DTRPG Says 'Don't criticize us or we'll ban you'

Waller

Hero
DriveThruRPG updated its 'publisher conduct guidelines' this week. While they are free to do business with who they want, as a near-monopoly --- well...

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Release Schedule: We expect that if you create a title that you wish to sell at our store, you will release that title on our store within 24 hours of releasing it elsewhere.

That's not a condition I've ever seen a store insist on, and it's one that only a monopoly could impose.

Links: We ask that you put a link to our store on your website. In turn, we offer consumers a link to your website from each of your titles’ product description pages.

The DTRPG link is pretty obscure. I've never seen it, and had to hunt for it while writing this. Yeah, it's there. No, I'm sure it doesn't drive any traffic to anywhere. I guess publishers can bury a link in the cellar too.

Hostile Marketing: Our policy regarding potentially offensive content (see Product Standards Guidelines) reported by customers is to deactivate such titles while they are being reviewed. Publishers who deliberately court controversy by making public declarations or accusations of censorship resulting from this process in order to draw attention to their products will be considered to use hostile marketing.

Publishers who direct or support public accusations of impropriety or censorship toward OneBookShelf when their controversial titles are rejected or removed from our marketplace will also be considered to use hostile marketing.

This behavior will not be tolerated. We have adopted a strict one-warning policy for those who engage in hostile marketing: The first incident will prompt a warning, and after a second incident, their accounts will be removed from our site permanently and immediately.

This is the 'don't criticize us' clause. 'Hostile Marketing' is a term they made up. Not only can you not suggest any impropriety on the part of DTRPG, you can't support it either (what does that mean?)

Look, sure, they can do busniess with who they want, and I'm personally happy when the racists and stuff get booted. But when you're a near-monopoly threatening anybody who dares even talk about that with near industry-wide expulsion it's really problematic.

Boot the racists. Good! But if you're a near-monoply and banning people from even talking about that? That's a different thing. Let's not do that, please.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
...I think you should re-read the Hostile Marketing section again.
I think the "don't criticize us" comment should be directed at the following piece of the new policy. Because that's certainly what it is.

Social Media Behavior: We know we are not perfect. When we make mistakes, we hope that our publisher clients will bring it to our attention first. Publishers who make derogatory or defamatory statements on social media about OneBookShelf or our staff may be subject to modification or termination of their publisher account.
 






Crusadius

Adventurer
So much for free speech, eh?
Huh? You're not prevented from defaming them, you've just had the consequences spelled out. Reading it what it says is that you should come to them first to discuss the problems, not social media.

And if you are saying derogatory/defamatory things about DTRPG then it should not be surprising that they no longer want you as a customer. Try going into any retailer and start shouting about how their service/products is the worst - I'm sure you'll be asked to leave pretty quick.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
So much for free speech, eh?
Free speech is about the government not restricting your political speech, which has no relevance to this discussion. Your freedom to speak is not violated here. You can still gin up a Twitter mob against DriveThru if they ban your white supremacist game for violating their content rules and nobody is going to arrest you or even fine you - you just can't expect DriveThru to keep supporting you financially by selling your other games if you choose to do so. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences from that speech except to prevent the government from imposing consequences on you over it.

And if you are saying derogatory/defamatory things about DTRPG then it should not be surprising that they no longer want you as a customer. Try going into any retailer and start shouting about how their service/products is the worst - I'm sure you'll be asked to leave pretty quick.
The analogy is close but not quite right because these are publisher conduct guidelines, not customer guidelines. As a customer you can badmouth DTRPG all you want online and they'll continue to take your money happily. As a publisher if you choose to gin up a social media outrage against the company instead of working through their channels when they delist one of your products, they are saying they might decide to delist all of your other products and cease to have a business relationship with you. This is more like a publisher posting on their feed "Bob's Comics and Games sucks" and getting people mad about it and then Bob deciding that he doesn't need to carry that publisher's books anymore.

You're still free to move your sales to another storefront - I'm not sure but I don't believe that itch.io delists anything ever unless it's copyright infringement. You're also free to complain about DriveThru's policies as much as you want so long as you understand that they might choose to cease doing business with you because of it. Though if they're delisting your product for content reasons - which is what this policy seems to be about, people complaining about their products being delisted due to content guideline violations - you might want to be exploring other options for selling your products anyway because DriveThru has indicated that as a retailer they don't want to carry them.

Is this a problem? Yes it certainly is but it isn't a "free speech" problem, it's a corporate power problem in general. Balancing the right of businesses to sell what they want to sell and not sell what they don't want to sell against potential monopoly power in a space is a difficult needle to thread. I'm normally right in the face against corporate power but this one is such a minor example of it that I just can't get outraged over it. DriveThru isn't even close to being a monopoly yet for one thing. If you're acting in good faith as a publisher you're either not going to trigger this clause because your product has been delisted by mistake or due to some malicious actor outside of DriveThru and you're working through channels to get it fixed (and there's nothing in this policy that says you can't post something like "our product has been delisted due to some customer complaint about content and we're working to get it back into the store", it specifically says "derogatory or defamatory" for a reason). Or DriveThru has indicated that they don't want to sell your product and you should probably take your books to a store that wants to sell it.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Free speech is about the government not restricting your political speech, which has no relevance to this discussion.
Actually, that's a conflation of the legal definition with the broader principle that someone should not be retaliated against or otherwise attacked for expressing their opinion. That includes (threats of) economic harm or other attempts to financially punish them for saying something that other people don't approve of, and so is relevant to this discussion.
Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences from that speech except to prevent the government from imposing consequences on you over it.
"Freedom from speech does not mean freedom from consequences" is simply "blame the victim" dressed up in a more acceptable presentation. It holds that if you attack someone, they deserved it because they provoked you. It's historically been used as justification for oppression, ranging from "if they they didn't want us to raid their homes, they shouldn't have given aid to rebels" to "of course she wanted it, look at what she was wearing," and it's no less odious even when the stakes involved are far less serious.
Is this a problem? Yes it certainly is but it isn't a "free speech" problem, it's a corporate power problem in general. Balancing the right of businesses to sell what they want to sell and not sell what they don't want to sell against potential monopoly power in a space is a difficult needle to thread. I'm normally right in the face against corporate power but this one is such a minor example of it that I just can't get outraged over it. DriveThru isn't even close to being a monopoly yet for one thing.
That's highly arguable. While there's no way to measure it that I'm aware of, I'd say that while pay-for-download role-playing game supplements might be an extremely niche market, there's certainly an argument to be made that OneBookShelf has monopoly power within it, even if they don't have an out-and-out monopoly.
 




Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
We have our old friend Venger Satanis to blame for this.

Note, the complete lack of surprised pikachu face from anybody by this fact.
Yep. We have people like Venger to thank for tightening the rules for everyone else. Just like we're seeing Hasbro/WotC being forced to defend their IP vigorously because of what LaNasa is doing (when they allowed more freedom when Jayson was in charge of TSR). These jackholes ruin it for everyone.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
"Freedom from speech does not mean freedom from consequences" is simply "blame the victim" dressed up in a more acceptable presentation. It holds that if you attack someone, they deserved it because they provoked you. It's historically been used as justification for oppression, ranging from "if they they didn't want us to raid their homes, they shouldn't have given aid to rebels" to "of course she wanted it, look at what she was wearing," and it's no less odious even when the stakes involved are far less serious.

I'm sorry but if you go around spouting Nazi propaganda and nobody wants to be around you because of it that isn't "blaming the victim" that's "blaming the Nazi for being a Nazi". Do you really think that if I have an acquaintance who decides to go full-on Nazi I'm obligated to treat them nicely? I certainly don't. Their consequence for spouting Nazi dogma near me is going to at a minimum me saying "get out and don't talk to me again" if not a punch in the face. I also don't purchase products written by Nazis nor would I sell products written by Nazis in my store. I don't call that blaming the victim at all - it's a consequence of being a Nazi.

But to get to your examples - "if they they didn't want us to raid their homes, they shouldn't have given aid to rebels" is a violation of free speech and free association if it's done by the government. If it's not done by the government then it's criminal activity. That isn't anywhere near the same as kicking Nazi material off of DriveThru and then banning them if they gin up a Twitter mob against the customer service folks. And equating rape apologist victim blaming nonsense to kicking someone off of DriveThru for ginning up a Twitter mob is so offensive and disgusting to me I'm pretty close to exercising my own right of association and putting you on my blocked list.
 



Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'm sorry but if you go around spouting Nazi propaganda and nobody wants to be around you because of it that isn't "blaming the victim" that's "blaming the Nazi for being a Nazi". Do you really think that if I have an acquaintance who decides to go full-on Nazi I'm obligated to treat them nicely?
It's not a question of "treating them nicely," but rather a question of whether or not it's okay to inflict tangible economic harm on someone because they've expressed an opinion that you find odious, particularly when the entity inflicting said harm has much more economic heft than the person they're punishing.

As much as it might offend conservative and libertarian ideologies, businesses whose degree of influence over the market(s) they cater to – at least once they hit a certain outsized threshold (which can, admittedly, be very hard to delineate) – do (in my opinion) have an obligation to serve the public interest, at least in some regard, rather than only themselves and their stakeholders, which means not being able to cut off access for individuals whom they personally disapprove of.
But to get to your examples - "if they they didn't want us to raid their homes, they shouldn't have given aid to rebels" is a violation of free speech and free association if it's done by the government. If it's not done by the government then it's criminal activity. That isn't anywhere near the same as kicking Nazi material off of DriveThru and then banning them if they gin up a Twitter mob against the customer service folks. And equating rape apologist victim blaming nonsense to kicking someone off of DriveThru for ginning up a Twitter mob is so offensive and disgusting to me I'm pretty close to exercising my own right of association and putting you on my blocked list.
As I noted before, the scale might be different, but the underlying reasoning is the same. "They provoked us" is not an excuse for causing harm, at least when the provocation is "said stuff we don't like" (outside of very specific exceptions such as explicit threats of physical violence, gross violations of personal privacy such as doxxing, etc.). That's true regardless of the level of provocation/retaliation involved, or whether or not you find the original statement(s) provocative yourself.
 


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