Unauthorized And Unlicensed But Sometimes Acceptable RPGs?

One thing that gamers love is having the favorite media properties made into role-playing games. They talk about how well the official games do at adapting the source material. They make lists of the properties that should have their own games. They also do unauthorized, unlicensed adaptations. If you go back to the little black books of Traveller, you can find write-ups for Luke Skywalker, Kimbal Kinnison and other well-known science fiction characters. Arduin had light sabers and knock offs of Jedi Knights. The original Deities & Demigods had Elric and the Cthulhu Mythos in it. Gaming blogs are sources of “converted” material. All of these were unauthorized of course.

I am a little late with my mid-week column this week, but the holidays are to blame for that. So, I thought that I would make up for that lateness with an extra scoop of controversy.

One of my “edicts” for these columns is to talk about games that aren’t related to D&D. I think that there are a lot of “non-commercial,” amateur productions that warrant a look at, and from time to time I will talk about them. I don’t think that only the full-color, slickly produced role-playing games are the only ones that we should look at. There is a lot of good stuff that is being done by one or two people who are driven by their passion, use methods like Print On Demand to produce their games, and “market” them using blogs spread around the internet.

Sometimes, these games will be unauthorized adaptations of other’s materials.

This past summer there was a controversy over an unlicensed, unauthorized adaptation of the Mass Effect franchise being nominated for major RPG awards. And, it shouldn’t have been nominated either. It used art and materials that the designer didn’t pay for, and that he did not have the rights to use. There’s a “REUP” of the classic D6-powered Star Wars game floating around the internet in print-ready PDF files. It expands upon the original game with material from supplements and from sources that came out after West End Games lost their license to produce Star Wars games. There’s even a smaller game that uses an original system and is for Star Trek gaming.

I can’t fault the enthusiasm for fans of properties to do these things. Most, if not all, of us have done these things in our own games just like this. In this amazing age of Print On Demand, it is easy enough to make a something that looks pretty at your table, and makes you feel like you’re a professional designer. There are even work arounds to get your games into the hands of others, either through PDFs or “behind the scenes” printings.

However, no matter how much fun they might be for us, these games do still exist in a murky, grey area legally. It is important to know that just because something is being “published” at no cost to someone, that doesn’t meant that copyrights (or trademarks) aren’t being infringed and it also doesn’t mean that a person can’t be sued for damages. Never, ever take (or give) legal advice over the internet, so I am not going to do that.

What I am going to do is talk about a couple of unauthorized role-playing games. With the new movie in the theaters, Star Wars is on the lips and minds of everyone right now, however that Star Wars movie also had a trailer for the next Star Trek movie as well.


Let’s talk about Far Trek by C.R. Brandon first. This actually isn’t a bad game. Based on the Microlite hack Where No Man Has Gone Before, Far Trek is a simple science fiction game that gets a lot right. I think that if Brandon put out a “generic” version of this game that paid homage to his inspirations, but stripped out the Star Trek IP, you would have a really robust science fiction game that is as simple to play as Classic Traveller.

The game uses a simplified class-based system, and a resolution mechanic of 3d6 versus a target number. The “classes” of Far Trek are based around the “shirts” from The Original Series: gold, blue and red, with each class having skills that only they access and specialized talents. There are four attributes, and combining them with the skills and talents is how you describe your character. There are also “advanced” classes in the appendixes that expand the options available for your characters (you are even presented with the ability to make Klingon and Romulan characters). The options are kept to a minimum, so it shouldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes to make a character. The “advanced” classes also include merchant/traders and special citizens (scholars and other specialist types).

It is the extra classes that really open up the game. With the full complement of classes, you could easily run a Traveller-esque sort of game. After our group’s last encounter with Classic Traveller, I seem to spend a lot of time looking for a game that would work better in that milieu for our group. Far Trek might be an option.

One thing that some might not like about the game is that characters (except for the expendable no-name characters) don’t die. Instead they are knocked out for a period of time. This is a pretty good emulation of the classic Star Trek series, and one of the game’s only unconventional pieces. If this isn’t for you, adding a hit point mechanic shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you might want to check out Far Trek. The PDF is always available for free at the site that I linked above. Periodically, the author will make an “at cost” (meaning that he makes no money off of the books and the only cost is covering printing) print version available through Lulu.com. If nothing else, it is a really good free game, and I recommend checking it out.


Now, there is also The Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised, Expanded, and Updated game. Probably because of legal reasons, this isn’t hosted at a central location like Far Trek. Those who want to find it shouldn’t have a problem finding it.

Most of the things that I don’t like about this game are legal issues. The first issue is the art. There is a lot of art recycled from a number of sources, both gaming related and from other Star Wars sources. The game also recycles a lot of content that is not only not owned by the people who put this game together, but the people who created it didn’t receive any compensation either. Would a new game company, if they legally were licensing and republishing this material, pay people who had previously worked on a game for their work? It would probably depend on the nature of their contract with the actual rights holder, but in the nature of good will they might make some form of payment to the previous creators. This is, of course, more of a moral issue than a legal one, but I think that it is central to whether or not gamers support these unauthorized productions.

As to the game itself, since it is a reproduction of the Revised Second Edition of the Star Wars RPG produced by West End Games, a lot of anyone’s idea of whether or not this game is good will depend on how much they like the D6 System that West End Games produced. I’m a fan of the D6 System, so that isn’t an issue for me. REUP also incorporates material from some of the supplements to that original game, and has original fan-based material from the prequel Star Wars movies. It is also big. Over 500 pages big.

Now, for me, it isn’t going to replace my copy of the Revised second edition of the Star Wars RPG, or the Metabarons RPG made during that short period when West End Games was owned by Les Humanoids. I have enough material between those games to keep me in D6 space fantasy gaming for a long, long time.

For a fan-based job, with appropriated art, the REUP edition doesn’t do a terrible job of presenting the material. Much like with Far Trek above, you have to ask yourself…would this game be better if it was more “generic,” or used an original IP, rather than the unauthorized use of the Star Wars IP? Like my answer with Far Trek, I think that I would have to say that the answer would be yes. I get the idea that this was produced by fans of D6 Star Wars gaming, but that also doesn’t excuse the use of the material. With so much of the D6 System available under the Open Gaming License, and a number of third party publishers making legitimate D6 System material, I’m not sure that there is a need for an unauthorized Star Wars game, and I cannot imagine that the existence of it makes the authorized Star Wars gaming licencors happy on a level.

Both of these games to varying degrees cause brand confusion. The Star Wars Roleplaying Game Revised, Expanded, and Updated version goes to a lot of effort to look official. Yes, it says that it is a fan product trying to “keep the memory alive,” but that isn’t really a legal protection.

The basic point is that, regardless of how you look at unauthorized adaptations and their legality, they are here to stay in gaming. While I don’t think that making these things is wrong, the line of acceptability gets blurred when it comes to selling these things, or worse, trying to win awards for them. Is selling an unlicensed RPG at cost a bad thing? Legally, yes, but morally that decision is different for each of us and likely is a much a choice based around quality as it is morality. Obviously, I spent a couple of dollars on Far Trek, so I must have felt that was fine morally.

Regardless of being okay with purchasing it, I still don’t think that an unlicensed game should be given the same considerations as a professionally produced game. The people who make these games may be doing it out of “love,” but they aren’t paying the licensing fees that the professionals are paying, and they often “borrow” art (that they also don’t pay for). Like I said at the beginning, adaptation, authorized and unauthorized, is a cornerstone of tabletop gaming, and sometimes we glance away and pretend that it is okay. Other times we have to say that this isn’t a cool practice. It is complicated, like any legal matter can be.

I do think that we need a dialog in the hobby of RPGs about where and when it is appropriate to cross these legal lines. With PDF production so easily available these days, we see more and more examples of people trying to produce and sell their ill-gotten gains. Many people think that “big corporations” aren’t hurt by these unauthorized productions, and that it helps out because it demonstrates a demand for gaming material based on their properties. The problem is that it can end up making things more difficult, because companies and creators who have seen their material appropriated for unauthorized works may be less interested in working with people in an industry that doesn’t come down harder on unauthorized games. I think that is why there was such a backlash towards the Mass Effect RPG this past summer, the industry felt that giving an unauthorized game the same treatment as legally licensed role-playing games that paid writers and artists, and paid for access to materials wasn’t the right thing to do.
 

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Dahak

Explorer
I don't mind these sorts of games at all, and I certainly check them out for ideas, but I prefer things to be written as generically as possible. I'm a generic systems guy anyway. I'm not going to play Far Trek, when I can play the kind of Star Trek game I want with True20, Cypher System, W.O.I.N. or even Fate Core.

What I do mind is this mentality in geekdom of doing lawyers' work for them. It's not my job, and it's almost certainly not yours to protect anyone's IP but your own.
 

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Paul3

Explorer
7 years for a copyright is beyond ridiculous IMO. This would not enhance the arts, it would stifle the arts. Why bother to create anything new and interesting when you can just swoop in in a few years and steal someone else's ideas? People complain about literature/art/televsiion/movies being too derivative as it is. Can you imagine if anyone could play around with Katniss Everdeen, Darth Vader Harry Potter, or Captain America?

This isn't even getting into what is fair and just for those who create something unique and special Authors/creators have ever right to control what happens to THEIR works of art and to suggest otherwise is truly baffling from my point of view. We would have an even greater corporate approach to art than we do today, as why would any corporation bother to throw a cent at any idea or concept if they could just wait it out and basically steal it legally?
 

Disney has granted something in the region of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of licenses to produce Star Wars related products just this year. For Xmas, I got a book, several toys, and a t-shirt. I know there are mugs and teddy bears and pyjamas and car stickers and masks and costumes and toys and figurines mobile apps and video games and even a licensed RPG. I can't avoid Star Wars, anywhere I go (which is cool; I don't want to). Where did you get the idea that companies don't license their IP?

Sure, that's not really what I'm talking about. Let's say that the Star Wars Expanded and Updated thing was created (by fans, as it was), but never made available. Now lets say the creators took it to Disney. Would they say, "Cool! Let's get some of our people on it and make sure its up to our quality standards and do something with it!" If that does in fact happen, then I was mistaken.
 

I was thinking something similar. My suggestion is that copyright should last 7 years from the date of publication, period.

Well said Sword of Spirit. Your words live up to your handle.

One of the greatest thinkers and social architects of the century voiced something similar way back in 1918:

“...Privileges, patents and monopolies must be abolished in every branch of knowledge. Since, at the present time, we are still very far from understanding what I really mean, there is no need for me to show you in any way how knowledge could be freed from its fetters, and how every human being could thus be induced to participate in evolution. For that will depend upon the development of far reaching impulses in the sphere of education, and in the whole relationship between person and person. Ultimately all monopolies, privileges and patents which are related to the possession of intellectual knowledge will disappear; humanity will have no other choice but to affirm in every way and in all domains the spiritual life that dwells in us and to express it with all the vigor at our command.”

—Rudolf Steiner, “From Symptom to Reality in Modern History”, 1918
http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA185/English/RSP1976/19181103p01.html
 

Christopher Helton, I appreciate your column, and am glad for your featuring these two Star Something RPGs made by aficionados.

Yet I personally would prefer that the whole "obligatory" wringing of hands about the National Law be skipped, and just tell us about the books and their contents.

The shrill voice of the Legalists' obsession with the National Law is so predictable and dreary. I don't need it intruding into my play space...which is what I go to EN World for. Play.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Reminds me of the fan-made Mystara campaign "player's guide" that's floating around at the moment. On one hand, I appreciate the work and passion that went into the project, on the other . . . . . sooooooo much ripped off artwork. After reviewing through it and liking some of the ideas, I deleted it.

Folks, let your fandom freak flag fly when it comes to putting together games and supplements based on your favorite properties . . . but tone it down on trying to make it look "professional" and worse yet, "official". It's a huge turn off for fans who respect artist rights and also opens you up to potential legal action.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Christopher Helton, I appreciate your column, and am glad for your featuring these two Star Something RPGs made by aficionados.

Yet I personally would prefer that the whole "obligatory" wringing of hands about the National Law be skipped, and just tell us about the books and their contents.

The shrill voice of the Legalists' obsession with the National Law is so predictable and dreary. I don't need it intruding into my play space...which is what I go to EN World for. Play.

Are the terms "legalist" and "national law" a British or European thing? Either way, I suppose we get your drift. I couldn't disagree with you more. It isn't about blindly following the "law", it's about respecting artist rights, even when those rights are held by a corporation like Disney. The boundaries between fan-work and infringement is certainly fuzzy and we can probably argue about where those lines should be drawn, but there is a line.

I would love to check out an awesome fan-created Star Trek or Star Wars game, as I love both properties, but the two works in the OP turn me off by going to far in appropriating artwork and intellectual property. I'm glad the reviewer made this the focus of his column and review as I find the conversation interesting and the information important regarding the specific products in question.
 


Dahak

Explorer
He's just satirizing the pretentiousness of the legal/not-legal dance people do in the article and responses. But I agree with him. This kind of armchair lawyering has contributed to making the gaming scene a lot less fun than it once was.
 

keterys

First Post
7 years for a copyright is beyond ridiculous IMO. This would not enhance the arts, it would stifle the arts. Why bother to create anything new and interesting when you can just swoop in in a few years and steal someone else's ideas? People complain about literature/art/televsiion/movies being too derivative as it is. Can you imagine if anyone could play around with Katniss Everdeen, Darth Vader Harry Potter, or Captain America?
Katniss and Harry Potter are relatively recent, and I firmly agree that artists should get more than a few years of protection... but Darth Vader is almost 40 years old and Captain America is almost 75 years.

It's _really_ okay to move on after a few decades. In fact, one could argue that the tragedy is that we aren't. If anyone could use Mickey Mouse and Captain America, it wouldn't harm the original creators at this point. It might harm the company controlling that IP, but that's probably for the better. It would encourage them to acquire new IPs that weren't yet available, and put more resources into newer IP. All in all, sounds like good things to me.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I'm so glad you don't make the laws! :)

For 99.999999999% of artists who aren't JK Rowling, it can take years, sometimes a lifetime to see a profit. 7 years? And then a company can walk in and take it for free and I get nothing? Why does a company publish my manuscript? Why does a studio make a film of it? They just have to wait 7 years and I'm out of the picture.

Meh. Seven is short for my tastes, but JK Rowlings are more common then authors who take a lifetime to see a profit. If you publish something, it's going to make most of its money back in a few years. It's more likely to stay in e-print now, but if it wasn't big when it came out, nobody is going to look at it. The biggest exception I can think of is Roger Corman's The Little Shop of Horrors that he didn't bother copyrighting and thus he got no licensing fees for the modern remakes. Even then, the more common 28-year period would have covered that. (Also, the period usually starts at publication.)

Film studios can and do rip off all sorts of stuff; whenever a big movie comes out, there tends to be ripoffs that are just distant enough to avoid a lawsuit. With what they do to most novels, if they just changed the names, they could probably avoid copyright infringement charges. But the sums they tend to pay authors are usually tiny enough that big studios don't worry about it; they'll license nonfiction works and books just to stick their name on the movie. In the 21st century, paying John Scalzi a few thousand dollars for his book is likely to repay many times in the advertising, certainly when compared to annoyed fanboys. And movie studios aren't going to wait seven years to grab the momentum.

28 years was the original term in US law, and is somewhere more common. I find it a little short, but let's use it. So as of 2011, the original trilogy of Star Wars is completely in the public domain. So what? New editions can still come out, with the changes getting 28 years. Star Wars is still a trademark. The Star Wars IP would be worth a little less, but Disney still has rights to all of the further movies, all the newer novels, and will still probably get all the fanboy attention they did when coming out with a new movie. So the original original trilogy would be available on PD DVDs, merchandise from the original trilogy would be cheaper, there'd be a host of published books set in the universe without authorization, etc. It's not that big of a deal.
 

What I do mind is this mentality in geekdom of doing lawyers' work for them. It's not my job, and it's almost certainly not yours to protect anyone's IP but your own.

Well said. So many of my fellow geeks have signed up to be the corporatist-pleasing version of the East German state-pleasing informer mentality. It's sad.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
He's just satirizing the pretentiousness of the legal/not-legal dance people do in the article and responses. But I agree with him. This kind of armchair lawyering has contributed to making the gaming scene a lot less fun than it once was.

Well said. So many of my fellow geeks have signed up to be the corporatist-pleasing version of the East German state-pleasing informer mentality. It's sad.

Thanks for adding to the conversation guys! Those of us uncomfortable with the unauthorized use of artwork and intellectual property are pretentious, fascist, corporate apologists. Ah, I get it. I like dismissing others opinions with name calling and oversimplifying complex systems as well!

It boils down to (IMO), does an artist have a right to financially profit from their work. For how long? For how much? Can they transfer that right to others, their descendants or a corporation? Is all information (ideas, art) "free", to be used by anyone for any reason with or without the consent of the original creator? While enshrined in a complex web of laws, this is a very philosophical argument with no right answer. And any choice a society makes, is bound to protect the rights of one group of people versus the freedoms of another group.

Should we create a system (laws) that allow artists to have control over their works, allowing them to earn enough money to be full-time artists? That's the basis of copyright and intellectual property protections. If I paint an awesome image of a dragon, then sell that painting to someone else (or put a scanned image up online), is that the end of my "right" to profit from my artwork? If so, I'll likely be less motivated to paint more awesome images, and focus more on my dreary day job so I can feed myself and my family. And that's not necessarily a "bad" scenario, it's just not the path our society has gone down.

For hundreds of years, Western society has decided to protect an artist's right to control and profit from their own creations, to promote the flourishing of the arts in society. More recently, this cultural idea has gone off the rails a bit with the corporate acquisition of IP and perpetual extension of copyright . . . but without that corporate pressure to manage and protect IP, we wouldn't be enjoying Star Wars, Star Trek, and D&D in their current forms.

I find it highly ironic, and a bit sad, that fans can get so wrapped up in a "lifestyle" property like Star Wars or D&D that only exists due to corporate management that they cross the line with their own creations and can't see how that endangers the very property they love.

The creators of the Star Wars and Star Trek games in the OP put all that effort into the projects because they love these properties and feel a very strong connection to them. And I support that aspect 100%. When they go a bit too far and appropriate the IP (including trade dress) of Star Wars (etc), they ignorantly are weakening the very property they love, making it harder for Disney (etc) to justify giving us more Star Wars movies, books, toys, role-playing games and so on. Granted, just one offending role-playing game isn't going to bring the whole system crashing down, but that doesn't justify the theft, IMO. Grains of sand and all.

Worse yet (again IMO), is the theft of artwork. Taking a real cool image of Luke Skywalker you found on the net and using it without permission in your fan-creation is disrespecting the original artist and possibly hurting their ability to continue making profit off their own work (if they retain the right to sell prints, which many artists do).

How much IP and artwork appropriation for fan-creations is "too much" is unclear, and likely different for each individual (even the original artists, some don't care, others care very much). But how much of this a fan-creation engages in is very much a part of my decision on whether I will support it or not. I respect the passion and game design of the fans who created the OP games, but they went too far . . . for me . . . and I won't be supporting their work, and I feel it's very relevant in a game review.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Katniss and Harry Potter are relatively recent, and I firmly agree that artists should get more than a few years of protection... but Darth Vader is almost 40 years old and Captain America is almost 75 years.

It's _really_ okay to move on after a few decades. In fact, one could argue that the tragedy is that we aren't. If anyone could use Mickey Mouse and Captain America, it wouldn't harm the original creators at this point. It might harm the company controlling that IP, but that's probably for the better. It would encourage them to acquire new IPs that weren't yet available, and put more resources into newer IP. All in all, sounds like good things to me.

I'd argue for IP to be protected for at least the life of the artist. I think that JK Rowling should be able to reap the insane Harry Profits until she finally passes from this world, it encourages other to pursue their dreams of being novelists.

Extending IP rights beyond the life of the original artist encourages corporations to give tons of money to the original creators, like Disney has done with Star Wars. Lucas profited quite nicely while he maintained control over Star Wars, and when he tired of managing that control, made a final bucket load of money with the sale to Disney. This also encourages folks to become filmmakers.

But, how long after the original creators death or transfer of rights should IP rights continue to exist? I don't have an answer for that one. It has to be long enough to incentivize those with money (corporations) to reward those with ideas (original artists). However, currently it seems that corporate influence in government is going to just keep extending those rights into a practical infinity, which I don't think is a good thing. At some point, Mickey Mouse, Captain America, and Luke Skywalker DO need to enter the public domain.

It gets trickier with the evolution of "shared universes" like Star Wars, D&D, DC, and Marvel. The mega-superhero franchises are probably the best example. We can trace the creation of "Superman" to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but the larger shared DC universe? It wouldn't exist without DC/Warner Bros managing and controlling it. Comic writers and artists today (many, not all) jump at the chance to have their own unique creations "added" to this larger universe, they find value in adding to the existing property rather than trying to go out on their own. If Superman entered public domain but the larger DC universe chugged along without him . . .

Every novelist who writes a new D&D story for WotC transfers full IP over to the company. RA Salvatore does not own Drizzt, Erin Evans does not own Farideh (the "Brimstone Angel"), but neither of them would be the successful novelists they are today without this larger, shared D&D universe controlled by a corporation that will likely never relinquish IP rights if they can help it. When should the Forgotten Realms enter the public domain and lose the management of WotC? I really don't know. But if I'm still purchasing and reading FR novels published by WotC (or their successor) when I'm in my 90s, I'll be happy.

Whatever the "right" answer is, I do think a sea change is coming (or really, is already happening). Talented fans have all the tools they need to create derivative works with the same level of quality as the "official" works, and it will be increasingly hard for the corporations that own the IP to maintain control. I don't know how things will play out, and if they net changes will be an improvement over current circumstances or a regression on supporting the flourishing of quality art.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Well, we wouldn't have The Force Awakens.

I don't think that argument has a lot of support. It's like saying we wouldn't have the BBC's Sherlock without a copyright, or 90% of Disney movies. We have those things because of a healthy Public Domain. If anyone could take Luke Skywalker and do whatever they want with him, there'd be a lot MORE stuff out there than there is.

You'd never have even heard of Star Wars; nobody would have had any motivation to promote it in a way that it would cross your path.

Without trying to prove a hypothetical, I can say that being out of copyright doesn't stop anyone from knowing about Dracula or Sherlock Holmes or Frankenstein's Monster or Sleeping Beauty or Alice in Wonderland or the Wizard of Oz or Hercules or Pinnocchio or Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or Captain Nemo or Paul Bunyan or Tarzan or King Arthur or Robin Hood or Moby Dick (in fact that last one was recently used to advertise a movie that had an otherwise unrecognizable title).

What keeps a story in the cultural imagination isn't advertisement. It's entirely as likely in this hypothetical for someone who cared about these characters because they influenced their childhoods to create new movies featuring them or related characters in a way that creates something new and amazing, something worth shooting and promoting.

It wouldn't even rule out the marketing blitzkrieg - folks would know how successful these movies were in the past, and the new movies would have a similar 25 year period of exclusivity, so if you want to make bank, you should do it as fast and as up front as possible.

turkeygiant said:
Taking things back to RPGs, I would much rather see these groups be creating their own unique games. Be inspired by Star Trek and Mass Effect sure, but make your system something that stands on its own. Then maybe you will catch the attention of the rights holder, and they will have a better disposition towards partnering with you because you haven't been playing fast and loose with their copyright.
This misunderstands both creativity and how attention works. Look, if you create a game that stands on its own, very few people will care. The Internet is littered with the corpses of a host of quality game design ideas that just failed to attract attention because they were screaming into the void. And those quality game design ideas didn't emerge unformed form a nebulous nothingness, they were built on the backs of the game design successes and failures that came before, either by direct succession or by reaction.

But these are all more vast issues.

The more central issue for these "off-brand" games is one of access and availability. If the people that made the Star Wars book had the capability to go to Disney and WEG and get official permission (even for a low fee), they might've. Such channels don't really exist, and so you get fan products that flow through a legal void of "generally not worth the time to legislate." Much like how folks downloading songs in the '90's shoved buckets of money at Apple when the iPod could store all of 'em and offer you a way to download 'em, most fans who put in that much work anyway would happily buy access to the official OK to do what they're doing, as long as it wasn't prohibitively expensive.
 
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Endur

First Post
I think life of the creator is ok for copyright, but extending copyright past the death of the creator doesn't make sense to me. Certainly the system we have now for copyright doesn't make sense.

The reason I have a problem with 7 years is that, using JK Rowling as an example, it took more than 7 years for her to get the books and movies out. And most book series and movies take even longer. The first Game of Thrones novel was published in 1996 and the last novel in that series might be published before 2030, etc.
 

Dahak

Explorer
Thanks for adding to the conversation guys! Those of us uncomfortable with the unauthorized use of artwork and intellectual property are pretentious, fascist, corporate apologists. Ah, I get it. I like dismissing others opinions with name calling and oversimplifying complex systems as well!

You're welcome. And I only called you (or more accurately, your ilk) pretentious, as in you're using the pretense of having legal knowledge to make arguments on behalf of IP you don't own. If you're going to accuse individuals of insulting you, you'd be well served to quote us individually. Travis and I may have similar opinions, but it doesn't mean we're in complete agreement. I never called you a fascist, nor do I know the motivations behind your particular brand of armchair lawyering, so I didn't call you a corporate apologist either.

I enjoy playing the games more than I enjoy watching non-professionals dish out legal advice tangential to games, though. If you have any interesting advice about how to run a chase better because of something you read in Far Trek, I'm all ears. If you want to spout profoundly about how Paramount should take action against it, I'm going to call you out for being pretentious (unless you are literally an IP attorney for Paramount) and then go back to gaming.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I think life of the creator is ok for copyright, but extending copyright past the death of the creator doesn't make sense to me. Certainly the system we have now for copyright doesn't make sense.

The only reason we have the Autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant is because he was dying and knew that his wife would get the profits from it.

My frustration with copyright based on the life of the author is that it makes a lot of things much harder. In the US, basically, anything published before 1923 is public domain. So any book, any journal, any encyclopedia, any magazine from 1922 can be scanned or copied as needed. Under a system like most of the work has, where copyright is between life+50 and life+70, well, a journal with a dozen authors is almost certain to have one who died less than 70 years ago. That makes it much more complex for any mass scanning project, and even more limited scanning projects can run into problems when not much is known about the original author of a work.
 

Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
Well said Sword of Spirit. Your words live up to your handle.

One of the greatest thinkers and social architects of the century voiced something similar way back in 1918:

“...Privileges, patents and monopolies must be abolished in every branch of knowledge. Since, at the present time, we are still very far from understanding what I really mean, there is no need for me to show you in any way how knowledge could be freed from its fetters, and how every human being could thus be induced to participate in evolution. For that will depend upon the development of far reaching impulses in the sphere of education, and in the whole relationship between person and person. Ultimately all monopolies, privileges and patents which are related to the possession of intellectual knowledge will disappear; humanity will have no other choice but to affirm in every way and in all domains the spiritual life that dwells in us and to express it with all the vigor at our command.”

—Rudolf Steiner, “From Symptom to Reality in Modern History”, 1918
http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA185/English/RSP1976/19181103p01.html

I suspect Steiner would write something a bit different in 2016 on this subject than he did in 1918. Also, Steiner was not referring to artistic media and expression; he was addressing patents, monopolies on knowledge, information, spiritual and scientific advancement. While Steiner might not have conceived of the idea of "free expression" in the sense of the artistic, I am fairly certain he'd find the use of his argumentation in favor of today's concept of IP and Copyright to be a bit petty....he'd be a lot more concerned with monopolies of life-saving drugs, the way scientific knowledge is hoarded or restricted for profit and personal gain, and other more pressing issues. That said...Steiner's spiritualism isn't really a good foundation for modern philosophy or IP/copyright discussions; he's firmly rooted in a turn-of-the-century christian spiritualism that was defined very specifically by it's time, and there's a reason it remains more an artifact of philosophical history than anything else.


(EDIT: and as a side note I doubt Steiner would be comfortable championing free access to the sort of knowledge/fiction under discussion. His intent was a spiritual liberty that I think is quite at odds with the broader range of fiction, media, philosophy and secular belief that now pervades our culture.)
 
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Doctor Futurity

Adventurer
I think life of the creator is ok for copyright, but extending copyright past the death of the creator doesn't make sense to me. Certainly the system we have now for copyright doesn't make sense.

The reason I have a problem with 7 years is that, using JK Rowling as an example, it took more than 7 years for her to get the books and movies out. And most book series and movies take even longer. The first Game of Thrones novel was published in 1996 and the last novel in that series might be published before 2030, etc.

Another good example: in the time between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Tolkien, under a 7 year expiration date, would have seen countless imitations rise up (in theory, just roll with it), probably extinguishing Lord of the Rings from even happening.

Star Wars would have barely managed to squeeze out the original three movies before we got official prequels. Yes, sounds like a good deal at first, but they would (and probably could) have been Turkish Star Wars sequels for all we would know....and countless more.

Seriously: looking at Dracula's endless regurgitations in film and book (or Shelly's Frankenstein, for example) is actually a compelling argument for why public domain is maybe not as amazing an idea as we like to think of it.

EDIT: Put another way....from the artist's perspective, all this does is give your work over to the imitators. The imitators are not engaging in art here, they are exploiting it. A seven year expiration would be a useful formula to cultural stagnation, and would force us all to repurpose the way art in any form is presented....you would need to find a way to monetize a product before it is ever released; any effort to put art out in the wild without locking in the earnings immediately would be a foolish venture. This would lead to creators sitting on content until they can find a way to sell their product such that they can front-load earning and then get the hell out. Then, the imitations and exploits would come in endless waves of "me-too" content trying to make a fast buck.

I dunno...it sounds like a really bad way to promote artistic expression.
 
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