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TSR TSR's War on Fans


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GreenTengu

Explorer
I'd add also that in addition to the fact that you, indeed, can't lose your copyright that way, 'defending' a trademark includes things like 'giving permission' or 'creating a license [like the OGL or d20 System STL]' or an online marketplace [like DMs Guild] or numerous other positive things you can choose to do rather than a C&D. 'Defending' is a word with baggage; I prefer 'protecting'. You don't want people to infringe on your IP, but there are many ways you can allow them to use your IP. Which means that claiming one has to declare war on their fans because the law is forcing them to is disingenuous at best. You never have to do that; you choose to.

That's all fine and good, but when you are dealing with "fans are posting online every number and every table and most of the passages of text of the books we print online for free and likely making them more accessible, interactive and easier to navigate than they are in our actual book" how exactly do you create a "license" around that?

Either you send them to stop and take it down until you have drafted such a thing and then figure out what fee to charge them for the right to make such things or... you make such a license and then go after them demanding whatever fee you decided on... or you just kind of accept that you are no longer going to be selling any books and thus no longer making any revenue and fold up shop.

It's not like their business ran off of selling people models and paints and scenery so if they spread the rules around for free, it would only affect a very small portion of your line and might boost sales for the rest. The books with all the tables and numbers were the primary product TSR was selling.

Looking at it from the point of view of the company-- what else could they have realistically done?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
That's all fine and good, but when you are dealing with "fans are posting online every number and every table and most of the passages of text of the books we print online for free and likely making them more accessible, interactive and easier to navigate than they are in our actual book" how exactly do you create a "license" around that?

Either you send them to stop and take it down until you have drafted such a thing and then figure out what fee to charge them for the right to make such things or... you make such a license and then go after them demanding whatever fee you decided on... or you just kind of accept that you are no longer going to be selling any books and thus no longer making any revenue and fold up shop.

It's not like their business ran off of selling people models and paints and scenery so if they spread the rules around for free, it would only affect a very small portion of your line and might boost sales for the rest. The books with all the tables and numbers were the primary product TSR was selling.

Looking at it from the point of view of the company-- what else could they have realistically done?
Exactly what WotC did. The d20 STL and SRD. Worked perfectly. Those fans became publishers and began driving sales of the core rulebooks via a tier of supplements WotC wasn’t interested in publishing. Then they created DMs Guild and made it even easier.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
OGL was kind of diasater there for WiTC. d20 glut the Pathfinder.

It's also not something that you could really do 25 years ago.
 




Zardnaar

Legend
Do I believe Ryan Dancey or Zardnaar? Hmmm....

Good for you you're 3pp.

Dances heavy on how great he is.

As I said Pathfinder and the d20 glut/crash are things you can't really deny it's not objective they happened.

Is that a good thing or bad thing for WotC at the time?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Well I guess the ad hominem mashed up with a solid No True Scotsman convinced me that everything I know is wrong.

My arguements more the OGL can be a double edged sword.

WotC I would argue made some mistakes but the genie was already out of the bottle.

If WotC was you company would you be happy about the d20 crash or Pathfinder. Probably not.

Obviously you're in a different position but roleplay being a D&D executive in that time frame and the same thing happened.

Not I would have done something different.

Took a few years of trial and error. OGL for me is more positive than negative.

I've got 30 odd D&D books, 3pp from Kobold Press, Dozens of adventures and almost 309 EN5ider articles.

I've stopped buying 3pp because I can't consume what I've got fast enough.

OGL accelerates that process of I've got enough stuff. It's good I suppose because I buy 3pp bad because I'm not going to buy it for long.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I can't make head nor tails of that.

Anyway, the OGL and the d20 STL served WotC very well and created a network of supporting publishers which produced all the material that WotC didn't want to produce, driving sales of the core rulebooks. I've interviewed WotC staffers at length about this stuff; it's uncontroversial. It worked.

The d20 glut hurt the d20 publishers. There were too many of them. It didn't hurt WotC one iota, any more than DMs Guild is hurting them now.

The fact that they blew it with the 4E GSL and created a rival (a talent of theirs) in Pathfinder is by-the-by. If they'd stuck with the OGL for 4E, and not pulled the D&D magazines from Paizo, that wouldn't have happened. Paizo would be driving sales of D&D core rulebooks to this day.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I can't make head nor tails of that.

Anyway, the OGL and the d20 STL served WotC very well and created a network of supporting publishers which produced all the material that WotC didn't want to produce, driving sales of the core rulebooks. I've interviewed WotC staffers at length about this stuff; it's uncontroversial. It worked.

The d20 glut hurt the d20 publishers. There were too many of them. It didn't hurt WotC one iota, any more than DMs Guild is hurting them now.

The fact that they blew it with the 4E GSL and created a rival (a talent of theirs) in Pathfinder is by-the-by. If they'd stuck with the OGL for 4E, and not pulled the D&D magazines from Paizo, that wouldn't have happened. Paizo would be driving sales of D&D core rulebooks to this day.

Prettyuch how I see it. It's just a tool, use it right good things happen. Use it wrong you hurt yourself.
 


Zardnaar

Legend


Dems straight forward. OGL has blown up in WotC face one or twice before.

Main point is there's been a lot of trial and error to get to this point, it's not like TSR in 1994 had the data, experience etc to institute the OGL and make it work in 1994.

There's a tendency to laugh at them but there's been a lot of trial and error along the way.
 

ChaosOS

Hero
Supporter
As a fair point to TSR with digital copies, e-commerce technology wasn't remotely secure enough until the 2000s at least.

For the Paizo thing, I'm not familiar with what led WotC to try and pull the rug out from under them in that 2006-2008 time frame.

I'm also of the understanding that the Book of Erotic Fiction contributed to the choice to neuter 3PP for 4e.
 



Zardnaar

Legend
Or to curse at them for being jerks who used their position as a market dominant company with a legal department to misapply the law and bully and harass their own fans.

Some of it was erm bad.

One of the first things I remember looking up online was D&D. There was an AD&D book of sex iirc circa 95/96.

Cover had the AD&D font, topless women on it and inside it had things like successful chance of crossbreeding the various races. Had rape implications as well with your own harem of sex slaves.

Made the Book of Erotic fantasy look nuanced and a literary masterpiece by comparison.

Anyone else remember that?

So yeah some fan stuff was utter trash. Other fan stuff hid enter sections of books copy pasted on the links.
 

MGibster

Legend
I forget the award show, but seeing the head guy of Napster (pre-iPod music-sharing site) come out wearing a Metallica shirt was awesome.

It's been twenty years! Fanning wore the Metallica t-shirt at the MTV Video Music Awards back in 2000. Man, oh man! How things have changed since then!
 

jeffh

Explorer
That's all fine and good, but when you are dealing with "fans are posting online every number and every table and most of the passages of text of the books we print online for free and likely making them more accessible, interactive and easier to navigate than they are in our actual book" how exactly do you create a "license" around that?
So deal harshly with that, if you feel it's necessary. It doesn't follow that you have to deal equally harshly with the other 95% of the fan works that are/were out there. The stuff you're describing certainly existed (indeed, there's more of it, and more easily accessible, now than there was then), but it was only a small fraction of what got C&D letters.
 

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