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Re: (TFT) Re:copyrights

IANAL either, but:

At 09:32 AM 7/16/98 -0600, you wrote:
>When I purchase an RPG, I am given the right to construct adventures,
>etc using the procedures and mechanics of that RPG...

No. You are not given those rights. You have always had them.

Take a good look at the law, section 102-b:

>In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship
>extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation,
>concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is
>described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

Also, please read http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/fls/fl108.htm

The critical part is:
>The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is
>true of the name or title given to the game and of the method or
>methods for playing it.



The specific expression of those rules -- for example, the "Melee"
rulebook, of course can be copyrighted, but THE ACTUAL RULES CAN *NOT* BE.

I'd have to do some serious digging around, but I believe Monopoly was at
the center of exactly that dispute between its publisher and the publisher
of a similar game customized for various cities -- and the publisher of
Monopoply lost in court. At any rate, there are scads of Monopoly-clones
out there, and only one series (USAopoly) is "officially authorized", and
makes use of the Monopoly *trademarks*.

So, theoretically at least (remember the part about the function of the US
justice system) you could describe in your own words how to play Melee, and
be entirely free and clear under the law. Copyright covers the original
text of the game: the Melee rulebook, in our example. It does *NOT*, and
very explictly does not, cover the rules themselves.

And, therefore, if the methods of playing a game and the ideas embodied in
the game are explicitly *NOT* covered by copyright, to the point that
another game using exactly the same mechanics would be entirely legal, then
it is obvious that other creative works (i.e., adventures) which make use
of those ideas are likewise not controlled by that copyright.

>If I create adventure X using RPG system Y, then *I* own the copy-
>right to that adventure.  It would seem reasonable that I am not
>allowed to profit from the sale or distribution of said adventure
>without the owner of RPG system Y being entitled to any royalties
>resulting from any monies realized from such sale or distribution.

Why? Legally, that is?

The owner of RPG system Y did not write your adventure. Why should he get
the money from it? He does not own the rights to how to play the game. Read
the copyright act again. You are *NOT* reproducing his copyrighted work in
any way, shape, or form if you say that a character has a particular ST,
DX, and IQ, nor if you say that a character uses a particular spell.

I think there are too many people who have bought into the TSR/Palladium
theory of copyright law:

TSR: Never mind the Copyright Act, we own the copyright on the method or
methods of playing our games, and if you think otherwise, we'll sue you
into bankruptcy. (I call it the "Rob Repp effect")

Palladium: Never mind the Copyright Act or TSR, if you even discuss any of
our games, let alone the method of playing them, we already own the rights
to your work.

Unfortunately, TSR has been able to enforce their totally inaccurate
reading of the law on the RPG industry in one simple way: Most of us are
poor. The rest of us are dirt-poor. We can't afford lawyers. We can't
afford to go to court. If you can't afford to defend yourself, you lose.
There is no "public defender" in civil cases. Since TSR can afford to
attack, and individual gamers and small game companies can't afford to
defend, their interpretation of the law -- though TOTALLY erroneous by the
text of the law itself -- has become the de facto standard in the RPG
industry. It just so happens that it is WRONG. Interestingly enough, after
the WotC buyout, they dropped most of the outrageous claims... and, of
course, Rob Repp himself had been fired quite some time ago.

Now, even if we ignore the extent to which the Copyright Act explicitly
does not cover game rules and systems, let's look at the Fair Use provisions.

>(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of
>a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 

Non-commercial, non-profit entertainment.

>(2) the nature of the copyrighted work; 

Game rules. They're an idea, a procedure, a system, a concept, a principle,
maybe even a method of operation. They're the "method or methods of
playing" a game. They are explicitly excluded from copyright.

>(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
>copyrighted work as a whole; and 

A handful of words and abbreviations: ST. DX. IQ. "Blur". "Fire". "Create

>4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
>copyrighted work. 

Available pre-written adventures increase a RPG's sales. Many people don't
have time to write their own, and no game company has the resources to
produce enough to keep up with players' demands. Even if TFT was still in
print, player-written adventures would enhance, rather than detract, from it.

Lack of support from the gaming community tends to indicate that a game is
either crappy, or dead, or both. (has anyone ever posted an adventure for
"World Action and Adventure"? Has anyone ever *played* "World Action and
Adventure"?) Material created by players supports the market presence of
the game itself.

There is currently no market at all for TFT, for reasons including both of
the above. If players were to post player-created adventures on the Net, a
market may be created for the copyrighted works -- the TFT rules --
themselves, a market which currently does not exist.

Therefore, if there is any effect, it would be a positive one. So, even if
you ignore the explicity exclusion of game rules, we'd still be safe under
Fair Use.

>What this means for us is that we cannot post any adventures to 
>the net (this constitutes distribution) without a written agreement
>from the owner of the RPG system on which that adventure is based.

One word: Bullshit.

NOBODY owns your work except *you*. The fact that you make reference in it
to things that are explicitly non-copyrightable that are contained in
someone else's work does *not* mean that the owner of the items referred to
has any control whatsoever over your work, or what you choose to do with it.

Random example: If you were to write a book on how to use TableMaster --
just like the thousands of books on how to use Windows, or Delphi, or
Netscape -- I would *not* own the rights to your book. You would have no
obligation to pay me a damn thing. I could not control what you did with
that book. The fact that the TableMaster manual discusses the same topics
-- the methods and processes involved in creating TableMaster tables --
does not extend my copyright on that manual (which I will defend to my last
nickel) to, f'rinstance, IDG publishing "TableMaster for Dummies." Even my
common-law trademark on the name "TableMaster" could not prevent anyone
from publishing a book about it, because the trademark would be being used
in precisely its intended fashion: To identify the RPG table handler
published by Wintertree Software.

We would be entirely *legally* in the right (IANAL, remember, and I can't
afford one either!) if we posted any adventures we wrote to the net, or to
anywhere else we cared to. However, we'd probably get sued by someone who
believed the TSR/Palladium Company Line instead of the US Copyright Act,
and since we can't afford to defend ourselves, we'd lose by default... even
if we won, we'd be broke from paying the lawyers.

Incidentally, I do -- and have, since Wintertree started -- put my money
(and my IP) where my mouth is. If you want to write and publish tables for
TableMaster, be my guest. That's what it's for. Here's the exact text from
the TableMaster FAQ:

> Q: Who owns the tables I write for TableMaster? Do I need your permission
> to share them?
> A: The person who wrote them owns them. If you wrote them, they're all
> yours. You don't need to ask my permission to do anything you want to
> with your own work. I don't have any more claim on the tables you've
> written than Borland has on TableMaster because it was written with their
> programming languages, or Intel has on Borland's compilers because they
> run on Intel chips. 
> If it incorporates some part of my work, on the other hand, it's a
> different story. If you've expanded, improved, and otherwise made totally
> awesome, one of my tables, it gets complicated; get in touch, we'll talk. 
> I'm always looking for folks who can write great tables! 
> If the original table came from a published source somewhere, such as a
> game rulebook, magazine article, or the like, it's between you and the
> publisher. Asking them first before doing anything with it can save
> having an 800-pound gorilla, er, corporate lawyer, explain copyright laws
> to you. 

Remember...IANAL...but that's how I read the law, and that's how I do

-- Jean

   Wintertree Software


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