Thank you to everybody – both publishers and fans, as well as artists – who took the time to reach out to us about the fan-created Mass Effect RPG nominated for three ENnies this year. The judges nominated this product in good faith, and judged it solely on its quality. Below we detail how we intend to change that process to avoid similar errors in future.
This is a brand new situation for the ENnies – we’ve never had to worry about copyright law before, and the issue has never come up. Our initial position was that publishers and creators are responsible for managing their own legal affairs, and that it was not appropriate for us to assume or interfere other than to hold a basic assumption that entrants had covered their own legal bases and were in compliance with anything they needed to be. For 15 years, that has stood us in good stead, but we recognise that this year’s situation has highlighted a weakness in that system. So thank you for your patience while we figured out what we needed to do. We believe that IP issues are important, and while we are not lawyers, we believe that this product is in violation of basic IP law. We do note that the creator of the product in question does not share that opinion for a number of reasons.
We have also reached out to Bioware/EA, the owners of the Mass Effect IP, and have heard from artists whose work was used in the product, and have established since that some artwork was not used with permission. This is not something we are comfortable endorsing, and we wish we had realised it earlier in the process; however we can make changes now to ensure that we do so in future.
For future years, starting in 2016, we will be adding a new eligibility requirement for the ENnies. This will simply ask a publisher or creator to affirm that all contents of a product are their own property, public domain, or used under license or with permission, and will mean that any products not within the boundaries of IP law are subject to disqualification at any time. This rule will not apply to blogs, podcasts, or other specifically fan-creation award categories. We will provide more information about this eligibility requirement later, once the exact details have been hammered out and the potential pitfalls covered.
For this year, we have decided to disqualify the fan-created Mass Effect RPG on the basis of IP violations. The creator of the product, after discussion with him, has already been notified. Don Mappin, the creator of the product, has additionally told us that "Based on this outcome I will be removing the work and its associated files." We appreciate Don's understanding, and his willingness to work with us and provide us with information when asked.
As noted above, we recognize that the creator does not agree with this analysis, and we will work hard to ensure that a robust system will enable us to handle such disagreements in the future before they become an issue. In this particular case, though, we strongly feel that the situation is clear.
In place of the three disqualified nominations, the judges will be nominating alternates. Those nominations are in the categories of Best Electronic Book, Best Free Product, and Product of the Year. These will be announced very shortly, and before voting begins on July 4th.
We apologize for this situation. We believe and hope that we have now done the right thing. And we are glad for the opportunity to improve the ENnies a little, as we try to do every year. This rather blindsided us, although it does seem obvious in hindsight. And, as before, we thank those publishers and fans who reached out and shared their concerns with us, and for their patience while we put together our intentions for this year and coming years.