Tag Archives: fansites

WotC On The Fansite-Closing Warpath

Recently, I asked “Will WotC Close You Down Next?” in response to them sending a cease & desist letter resulting in the closure of Ema’s Character Sheet website. All the usual Wizards apologists came out of the woodwork with excuses.  “Well, Ema was charging for storage.”  “Well, this is probably a one time thing, it’s not like they’ve declared war on fansites.”

Wrong!  Site #2 goes down little more than a week later, and this time it’s not a paysite.  RIP 4epowercards.com.  The message they have up reads:

4epowercards.com is going down

Unfortunately, the people at Wizards of the Coast have served me with a Cease and Desist letter. While I respect Wizards, and love almost all of their products, I am still disappointed. We can only hope Wizards will offer a service simliar to that provided by 4epowercards.com.

In the near future, once I’m done clearing out all the offending copyrighted materials, I will provide the source code used to drive this site. I hope it can be of benefit to someone out there.


Ryan Paddock

Thanks to the ever vigilant ENWorld community for the scoop.

Was this site reprinting some WotC intellectual property?  Yes, totally.  However, so are most fansites.  “Fair use” is a diminishing safe harbor, between aggressive copyright and trademark laws.

But that’s the system we have.  The real crime here on WotC’s part is that they want *some* fansites.  They want people to use thepower of Internet community to innovate with their games and spread the word.  So they want that, but are unwilling to publish a fansite policy that says what is OK to do.  So they discriminate by shutting down sites that happen to have innovated something that conflicts with, say, whatever piece of DDI they finally managed to get running.  And that’s just not fair.

If you are a fansite, you’re not safe.  No amount of head-in-the-sand excuses you put forth on forums will change the fact that WotC is trying to have their cake and eat it too; and by leaving the community without a fansite policy can (try, and unless you have a lawyer on call will) shut you down for anything they don’t like.  Because pretty much everything violates IP, legally.  Have a character sheet posted for your new fighter with the text of his powers on it?  Illegal.

Who can really be this naive?  You have seen all the other companies that have tried, and in some cases succeeded, to quash critics right?  Kmart sues “Kmartsucks.com” for trademark infringement, etc.

Mongoose Traveller Licensing Unveiled

Mongoose Publishing, one of the recent publishers of the venerable Traveller universe, has released their “Developer’s Pack” that describes licensing terms for others to put out Traveller material.  And it’s groundbreakingly liberal!  But somewhat complicated, so let me break it down.   (Direct download link)

1.  First of all, the new Mongoose Traveller rules are released under the Open Gaming License (OGL), and a complete System Resource Document (SRD) is included.  So as far as open licensing allows – go nuts!  But wait, there’s more.

2.  There is a Fair Use Policy document – actually provided by Far Future Enterprises, who owns Traveller and licenses it out – that allows you to do stuff based on all previous (non-Mongoose) Traveller versions and publish noncommercially on a Web site or whatnot.  Make copies, write programs/spreadsheets to automate stuff, whatever.  They ask you don’t directly reproduce more than a page or two of rules straight out of previous rulebooks and that you post a FFA copyright notice somewhere.  There’s some unavoidable complication here – they note that they didn’t have all the rights to some art/maps from previous editions and so technically you need that artist’s permissions for those – sad, but unavoidable.

They don’t explicitly mention the ticky things that White Wolf did in their site policy, like not being able to take advertising.

3.  There is a Traveller logo license (TLL).  You get to use the logo but you have to agree to a bunch of lame restrictions – send a form in, can’t use “Traveller” in the title, avoid naughty content (sex/violence), they can ask you to destroy your stock, the whole litany of unpleasant restrictions in most licenses (though they do note that “It should be noted that Mongoose Publishing is committed to a strong relationship with third parties using the Traveller logo and that this instruction will only be given under extreme circumstances that threaten to bring the Traveller trademark into disrepute. If in doubt, third parties may always discuss potential projects with Mongoose Publishing first.”  I’m not sure it’s worth it.

4.  There is a “Foreven Free Sector” license.  This is an interesting one.  The other licenses are basically about rules.  This one lets you use the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) intellectual property (IP)!  I wish this wasn’t so groundbreaking but it is – you can publish stuff set in the OTU – Aslan, K’kree, the Empire, and all of it, in any time period.  You have to “keep it in the Foreven sector” – you can reference all the rightness of the OTU but can only develop/change this one “sandbox” sector.   This license has a similar set of restrictions to the TLL, but in this case it might be worth it; it’s like WotC letting anyone write a Forgotten Realms book as long as it’s set in Sembia.

All in all this is a pretty cool set of licenses.  I think things like the content clauses are 1970s leftover crap, but in general a) the rules are open and b) you can use the OTU even commercially under restriction and c) you can do whatever a normal fan would do under Fair Use.  Props to Mongoose and Fast Forward for this approach!  Any company that thinks it’s not in their best interest to be open like this is either delusional or WotC.

White Wolf Fansite Guidelines Are Annoying

Well, Wizards is never going to get off their lawyered up asses to release a new GSL, let alone a fansite policy.   But White Wolf has a new one!

I don’t usually play WW games myself.  It’s not a fault of the games usually.  I feel like the people out there that play White Wolf fall into three categories – the gothy goth ‘take it real seriously’ pagan types (not my crowd), the teenagers in Dr. Seuss ‘Cat in the Hat’ hats (definitely not my crowd), and the normal gamers that play WW games like they’re D&D, all about the combat no roleplay (pointless, there’s better wargames).  I’d like the opportunity to do some WW gaming with normal-but-deep-RP people.

But while researching my article on RPG site Web traffic, I went to look at the WW site to see if I could figure out why their traffic has dropped off 54% in 3 months.  Not sure this is the answer, but I came across their new fan site guidelines (the “Dark Pack”). They try to make them reasonable, but the resultant list of rules is a mess that will inhibit fansites substantially.

They do a good job of separating the carrot from the stick.  If you do the things at the top of the page, you get to be listed in the Dark Pack links on their site, which is a good incentive-based approach.  Unfortunately, this section is just “use this standard Dark Pack logo and link.”

Then once you get into the “restrictions for all sites” section it gets a lot harder.

1.  No revenue of any sort – including no ads or Google Adwords – they specify that even your hoster can’t put ads or AdWords on your pages.  That’s a problem.   Sure, it’s WW’s “right” to be the only one making money of their content but it’s problematic when many fansites have gone over to hosted blogs or free-for-ads Web hosts.  Even LiveJournal is now inserting ads into their Basic accounts.  This effectively excludes lots of people who rely on free Web hosting or blogs of one stripe or another.

Continue reading