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Postby Darius » Sat Jun 06, 2009 4:08 pm

Why would your personal version violate any IP? Did you steal the name from some other game?
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Postby BroccoliRage » Sat Jun 06, 2009 9:21 pm

There's lots of material written that is based on the AD&D engine, using terms, classes, and mechanics native to AD&D engine.
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Postby Darius » Sun Jun 07, 2009 1:12 am

Certainly you need to do what you are comfortable with. So I am just passing this on for your own information just in case for some reason you have not come across it before. This is not an attempt to hijack this thread into the pointlessness of OGL licenses (which by the way would free you to put it out.)

For my own reasons, I have spent over a year reading copyright law.

The US Copyright Office says:

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.


This has been the case since Baker v Seldon in 1879. So the only thing that would be a worry is if you used their particular method of expression, not any of the contents, ideas, etc.

For reference:

• Systems, including game rules, cannot be restricted by copyright.
• Terminology cannot be restricted by copyright.
• Ideas, including descriptions where the description embodies the idea, cannot be restricted.
• Compatible works are not derivative works simply because they’re compatible.
• Trademarks are meant to be used by consumers and competitors to refer to the trademarked product.
• Trademarks cannot restrict compatible works.

And if you want to read up about things, you can begin with these:

http://www.law.uconn.edu/homes/swilf/ip/cases/baker.htm
http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf
http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.pdf


So, if you make an AD&D class and publish it, nothing is being violated even if you say "Compatible with AD&D." The key is that the customer is not confused about who is putting out the product.

Anyway, if you are going to continue to write and put things out for rpgs, I thought you might want to look into these things.
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Postby Chris » Fri Jul 03, 2009 6:31 pm

A truly enigmatic post, sir Darius. :D

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Postby Darius » Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:23 pm

Weird. Does someone else have admin abilities? I think this is like the 2nd or third time this has happened on this site.

All I said was that IP does not protect systems or terms. Trademarks only protect consumers from being confused. So he is legally free to put it out. The fact that it is based off of it means nothing. The only thing protected it arts and the method of expression. You can't just copy and paste.

If you cannot tell, I am one of those that things the OGL has confused people and made people give up far more rights than they actually have under US copyright and trademark law. If the law was as strict as people think, there most programs and games created on computers or on paper would be illegal. Gary was bound be legal agreement not to develope anything for the AD&D system, but anyone else is free to do so and can even say that it is compatible with AD&D as long as you make it clear that you are not WotC or in anyway affiliated with them.

But that he, or anyone should do what they are comfortable with. If that means keeping it private then he can keep it private.
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Postby Chris » Sat Jul 04, 2009 2:45 am

That's not entirely true. Mechanics can not actually be copywritten, other than the exact verbage, but IPs also have derivative copyright.

You can't write a Dungeons and Dragons module (that is blatantly written for D&D) and claim copyright due to the fact that the work is plainly (obviously)derivative of an earlier IP, and those rights are protected by copyright.

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Postby Darius » Sat Jul 04, 2009 4:24 am

Ah see this is where a lot of confusion comes in. There is a difference between compatible and derivative.

US copyright law 17 USC Section 101 states:

A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.


An adventure is a compatible work, not a derivative one even if it uses the same mechanics as a rule system. The rule system cannot be copyrighted, therefore, an adventure cannot be derivative just because it is compatible via the mechanics. Writing an adventure set in a copyrighted game world would be derivative. If you took an AD&D module and converted it to LA, that would be a derivative work.

You just need to be clear that when using AD&D, you say it is compatible with and not make it look like an official WotC/TSR module.

The only worry I would have is if you violate something like "character copyright." If you include things such as Tiamat, Lolth, etc. then you might be trampling on that.

Just remember that just because the law is on your side won't get people from suing your ass. Just look at the TSR vs. Gary/GDW for that. Start off with a trademark claim because DJ was originally DD, and then move into a copyright violation because he used terms like "Elves."

No wonder Gary decided to create an overly complicated set of names for things that ultimately served as a hinderence to his game.
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Postby Chris » Sat Jul 04, 2009 4:32 pm

Heh, WOTC/Hasbro has asserted copyright over most of the monsters, altho I do not think it will stick. Today the standard is, "would it cause confusion in the mind of the consumer" as per who the manufacturer is... altho this is more of a Trademark issue than a copyright issue.

Frankly, unless you do an adventure under the OGL, the adventure will most likely be "fraught" if written for a pre-existing system.

Using stat blocks and terms from LA could be considered derivative, for instance.

For me, its just as easy to avoid all of those issues when writing an adventure, so I do.

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Postby Darius » Sat Jul 04, 2009 6:35 pm

I am sure that WotC or any other publisher uses the law to try to get their way even if they have no legal leg to stand on.

The problem is that you can't register a system. You could try to claim the stat blocks are copyrighted. Maybe how they are pictorially laid out could be, but not the actual stat blocks. First, they are part of the system and not copyrightable. Second,

Names, titles, and short phrases or expressions are not subject to copyright protection. Even if a name, title, or short phrase is novel or distinctive or if it lends itself to a play on words, it cannot be protected by copyright.


So terms like AC, HP, Strength, elves, disaster avoidance, etc. cannot be copyrighted. So you are free to use them. Many rpgs have strength, AC, HP, AC, etc. in both paper and computer form.

Legally, it is probably better to avoid doing this if you think the company is petty enough to send lawyers after you. I am not saying he should put his adventure out in AD&D form. A generic block works to prevent problems and make it convertible to any system.

It was simply that the fact that he used AD&D terms and the AD&D system in no way violates anyone's copyright and he is free to put it out. I mean Dragonsfoot puts out their magazine and adventures. Kenser and Co have said they are putting out compatible with 4E without getting involved with any licenses. So you can do it.

Personally, and this is not directed at anyone in particular, I think many people confuse a patent with a copyright. Copyright is meant to protect things to advance art, literature, etc, not games. You have little protection in copyright other than protecting your characters, and the exact text. Patent is there to grant exclusive use to a product. The justification is the greater good. You put it out and society benefits and in exchange you get a lot of protection for it.

Games can't be patented nor copyrighted outside of the means of protection. The two things they have going for them are Trademark law and the fact that people like owning an IP/game system gives you a lot more rights than it does.

You should always cover your ass, unless you have friends that will do your legal work for free. But for anyone whose last name is not Gygax, I think there aren't any real or potential legal problems for putting something out for another game system even if you use their terms/system.

Although, since systems keep people from playing a product instead of enabling it, this may not be the more profitable thing to do.
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Postby BroccoliRage » Fri Jul 10, 2009 4:01 am

Update:

I waiting on artwork now. I realize my past deadlines were too optimistic. The module is edited, reedited, and waiting on the artwork so I can begin layout. Background information regarding the setting is given, and rudimentary information on new races and a new character type are included.
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Postby Martin Siesto » Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:13 pm

If you'd have come to me...... Heh
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