Oh the irony

The 4e Powercards site is taken down by Wizards’ yet over on their own forums folks are posting up complete monster cards (here and here). This is a clear violation of their Intellectual Property and Wizards’ only course of action must be to issue a Cease & Desist notice to…… ummm…… themselves.

This ridiculous charade has nothing to do with IP, and everything to do with Wizards’ targetting sites that offered items (character generation, power cards) which compete with products they themselves produce. It’s anti-competitive bullying, nothing more.

Yeh, I’m annoyed still.

Wizards’ are on the slippery slope. When Ema’s was taken down, folks “justified” it by saying that it was understandable because he accepted subscriptions. 4e Powercards didn’t. It provided a free service. Who, I wonder, is next.

You could argue that Wizards’ did the legally right thing by protecting their IP; that’s for the courts to decide, and there’s a compelling argument for Fair Use too, not to mention the precedents set by all of the other sites (their own forums and ENWorld included) which also host or link to fan-created content that also uses Wizards’ IP. Selective targetting for competitive reasons is Not Good At All.

What annoys me the most is that 4e D&D is a great game. So why the heck are Wizards’ trying so hard to fuck it up?

19 Comments on “Oh the irony”

  1. I hate to say it, but WotC doesn’t seem to have clue. It also seems they don’t want US to have a clue about what they consider “Legal” to do on a website. Hell, they still don’t have a revised GSL. While, I’m no 4ed person, I do find it insulting that they don’t have these things for those that are.

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  2. If no-one pointed WotC towards those files and those threads, then nothing can be done. WotC is not, despite what some people would like to believe, all-knowing and all-seeing. That being said, they do know about those threads now, and I would be surprised if the threads weren’t taken down fairly soon and the person who posted the monster cards wasn’t served with a C&D of his very own.

  3. WotC’s legal department–or whomever is behind this “Let’s pretend it’s the end of the TSR era” tactics–seems to be borrowing a page from the FCC. Don’t tell anyone what’s wrong, don’t be consistent in anything, but keep everyone in fear of what you will do next.

    It may seem counterintuitive, but this may be a sound business decision. Sure, you may drive away some business initially, but you keep other fans/customers completely dependent upon your products for their emotional well-being. Players become like a dog that gets kicked frequently.

  4. I have to say that even while I think it’s crazy to contribute any fan effort at all to 4e in absence of any kind of guarantee from Hasbro, there’s nothing weird or ironic about enforcing copyright against some parties and not against others. That’s the essence of copyright: the owner gets to pick and choose who may redistribute and create derivative works. It can be done by formal arrangements involving contracts and payments, but it can also be done completely informally with no pre-arrangement simply on the basis of “Like that use, don’t like that use, hate that guy, that one could cost me some money so I’ll only let him if he cuts me in for a share.” Unlike trademark, there’s no precedent set by choosing to ignore somebody’s use of your copyrighted work. And really, you wouldn’t want it to be otherwise. If you were required to treat all infringements the same, then copyrights held by individuals would become worthless (they couldn’t possibly afford to go after every case, even where the damages were negligible, which would leave major corporations free to scoop up all the “abandoned” copyrights for themselves), while deep-pockets corporations given a choice between pursuing everything and nothing would opt for chasing down every last little infringement.

    Hasbro’s public relations boner here is not that they say yes to some and no to others, but that they basically refuse to clarify the rules. “Trust us, even though we’ve never given you any reason to” isn’t a good PR message.

    Joshuas last blog post..You Say Po-tay-to, I Say Po-tah-to

  5. I can’t believe this nonsense is still going on, and bloggers going about “who could be next? anyone?”

    Both sites hosted the complete text of over a hundred pages of the PHB and the powers sections of all the sourcebooks and made them available to the public. They were wholesale distributors of copyrighted material. That is not fair use under any definition. It is not a slippery slope that will lead from targeting these sites to shutting down bloggers who say “Dungeons and Dragons” or post their characters. This ridiculous sabre rattling has to end some time.

    A fan site policy would be nice, though.

  6. @Thasmodious We’re not the ones rattling the sabres. After the openness of the OGL all of this sticks in the craw too much to be comfortable. Sorry if you disagree…….

  7. Ummmm, giving something away that they make isn’t “competition”. It’s called “stealing”. If you want to compete, you have to make up a new product that conforms to their guidelines on what you can do, and sell it for a price the market will bear. Or you could “compete” by making up your own gaming system and selling that.

    We’re all gamers here, so let’s do a little make-believe. Let’s say that I start to go to your blog everyday, and copy the text of your blog posts, and post them on my blog, with my name attached. What do you do?

    Well first, you don’t do anything, because you don’t know about it. If you find out, you have a choice of doing several things. First, you could notice that my blog has a grand total of no regular readers (apparently you need new content for that!). So you decide that I’m a moron, but mostly harmless. Then you notice I’m getting a lot of readers, so you send me an email asking me to stop (cease and desist, as it were). Were you out of line?

    No, you were well within your rights to tell me to stuff it. So why is WoTC out of line when they do this? Mother of god, people – when will this automatic assumption of chronic assholery on the part of the makers of our favorite pastime stop?

    And Joshua, I think you are massively overstating the issue here when you say that it’s “crazy to contribute any fan effort”. There is a huge amount of fan effort out there, and it doesn’t cause any issues. 2 is not a wave, like the T$R days.

    As far as having Monster Cards posted on their forums, that’s more sloppy housekeeping than anything else. Although I thought that they weren’t making Monster Cards anymore, or am I wrong?

  8. @wickedmurph Poor analogy. If what 4e Powercards & Ema’s were doing was taking the PHB, reproducing it and making another book then yes, that would be like taking blog content and using it to make another blog. Take a thing, make the same thing. Still not stealing though. Copyright infringement, yes. Forgery, probably. “stealing” is a much too overused (and inaccurately used) word these days. Neither Ema nor 4e Powercards “stole” anything.

    What these (and countless other fan-created sites) do is add value to the hobby, and certainly shouldn’t be treating in some way like criminals for doing so. In each case, what they created requires the use of the D&D Core Books to use and understand. Wizards should thank them and showcase the best of the fan-created tools, not try to curtail their creativity.

    You’re right about one thing – 2 isn’t a wave. I don’t think anyone has ever claimed it was.

    But it’s still 2 too many.

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  9. @wickedmurph – considering that the GSL seems to grant signatories fewer rights than they enjoy in the absence of any license at all, I can’t see any fan policy being more generous. Couple that with the fact that it’s likely no fan has the resources to contest any adverse interpretation in court, and I stand by my assessment. You only have so much time, and spending any of it producing work that you may not be permitted to share or may be required to assign ownership to others is IMO a huge waste of effort. Particularly when there are so many other close substitutes where you have an unimpeded right to share and distribute your work as long as you grant others reciprocal rights. At least go work on some other game and come back if and when they publish a reasonable fan-site policy.

    Joshuas last blog post..You Say Po-tay-to, I Say Po-tah-to

  10. if we want to play with @wickedmurph’s analogy, it would be more like this. P.S. I am just playing devil’s advocate.

    Let’s say a number of blogs are writing wonderful, well-written and useful articles on D&D. These 5 blogs are well done but not very well organized, just post after post without categories or tags or whatnot.

    This new site, not a blog at all, is an organized site that collects ALL the articles of these 5 blogs. They tag them, they categorize them, they place a search engine and very clear and useful Table of Contents over them. People are attracted to the site instead of the original blogs. The site adds value to the original content to the nth degree.

    But one of the original bloggers is pissed. he was actually thinking of gathering all his popular posts and putting them together in a PDF that he would sell on DriveThruRPG. He was going to organize the posts, make a nice pretty layout & table of contents and even have a nifty useful index of all his content. But really, there is no point. This other site did what he wanted already and to make matters worse, when he used to get 10,000 hits a week (and made a few bucks from adwords) he now barely gets 200. Of the guy who runs the site is nice enough and ALWAYS links back to the original site and authors but he adds so much more that the original blogger just gets discouraged.

    Should the blogger send a cease & desist letter? Should the guy who runs the site stop collecting content without express permission? Should the blogger have been smart enough to do a better job with his content originally?

    Wizards is doing a terrible job of supporting their own content so people are coming up with their own solutions. Rather than shutting people down, they should be doing what MS does with competition — BUY it. Rather than a take-down order, Ema could be posting a (rather annoying to the people who got it for free) a gleeful post about their new Wizards branded product.

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  11. @HermitDave – What did you read my Wizards survey response? :)

    Seriously though, imagine what would happen if an RPG company supported it’s fan sites (takes sideways look at SJGames) and reciprocated the time and effort put into these sites with well, I don’t know, recognition?

    @wickedmurph – I would be more impressed with the creators of our hobby if they had learned that not alienating their fanbase is the way to go after 20 years. I live in hope.

    satyres last blog post..more web tools for groups and writing

  12. What I see out there is that the fans are creating content faster for the game than the game creators. WotC should have had the D&D Insider website fully functional at day one of 4e. Power cards and monster generators help the game flow and WotC was not keeping up with demand and in some cases their products ended up being worse than the fan created work (ema’s charsheets). Instead of taking advantage, they lash out with legal letters and lay off employees; it takes skill to run a sure thing into the ground. In return their reputation gets pinched and traffic and revenues drop…Maybe they are purposely screwing up so they can ask for help from the Fed. Yeah we (WotC) made a bunch of bad decisions so can you (the Fed) lend us money so we can make some more…

    Ya I am still sore about ema.


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  13. Wickedmurph said, “$Mother of god, people – when will this automatic assumption of chronic assholery on the part of the makers of our favorite pastime stop?”

    They don’t make the pass time. Just the game. I’m bitching about semantics, but to me the pass time is RPGs in general, D&D is but one instance of that pass time.

    satyre said, “I would be more impressed with the creators of our hobby if they had learned that not alienating their fanbase is the way to go after 20 years. I live in hope.”

    Thanks. That gave me a chuckle. We all live in that hope.

    And, I do not know a single person in meat space running or playing 4e. Not. One. I know of 3.x games. Pathfinder games. I want to run BXD&D. I know people are buying 4e because the local chain book store’s stock is rotating.

    I’m taking this debacle as an opportunity to fine tune my 3.x collection, play new games, and reacquaint myself with old systems. But, if you’re in Oneonta NY and your 4e game needs some new blood, get in touch. I’d love to try the New Coke of gaming ;)

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