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Regarding the Mass Effect ENnies Nomination

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.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments


Phaide

First Post
Wow, that's unfortunate. A lot of work went in to that. I hope the creators at least feel good about the fact that it was nominated.
 



lyle.spade

Explorer
Agreed: good call. Not all situations can be anticipated, and have systems developed in advance to deal with them, and so often the best one can do is muddle through, thoughtfully, with an eye toward dealing with it in a manner that sets up a means by which to preclude the same from happening in the future. I think you've done that here, and I think your reaction is entirely appropriate. Tacitly endorsing IP misappropriation, even if the original act was unintentional, is a bad policy for a public-facing entity like ENWorld, and would be a drag on the credibility of the awards.
 

Perram

Explorer
Compare this game to Ponyfinder, another obvious fandom product that has jumped through many hoops to be able to produce a product that both fills a fan need while respecting IP.
 

Dakion

First Post
I've seen other Mass Effect hacks (d6, Star Wars Saga Edition, Savage Worlds) as well. I think it all just draws a line under what a missed opportunity EA/Bioware had in NOT licensing a Mass Effect pen and paper game. There is a market for it, a precedence with Green Ronin's Dragon Age RPG, and a viability as a playable setting.
I appreciate the work put into the submitted project, but it was a bit of hubris to submit it to the ENnies, especially as it profits (if not monetarily, in interest) from others work without compensation.
 


Abulia

First Post
Greetings, I'm Don Mappin, creator of the work in question. First, I'd like to state that I agree and support Morrus' decision and that of ENWorld to disqualify the entry. I believe that some very valid points have been made vis-a-vie an unlicensed works inclusion into the ENnies and potential ramifications.

I cannot speak to publisher concerns as none have contacted me, nor has EA/Bioware to date. However, as of last night, after exchanging emails with Morrus and staff, I had reconsidered my position and was prepared to withdraw my nominations, voluntarily. This decision, however, is better, as it allows ENWorld to make clear their position and address the aforementioned concerns forthwith.

The work--licensing not withstanding--was submitted by myself merely as an exercise to have it judged on its merits versus my peers. On that point I believe it did very well, having been selected by the judges as a finalist for Product of the Year (among others). I would like to voice my thanks the judges for doing so and that the quality was in keeping with other entrants.

One statement made by Morrus rang true with me, which was that there was an expectation of good faith on the part of entrants. While I took no steps to hide or misrepresent the work, I believe that I failed the litmus test of good faith in my entry. To the staff of ENworld and the ENnies, my apologies. It was not my intent to cause discord.

I have worked within the RPG industry for many years, professionally. It is a calling that you come to love and one that I have tried to vigorously support, to the extent of sharing a private work that I created for the enjoyment of others. That it might have (or may) cause some damage is saddening to me. As such, of my own decision, I have removed the work and associated files as of today.

The site went live in July of 2014 and the last revision the work, I believe, was in October of last year. I had always planned to close the site down once it had run its course and this seems like an excellent stopping point.

In closing, my apologies to ENWorld and the ENnies for the unintentional ruffle this affair caused, as well to others who believe I acted with malice intent. To those who appreciated the work and found it enjoyable, my thanks; your feedback is one of the reasons I love to create and work in the industry as a freelancer.

I'll eagerly have credits in hand for the official Mass Effect RPG, someday. Who knows, maybe I will even have the chance to lend a helping hand.

Respectfully,
Don Mappin
 
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Gradine

Final Form
Absolutely the right decision and handled with grace by all concerned parties. I'm sad to see the work disappear entirely from the public access however. The homebrew community is certainly worse off without your own personal work and contributions, Don. People certainly have the right to play Fate Core in a Mass Effect setting, and if you've got great ideas to share about how to do that then you should certainly feel entitled to share them. This is what homebrew is all about.

If I've rankled any feathers personally in my own discussions on the topic I apologize. As I have spent large chunks of my life unable to actually play tabletop games, I have found the only way to continue to engage in the hobby I love has been through the online homebrew community, so I have a significant amount of passion for the subject. Online homebrew should not just be allowed to exist but celebrated. It makes the industry stronger, not weaker, in my opinion. Should it be judged along side official products in industry awards? No, probably not. But I would hate to see it disappear forever.

Thanks again to both you and Morrus for your candor, and for your contributions.
 
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Greetings, I'm Don Mappin, creator of the work in question. First, I'd like to state that I agree and support Morrus' decision and that of ENWorld to disqualify the entry. I believe that some very valid points have been made vis-a-vie an unlicensed works inclusion into the ENnies and potential ramifications...
Thank you, Don, for handling this with the appropriate wisdom and aplomb. Volumes spoken by you here, in a good way.
 


lyle.spade

Explorer
I have no idea what Mass Effect is (I don't play video games), but I'm more likely to buy something someday with "Don Mappin" as writer or creator because of how gracefully and professionally he handled this.

And Don, I already have your LUGTrek Player's Guide, so since you're a ST author you were already, unbeknowst to me, a good chap.

Hint, hint, Don: go write something I can purchase...
 



Denys

Explorer
I hope that Don rebuilds and reposts the files, this time only including his work. I can't imagine Bioware would have a problem with that.

I still don't understand the Lulu storefront where the printed version of the pdf was for sale. It said 'no profit' or something similar but it felt really, really shady for someone to be selling a product full of artwork that was used without permission and attribution.
 


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