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jthm0138
March 10th, 2008, 21:26
Post removed by user

Ged
March 11th, 2008, 15:19
Trademark protection is the (or one of the) other side(s) of the coin. And from Fantasy Grounds's perspective, it is the one that makes things less than clear. I have found THIS (http://www.chillingeffects.org/trademark/faq.cgi) page an accessible introduction to trademark issues. While it is not legal text, and it is the view of its author, I have found that it agrees with most other texts on trademarks, i.e. it seems to be valid. I am not a lawyer nor a US citizen, thus my knowledge on the US jurisdiction and legal system is limited; I do not, for instance, know how strong argument is freedom of speech, as in the First Amendment, in a trademark dispute.

To compare copyright and trademark in Fantasy Grounds and www.fantasygrounds.com (http://www.fantasygrounds.com) context, here are a few points (open to discussion):
taking someone's text (author's expression) is directly against copyright law
making a character sheet or system mechanics for system X is not against copyright law
it is all right to say "with this product you can play the world's most popular RPG"
you can't name anything you produce after a trademarked name (trademark dilution)
nominative fair use and non-commercial use (http://www.chillingeffects.org/trademark/faq.cgi#QID56) might both limit the trademark protection in most of the cases of community creations, where copyrights have not been violated
the d20 license allows the use of the d20 logo and the use of the System Reference Document (SRD) is governed by the Open Gaming License. The explicit licenses and the fulfilling of the license conditions allow for the use of SRD and the d20 logo, even though they are protected by copyright and trademark, respectivelyI'd also like to point out that, while community members cannot protect other parties' trademarks, they can try to help the community maintain a positive and respectful reputation towards trademark holders.

I wish that next someone here would write a commentary on the relevancy of patents for games and game mechanics. Of course, patent rights are not automatically generated and are in other ways much clearer as well.

jthm0138
March 13th, 2008, 10:55
Post removed by user.

Stuart
March 13th, 2008, 11:22
I wish that next someone here would write a commentary on the relevancy of patents for games and game mechanics. Of course, patent rights are not automatically generated and are in other ways much clearer as well.

Ged, I think the issue has been covered by Thore in past posts along with commentaries by some of the lawyers that solicit (:p ) the boards elsewhere. The "issue" of patents/copyright/OGL etc. etc. tends to rear its head every now and then so perhaps a Sticky put together that covers what we probably already know is a sensible idea (as you intimate) ?

jthm0138's post is a start ... I think ? A definitive "Do's and Don'ts" is probably overdue but, I think 99% of the FG Community know when one of us has done something naughty ? Certainly, there seem to be less posts about piracy, copyright/OGL infringements and so on ... maybe everybody is to busy gaming to actually care !:p

Oberoten
March 13th, 2008, 11:43
Well it sure is a interesting read... Quite educational tool.

Ged
March 13th, 2008, 14:24
No, you can not obtain a copyright for a game.
In the strict sense, you are right. A game, understood as the idea, system, and method to play the game, does not enjoy copyright protection. However, the words and expression used to describe the game, is protected by copyright.

In a RPG context you might say that, you have to roll with a 20-sided die a number equal or higher than a number specified in the statistics of the defender. That mechanic is not protected by copyright, it is a system from several published games and you can develop on that idea. However, saying "to hit armor class zero and coining an abbreviation THAC0 for that starts to be really close to author's expression.

In general, you can make a game, whose rules are a match with a previously published game, but the way to describe the game, the labels, and other artistic components/content must be original.

It is the nature of all types of intellectual property protection to allow original developers or authors to capitalize on their investment while still promoting further advances in the field or technolgoy. This is, of course, much debated issue, but without patents, say, high-tech companies would not bother to invest in developmet as a copycat could immediately steal their results after producing the first application, or without copyright protection an author would not bother to write a novel. Thus a rational level of protection for novel inventions boosts development: with patents the level is specified as the number of years; while copyright only applies to the expression of the content, not the idea.

Thus, as far as RPGs go, the game rules themselves are seldom protected (save patented systems, to my knowledge WotC hods some for collectible card games). The description and the flavour, i.e. content, of the games, enjoy copyright protection.


Ged, I think the issue has been covered by Thore in past posts along with commentaries by some of the lawyers that solicit (:p ) the boards elsewhere. The "issue" of patents/copyright/OGL etc. etc. tends to rear its head every now and then so perhaps a Sticky put together that covers what we probably already know is a sensible idea (as you intimate) ?
It is a good idea, but difficult. Oftentimes these periodical discussion hold a slightly, but distinctively, different flavour. Thus a sticky detailing most issues (or our or our lawyer's views on those), some tiny detail voids the relevancy of the post. I'm not saying that nothing can be done in this respect, but we'll have to think carefully how to make it - and (as opposed to an "idle" forum reply) make sure it is as correct as it can, provided the international nature of these forums. Mostly these discussions revolve around the US regulations even though differences exist between countries.

kalmarjan
March 13th, 2008, 15:20
Okay, so in the spirit of putting on my flame retardant suit... I will submit that the OP has some ideas on copyright and "fair use" that do not mesh well with reality.

Here are a few links that explain all in clear consise language:

http://desktoppub.about.com/b/2008/01/16/image-copyright-issues-what-images-can-you-use.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/od/copyrightusage/Avoid_Copyright_Infringement.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/od/termsofusage/Terms_of_Usage_for_Clip_Art_Fonts.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/od/logousage/Logos_and_Trademarks_Usage_Guidelines.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/od/copyrightlaw/Copyright_Law.htm

Now, I am not a lawyer, and I really am not in a position to dicker the finer points of copyright law. I do know a few guidelines though, as I regularly work in graphics creation. So here goes a simple explanation. While it may not be legal, it has ALWAYS worked for me, and I have yet to have a problem. (I also work for Kevin at DA, who knows a thing or two about copyright and usage - he keeps me on track.)

1) If there is any doubt about the usage of an image, you must need contact the image creator for permission to use the image. This is a no-brainer. Even if you go as far as to make the resulting "derivative" work unrecognizable, protect your butt. Then you will never have a problem.

2) Fair usage guidelines: Here is the link directly (http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html)

Note one of the main things that is said here:


The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.

When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of “fair use” would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered “fair” nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.

While it is imaginable that the OP contacted Paramount for the usage of Kahn in his avatar, I highly doubt it. Now, since we are speaking about the internet, history shows us that it is impractical for the company to go after everyone who uses the image without permission. In fact, a court would not even go into session because the usage of said image really does not impact the sales of the original work, and the copyright holder needs to show damages to his said copyright from the infringement.

Now, the second you get into distribution, it is a different story.

It can be argued that the avatar in question falls under the so-called "parody" clause, therefore falls under "fair use". All I have to say is that one should not just assume, it is best to contact the original copyright holder and go from there.

While the OP can say that his avatar is applicable with "fair use" because he has added some text to it and made it a "derivative" work... I submit he is wrong, because of the next point:

3) Derivitive works: Link is here (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ14.html#derivative/)

An interesting passage:


Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. The owner is generally the author or someone who has obtained rights from the author. Anyone interested in a work who does not know the owner of copyright may search the records of the Copyright Office. Or, the Office will conduct a search for an hourly fee.* For further information, request Circular 22, How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work.

So, there you are.... in plain black and white.

Again, in the case of the avatar, legally, it does not matter. The impact is so small that it would be a waste of time to persue the matter further. Does it make it right? Nope.

My main concern with a posting like this is that the OP makes it out to be cut and dried. You have a situation X, so situation Y applies. Unfortunately, this is not the case with copyright laws. There is so much gray area, that one must really seek the legal advice of a professional when there is any doubt about the impact of distribution.

Common sense also dictates what is right. Let me ask you. If I was to go to the WOTC site and rip all of the images of monsters/NPCs and make them into tokens for my own personal use, would that be right?

A gray area. They are for my own personal use, and the impact on WOTC is negligible. Further, they would have a hard time prosecuting me for it.

Now, if I took those same images and made them into tokens for a distribution (even for free) or for pay, am I violating copyright? Yes, you sure are. Don't believe me though, call up your lawyer. (And get a second opinion.)

All I am trying to say is that people need to tread carefully when it comes to distributing copyrightable material. While it is true that you cannot "copyright" a game, system, rules and such, it HAS been established that you CAN copyright the Intellectual Property i.e. Images, Names, Fonts, etc. from said game.

I hope that helps out a bit,

Cheers,

Sandeman

(Who is still miffed that he was denied access to the OP site because he "works for Thore"

Master
March 13th, 2008, 16:14
Patents and copyrights no longer work how they were originally intended. A good legal team will be able to patent and copyright things that should not be able to be patented and copyrighted using loopholes.

With every year more and more things go into the system that can be used as exceptions so it becomes easier and easier to sneak things into the system based or previous exceptions.

If his lawyers say they can get it done you had better watch your back unless you can afford to fight it in court.

jthm0138
March 13th, 2008, 16:58
Post removed by user.

joshuha
March 13th, 2008, 17:10
Le Sigh,
As far as my point here with the original post, it was more to make people aware that they can make Rulesets for Fantasy Grounds without any real fear. Wizards of the Coast and their open game license isn't the only things we are limited to people. We could make for instance a GURPS ruleset for FGII. It couldn't include the actual text of the GURPS books as a whole, but it can hold a character record sheet and the ability to confirm rolls.


I don't think Smiteworks has actively discouraged this. In fact, if a ruleset is to be made I suggest a character sheet/dice mechanics system only. I think the real times when Smiteworks has had to step in is when rules text were being included or images taken directly from the RPG book.

kalmarjan
March 13th, 2008, 17:21
Okay, so I am not going to go further than this last post, and I hope to put to rest this issue. ;)


Le Sigh,
It angers me to no end, that after serving in the military to secure the freedoms of the people, people will not educate them selves on their rights. And even when clear cut, well defined terms are placed in front of them provided from concretely reliable sources they still wont accept fact as fact. There is no debate here.


I understand where you are coming from. Part of educating yourself of all rights is COMPLETELY understanding what you are educating yourself on. It is one thing to partially understand something, it is quite another to spell it off as gospel. In your posting you alluded to several facts of copyright law, omiting key points. If it angers you to no end that people will not educate themselves over the finer points of copyright, be sure you are in a position of understanding before you post and/or make comments that may or may not damage the community.

See, my whole point here is not to personally attack you, it is to ensure that the community here is in good standing.


First my avatar real fast represents one frame from the original film consisting of more than a million frames. No judge would accept it as copyright infringement based on the fact that it in no way represents the whole of the matter that it is from. But if it offends you so, I will change my Avatar yet again to an Image I do own the rights to. But I promise you, people here are going to take issue with the images that I own right to as well.

I said the same thing in my post. Read it again. Your avatar does not offend me, again, I am not necessarily attacking you, I am just pointing out some flaws in what you are saying.


As far as my point here with the original post, it was more to make people aware that they can make Rulesets for Fantasy Grounds without any real fear. Wizards of the Coast and their open game license isn't the only things we are limited to people. We could make for instance a GURPS ruleset for FGII. It couldn't include the actual text of the GURPS books as a whole, but it can hold a character record sheet and the ability to confirm rolls.

It has been maintained for quite a while here that you are free to develop whatever ruleset you like. In fact, the program platform has been open from the beginning. The problem comes with distribution of said ruleset. You can do anything you like for personal use, you just CANNOT post it up as a download. A character sheet is fine, as you would still need the rules to play. As for automated rolls, that is a different story. The best option is to check with the original creators of the game. You will always know where you stand then.

Look at it this way, you have said before that you have a site that is affiliated with the porno industry. Would you accept someone posting your content for free on another site? Bypassing your payment scheme? Would you accept fair use clauses? Perhaps if they darkened the images a little bit, or added something text wise to it, in your book that would make it okay, right?

I have a feeling I know what your answer would be, (I obviously cannot answer for you ;) ) I guess then that what fits the goose, also fits the gander right?


Now off to make my avatar something I own the copyrights to, I give it an hour max before an admin asks me to change my avatar. :-)

Hmm... offensive? Not to me. I could care less what you post as an avatar. Again, I only ask that before you go on speaking about copyrights and how it affects the FG community, please be informed correctly of what you are speaking of.

Every six months or so, this issue comes up. It always goes back to the same result. No matter how you kick, scream, yell or whatever, the copyright laws are there.

Are they fair? Who knows. Ask the poor guys making a documentary how much stuff they have to cut out of their films because something falls under copyright, and that they have no license to distribute. Again, maybe not fair, but it is the law.

Perhaps if you really want some change...instead of using the FG boards for a platform about copyright... write your congressman and try and get changes you want.

Finally, if you are doing nothing wrong, you know your rights, and no one can touch you, why require registration on your site that distributes FG-centric items via download? Why deny me because "you work for Digital Adventures?" What are you afraid of?

Cheers,

Sandeman

jthm0138
March 13th, 2008, 18:01
Post removed by user.

jthm0138
March 13th, 2008, 20:38
Post removed by user.

Master
March 13th, 2008, 22:05
I check these forums from work and while I do not find your avatar offensive my it's contents are such that I could loose my job for having the image displayed on my computer.

Is it your purposed to cause problems? I guess this community is not mature enough to respect others. If I cant find a way to turn off images and avatars I may not be back to this site.

sloejack
March 13th, 2008, 22:12
It's probably best to ignore this troll (and his posts). Threads like this are counter productive and destructive to the community in general. Hopefully the moderators will deal with it and him appropriately.

To the original poster, your argument would be better if you hadn't presented and defended it with half truths and opinion that you're trying to pass off as law and fact.

jthm0138
March 13th, 2008, 22:52
Post removed by user.

I have gotten to the point where I would like a refund of all the money I have spent on fantasy grounds. Without the community the application is worthless, and the community at large is starting to look beyond worthless. It is looking as tho it might be time for my gamers and myself to look into other options for virtual tabletop emulation. I know at this point I am removing all of my reviews of the fantasy grounds application, and suggesting that my customers avoid this community at all costs.

Malovech
March 13th, 2008, 23:13
It's probably best to ignore this troll (and his posts). Threads like this are counter productive and destructive to the community in general. Hopefully the moderators will deal with it and him appropriately.

To the original poster, your argument would be better if you hadn't presented and defended it with half truths and opinion that you're trying to pass off as law and fact.


Yup the ignorelist is there for a reason folks. Though I have to say, it's the first time I've used it on, what is usually, a very civil forum.

Master
March 13th, 2008, 23:22
I actually think the community as a hole is knowledgeable and helpful in many respects. You on the other hand... I hope you find what you are looking for... elsewhere.

Ged
March 14th, 2008, 16:38
I for one, initially, enjoyed this discussion. Exhanging opinions and information on this topic was constructive and informative. I'm disappointed that it ended the way it did. There was not much alternatives to banning the user because his deletion of most of the posts invalidated a number of threads and his behaviour was also unacceptable for these message boards.

robocoastie
March 15th, 2008, 01:57
Trademark protection is the (or one of the) other side(s) of the coin. And from Fantasy Grounds's perspective, it is the one that makes things less than clear. I have found THIS (http://www.chillingeffects.org/trademark/faq.cgi) page an accessible introduction to trademark issues. While it is not legal text, and it is the view of its author, I have found that it agrees with most other texts on trademarks, i.e. it seems to be valid. I am not a lawyer nor a US citizen, thus my knowledge on the US jurisdiction and legal system is limited; I do not, for instance, know how strong argument is freedom of speech, as in the First Amendment, in a trademark dispute.

To compare copyright and trademark in Fantasy Grounds and www.fantasygrounds.com (http://www.fantasygrounds.com) context, here are a few points (open to discussion):
taking someone's text (author's expression) is directly against copyright law
making a character sheet or system mechanics for system X is not against copyright law
it is all right to say "with this product you can play the world's most popular RPG"
you can't name anything you produce after a trademarked name (trademark dilution)
nominative fair use and non-commercial use (http://www.chillingeffects.org/trademark/faq.cgi#QID56) might both limit the trademark protection in most of the cases of community creations, where copyrights have not been violated
the d20 license allows the use of the d20 logo and the use of the System Reference Document (SRD) is governed by the Open Gaming License. The explicit licenses and the fulfilling of the license conditions allow for the use of SRD and the d20 logo, even though they are protected by copyright and trademark, respectivelyI'd also like to point out that, while community members cannot protect other parties' trademarks, they can try to help the community maintain a positive and respectful reputation towards trademark holders.

I wish that next someone here would write a commentary on the relevancy of patents for games and game mechanics. Of course, patent rights are not automatically generated and are in other ways much clearer as well.

you know Ged I just accidently stumbled into this thread (and wish I hadn't even) but you are acting extremely the opposite and have given absolutely NO ground on your stances despite supposedly admitting that you really don't know what the heck you're talking about. In fact I see that you should be disappointed in yourself for taking the discussion as it did. If you enjoyed the discussion it's because you acted like a pompous know it all ******* who pats himself on the back after everything he says.

This is from an outsider of the conversation looking in after only a few minutes. Which ordinarily would mean that you need to re-evaluate how you respond toward others opinions; but given the way you acted in this thread I don't expect you to do that all.

joshuha
March 15th, 2008, 02:16
I would like to point out this thread had nothing to do with this user's banning. The copyright discussion was mostly civil. Threats and other actions from the user lead to the banning from my understanding of the situation.

sloejack
March 15th, 2008, 03:23
This is from an outsider of the conversation looking in after only a few minutes. Which ordinarily would mean that you need to re-evaluate how you respond toward others opinions; but given the way you acted in this thread I don't expect you to do that all.

If this is your "outsider" view, perhaps you could quote the response you're taking exception to. From what's left of this thread, and especially the part you quoted, I don't see anything wrong with what appears to be a fairly basic understanding of copyright laws expressed as they're understood from Smitework's perspective in relation to Fantasy Grounds. Looking at Ged's other post I don't see anything offensive or that breaks with my basic understanding of intellectual property copyright and trademark.

I don't think attacking anyone with generalities is going to help here, so unless you've got a specific, referenceable issue with what has been written, I'm not sure what value your addition to this thread has.

To contribute to the linkage here though, I dug through my board game designing links and found this site (http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/copyright/) which has some good information that it's culled targeted towards board games and rpgs presumably without bias which I would tend to agree with, and that site itself has a number of other links for various sources including the US patent and trademark office.

kalmarjan
March 15th, 2008, 07:15
Unfortunately, this thread looks to have degenerated to name calling. (Calling someone a pompous you-know-what is not exactly my form of civil discussion.) What started out with a discussion on the finer points the OP laid out, the subsequent seeming withdrawal of the OP from this community has now gone way of the mean, I fear.

We could go on for days about what is "legal" what is not, "fair use", "derivative works", etc. The point is moot though because in the end it really is up to the copyright holder to enforce their rights, or they stand the chance of losing them.

While it may come off as unfair to a lot of people, and there may be moral objections to the concept of copyright, it is what it is, and so far, nothing has changed in that respect.

I would like to see the firestorm die with this thread. I am not afraid to speak about copyright, or debate about it. I will give try you an informed opinion, and I will always back up what I am saying with references. I will not resort to name calling, as I believe that goes against the spirit of this community.

Sandeman

Ged
March 15th, 2008, 07:32
I would like to point out this thread had nothing to do with this user's banning. The copyright discussion was mostly civil. Threats and other actions from the user lead to the banning from my understanding of the situation.
In deed, and I was disappointed that the discussion ended in the removal of many posts, which were all relevant to the discussion..., not that something that was said was against my view.

Anyway, let's put all this behind now. If somebody feels that the copyright issues must be discussed further at this point, please start a new thread.