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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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adamantyr

Explorer
So we got the two cases: WotC's motion to cancel TSR3's trademark application and LaNasa's request for a declaratory of judgment. Which one gets done first I wonder?
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
I agree NuTSR has no case. That doesn't mean everything that's happened to this point won't lead to WOTC wanting to be thorough in getting their rights 100% cleared through the legal process (likely a settlement) which could involve discovery first.

To pop my head in and hopefully lower the temperature here a little bit, this is the point where I think you are talking past others.

Yes, if WoTC continues the lawsuit after nuTSR drops it in its entirety, then people may be called as witness's and discovery may happen. I fully agree with this statement.

Where I disagree, and where I think the others are coming from, is that there is actually zero reason for WoTC to continue to pursue legal action. The dropping of the suite, and lack of any competing claims, means that WoTC has unquestioned ownership of the marks, and thus legal action is unnecessary.

Consider for a moment, no one goes to court to prove they own a company after buying that company from its prior owners. That is because there are no challenges to that ownership, and therefore no question. Courts exist solely to answer legal questions. If no one is challenging your ownership of an IP or Mark, then there is no question for a Court to answer. Therefore, there would be no legal case.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
To pop my head in and hopefully lower the temperature here a little bit, this is the point where I think you are talking past others.

Yes, if WoTC continues the lawsuit after nuTSR drops it in its entirety, then people may be called as witness's and discovery may happen. I fully agree with this statement.

Where I disagree, and where I think the others are coming from, is that there is actually zero reason for WoTC to continue to pursue legal action. The dropping of the suite, and lack of any competing claims, means that WoTC has unquestioned ownership of the marks, and thus legal action is unnecessary.

Consider for a moment, no one goes to court to prove they own a company after buying that company from its prior owners. That is because there are no challenges to that ownership, and therefore no question. Courts exist solely to answer legal questions. If no one is challenging your ownership of an IP or Mark, then there is no question for a Court to answer. Therefore, there would be no legal case.
This is the distinction between dismissed with and without prejudice. If they just drop the suit, all that means is they can raise the question again at some time in the future - it would be dismissed without prejudice. In fact that's what happened with the first filing. The situation remains uncertain in that instance.

I suspect the advice of in-house council may be to seek declaratory judgement on the matter if the suit is dropped by NuTSR. Or do something else to force NuTSR's hand to settle the matter in writing.

And I've seen one other company do that before (not in the RPG field).
 


S'mon

Legend
Exactly.

WotC might go after nuTSR precisely to put this issue to bed, permanently.

It could happen - I get the impression that WoTC/Hasbro lawyers are not overly aggressive though, and (unlike old TSR) WoTC are aware of the costs of bad publicity and the social value of looking to be clearly the good guys. So I think they'd be reluctant to appear to be harrassing someone blameless & popular like Darlene. Of course they will always do what is necessary to defend their actual registered TMs.

Edit: Also, NuTSR's whole strategy seems to be centred on provoking WoTC into going after them so they can play the victim. I can imagine WoTC not wanting to help them with their goal.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Yes, I think they COULD ask her to the court. I don't think they WILL ask her, though. There's a difference. I don't think they NEED to call her to court either, if we get down to it.

But that's a personal opinion I have.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
It could happen - I get the impression that WoTC/Hasbro lawyers are not overly aggressive though, and (unlike old TSR) WoTC are aware of the costs of bad publicity and the social value of looking to be clearly the good guys. So I think they'd be reluctant to appear to be harrassing someone blameless & popular like Darlene. Of course they will always do what is necessary to defend their actual registered TMs.

Edit: Also, NuTSR's whole strategy seems to be centred on provoking WoTC into going after them so they can play the victim. I can imagine WoTC not wanting to help them with their goal.
While nuTSR might need her testimony, I don’t think WotC actually does. IOW, trying to get this mess dismissed with prejudice might not involve her at all.

Now, the optics thing is a different issue. But I addressed it upthread when I posited that, while WotC might not want to play the heavy, Hasbro might not have any such qualms.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
.

I suspect the advice of in-house council may be to seek declaratory judgement on the matter if the suit is dropped by NuTSR. Or do something else to force NuTSR's hand to settle the matter in writing.

And I've seen one other company do that before (not in the RPG field).


If WoTC sues after a dismissal without prejudice, it wouldn’t be a declaratory action. It would be for infringement, with a request for injunction (if it isn’t registered) and actual damages, or for statutory damages and attorney’s fees if it is registered.

That said, there is unlikely to be a suit if it is unregistered because they can just register it and then file. See Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. Wall-Street.com, LLC, 139 S. Ct. 881 (2019) (resolving circuit split and affirming rights holder may bring suit for past violations upon registration). There would be a time lag due to the always fun backlog at the US Copyright Office.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
As an addendum, a very brief check on the copyright database shows that the Real TSR was, contrary to some popular belief, quite good at registering the copyrights for all of their products. Even when they did a small update (such as a change in the DM's screen) they registered a new copyright.

So, assuming that the assignments were done correctly when TSR was sold, and given the amount of "borrowing" done by nuTSR, this seems ever more quixotic that before. (For what it's worth, it should be remembered that Evil Hat had a similar idea with Star Frontiers, but in a friendly way, when they saw the trademark registration lapsed and WoTC didn't have it in print. Of course, WoTC put it back in print- and WoTC also has the registered copyright on all the original Star Frontiers material.)
 

Jer

Hero
As an addendum, a very brief check on the copyright database shows that the Real TSR was, contrary to some popular belief, quite good at registering the copyrights for all of their products. Even when they did a small update (such as a change in the DM's screen) they registered a new copyright.
This doesn't surprise me at all. TSR was historically very aggressive with their intellectual property - they would have wanted to have their own rear-ends covered in any lawsuit over infringement, which would include making sure they registered all of their copyrights.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
This doesn't surprise me at all. TSR was historically very aggressive with their intellectual property - they would have wanted to have their own rear-ends covered in any lawsuit over infringement, which would include making sure they registered all of their copyrights.

Yeah, the more I think about this, the stupider it gets. It's not quite "gold fringe on the flag, so the court has no jurisdiction" stupid, or "I have a copyright in my own name so you can't use it" stupid, but it's not that far off, either.
 



Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
They stirred the pot. The will avoid investing their time until once again we start ignoring them. Then they will start another fire/controversy and be back in the spotlight again.

See, if they were normal people at a normal company, I would say that since they are involved in litigation, they are best to keep their traps shut. Because anything they say can be brought up later and used against them, and if it's recorded (as everything tends to be on the internet), then it certainly will be. To quote any competent attorney, "Shut up. For the love of all that is holy, please just shut up."

But since they aren't normal, I suspect you are correct.
 


David Flor

Darklight Interactive
They have gone completely silent on their discord. Mike the COO, aka possible future scapegoat, has been eerily absent. Maybe he’s on vacation.
I'm pretty much the only person asking a legitimate gamer question (about Star Frontiers), but it has been nearly a month since I asked the question and have gotten no response.

I have asked the question in multiple channels... My posts have been deleted sometimes, though.
 

antiwesley

Unpaid Scientific Adviser (Ret.)
For many years, the copyright to the name "Star Frontiers" was abandoned/non-renewed by WoTC. Note that it's just the name, nothing else.
What Justin LaNutso seems to think that owning a 'name' makes you entitled to the IP in it's full usage.

I live near Lake Geneva, and I count many OS TSR employees as friends. This whole she-bang is making me very very sad because I very smart person has been taken in by a con-man-esque type individual, who seems to have his kids write his personal replies to individuals as well as their only content.

That said, because I know the difference I can address one other thing:

GP Adventures/"The Marmorial Tomb" people are a very very separate entity. I know both individuals involved there, and there is no doubt that they are separate. I'm trying to stay personally out of it, but I really want to go to LG and smack a certain person's head and ask what's gotten into him.

For those who are musically inclined, J. LaNutso reminds me of the American in the second act of "Chess." As it says, there's no point preaching to the perverted.
 

For many years, the copyright to the name "Star Frontiers" was abandoned/non-renewed by WoTC. Note that it's just the name, nothing else.
What Justin LaNutso seems to think that owning a 'name' makes you entitled to the IP in it's full usage.
My understanding was that it was just “TSR” had lapsed as a trademark, which lead to the couple of iterations of the company we’ve had recently. I don’t think Star Frontiers as a trademark was up for grabs, but I may be wrong on that. The copyright though, was always WotC’s since they bought old TSR.

But you’re right, they certainly feel just having the TSR name entitles them to all sorts of things which are not theirs. Including the good will of grognards like me.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
Darlene is in the ranks of the greatest D&D artists who shaped the image of D&D as something fantastical but also historical, right up there with Elmore and Parkinson. Her Greyhawk maps are legendary, and really should serve as the cornerstone for all world maps. Sadly, they haven't. Suffice to say, NuTSR is officially on my bad side.
 

adamantyr

Explorer
Questionable Authority on Twitch.TV noted that WotC has nobody but themselves to blame, as they should have renewed the trademarks and not let them lapse. Or at the least gone after Jayson Elliot.

I wonder if they possibly didn't as he made his own logo and the letters "TSR" may have proven difficult to trademark. Plus Jayson wasn't running around claiming he was "the TSR of old" and that "Everything with a TSR logo belongs to me now."
 

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