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Subject: Steve Jackson Games vs. Avatar Users rss

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Jim U
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SJGames - Daily Illuminator - December 4, 2006 ( http://www.sjgames.com/ill ) wrote:
We've updated our online policy to address the use of our art in avatars for various online communities. The relevant section is:

Fans are welcome to use graphic images from SJ Games releases as avatars for online communities, with one limitation: Please do not use any trademarked images. Our eye-in-the-pyramid logo, in its various forms, and the image of the Ogre are registered trademarks. ...

Methinks Steve Jackson has a lot of time on his hands.

Steve Jackson, SJG Company Board Meeting wrote:
"What can we do to alienate our biggest fans and further reduce our company's dwindling exposure.

Think, People, Think!"

And I was afraid Steve had forgotten about his long out-of-print Ogre product line.
 
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Mr Dove
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I figured they would enjoy a bit of free advertising. So, you can use copyrighted material, since all of their material would likely qualify under copyright law, but not trademarked material.
 
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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Well, yes - trademarks you HAVE TO defend or you lose them. Copyrights are still yours even if they're violated. It's the law.
 
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Mark McEvoy
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I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of message board users proudly displaying the trademarks of TV, videogame, boardgame, movie, music, comic book, or sports franchises they happen to love. I don't believe any of those entities ever lost their trademark because of this.
 
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RJD
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Curse you Steve Jackson! How dare you follow the law! A pox on you and all your house forever!!



Copyright and Trademark laws have always been screwy. Sometimes companies really go overboard in protecting their propery, but then as quirky as our justice system can be, I suppose I can understand why they might be a little overprotective. It is still annoying though, I agree.
 
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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thatmarkguy wrote:
I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of message board users proudly displaying the trademarks of TV, videogame, boardgame, movie, music, comic book, or sports franchises they happen to love. I don't believe any of those entities ever lost their trademark because of this.
Perhaps the laws haven't caught up with the reality of the net. Nonetheless, the law as currently written, at least in the US, is that if you don't actively defend your trademarks, you will lose them. I don't see why someone should be an object of derision for following the law.
 
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Ken B.
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sos1 wrote:
thatmarkguy wrote:
I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of message board users proudly displaying the trademarks of TV, videogame, boardgame, movie, music, comic book, or sports franchises they happen to love. I don't believe any of those entities ever lost their trademark because of this.
Perhaps the laws haven't caught up with the reality of the net. Nonetheless, the law as currently written, at least in the US, is that if you don't actively defend your trademarks, you will lose them. I don't see why someone should be an object of derision for following the law.




Bwahahahaha....now *I* will get all of the royalties for Guitar Hero 3!


The freakin' internet RULES!
 
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Stephen Harkleroad
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Quote:
I figured they would enjoy a bit of free advertising. So, you can use copyrighted material, since all of their material would likely qualify under copyright law, but not trademarked material.


I think that's why they specified "trademarked material," and advised specifically what their trademarks were.

Quote:
I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of message board users proudly displaying the trademarks of TV, videogame, boardgame, movie, music, comic book, or sports franchises they happen to love. I don't believe any of those entities ever lost their trademark because of this.


This is just a question, because I honestly don't know. I wonder how many of those are legitimate trademarks?
 
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Kenneth Hullett
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That reminds me, I've been meaning to get a new avatar.
 
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Isaac Citrom
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Yes, my house is my domain but I don't think I would be upset if someone wanted to come and clean it for free. SJ may be right, but between you and me you'd think he'd appreciate the free advertizing.
 
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Brian Morris
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There's defending your trademark and there's being a bit silly. I do not think any judge is ever going to award a trademark to anyone over the company that created it because that person used it as an avatar on an internet discussion board.

Can you imagine the Indianapolis Colts losing the rights to their Horseshoe helmet trademark because some guy in Montana used it on a discussion board? Me neither. There may be hundreds of thousands of Indianapolis Colts avatars in use on discussion forums all over the Internet and I doubt the Colts are that worried about it costing them their trademark. Nor do I think Steve Jackson needs to either.
 
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Mark K.
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I don't know how trademark laws in NA work but in Europe you have to make sure that noone uses your trademarks at least not out of context or you'll lose the rights of that trade mark. There is a distinct difference between copyrighted material (which is everything they produce) and a trademark which has to be registered.

I think this ruling is ok, at least you still have plenty of images and ressources from sj games which you can use as an avatar. Just do not use their logos. This is better than no ruling at all where chances are hight that you get sued when the company you got your avatar images goes bankrupt and decides to squeeze some money out of its fanboys as seen several times to that date.
 
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Mike zebrowski
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I think that many people have missed the point.

It is technically illegal to use other people's copyrighted images without their permission. Yes, it is a common practice, but it is still illegal.

Steve Jackson has given that permission for images that his company produces with the exception of their trademarked images.

Instead of being lauded for being generous, he is being critizied for excluding a small subset of images.

Mike Z
 
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CHAPEL
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Mike Zebrowski wrote:
I think that many people have missed the point.

It is technically illegal to use other people's copyrighted images without their permission. Yes, it is a common practice, but it is still illegal.

Steve Jackson has given that permission for images that his company produces with the exception of their trademarked images.

Instead of being lauded for being generous, he is being critizied for excluding a small subset of images.

Mike Z


Yes, but this has been proven over and over and over and over again on all over the net that this kind of behavior is bad for business. As it puts a bad taste in people mouths about a companies image. Period!
 
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Tim Seitz
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Why is this controversial?

If you are a fan of SJ games, then surely you'd want to support the company and their efforts to be successful - including their intellectual property rights.

If you are NOT a fan of SJ games, then why would you want to use their images to begin with?
 
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Mike zebrowski
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MWChapel wrote:
Yes, but this has been proven over and over and over and over again on all over the net that this kind of behavior is bad for business. As it puts a bad taste in people mouths about a companies image. Period!


What behavior? Giving permission so that people are not breaking the law or protecting the images that US government has told them that they have to protect?
 
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CHAPEL
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out4blood wrote:
Why is this controversial?

If you are a fan of SJ games, then surely you'd want to support the company and their efforts to be successful - including their intellectual property rights.

If you are NOT a fan of SJ games, then why would you want to use their images to begin with?


Well I hope Friedman Friese doesn't take away my monkey, and Barry Maxx take away your Jenny either. Cause it sucks to punish your fans for being fans.
 
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CHAPEL
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Mike Zebrowski wrote:


What behavior? Giving permission so that people are not breaking the law or protecting the images that US government has told them that they have to protect?


WHAT? Sorry this is a hobby, you know, for fun. Not some courtroom toxicity. But keep it up, see where it gets you.
 
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Evan Stegman
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thatmarkguy wrote:
I've seen hundreds (thousands?) of message board users proudly displaying the trademarks of TV, videogame, boardgame, movie, music, comic book, or sports franchises they happen to love. I don't believe any of those entities ever lost their trademark because of this.
And I bet if you look into it, you will find that the owners of those trademarks have similiar statements saying that people shouldn't do it.

The point is you *HAVE* to make those statements and at least make a token effort telling people to stop or, by law, you lose your trademark.

I used to work for Rollerblade and they had a person whose only job was to send letters to people who use 'rollerblade' as a generic term. They didn't seriously think they were going to get people to stop but the *HAD* to at least show that they were putting some effort into protecting their trademark or they would lose it.

And, as previously pointed out, there is a big difference between a copywrite and trademark. Copywrite's do not need to be defended; trademarks do.

Using SJ as an example, copywrited material would be things like pictures from cards from a game. Trademarks are their logos. From the sounds of it, they aren't telling people not to use their copywrited material as avatars but are simply protecting their trademarks by telling people not to use those (and I have not yet heard about them actually tracking down people who use their trademarks and asking them to stop).

I think some people are making mountains out of molehills. I don't think there is anything wrong with SJ (or any other company) simply doing what they have to do to protect themselves.
 
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Dave Lartigue
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Someone needs to tell the U.S. Mint that SJG owns the rights to an eye in a pyramid.
 
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Legomancer wrote:
Someone needs to tell the U.S. Mint that SJG owns the rights to an eye in a pyramid.

Similar marks for dissimilar goods? Probably OK. *Though, a mark can be so famous that there is still a likelihood of confusion, but let's not get too bogged down here.

I do wish intellectual property was taught in school. I get tired of all the "it's not fair" whining when folks find out that pictures, music, code, and other intangibles are property too.

Steve Jackson games are being generous within the limits that the law allows; fnord.
 
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Asher D.
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Legomancer wrote:
Someone needs to tell the U.S. Mint that SJG owns the rights to an eye in a pyramid.

I laughed, I did.
But in fact, what they said was: "Our eye-in-the-pyramid logo, in its various forms...". It's their specific renditions of the eye in the pyramid that's trademarked, not the eye in the pyramid in general.
 
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Jeff Coon
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My $0.02:

If, under trademark law, Steve Jackson needs to at least show they are trying to defend their trademark, then asking fans to "Please do not use any trademarked images" (their words) isn't that big a deal. If by some strange twist of fate they were ever in court in danger of losing their trademark (highly unlikely), they could at least show the court they were trying.

I don't mind a token press release that asks fans nicely. What I do mind is an expectation that SJ fans actually would stop using their images. Let's be reasonable - someone on the Internet with an SJ avatar won't cause SJ to lose their trademark. So there's no reason to really stop it, even if SJ says so in a press release.

What I would mind is SJ actually sending cease and desist letters, complaining to Aldie, or otherwise trying to actively enforce their trademark, and prevent true Steve Jackson Games fans from having an SJ logo. As others mentioned, this would be bad for business. While it's certainly within their legal rights, there's no practical reason for them needing to do so. You can argue the legalities of it, but at the end of the day, it's just dumb to prevent fans of your company and games from using any logo they want on an Internet message board.
 
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Jim U
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out4blood wrote:
If you are a fan of SJ games, then surely you'd want to support the company and their efforts to be successful - including their intellectual property rights.

Using a game or company based avatar has the following effects:

* It cheapens the IP by flaunting the idea that anybody can use trademarked images that properly belong only to the company. However, I don't see how it could ever endanger trademark status; anybody suggesting that a judge is going to revoke a trademark because someone, somewhere, used a it as an avatar is being deliberately obtuse.

* Strengthens the brand by showing user support. For example, I have no problem wearing a Coca-Cola brand t-shirt because I like Coca-Cola. I am not inclined to wear a Pepsi t-shirt because I don't like the taste of the product. Wearing or displaying product merchandise shows support of the product. I'm saying, "I like Coca-Cola. It is good. Maybe you would like it too."

* Free advertising. When I see someone's avatar from the Ogre universe, I am reminded of the game. I want to play it again. I visit sjgames.com and look for new and used Ogre products. I search ebay for Ogre miniatures. I maybe set up a public Ogre miniature battle at my FLGS. I attract more players and business for SJG.

I think turning a blind eye to avatars has more advantages than disadvantages. A struggling company can't buy the exposure an avatar can give them.

Ultimately, the trademarked images are SJ's property. If he says don't use them, his decision should be respected. I would like to see SJ succeed. SJ knows his business better than I do, maybe restricting avatar use is in his best interest. I don't get it, but then I'm not a game company owner.

By the way, my avatar is from Laser Squad Nemesis. My badge says I like X-Com. You've heard of X-Com, haven't you? Both games are by the Gallop Brothers. Go to www.lasersquadnemesis.com and play LSN. Now. It's good. Real good. Play a free trial, and if you like it, give money to the Gallop Brothers and get the full product.
 
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Mark Bigney
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Many people don't seem to understand that, even if it is in someone's best interest not to exercise a right, that someone may nonetheless exercise it (and it has full force and validity, even if against their best interest). Furthermore, SJG is presumably well aware of any advertising value (or harm) they would reap as a result of unlimited avatar use. They probably know their own self-interest better than most of us. They have opted to claim their right to not have such publicity.
Other note: SJG is, in fact, being very generous with their IP avatar-wise; Mr. Zebrowski is exactly right on that point.
 
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