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SalmonElla
September 21st, 2005, 04:05
Good evening,
I am in search of community help regarding what I would like to freely give away.
As a few of you may know I have done some work for making Fg compatable with the Starwars D20 rules. So far I have changed the following:
Character sheets - Fully reimplemented with associated xml (3k+ lines!)
Combat Tracker - Works with VP/WP now
Mini-sheets - Works with VP/WP now

I intend to import the modern SRD from the wizards site and include that as part of the feats section as most of the modern feats are the same as SW.

My question is this: At what point must I stop working for the public good so I can 'legally' provide my work to the public?
Thank you for your time,
--SE

Thore_Ironrock
September 21st, 2005, 05:01
SalmonElla,

You cannot post a Star Wars ruleset for download, or distribute such. To do so would be a violation of Wizard's copyrights on the Star Wars RPG game. If you do you will be contacted by WOTC's lawyers, and probably followed by a nasty cease and desist letter. In addition, since it is Star Wars, Lucas Films may get involved as well. I will also warn you that WOTC is extremely protective of their SW copyright, so chances are they will not be nice in such a matter.

Understand that you can create all of this for your own personal use, but when you share and/or distribute this material is when you will be getting into legal trouble. The rules that accompany the SW RPG belongs to WOTC, so distributing a ruleset with SW RPG info in it is the same as posting their printed product online for download -- in other words, against the law.

I hope this answers your questions.

SalmonElla
September 21st, 2005, 06:11
Ok.
Here is a question then: Does the character sheet itself constitute an infringement?
Here is another: What exactly constitutes a ruleset? UA uses the VP/WP concept so it is not just SWd20.

I am not trying to be argumentative here I just think that we have this very nice tool and some things should be able to be shared. I am not talking about feat lists or mechanics but character sheets should not be an infringement.
Please feel free to correct me on this because I am in the dark, lost, trying to find my way through the morass that is WOTC.

Ged
September 21st, 2005, 09:58
Here we go again... The making of a character sheet, if not scanned or ripped out of some Star Wars material, is such a question of copyright, I'm not capable of speculating. Ruleset as such, if it does not contain reference content or copyrighted pictorial material, is comparable to a home-brewn character sheet for the game.

But, it is of profoud interest to SmiteWorks to have companies such as Wizards of the Coast to perceive us in a positive way. Only this way, even if the copyright law said something different, will there ever be chance to get some really nice things in Fantasy Grounds community's disposal, such as the Eberron atlas Mynex of Code Monkey Publishing has been talking about. It also impacts the way other publishers might perceive Fantasy Grounds and that has a direct implication whether we can work out deals to make rulesets for other systems (for free or for a price, that is up to the publisher in most cases).

Therefore, at this point having not consulted anyone at the WotC, we would have to edit a post containing a link to a Star Wars ruleset and remove it, unfortunately. If you were working on a modern ruleset (there already is one), the thing would of course be drastically different. The difficult part here is the words Star Wars that you would use in "marketing" the ruleset...

To be continued, I'm sure... :D

cogollo
September 21st, 2005, 11:00
As far as I know (working in the intellectual property industry), the copyright laws are meant to protect the intellectual property of people. That means that, IMO, there are two ways to infringe those laws:

1. Copy (in electronic or any other format) parts or the whole of someone else's works, even if it is for personal use only (unless the author gives you permission).

2. Make reference to copyrighted material (even if it is not a direct copy) to either make an economic gain from the work of the author or to denigrate him/her.


Now, the copyright laws are all about money, so being practical:

A company is not going to sue you just because you make some photocopies of one of their books to use at home (even though this is technically a breach of the copyright), because the costs of the lawyers will be much higher than the possible fine.

A character sheet (if it uses references to copyright terms like "Star Wars" in it) is technically a breach of copyright law ONLY if you are using those references to denigrate the company or make an economic gain.

This means that posting such a character sheet here in the FG forums, without the author's authorization, could be seen as SmiteWorks trying to gain an economical gain from attracting more interested buyers. I agree with Ged in that SmiteWorks should not allow it.


Solution: create a non-profit website group (something la Yahoo Groups) and post there your character sheets: there is no intention there to earn a profit or denigrate the company so making reference to copyright material should be fine.

Remember though, that copying parts of copyrighted material is always a breach of the copyright even if you don't do it for gain or to denigrate the author. That means that if you also publish database files with a list of, let's say, feats from Star Wars RPG, technically that's a violation of the copyright laws (again, I don't think Lucas Arts or Wizards of the Coast would prosecute the case as it wouldn't pay off, but it is a copyright infringement nonetheless).


Please send me a PM if you intend to create such a group. I would like to participate in the creation of a Star Wars character sheet for FG.

Goblin-King
September 21st, 2005, 11:51
Good points...


A character sheet (if it uses references to copyright terms like "Star Wars" in it) is technically a breach of copyright law ONLY if you are using those references to denigrate the company or make an economic gain.

One additional aspect here I think is one that Mr. Melka hinted to in an earlier post he made... Some traditional RPG companies are probaby wary of how the internet, online pdf sales and other tools such as FG will impact their business models, revenue streams and intellectual property. They aren't necessarily afraid or greedy, but just don't understand this world as well as their traditional field of business.

This would be a perfect example of such a case. WotC might not be sure if they could stay on top of things themselves by restricting the distribution of digital character sheets to themselves, or if they should allow people to do that freely. Although it's not a question of money, it's still a perfectly good reason to make sure they have their options open when they know where this area of the hobby is headed.

msd
September 21st, 2005, 14:14
Argh...I try to stay out of these threads.

All I want to say is that if you have a question about copyrights, please contact a real lawyer...one who has taken the bar...and passed.

In this thread alone, there are multiple misstatements of American copyright law and I would hate to see someone rely on this kind of message-board advice to their detriment.

Again, everyone and their dog on this board purports to know the state of American copyright law on this board. I assure that you few of them do and that you should be listening to none of them (including myself).

If you are concerned about your legal rights and/or responsibilities...contact a lawyer.

SalmonElla
September 21st, 2005, 14:17
Thank you for your clarifications. I went into this just trying to help out the community with some work that I had put in with no intention of EVER making money off of it. I was not trying to drag everyone into a legal discussion (there are enough of those on these boards already). I was merely frustrated by the initial rebuttal.

Thank you for helping me out.

By the way, the fact that we cannot really distribute sheets, not rules, seems likely to be a detriment for the tool as everyone will have to reinvent the wheel every time they do something that is not d20 srd.
--SE

msd
September 21st, 2005, 14:23
By the way, the fact that we cannot really distribute sheets, not rules, seems likely to be a detriment for the tool as everyone will have to reinvent the wheel every time they do something that is not d20 srd.
--SE

Perhaps, but I think most people believe that this is a temporal effect at best. Right now there is not a lot of competition in the market for "official" FG material. As the tool catches on, the competition will develop and the quality of the materials should vastly improve, hopefully to include additional rulesets from a variety of vendors.

SalmonElla
September 21st, 2005, 14:32
There is that hope but the competition will involve paying someone for access to the rulesets whereas many of us would just like to share.
--SE

CMP Mynex
September 21st, 2005, 17:06
The easiest way to accomplish a SW character sheet is to base it off the Modern character sheet.

Avoid using _anything_ that is SW specific- (Force Points being a prime example... Simply call it "Points" or leave it as action points.

_most_ of what SW uses has been re-used in OGL products (such as UA), like the WP/VP system... So it shouldn't be that hard to create a SW sheet that doesn't use any SW specific terms.

As for other giving the legal advice, I'll keep it simple, if you have _any_ doubts about _any_ aspect of what you're doing, don't do it.

In the infancy stages of electronic tools, it's better to err on the side of caution...

And I can tell you this much, anything that even remotely has anything to do with SW WILL be eyeballed by lawyers... Lucas pays very close attention to his property... and between WotC and Lucas lawyers... I'll take the WotC ones anyday... heck, I'd rather deal with Microsoft Lawyers. *grimace*

SalmonElla
September 21st, 2005, 17:54
The easiest way to accomplish a SW character sheet is to base it off the Modern character sheet.

Avoid using _anything_ that is SW specific- (Force Points being a prime example... Simply call it "Points" or leave it as action points.

Very good point. I could strip off some of those items easil I think.



As for other giving the legal advice, I'll keep it simple, if you have _any_ doubts about _any_ aspect of what you're doing, don't do it.


/agree That is why I came here first :)


heck, I'd rather deal with Microsoft Lawyers. *grimace*

/shudder
I really dont want to get into legal battles. I just want to help out others that are less xml savvy but I realize now that I could damage the image of FG by doing so. I may just keep the sheets to myself now as some of the sheets are very starwars specific. Heh, Ill see if I can post some pics though to prove that I actually did the work at some time :)

wavecutter
September 21st, 2005, 18:22
Well, ask Thor_Ironrock how you can do it leagally. He is building and selling adventures and the SRD ruleset online so he must have some idea.

Ramza0Tyr
September 21st, 2005, 20:17
I just posted a thread here (http://forums.fantasygrounds.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1114&start=0&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=) that should be useful.

I hope so anyway! :)

Later.
Ramza

Thore_Ironrock
September 22nd, 2005, 00:35
Well, ask Thor_Ironrock how you can do it leagally. He is building and selling adventures and the SRD ruleset online so he must have some idea.

Thanks Wave. :wink:

For the most part Mynex stole my thunder a bit above in suggesting alternatives to SE's desire to do a character sheet, and the need to stay away from George's lawyer. In addtion, several other people on this thread (MSD, Tero, Ramza0Tyr) have also posted excellent advice on this subject -- kudos all around.

I have been trying to defend copyrights in this forum since the beginning, only because I have a vested interest in it in addition to sincerely wanting FG to succeed in this industry. I've lived through the evil legal days of TSR, and the onset of the OGL/d20 industry, and while I'm not a lawyer I like to think I have a general idea of how copyrights have been perceived by publishers over the years.

In some cases publishers can be extremely helpful and cooperative with some of these issues, but that is not the case with everyone. What many of us do not want to see is FG becoming "tagged" with being a vehicle for copyright violation. This will make it even more difficult for a guy like me to get publishers interested in online gaming. I think I speak for everyone when I say we don't want that type of perception.


There is that hope but the competition will involve paying someone for access to the rulesets whereas many of us would just like to share.

I do want to comment on this though ... SE, sorry, but nothing is free in this world anymore. The bottom line is you can't copy someone's intellectual property, even if you don't make any money on it. Publishers like myself are in this biz because we love the hobby, but also to make a good old American dollar and unless you write it yourself you basically cannot use other people's ideas without their permission regardless of the end result. Again, the key word there is "permission". At the very least, you can always ask. The worse that someone can say is no.

SE, if you or anyone else out there would like to show off your work, then create something original and post it to the forum. I would love to see Ville or Tero have a "create a character sheet" contest or something like that (hint, hint guys), with the results benefiting the community. There is enough deversity out there with just the base SRD that I think there could be some cool sheets created w/o any copyright violations. Or, if you want to make a buck in the process, you can become a publisher like myself and Mynex -- or even contact us and we can sell your works for you.

:lol: