Tag Archives: legal

Gaming Industry Terrorist Watch

A quick roundup of what the usual malefactors are up to.

First as usual is Wizards of the Coast.  They’ve sent a cease and desist letter to Masterplan, a tool being developed for D&D 4e adventure/campaign planning.  They had coded a hook to connect, using your own D&D Insider subscription, to pull in monsters and whatnot.  Naturally WotC’s reaction is “Shut down or we’ll sue you!”

This one is even sketchier than usual though, legally.  It is pulling information using YOUR Insider account via their publicly available interface.  That’s a lot more like the RIAA saying you can’t burn an mp3 you bought to a CD so you can listen to it in your car.

Why anyone would even try to do anything for 4e, I don’t know.  It’s obvious that Wizards of the Coast will just come shit on you, sooner or later.  Forget them, they’ve killed official D&D, move on.

Second is Catalyst Games.  They’ve defeated an immediate ruling on the Chapter 7 request to declare them insolvent and take their stuff to pay all the peple they’re stiffing, but it goes to court on June 18.  Looks like they’re just happily moving forward with their six-figure thief as CEO and conducting business as usual, yay.  Time will tell if Topps will pull the license, or if subcontracting to a criminal enterprise is OK with them.

Jim Shipman of Outlaw Press surfaces every once in a while to re-open a Lulu or EBay or similar storefront to hawk his illegal Tunnels & Trolls wares before people report him to the provider and have him shut down.  He is apparently still able to find suckers, though!

Things have been ongoing but with no new specific major incidents; I declare the RPG Sector Terror Alert to be at Yellow.

EDIT:  I forgot one – Palladium Games is suing a computer game outfit called Trion for daring to make a computer game called “Rift: Planes of Telara.”  Their request for a restraining order to stop them from showing their game at E3 failed but of course there’s more to come.  Story courtesy Living Dice.

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.

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.

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Wizards Comes Clean On Open Gaming!

I go away to Vegas for a week and suddenly Wizards decides to get right with God by talking about their GSL/OGL plans!  Here’s the links.

The summary is that they’ve decided not to make their GSL license terms prohibit a company from publishing *any* open games under the OGL, only any open product in the same product line as any 4e D&D product, falling firmly between the previous “by individual product” and “by entire company” theories.  As an example, Paizo Publishing has an OGL line of GameMastery adventures.  So theoretically, Paizo could publish 4e adventures, but under a different product line (e.g. “NewFangledAdventurez”.)  This is very good news!  Not great news, but good news.

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