Dear Wizards: Cease and Desist sending Cease and Desist letters

The makers of Masterplan have one now. In the future maybe they’ll be collector’s items. Or they would if they weren’t becoming so darned common. It’s almost a badge of fandom. Only the Real Fans of the game get C&D letters – the ones who genuinely care about and love the game so much that they’re willing to invest substantial time and effort into building tools, forums and sites which support it.

Of course, we don’t know all the details about each and every C&D letter Wizards of The Coast’s Epic-level Lawyers have sent out. It’s quite possible that some of them are as a result of genuine concern that their rights have been abused in some way. But seriously – have you tried communicating first? A friendly email request would doubtless resolve any issues born out of simple ignorance or over-enthusiasm. Using C&D as a first solution is like burning a Daily Power on a Minion – total overkill, and it’s only going to get you slapped around at the gaming table.

So Wizards, in the name of all that’s holy, please stop screwing your fanbase and reputation like this.

It doesn’t make you look good, and that makes we fans who really like 4e D&D look bad as well.


15 Comments on “Dear Wizards: Cease and Desist sending Cease and Desist letters”

  1. I read on the ENWorld forums that WotC laid off the people who use to send out emails to people and websites that would say, “Hey, you’re….”, but since those people are gone, it’s gone to their lawyers who send out the C&D letters.
    I like the C&D logo.

  2. What irks me is that there are people at WotC working on the ‘adventure tools’ that so far have not gotten something together even remotely close as useful as Masterplan. And this was from a guy that was doing it as a side project in his spare time, without a salary!

    Here’s to hoping some guys that got recently canned at WotC were working on the adventure tools (sadly they likely were not). I think some of the stuff fans have put out so far completely shame the official tools available. The monster builder is pretty neat. The character builder is useful. But 2 1/2 years post release and still nothing more for a DM to use in building adventures? Please, someone needs to consider hiring a few guys to get the WotC software tools up to snuff, I say give the guy that got Masterplan rolling a contract.

  3. Lala . . . I’m doing a service to the community . . .. “CEASE AND DESIST!” Why? Because we have a monopoly on Distribution of D&D products for 4th edition. WAAAAAAAA!!

    And people think I’m weird to start a discussion of copyright on Enworld (I did it to derail an Edition War discussion). The purpose of Copyright is censorship, plain and simple. What Wizards has done isn’t right after ten years of setting a publishing precedent. I joined the Free Culture movement because I was fed up after Wizards of the Coast pulled the pdfs off the Internet. I just can’t take the antics of a Monopoly over Distribution anymore. Thus, I declared a silent rebellion.

  4. I fully support WotC, and if you are a player, so should you. They have the right to protect their intellectual property. In this day of online piracy, a gaming company must stand up for themselves or cease to exist because they can’t make a profit. They built the product, they get to draw the line between piracy and fandom. Period. Not to mention the fact that a C&D is pretty tame, yet legal document, and often becomes a matter of egress into a conversation instead of litigation. WotC is using the C&D simply to stress the level of importance they feel is attached to the situation. They have the right to do so, and should wield it to help set precedents that protect all game designers in order to keep our hobby alive in a world of video games.

    1. Respectfully, I disagree with you on every count.

      1) I am not merely a player. I have bought, contributed to and supported Dungeons & Dragons for over thirty years. I am a customer, no more or less important than anyone who has handed over cold hard cash for the product. I am the guy who pays the wages. That make me (and others who think likewise) pretty important folk.

      2) Intellectual property is a myth which deserves to die a quick and painful death. It is a major barrier to creative innovation and something which is increasingly used by larger companies to restrict and curtail progress by their smaller competitors. IP is anathema to a healthy entrepreneurial marketplace, and should have no part in any creative industry – let alone one which is itself born from the shoulders of all that has gone before.

      3) This isn’t about piracy. As far as I understand things, it’s about stopping something which might be used to duplicate content. In a similar manner, Wizards’ books might be used to scan and distribute PDFs. Should they ban their own books too, by definition? Wrong target, wrong ballgame.

      4) Yes, C&Ds in themselves are pretty tame as far as legal documents go. But they’re still going too far. Do you remember the days of Chris Rouse when he’d simply send off an email if he found something on a site which Wizards may object to? Or how about the Open Gaming License which explicitly allowed this kind of use within a framework understood and recognized by all. Going further back, the fans of White Dwarf magazine (back when it was an independent publication) created and contributed to the product which became the Fiend Folio! This was a game for fans, supported by fans, and TSR knew better than to bite the hand that fed it. For a while, at least.

      5) This was not “a situation”. Wizards have made it one by their own ham-fisted handling of matters. They could have used the opportunity to reach out and work with the makers of Masterplan by suggesting ways in which the API could be used to access subscriber content in a real-time, non cached manner. This would send out a message regarding how the API is supposed to be used. If you don’t like folks using it, don’t publish it. Simple, really.

      6) Finally, I call total BS on your last sentence. Just because someone has “the right” (questionable at best) to do to something doesn’t mean it is the correct thing to do, nor necessarily the best course of action for anyone involved. If you want to protect game designers, encourage innovation and expansion, don’t stifle it. That would be a great precedent to set. Otherwise, all you’re doing is protecting the careers of lawyers.

      1. Robin, I would dare say that Macadoshe doesn’t even know the history of Copyright. The history begins with both China and Merry Ol’ England. However, we will leave China out of it and focus on Merry Ol’ England. Which, I bet, you know your own Nation’s history better than I.

      2. I agree with some of your points. However I have to disagree with you on intellectual property in general being a crock. As a writer myself, and working at a video game development studio, intellectual property is not an abstract. People put a hell of a lot of work into entertainment products. That work is tangible, and represents costs of time and money. I do think it’s valid for a company to protect its IP given that reality.

        However, I also think it’s suicide to cut off the kind of fan base that D&D has. I think it was ridiculously stupid for WotC to kill the OGL and replace it with their current GSL which is a draconian nightmare. I’m reminded of what Apple did after it realized that third-party licensees were making more money and putting out better products than they were; or as another example, when the makers of the Palm PDA discovered that their main third-party licensee was gaining more market share than their own products. Then again–those companies are still viable now, whereas they might have gone out of business if they had continued to license out their core IP. I’m not a marketing expert or legal expert, I can’t really say which is better in terms of the bottom line and company survivability.

        What I am, though, is a creator of IP and also a D&D fan. And I personally agree that this could have been handled MUCH better. I also agree with the poster below, who said what WotC *should* have done was offer the developers of Masterplan money. If they had bought the product, and/or hired the developers to work on their own online projects, maybe we’d see some ACTUAL RESULTS on the whole DDI thing.

        1. It’s right and proper that the law affords protection for things that you have created; that is exactly how things should be. It is, after all, the reason why copyright law was created in the first place – it gives you, as creator, exclusive rights to copy, distribute and adapt anything you have created.

          The problem has come into play because the law has been extended to include abstract concepts – can you copyright an idea or a process? I say no, but the law, all too often, says yes. The law should protect the tangible work, not the idea.

          If this concept had applied at the time when the printing press was invented, the concept of transferring the written word to paper would have been protected under IP law. The very fact that you are able to do just that right now and make a living from it is because such a restriction doesn’t exist. Otherwise, you’d be infringing someone’s conceptual copyright each time you put pen to paper!

          IP law as it stands and as it is applied (and abused) is a massive restriction to creative talent.

          Food for thought, anyhow.

          Thanks for your input!

    2. This begs the question on why there is even an API available. It’s not like Masterplan was using some hidden backdoor, this is something DDI was explicitly providing… Maybe if they programmed wtf they really wanted in the first place, there wouldn’t be issue.

      I’m glad I stopped supporting WotC a long time ago.

    3. They should just have talked. The people who develop Masterplan – or any other tools for the game – are probably fans of the game, and they probably want to support their hobby rather than hinder it. If given the opportunity of a “cordial relation” with WotC by modifying the product, I bet they would glady comply with reasonable exigences… If, and only if, this approach doesn’t work they should use a C&D letter.
      And they should also consider that such tools are actually good advertising, help their customers, and didn’t cost them a cent…
      The only reason I see for them to send a C&D letter was if they were developing a concrete project of a similar tool. They would still be assholes, but they would have a reason for doing it.

  5. Another reason for me to stop buying from WotC and use fan-created materials like Microlite. What WotC should have done is buy Masterplan and integrate it into their offerings. IMO they’ve bungled the online aspect of D&D and flail around with lawyers trying to swat people that do what they’ve should have done long ago.

  6. Where’s the limit on this? Y’know a character sheet emulates somthing usable by the players handbook. Maybe anyone making a custom character sheet should be hit up with a C&D.
    It’s also worth mentioning that stopping fan sites does NOTHING to stop illegal pdf markets and such. It’s not like Masterplan is was a huge contributer to that market. If wizard really though about it they would go after the big free download sites that host free pdfs of their stuff. Instead they annoy fans who can’t defend themselves becuase they’re easy targets and WOTC think it sends a message about what level of action they’re prepared to take.
    Advise to wizards/ Fire your legal team, get a new one. They’re beginning to drop your profits even before you count their fee.

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