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WotC IP and campaign websites - how do I not step on the Wizard's toes?

Enkhidu

Explorer
I'm currently putting together some campaign info that may eventually end up on a website (or may possibly be put into pdf format for some free distribution), and am running into what I consider a potential problem: what measures should I take to ensure that I'm not inadvertantly infringing on WotC's intellectual property? Specifically, I'm talking about using names, items and certain events from a particular D&D adventure, as well as referencing certain monsters that are firmly in the WotC IP camp (things like mind flayers, etc).

Any suggestion on what I should do/who I should confer with before something like this goes live?
 

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jmucchiello

Adventurer
Enkhidu said:
what measures should I take to ensure that I'm not inadvertantly infringing on WotC's intellectual property?
I don't mean to sound facetious but the only way to ensure you aren't stepping on WotC's (or anyone else's) IP is to not do so.

You would need to verify that every noun in your work is taken from a safe source (the SRD, for example) at the time you add it to the document. There are no guidelines for this and short of being meticulous about your sources (include with the addition of each new piece of material a history of its use prior to entry) you will never be certain you aren't infringing on something.

That is the paranoid view. It is a very valid view if you want NO troubles later.

Basically, my advice is to just be careful that you are sure anything you are adding to the document is safe. How careful you need to be is up to you.

Simple advice: Work in small batches during conversions. Don't copy/paste large pieces of text from your old campaign notes unless you've gone through those notes with a fine tooth comb looking for potential IP problems.

Good luck.
 

Enkhidu

Explorer
Maybe I should clarify. What I'm really trying to find is the "sweet spot" of fair use: while I'm fairly sure that posting story hours in public forums is OK (as WotC hasn't said boo about the massive amounts of IP references in ENWorld's story hour forum), I'm a bit unsure about where the fair use line gets consistently drawn in things like web publication and pdf creation.
 

jmucchiello

Adventurer
Enkhidu said:
Maybe I should clarify. What I'm really trying to find is the "sweet spot" of fair use: while I'm fairly sure that posting story hours in public forums is OK (as WotC hasn't said boo about the massive amounts of IP references in ENWorld's story hour forum), I'm a bit unsure about where the fair use line gets consistently drawn in things like web publication and pdf creation.
Ah, no one knows.

Technically, even the story hours are in dubious legal status if WotC considers various parts of the game trademarks. One referrence to Otto's Irresistible Dance would be sufficient trademark violation if they claim Otto as a trademark. (I don't think they do.)

Fair Use is not a well defined legal term. In fact, I don't think it exists in the legislation involving copyright. It is merely a term introduced by the courts.

For the most part, a small website recounting a home-brew game will fall way below the radar of WotC. Of course, TSR had the opposite view before they were bought out. But, just because you are below the radar doesn't make it legal.
 


jmucchiello

Adventurer
BrooklynKnight said:
They do. Check the SRD. The spell is renamed.
The name Otto does not appear in the SRD. Neither with the spell or in the PI declaration. Thus, I do not know if WotC considers it a TRADEMARK.
 

Nellisir

Adventurer
Enkhidu - Ultimately, it only matters if you're determined to use the d20 or OGL license. If you're not in love with either of those, just write up the campaign material as fan material.

If you are in love with the OGL, then you've got to seperate the WotC material from the OGL material. You need to clearly label all OGC, and include a license page. WotC material can (and should) be culled, OR you can take a chance and CLEARLY label it fan-based material not covered under the OGL. I would not do that with a pdf -- if published under the OGL, the pdf shouldn't have any WotC material -- but it may work ok with a website, particularly if you can seperate the two materials onto different pages (I used yellow background boxes and red background boxes on older site; I also used as little WotC material as possible).

I am NOT a lawyer; my advice may get you in trouble.

Cheers
Nell.
 

Axegrrl

First Post
Enkhidu said:
I'm talking about using names, items and certain events from a particular D&D adventure, as well as referencing certain monsters that are firmly in the WotC IP camp (things like mind flayers, etc).
My suggestion: rename everything you're concerned about. The creatures you mention could conceivably be called thuulans, for example. If you go back to the original sources and create a variant spelling on creature names, you should be safe. Another tactic is to reconsider what the creature *is* and create a name from a description. That's how TSR avoided paying bucks to the Tolkien crowd over the treant -- it was a "tree giant", "not an ent".
 

Janx

Hero
I'm not a lawyer either, but I have had my campaign site up since TSR went nuts online (I was there), and I never had any problems with them.

That said, you could get sued, but you're not likely if you are reasonably careful.

It's probably OK to mention that JoJo cast "Otto's Irresistable Dance" in some campaign journal on the page. If you're worried, drop "Otto" off the name (which is what the SRD does).

It is not OK to reprint content from WotC products, as a general rule. That's what the OGL and all that stuff is for. There's citing sources and all sorts of legal crap. Short of it is, if you want your players to know about a certain spell, tell them WHERE to find it (Book of XYZ, page 20).

Things get safer if you avoid using the name of anything from a WotC product. This means world names, character names, fancy monster names, place names. Basically, it works well for a homebrew campaign, where you are likely to rename all the races and such anyway.

But, you are not likely to have a problem if you do mention placenames and the like in fiction.


There's probably even a legalese blurb that you can put that says D&D is a trademark of WotC, you're not affiliated with them, content on this site is fan-based material using WotC's products etc. Avoid using their graphics and such if you can.

Janx
 



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