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


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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, I noted before that this isn't related to the First Amendment, which is concerned with the legal principle of the government not restricting freedom of expression, which is neither here nor there where DTRPG is concerned.

Likewise, the contractual nature of the relationship between DTRPG and publishers needs to be viewed, I believe, in the broader perspective of the fact that, in a very real way, OneBookShelf controls access to most of the potential market. While they might have the legal right to therefore exercise that through a clause which demands that anyone who wants to publish on them therefore cannot speak ill of them (i.e. make derogatory comments), I'm of the opinion that doing so doesn't serve the greater public interest...and that they're large enough within their market to where this should be something that they have to take into account, at least within the context of not screening out publishers based on their personal opinions.
That's a completely different argument than the one you made about speech should not have consequences. OBS isn't close to a monopoly. They are by no means the only way to sell or deliver content on the internet. That's not the service they sell. The service they sell is advertising -- people come to OBS because it's easy and there are a lot of products there. That's not a monopoly on the market, it's just having the loudest voice that people want to speak for them. If I get dumped by OBS, I can still market and sell my files online, I just lose access to OBS using their voice (their freedom of speech) to advertise for me.
As I noted above, I'm of the opinion that when a single entity has outsized control over access to a particular market, they assume a burden whereby they're no longer allowed to simply look out for their own interests. In that case, they might very well find themselves obligated to interact with people whom they personally disagree with, don't like, and even find reprehensible. But that doesn't obviate that burden that their outsized influence has put upon them.

I don't believe that last part, wherein your income is affected, is beside the point. DriveThruRPG's rights aren't being curtailed because they conflict with yours, but because they've accumulated sufficient power within their particular market to where it becomes necessary for them to serve (in certain capacities) the entirety of that market, rather than themselves. At that point, I'm of the opinion that they can't simply cut someone else off for personal reasons, since doing so makes it clear that they're now gatekeeping (most of) that market from those who want to access it.

Now, I know that comes across as hyperbolic, since the downloadable RPG product "market" is puny, and compared to transnational conglomerates and global corporations OneBookShelf is a tiny little company, but the principle stands regardless of the scope it's applied to.
Here's the thing. Your "profits" are not because OBS is the only way to distribute your goods, but rather because you are gaining the advantage of OBS's voice to help sell your product. I mean, it's pretty clear you can set up your own website and do the things yourself (plenty of other people do this), but rather that if you don't have access to OBS' platform, then you will lose money because you do not have that promotion going for you. To get this voice, you pay for it -- a percentage of every sale goes to pay for this service OBS provides for you. You also get to not engage the hassle of figuring out how to do the sale and distribution on your own, so you're buying convenience.

Neither of these things is a monopoly. OBS is not pricing out other options with predatory practices. OBS is not engaged in unfair litigation practices to prevent you from competing the the marketplace. The reality is that OBS is a thin margin operation in a niche market (although growing) and that's just a hard space to compete in to begin with. A competing startup has to whether the thin years OBS already has to compete for a smaller slice than OBS has now. It's not that OBS is a monopoly, or acting like one, it's that they're providing a thin margin service to a niche market and there's really only room for one or two vendors like that in the market to begin with. You see this all the time in other niche markets. Etsy is a great example. The vast majority of products placed on OBS don't move at all.

In this regime, it becomes important for the company to be able to protect itself from attack, especially attacks where they both have to bear the brunt of the attack AND continue to provide the attacker the benefits of their attack. These clauses are reactions to a predatory scheme where a poster intentionally created controversy about OBS in order to drive more sales to his products on OBS. That's it. These are pretty measured responses to that -- they don't say no criticism is allowed (which they could do).

A corollary to your argument would be to say that the local newpaper in a small town that is the sole provider of local information to the town (outside of gossip and talking to friends) cannot enact a policy whereby they will not print advertisements for businesses that are openly racist, or personal ads that have a racist or insulting message. This is the only place you can get these ads, so by your argument they should not be restricting what's said on their platforms. This is obviously incorrect. The argument you're making is one of a slippery slope and one that has a personal moral assignment that doesn't consider other moral assignments or the fundamental rights of the company to choose who they associate with.
EDIT: That said, I want to take a moment to personally thank you for the erudite and respectful reply. I think that posts like yours are an excellent example of the level of discourse that makes EN World a refreshing change from how these conversations usually go on most of the Internet.
I feel like I just saw a unicorn. Amazed, wonderous, but clearly a figment of my imagination? ;)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Someone complains about a product.
DriveThruRPG takes the product down while reviewing.
Rather than talk to the store, the Creator goes to social media, and claims they are being unfairly censored when in fact their product is under the standard review process.

If the Creator doesn't wait for actual judgement from the store, they aren't criticizing. They are lying about what's going on - they have not yet been censored. That's what makes this defamation, rather than criticism.
 



Jer

Legend
Supporter
Can you post the quote?
It was posted earlier in this thread:

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.
That's the longer version of what @shawnhcorey said.

EDIT: I'd argue that it's more like "we expect our publishing partners to behave like professionals, and we'll terminate our business relationship if they don't." But @shawnhcorey 's version is pithier.
 

That's a completely different argument than the one you made about speech should not have consequences. OBS isn't close to a monopoly. They are by no means the only way to sell or deliver content on the internet. That's not the service they sell. The service they sell is advertising -- people come to OBS because it's easy and there are a lot of products there. That's not a monopoly on the market, it's just having the loudest voice that people want to speak for them. If I get dumped by OBS, I can still market and sell my files online, I just lose access to OBS using their voice (their freedom of speech) to advertise for me.

I think there is a good argument to be made they are effecting a defacto monopoly. For most publishers, you have to be on their site to have any relevance. And its where the vast majority of PDF sales (increasingly print sales) for RPGs take place. They are very much close to the RPG amazon (yes there is Ebay, there are other online sales platforms but amazon has such an enormous influence because they are so important it actually can shape what gets made). I think with OBS it is similar.

I don't do print stuff on OBS, but I do rely on my PDF sales there (and I don't even have an exclusive agreement with OBS for that, so I can and have put PDFs up elsewhere: they make pretty much next to zero dollars anywhere else----so I don't even bother anymore). Also OBS acquired several sales sites. Before RPGnow and Drivethru were separate things.

But I think a lot of this is quibbling over terms. The fact is they are extremely important for publishers. Most publishers won't survive coming off OBS. And you do make a good point about advertising, but I think it is more than that: OBS basically creates the perception for most people of what is available in the RPG world. I don't have my print books on OBS for instance. They are available elsewhere, but I hear from so many customers (including recently from someone who was a very longstanding fan) who have no idea we also sell print books (because they assume if a company has PDFs but no print books on OBS, they must not make print books). I think OBS is arguably the landing page for most RPG consumers. A day on their new releases page gets you more awareness than paid advertising. That is a good arrangement in many ways. And they've managed their power responsibly and with restraint in the past. But I do think the new guidelines are a little concerning if you are publisher
 


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