Wednesday, September 10, 2008

compliance with stupid laws

White Wolf has posted new rules for fan sites.

As such, in order to keep posting content here about my Scion campaign, I'll need to provide a link to White Wolf, and some basic legal text...

Copyright White Wolf Publishing, Inc.
Copyright White Wolf Publishing, Inc.

© [year] CCP hf. All rights reserved. Reproduction without the written permission of the publisher is expressly forbidden, except for the purposes of reviews, and for blank character sheets, which may be reproduced for personal use only. White Wolf and Scion are registered trademarks of CCP hf. All rights reserved. Scion, Exalted, Vampire: The Masquerade and World of Darkness are trademarks of CCP hf. All rights reserved. All characters, names, places and text herein are copyrighted by CCP hf.
Overall, I'm none to happy about this development. Since I blog about a lot of RPGs, not ALL characters "herein" are copyrighted by CCP hf. Obviously, any vampires, demigods, or the like probably are. But trying to clarify what is and isn't is going to be a big pain in the ass. Even when I'm talking about Scion, it's not like White Wolf has an exclusive copyright on Thor, Zeus, and Tlazteotl, since all 3 are drawn from mythology and tradition that's at least several hundred years old. Certainly, white wolf has it's own unique flavorful take on those three characters, and some portion of it has and will influence my own thinking about them. So, yes, within the confines of Scion any reference to them is within the domain of white wolf's copyright. But if I were to blog about how I used Thor in my heavily mythological alien-grey film noir detective game "The Case Of The Stolen Thunder" that I ran more than a year before Scion released, his depiction would therein would have had nothing to do with White Wolf and owed rather more credit to Douglas Adams than to White Wolf. There's some grey areas (pardon the pun) there that the required legal text isn't flexible enough to parse.

I think this policy is a bad mistake on White Wolf's part, and a dangerous route for game companies to travel down. It's just going to generate ill-will amongst the players and fans, and reduce the number of fan sites out there, which in turn reduces the quality of gaming. Unlike the OGL, this legal notice doesn't let someone sell unofficial books of their own design. Instead, it just requires that if you want to blog "Man, I had so much fun playing in my Scion campaign last night" you have to include a copyright statement.

Personally, that seems unreasonable, yet White Wolf's site implies heavily that their lawyers will be contacting you if you make even passing mention of their products and fail to comply with this legal directive. Why spend the money on getting a lawyer to draft you a fan site policy if you weren't planning on suing someone. Man, this sucks.

By their very nature, RPGs are intended to be creative inspiration. They are not like a novel that you can be expected to "just" read - the rule book is intended to provoke you to tell your own stories. Overall, the regulation of fan sites flies in the face of that. Chances are, Larry Lessig or the ACLU could win a case against this, if either felt so inclined. Such a lawsuit, however, would probably be largely detrimental to the roleplaying hobby, so I hope it never happens.

I wish to maintain a friendly relationship with the industry which provides my primary means of entertainment, so I will comply with White Wolf's request, even though it strikes me as ridiculous that they requested it in the first place.

In an ideal world, White Wolf would drop this nonsense, and no other game companies would try anything like this again. But this is not a reasonable world, and as such we should expect the internet to become even more tightly constrained in future years. It, like so many other elements of our society, is rushing to a bottleneck that will result in Fascism, Revolution, or one proceeding the other.


Vampir said...

I can understand why White Wolf is creating this but I'm can't say I like how they're approaching it.

To an extent, it's an intrusive strategy. Just putting that Dark Pack image could potentially screw the layout of a site and since it seems one cannot modify it in any way, even making it smaller so it wouldn't look out of place is a breach of the terms of use.

What about blogs? Those don't have a homepage itself. Just putting it at the same bottom makes those copyrights nearly invisible.

Would putting the copyright notice on each post that deals with their products (for multi-RPG blogs) be considered a breach?

What if I'd like to make a separate page on my blog stating all the copyrights of all companies I talk about, would that be illegal too?

For now at least, this whole thing makes the simple matter of putting in the copyright notice overly complicated. For me, instead of making me put the copyright notice on my RPG blog, the Dark Pack made me think twice if I want to go through with making a fan-site. I respect their rights but I don't want to get into a legal mess over misunderstanding what the company wants.

SiderisAnon said...

Perhaps it is the return of the days of T$R?

r_b_bergstrom said...

You're right, siderisanon!

T$R copyrighted the word "Nazi".

White Wolf claims to have a copyright to every character I discuss on this blog. That must include John McCain since I've bitched about him at least twice here.

McCain. Nazis. Yeah, it's about the same.

(Couldn't resist)

Vampir said...

At least it seems now like there'll be some changes made...