The Newest Scam
This weekend, there was an interesting new comment on the Outlaw Press Thieving Update article detailing the ongoing blatant art theft perpetrated by Outlaw Press (aka James L. Shipman II) in his Tunnels & Trolls products. It initially appeared to be Ken St. Andre (original designer of Tunnels & Trolls, who still runs a large T&T online community), calling into question the role of some of the artists in the debacle. The message was attributed to “atroll”, firstname.lastname@example.org, the identity he usually posts under.
One thing still bothers me about this whole sorted Outlaw Press mess is that M.E. Volmar and Simon Tranter were Art Directors, with Mrs. Volmar in charge of purchasing all artwork for Outlaw Press for several years (4 total I believe). Now she seems to be its harshest critic. I have to wonder if she purchased all that artwork over the years how she would not know if was stolen? Maybe this is her way of shifting the blame away from herself? Did she take the money from Outlaw Press and then help steal the artwork at the same time? I believe further investigation is needed. I’m inclined not to believe M.E. Volmar’s word at being the innocent Art Director, as she has shone herself to be less than truthful. She may need to be expelled from Trollhalla as well.
–Ken St. Andre
However, a couple things were suspicious about this post. Besides the somewhat startling claims, there are a good number of spelling and grammar errors. I haven’t known St. Andre longer than this stuff has been going on, but I’ve noticed that his communications tend to be extremely grammatically correct. So I look at the IP address the comment came in from, and it’s different from the address St. Andre posted from in his previous comments on Geek Related about this issue.
Hmmm. Maybe Ken was on a business trip to another state and was drinking wacky juice (accounting for the sudden 5 grade level drop in writing style) and decided to post odd accusations on my blog? Or maybe, I should email him and make sure this was from him. Sure enough, upon being contacted via email he confirmed that he didn’t post anything to this effect and that he considers the accusations in the comment to be fabrications.
Sadly, on blogs like this you’re pretty much free to put in whatever name, URL, and email address you want when posting comments – but the IP address tracks you down to where you really are.
I have reported the situation to the abuse department at Level 3 Communications, which is the ISP where the post came from. In fact, I’d be interested if anyone else has records of who might be posting from IP address 188.8.131.52. If owners of other sites – Trollhalla, Trollbridge, RPG.net, etc. – could check their logs and see if anyone has posted there from that IP it would be interesting. Naturally Shipman is the leading candidate, but I’d like to have proof. What do you say, fair readers, would you like to know who posted the above comment? Ask your favorite blog and forum owners to check for people coming from that IP, especially Saturday 1/19 AM.
My own detective work: an IP geolocation indicates this IP address is currently assigned to Marion, IL. (Such traces are usually pretty good but not necessarily accurate down the the exact town – like running a trace on my IP gets close, Austin, but not my exact nearby city.) Interestingly, guess where outlaw-press.com is registered? Lawrenceville, IL (the address on the WHOIS record indicates it’s Shipman’s parents’ house, Leroy and Julie.) And Outlaw Press has been listed in several places (mostly taken down now due to complains) as a Lawrenceville, IL bookseller. It’s where Shipman lives. So same neck of the woods, seems like. Isn’t technology fun?
Anyway, I talked to Volmar and St. Andre via email about the claims and turns out Volmar did occasional work for Shipman as a direct favor to St. Andre, doing some art and layout, but she and Simon Tranter didn’t do art direction or buying, despite being miscredited on products by Shipman. Who to believe? Well, even if the history of lying on Shipman’s part doesn’t make it obvious, there are also numerous other documented complaints by people he has miscredited on his products, so it’s consistent with everything else.
Guess what else Shipman’s been up to? He’s resorting to e-mailing Lulu posing as the trademark owner for Tunnels & Trolls, and telling them that copyright and ownership of the trademark is under litigation. He’s apparently doing this to stop anyone, including Ken St. Andre, from publishing any T&T related materials through Lulu’s print-on-demand service, as this only happened after he tried re-opening his Lulu store, now as James Shipman (http://stores.lulu.com/hobbit_king) and not Outlaw Press, Inc., with a handful of products that were immediately reported as infringing the copyright of several artists and writers by the copyright owners. This claim about there being current litigation on the T&T trademark is a complete fabrication, as the owner of the T&T trademark, Flying Buffalo, Inc. and Rick Loomis, has said himself that he has not started any litigation regarding T&T. Ironically, the only product currently listed at the James Shipman store on Lulu right now is a Ken’ St. Andre/Flying Buffalo publication. Stay classy Shipy!
Also, jeers to Noble Knight Games, who seems to be happily selling loads of Outlaw Press products, even after everyone from Amazon to RPGNow has removed them. I know people have contacted them about the situation. Come on guys, you have a pretty good rep, do you want to sully it by continuing to sell stolen IP? I’m sure you paid for that stock and it’s sad to take a bath on it, but sack up.
What You Can Do
First, if you are a T&T player, don’t buy any of the Outlaw Press stuff with stolen art or IP, wherever places he finds to list it briefly before people find him and get it taken down (it’s a continuous battle on eBay, Lulu, etc.).
Second, if you admin a blog or forum or Web site, find more proof about who posts from IP address 184.108.40.206. Post here or email me at email@example.com with your findings.
Third, if you’re one of the defrauded artists, continue working on legal redress of the situation. No one else can do anything about this, and clearly he’s looking to make a long term stand and continue to blatantly defraud people until something’s done about it.
Fourth, if you admin a blog/forum/Web site – be careful, there is “someone” now willing to post lies under false pretenses regarding this issue. You may need to turn off anonymous posting, observe posts and comments for signs of identity theft, etc. Clearly someone’s trying to post falsehoods to add FUD to the situation – be observant and prevent that. All major software – WordPress, phpBB, etc. logs IP address and other identifying information for all contributions, if you don’t know how, take a couple minutes to learn how to find and use that information.