TSR Darlene tells NuTSR NO!

The artist Darlene, who designed one of the original TSR logos that TSR3.5 is currently using, has emphatically and publicly refused to endorse the company's use of the logo.

Darlene's work appeared in early Dungeons & Dragons materials, and included the full-color map in 1980's World of Greyhawk.

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In December, I finally reviewed the contract Justin LaNasa (JL) wanted me to sign. That’s when I took a stand and gave this answer: “I prefer not to be directly involved in any way with your lawsuit against WOTC. Therefore, I do not give permission to use the Wizard-head logo."

For the longest time, I tried to remain neutral, aloof, and unaffected. I wanted to avoid being associated with the bombastic claims of the new TSR.

JL first responded with a denial: “We were not planning on having you in the lawsuit this is why we ask for your permission.” Then a guilt trip: “We really tried to bring back something good with TSR.” Then played the underdog card: “it seems like WOTC and their supporters have a lot of fear and sway amongst the industry.”

It’s upsetting if JL thought I would be stupid enough to sign a contract without reading or comprehending it. In my response, I referred him to item #3 which obligates me to defend his position in his WOTC lawsuit. 


The pressure they are putting on me to reconsider has increased. Ernie Gygax thinks granting my permission for them to use the logo—which, btw, they are already using anyway—is key for their successful arbitration. He intimated if I don’t give in, sign away my rights and take their money, I’d be hurting some people I really care about. He also suggested I can “up the ante” for double the amount initially offered.

JL has since amicably proposed to work out a contract that excludes me from the lawsuit. He’s been very nice and cordial to me throughout. Nevertheless... The contract will most likely retain the first sentence where I declare that I have “not previously transferred my rights to any entity or party.” What? As I understand it, logos don’t work that way.

The most important thing to me has not been addressed. As a visual thinker and logo designer, I am very particular about the nuances of what I create. Yes, I designed the original wizard-head logo back in the ’80s. That is not in dispute. However, the logo produced as “Exhibit ‘A’” in JL’s contract is not my logo. It’s a bastardization—a greyed-out, fuzzy, lesser version—of what I designed. I detest the spindly letters used for "The Game Wizards." Ugh!

Therefore, I cannot honestly take money for it because I do not and will not claim it as mine. I’m extremely picky about choosing my clients. Before I would consider designing a new logo for the new TSR, they would have to demonstrate ethical behavior as a business entity.

Ever since they appeared on the scene, the new TSR has been plucking the heartstrings of those who fondly remember the good ole days when the hobby was in its infancy. JL’s lofty words: “to honor and remember TSR, the Dragon, Gary and all the alumni of the old days of gaming” sound inspiring. But I remain unmoved. I never want to return to Lake Geneva to relive those “good old days."


If I were to endorse the new TSR, they have to correct the mistakes of the old TSR. They must be kinder and more generous to artists and authors in their employ. They would show proper respect, listen to, and honor women, both within the gaming field and as consumers. They would be more inclusive and sensitive enough to address the needs of individuals beyond the white male demographic. They would be fair to their customers and transparent in their actions.


Besides, the idea of me endorsing TSR—new or old—is laughable. Not always, but in general, I did not have a positive experience freelancing for TSR. Looking from the outside in, I witnessed how the growth spurts of TSR turned it from being an “all-for-one; one-for-all” company into an uncaring corporate entity with an “us vs them” mindset. With few exceptions, success brought out the worst in those TSR people given positions of authority. I witnessed how the creatives got the brunt of TSR’s unfair predatory policies. No, I do not yearn to return to that stressful, hostile, and toxic atmosphere.


My memories of TSR are clear because they are frozen to the time I needed to leave Lake Geneva for my own mental health and well-being. I turned my back on the growing number of small-minded TSR people who created and spread malicious rumors and hurtful lies about me, made me feel unwelcome whenever I visited the building, told me my art was not very good and caused me to doubt myself and my abilities.

I left to pursue knowledge, my MFA, and the prospect of new beginnings with no intention of returning. Gary Gygax contacted me in 2005 and coaxed me back. That’s when he and I became fast friends. In the years since, I’ve discovered—for the most part— nothing much has changed for females in the gaming world (ie: gamergate). TSR’s unfair internal practices (abusing creatives financially) seem to have followed the RPG industry. How do I know? Having worked as a professional in the “real world” since 1984, I’m aware of the many disparities.


Today, I decided to publicly share my “power of no” because I recognize this as a teachable moment for the dispossessed. Charged with 42 years of suppressed emotional pain, my “no” is big and empowered. It includes “no” to bullying and unethical business practices; “no” to the unfair treatment and compensation of artists, creatives, and women; and “no” to taking advantage of the disadvantaged to profit at their expense.


My “no” is also cathartic for me. With it, I officially reclaim those lost parts of myself I abandoned so long ago. To have the courage to take this stance, my desire for money had to be relinquished. Only then could I clearly understand the implications of what saying yes meant. As tempting as a yes would be, it is ultimately disempowering.


Compromising my integrity for money is the same as selling my soul.

Therefore, I choose to continue living like I always have, modestly. I choose not to allow temporary feelings of desperation or depression to rule me nor compromise the greater truth of who I am. Perhaps I should credit JL for catalyzing my healing process and helping me demonstrate what feminine power looks like.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Ugh. This sheds even more light on the copyright allegations in TSR's complaint- and not in a good way.

The most interesting allegations in the re-filed lawsuit are the specific allegations regarding the copyrighted images in the lawsuit. They are interesting from a legal perspective (because they show a very poor litigation strategy), they are interesting from a historical perspective (in that the people that claim to want to honor the past don't seem to know the difference between the original Bell lizard logo and the updated Sutherland lizard logo), but they are also interesting from a rights perspective (not that this would help TSR).

This, from Darlene, tells me three things-

1. The grift is so strong in LaNasa. This shows consciousness, prior to the filing of the lawsuit, of the weakness of his position- this history will get torn apart in court.

2. Any possible residual sympathy anyone had for Ernie Gygax should be gone, forever. Period. He is not just being used ... he is part of the problem.

3. This makes me so terribly sad. The art of Darlene was so important to me for so long, and while I know it will never make up for the treatment she received from people in the hobby at the time, I hope she understands that her work was important, cherished, and loved by so many. She matters to a lot of people.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Well, if there was any question if Ernie was just being manipulated by a bad crowd, I think this puts that to rest. He seems to be fully committed to LaNasa and that toxic mindset of misogyny all on his own. Unlike LaNasa, he was there during that time. To say what he said not only shows a complete ignorance of how business works (which isn't surprising, but should be considering he worked for TSR and was up close with top management), but to try to emotionally blackmail her essentially tells us he's all in.
 


Wilphe

Adventurer
So let's see:

Your plan was to pay the original artist for the rights to the logo and get her to commit possible perjury that she had never sold it to anyone else and support your BS lawsuit

And to get to her to do this you banked on her nostalgia for old TSR disregarding or in ignorance of the fact that it was a poorly run company that treated her like naughty word

And when that didn't work implied that she would be hurting people she cared about in apparent ignorance of the fact that she doesn't care for you.

Do I have that right?
 


Wilphe

Adventurer
And to get to her to do this you banked on her nostalgia for old TSR disregarding or in ignorance of the fact that it was a poorly run company that treated her like naughty word

And you are NOT Old TSR

And it would not be a good thing if you were


This is like digging yourselves a hole so deep you don't even understand that there is a world outside the hole. the hole is the only reality you know, and then you fill it with Kool-Aid and then drink it all and then try digging some more
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
I'm happy she felt that she could speak out about this - the way they are trying to rope in other people into their little scam is apalling. It will probably bring the wrath of the internet chuds down on her Facebook page, though - I hope that doesn't happen to her.

Why am I utterly unsurprised that they didn't realize she'd read the contract?

I think I'm slightly surprised that they tried to get her to sell them artwork that wasn't hers. But not really - doing research doesn't seem to be their strong suit.
 


Sir Brennen

Legend
So wait, even as the original artist, Darlene giving nuTSR permission to use the image isn't a thing that can happen, because she sold that work to OG TSR, who then turned it over to WotC when WotC purchased them, correct? WotC basically owns the copyright for the logo? Literally, they own the right to copy the image and no one else does.

Or can artists freely give the same artwork to multiple companies for their logo? That seems problematic. It's not like First Publication Rights for things like stories sold to magazines (where the ability to resell the work goes back to the author.)

And even if nuTSR owns the "copyright" on their crappy version of the logo, it's close enough to cause brand confusion, which then makes it trademark infringement.
 


OakenHart

Adventurer
Well, if there was any question if Ernie was just being manipulated by a bad crowd, I think this puts that to rest. He seems to be fully committed to LaNasa and that toxic mindset of misogyny all on his own. Unlike LaNasa, he was there during that time. To say what he said not only shows a complete ignorance of how business works (which isn't surprising, but should be considering he worked for TSR and was up close with top management), but to try to emotionally blackmail her essentially tells us he's all in.

Yes... very disappointing.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
So wait, even as the original artist, Darlene giving nuTSR permission to use the image isn't a thing that can happen, because she sold that work to OG TSR, who then turned it over to WotC when WotC purchased them, correct? WotC basically owns the copyright for the logo? Literally, they own the right to copy the image and no one else does.

Or can artists freely give the same artwork to multiple companies for their logo? That seems problematic. It's not like First Publication Rights for things like stories sold to magazines (where the ability to resell the work goes back to the author.)

And even if nuTSR owns the "copyright" on their crappy version of the logo, it's close enough to cause brand confusion, which then makes it trademark infringement.

nuTSR seems to have a lot of different ideas that they're trying to use all at once about how the copyright/trademark laws work.

I think they're simultaneously trying to argue that since Wizards abandoned the TSR trademark registration anyone who registers a TSR trademark gets the rights to the artwork. And since they're the registered trademark owner that means they should get all the rights transferred over to them. But also they're trying to get the artists who created the artwork on board to claim that it wasn't "work for hire" for old TSR but is instead owned by them - and that they've transferred the rights over to nuTSR.

IANAL but I know enough about copyright/trademark laws to know that the first half of that is utter and complete nonsense. Copyright doesn't follow trademark registration and right now Wizards and nuTSR are in a trademark dispute anyway - registering a trademark isn't sufficient if someone is already using it in commerce and Wizards has been using the TSR mark in commerce for a while now. The second part - arguing that the artwork was not work for hire - might have more merit depending on circumstances, but I'd imagine it's going to be a tough slog to prove that a logo wasn't contracted on a work for hire basis. And even then what it does is put the artwork back into the hands of the artists who created it, not into nuTSR's hands.
 

Or can artists freely give the same artwork to multiple companies for their logo? That seems problematic. It's not like First Publication Rights for things like stories sold to magazines (where the ability to resell the work goes back to the author.)
It depends on how it was "sold" t the original TSR. Artwork, like anything else, can be sold in different ways. In some the artist/creator retains some rights, and in others they do not. I have no idea which applies here. But I'm sure Darlene does.
 



Sir Brennen

Legend
It depends on how it was "sold" t the original TSR. Artwork, like anything else, can be sold in different ways. In some the artist/creator retains some rights, and in others they do not. I have no idea which applies here. But I'm sure Darlene does.
Yeah, I'm just thinking in this particular case allowing an artist to retain the rights to a company logo seems like you'd have to really, really not know what you're doing when purchasing said artwork.

As @Jer said, I guess LaNasa is trying to prove that was the case with OG TSR by getting the artists involved. Probably would have been better to make sure he had them all onboard before filing the lawsuit.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
So wait, even as the original artist, Darlene giving nuTSR permission to use the image isn't a thing that can happen, because she sold that work to OG TSR, who then turned it over to WotC when WotC purchased them, correct? WotC basically owns the copyright for the logo? Literally, they own the right to copy the image and no one else does.
Yeah, it's even entirely possible she never "owned" it to begin with. It was likely a work for hire arrangement in regard to the logo from jump street. That sort of thing is all well settled law. I don't even know if she could "sign it over" to begin with. Making the whole thing moot.

Could be wrong though, things were looser in those days. But I would be surprised if Darlene retained the rights to something TSR used as their corporate logo, even then.
 


Mezuka

Adventurer
That is a nice bit of writing. The power of NO.

Unless she had a signed agreement saying she kept ownership of her original work, she doesn't own the logo. That is not how contractual work, works. You do the work, you are paid for the work, the client becomes to owner of the work.
 

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