing, what extra
would I have had to do, to illegally use the beholder, as opposed to
legally use the beholder as I did? (This isn't to say I'm going to
rewrite the adventure to infringe: as far as I'm concerned, I've made my
point. Obviously, you believe that the beholder can be used in
adventures. I think we're only quibbling about what "used" means now.)

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

Aardy R. DeVarque

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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Arivne <ari...@home.com> wrote:
>Melissa Tarkington wrote:
>>
><snip>
>> [quoting a letter from Peter Adkison]

>> Here's the scoop.
>> Anything that someone writes is theirs, to the extent it does
>> not infringe on something that is already owned by someone
>> else.
>> If someone writes an original story about a fantasy warrior
>> who treks across the wasteland destroying ogres and trolls
>> (public domain monsters that nobody owns), that story belongs
>> to the writer.
>> If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
>> owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
>> this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
>> that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
>> one can use the story without the other's consent.
>
>If I understand this correctly, Mr. Adkison is saying that any writing
>which contains any word claimed by WotC is partially owned by WotC, and
>the writer must get WotC's permission to use it.

Not "any [single] word" so much as direct quotes & also identifiable
"characters" (including fictional locations). This is generally in
accordance with U.S. copyright law & the Berne Convention, at least as far
as fiction and fictional characters go. (The only real quibbling point
being how much protection a particular "character" can have, or a fictional
species or a fictional world, insofar as no actual *quoting* is involved.
Character copyright is even murkier than Fair Use, but WotC's position on
this is a logical one, though not the only one.)

If I write a sequel to Stephen King's "Eyes of the Dragon", using the same
fictional world and some of the same characters, I legally cannot publish it
without SK's permission because my novel is a "derivative work" of SK's
novel. Likewise, *he* can't take that story and publish it without *my*
permission. The same holds true for D&D stuff along these lines. (Also,
the only reason I can legally write the sequel in the first place is that
once I purchase a copy of his novel, I have the right to do whatever I want
to with it for my own use--read it, photocopy it, cut it up and make a
collage out of it, whatever I want. But all of that must remain with me,
and if I sell/give away any of it, I have to sell/give away *all* of it to
the same person.)

Game supplements are a little trickier. If a specific TSR-published game
world is involved, then see above. Otherwise, the conservative position
(which WotC follows) is that adventures & sourcebooks written explicitly for
use with D&D (that is, actually using the D&D rules, such as for monster
writeups, mages' spell lists, etc.) count as "derivative works." The
liberal position (held by many gamers) is that, since rule systems can't be
copyrighted (only the actual text used to describe them), that adventures &
sourcebooks don't automatically count as *legally* "derivative," even though
they are obviously "derivative" in the everyday sense of that word.

>"Use" presumably includes publishing for profit (and I agree with that).
>
>However: what else does "use" mean? Posting to Usenet? Putting it on a
>web site? Being sent via email?

Any sort of distribution beyond yourself, other than being used by yourself
in a D&D game you are part of. Posting to Usenet, putting on a web page,
e-mailing all count. So does printing it out and selling it at conventions.

>Does the restriction apply to original materials posted to this NG, such
>as house rules, campaign information, and so on, which happen to include
>a WotC-owned word?

The concept isn't of "WotC-owned words", but rather WotC-owned copyrighted
material, including "character" copyright over monsters (that is, including
a "beholder" that is a large floating sphere with a central eye and many
eyestalks; you *can* inlcude a "beholder" that is a 10' tall humanoid with a
single eye, or a "beholder" that is a cthuloid alien that causes anyone who
looks at it to go insane, etc. all you want, though) and over elements of
fictional worlds (similar to wanting to publish your own Middle Earth
novel).

>Perhaps Mr. Adkison would like to clarify what he meant by "use", and to
>what materials it applies?

"use" (as used in the quote above): qv. "publish", "distribute" or otherwise
spread copies around *outside* of the realms of "for your own, personal use"
and "used inside a campaign you DM or play in" (as those two are allowed by
law and due to the very nature of the game).

All that said, however, if you read WotC's copyright usage page (under
Corporate Info, IIRC), they've already given everyone all the permissions we
need to create fan webpages, share adventures, house rules, whatever,
without WotC sticking their nose in and trying to shut people down (nor
trying to steal our material and publish it as their own)--as long as it's
non-profit and doesn't include lots of quoted material/copied pictures from
the "official" D&D books.

All this, *before* the arrival of the Open Gaming License (which could allow
for *for-profit* ventures).

James Robinson

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
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In article <38e547e5$0$2...@nntp1.ba.best.com>, Nate Edel
<ed...@best.NOSPAM.com> wrote:

> FoulFoot <acaeum.com@webmaster> wrote:
> % here in detail) is, "what does WoTC own?" I assume when they say they own
> % "beholder", they're saying that the name "beholder" (as it applies to a
> % monster) is trademarked. Is there a listing of what terms they've
> % trademarked? Such terms as "hit point", "armor class", etc would be of
> % particular interest.
>
> Actually, would a beholder count as a trademark, or would that come under
> the *copyright* restrictions on using another author's distinctive
> characters and setting?

My vote is for distinctive character. They *might* claim trademark
on the name - I remember seeing something to the effect that they
claimed trademark on every single spell and name in the books, but that
memory is from the Bad Old Days, and the current administration might
well have left it behind with Rob Repp.

You can't copyright (or trademark) game mechanics, only a particular
expression of them, so that's not a concern.

--
James
http://avalon.net/~amorph

James Robinson

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00
to
In article <8c3k6c$2c1k$1...@msunews.cl.msu.edu>, Mark W Brehob
<bre...@cse.msu.edu> wrote:

> Melissa Tarkington <melira_...@yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Dear Melissa,
> > First of all, thank you for caring enough about this topic to write
> > to us and get the information straight, firsthand.

> > Here's the scoop.
> > Anything that someone writes is theirs, to the extent it does
> > not infringe on something that is already owned by someone
> > else.
> > If someone writes an original story about a fantasy warrior
> > who treks across the wasteland destroying ogres and trolls
> > (public domain monsters that nobody owns), that story belongs
> > to the writer.
> > If the writer throws in a beholder (a monster that WotC
> > owns), then that story is no longer owned just by the writer;
> > this is because one of WotC's monsters is a part of it. However,
> > that story doesn't belong to WotC either. In effect, no
> > one can use the story without the other's consent.

> > By the way, just to make sure, I ran this answer past
> > Brian Lewis, our General Counsel (legal guy). So this
> > is an answer both from the CEO AND the legal
> > department. :-)
> > Feel free to pass this along to any of those discussion
> > forums where you think it might be helpful.
> > Stay on target,
> > Peter Adkison
> > CEO, Wizards of the Coast
> > Sector Head, Hobby Games, Hasbro
>

> Wow, talk about a non-answer. Or at least one I don't understand. So lets
> try again. If I were to post something under the D20 open source license,
> does WotC claim they would own the rights to it? Do they have the right to
> publish it at that point? Can I make money off of such a derivative work?
> Could they?

The D20 license - and for that matter, any license - is outside the
scope of this discussion.

Peter's restating copyright law as regards derivative works; that's
all. The sad thing is that it's heartening just to see him restating
it correctly.

> That's 4 questions. Anyone know the answers? I'm guessing the answer is
> "we don't know yet."

It would depend on the wording of the license.

--
James
http://avalon.net/~amorph

James Robinson

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Apr 2, 2000, 4:00:00 AM4/2/00