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Subject: Official statement on unofficial cards and decks rss

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Hanno Girke
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As Agricola is a game with endless possibilities for new cards, we kinda expect that Agricola players all over the world invent their own cards, sets, decks, subgames, and more. Heck, we even encourage that.

But: we need to draw a fine line between cards that someone does for private use and cards that are published/made ready for print that do not have the approval by Lookout Games. Especially if they use our artwork and card design.

That's why we're particularily unhappy with Lookout Games property (be it artwork and/or even full cards) being shared through a commercial service like artscow.

It's not about the profit, it's to some degree about copyright protection. But our point here is: Uwe Rosenberg and his development/playtest team are working hard to keep the published cards within the game balance. Officially looking and professionally printed cards that don't fit his ideas do not make him happy, to say the least.
Cards that are made for private use can be considered "within a controlled gaming group". Cards that are available through a professional service like artscow are not.

In doubt, here's a rule of thumb:
If you're using someone else's property (being card design, artwork, game parts), just ask for permission.
You'll normally find out that Lookout Games is very open to new ideas and will be as helpful as possible.

Thanks for reading.

Hanno Girke
Lookout Games
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Chris Ferejohn
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Perhaps I misunderstand, but isn't the point of Artscow to allow you to create nice looking cards for personal use? Obviously you don't want people making large runs and selling them, but are you saying you object to people making nice looking variant cards for their own use?
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Håkan König
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He's probably more objecting to people taking the scans of the L & Ö deck and using Artscow to print them.
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Andrew Brannan
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WhiteKong wrote:


If you upload anything to artscow, don't they keep a copy of it and make it available to others to purchase from the artscow library? At that point, it's almost like releasing an unofficial expansion for a game without the author's permission. That just isn't right.

I can't believe that they'd have a problem with an individual user making home-made cards for themselves only, but if that artwork and/or those cards are made available to everyone, it may be stepping over the line.



Artscow will allow you, if you choose, to "share" your albums (i.e. give you a URL to that specific album that you can distribute, not put it up in a searchable library). It is not the default, and it is not required.

Certainly, duplicating the copyrighted artwork on the back of the cards, and the design of the front of the cards is infringing use.
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Håkan König
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WhiteKong wrote:
hakko504 wrote:
He's probably more objecting to people taking the scans of the L & Ö deck and using Artscow to print them.


What you're describing is an outright violation. I think Hanno is definitely talking about "unofficial" and home-made decks.

If you upload anything to artscow, don't they keep a copy of it and make it available to others to purchase from the artscow library? At that point, it's almost like releasing an unofficial expansion for a game without the author's permission. That just isn't right.

I can't believe that they'd have a problem with an individual user making home-made cards for themselves only, but if that artwork and/or those cards are made available to everyone, it may be stepping over the line.

Well, take a look at these geeklists and judge for yourself:
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/39565/page/4 (esp item 78)
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/40596/page/1
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Randall Bart
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abrannan wrote:
Artscow will allow you, if you choose, to "share" your albums (i.e. give you a URL to that specific album that you can distribute, not put it up in a searchable library).

I think that's what Hanno is talking about. He is saying that sharing on Artscow is publishing.
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William Crispin
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Artscow is really cool. It is a shame that some people will always push the obvious boundaries. There is virtually no publisher of an in-print game that is going to be okay with either reproducing playable parts of the game (like a whole Z deck) or sharing fan made additions that involve the copyrighted artwork.
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B C Z
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If I read this right, if someone came up with an entirely new set of artwork and card layout for 'unofficial expansion' cards, that wouldn't be a problem.

The issue is cards that look like they came from Lookout (due to reuse of the backs and templated card design) that are in fact not.

Of course, whomever published a 'not official card expansion' artwork set for this (or any game) would have to make relinquish their copyrights and allow anyone who wanted to use the artwork/template.
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Dan Carew
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Hanno, I think you should make it clear that people can still pick up the L and X decks (as well as Through the Seasons' postcard) through your donation system. And people can pick up the Ö and Z decks through Z-Man himself on BGG. With that knowledge, I think a lot of would-be Artscow'ers would rather buy the official product!
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Ian Thatcher

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It is always a difficult task dealing with intellectual property. First and foremost no one should be buying any full deck's that are not official. You have the ability to pick up them all for a reasonable price (Probably the same price as it costs to have them printed if not less) If for some reason any cards were "retired" and no longer in print for a period of over 1 year then you could make an argument that you simply cannot obtain them any other way.

Another thing to consider is individual cards. Suppose someone spills coke all over their hand of cards 7 or 14 or whatever and you need replacement cards. I have no idea if you can order the offical replacement cards but if you can't then you have already paid for the intellectual property once and have the right to re-accquire those cards in another manner if you own the game (were talking about the E,I,K decks) Same would apply to any other offical decks you purchased.
Now a fine line is drawn here because who is to say you have purchased them before yadayadayada....

Now when it comes to homebrew's it's a fine line. Obviously you want to have cards that match your others. This is important especially that the back's match so there is no guessing what the other players have based on a homebrew card vs. a offical card (although it could be argued that doesn't really matter in a game such as this) Now the artwork on the card is a different story. (in my opinon) You should not have a template of the artwork to choose from or other homebrews and pay a 3rd party to produce these for you. Of course you are not technically breaking the law in this instance (as long as you are not selling these printed cards because when you buy the offical cards you have the right to use this property for your personal use) However it is simply a matter of right and wrong. And the law won't go after a 3rd party because they are simply offering a printing service and base their profit off that alone and are not replicating cards themselves(or thats what their arguemtn would be of course)

The problem with intellectual property. Too difficult to control. Everyone just do the right thing and buy the offical cards and support the intellectual property. If you want homebrews simply ask for permission to use the property to create your own cards for your own use.
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Richard Dewsbery
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What about allowing people to *purchase* a license from Lookout to have a particular deck printed up at Artscow? If they want the L&O deck, for example, first they pay Lookout (say) $2. Lookout still make money without needing to actually arrange printing or shipping, Artscow make money, and the customer gets the deck that they want.

Just a thought.
 
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Scott O'Brien
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RDewsbery wrote:
What about allowing people to *purchase* a license from Lookout to have a particular deck printed up at Artscow? If they want the L&O deck, for example, first they pay Lookout (say) $2. Lookout still make money without needing to actually arrange printing or shipping, Artscow make money, and the customer gets the deck that they want.

Just a thought.


well for 1, the O deck is available already... why you would have someone else print it is beyond my understanding.

However the exclusivitiy and value of the limited edition promos must also be preserved. So this is a resounding no as well.

thirdly, lookout is a publisher, if they have exclusive rights of printership, but as the artwork is actually owned by Uwe. So there would have to be a mutual agreement on both sides... and usually contract legalspeak would make this very difficult.
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B C Z
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sao123 wrote:
However the exclusivitiy and value of the limited edition promos must also be preserved. So this is a resounding no as well.


Why?
 
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Scott O'Brien
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byronczimmer wrote:
sao123 wrote:
However the exclusivitiy and value of the limited edition promos must also be preserved. So this is a resounding no as well.


Why?



because an exclusive promo is one of the draws which brings people to the shows like essen.
If you lose the exclusives, less people may be willing to attend, or those who do attend will feel like there is less value to attending.
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sao123 wrote:
byronczimmer wrote:
sao123 wrote:
However the exclusivitiy and value of the limited edition promos must also be preserved. So this is a resounding no as well.


Why?



because an exclusive promo is one of the draws which brings people to the shows like essen.
If you lose the exclusives, less people may be willing to attend, or those who do attend will feel like there is less value to attending.


Elitism, got it.
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Richard Dewsbery
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As one of those attendees (and travelling a fair distance to do so), I for one couldn't give a fetid dingo's kidney about "show exclusives" staying exclusive. Nor did I care if everyone got wooden animals (even though I pre-ordered).

Pre-orders are about people putting their money up front to make sure that something gets printed - their "reward" is that it actually gets printed. Attending Essen is its own reward - not the thought that I'm going to pick up something that nobody else can have.

If the extra Le Havre special buildings improve the game, Lookout should let *everyone* have a chance to get a set. Which they did.

I wasn't aware that Lookout had - and sold - the extra Agricola decks when I proposed a licence fee to have a deck printed at Artscow, though I think my idea is still valid. If someone wants a new deck of something that is (c) somebody else, but is otherwise out of print/unobtainable, why not have the original (c) holder receiving something for their work, but without the delays, expanse and hassle of having to get the deck back into print themselves? I can see such "print on demand" business models taking off over the next 10 years; aren't there already book publishers/outlets that can print single copies of a book that someone wants? I'm just proposing the next logical step, allowing for separation of the IP holder from the actual producer of the physical product. Which isn't particularly new - if I want to buy a song for my iPod (except that I don't actually *have* an iPod), I pay Apple - who ultimately pay a licence fee (effectively on my behalf) to the band/composer/music publisher.
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You can't handle the truth?
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First, let me say I think if you want an existing deck of Agricola cards, that you should buy it from the source, not from artscow.

BUT,

I don't get why some publishers embrace the creativity of their gamers, like Mayfair and Smallworld. A lot of people are going nuts trying to create alternate races and abilities, so much so, that Mayfair is now running a contest for it. There are many races uploaded here to the geek, which is a very public forum, using the exact same templating as the originals. I think the result is simple, you need the original to use these new expansions, so these people have already bought your game, or may even entice others to do so.

Meanwhile, Lookout Games is telling us that it is ok if we create something new, but that they don't really want us to share our wonderful ideas in a public forum. Hey, if I ever decide to use one of these user created decks, all I ask is that you be happy that I have already bought your game, it's the only way I could use it.
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crambaza wrote:
First, let me say I think if you want an existing deck of Agricola cards, that you should buy it from the source, not from artscow.

BUT,

I don't get why some publishers embrace the creativity of their gamers, like Mayfair and Smallworld. A lot of people are going nuts trying to create alternate races and abilities, so much so, that Mayfair is now running a contest for it. There are many races uploaded here to the geek, which is a very public forum, using the exact same templating as the originals. I think the result is simple, you need the original to use these new expansions, so these people have already bought your game, or may even entice others to do so.

Meanwhile, Lookout Games is telling us that it is ok if we create something new, but that they don't really want us to share our wonderful ideas in a public forum. Hey, if I ever decide to use one of these user created decks, all I ask is that you be happy that I have already bought your game, it's the only way I could use it.


Days of Wonder is the publisher of Small World, not Mayfair.

Hanno didn't say people weren't allowed to design custom cards, or even use the same templating as the official cards. What he said was "we need to draw a fine line between cards that someone does for private use and cards that are published/made ready for print that do not have the approval by Lookout Games. Especially if they use our artwork and card design."

Folks are fine to make custom cards, but when the cards are being offered for purchase at a site like Artscow, then Lookout has to speak up or could loose their intellectual property.

Also if Bob goes off and designs a bunch of crappy cards and then gets them professionally made, he may introduce these crap cards to people without them knowing they are custom cards, not official and as such think Lookout is responsible for the power unbalance.
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sao123 wrote:
byronczimmer wrote:
sao123 wrote:
However the exclusivitiy and value of the limited edition promos must also be preserved. So this is a resounding no as well.


Why?



because an exclusive promo is one of the draws which brings people to the shows like essen.
If you lose the exclusives, less people may be willing to attend, or those who do attend will feel like there is less value to attending.


I definitely see the wisdom in this. No exclusives = less attendance = no Essen. No Essen = no promos. I like promos. I think Lookout has done a great job at remodelling the convention promo concept. Rather than being exclusive, they are available early (and perhaps free and/or with signature) to convention goers. People who don't go can still get them if they want them, however, it is later, more expensive (shipping), and won't be signed. Seems like the best of both worlds, hats off!
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spearjr wrote:
Folks are fine to make custom cards, but when the cards are being offered for purchase at a site like Artscow, then Lookout has to speak up or could loose their intellectual property.

Well they're not being offered for purchase. Artscow is a printing service and unless people are just keeping images of the cards in their heads someone is making money out of them being printed.

hakko504 wrote:
He's probably more objecting to people taking the scans of the L & Ö deck and using Artscow to print them.

So what's all the whinging about play balance then?

If I were going to use fan made cards with one of my games I'd want those cards to look as much like the original game cards as possible and I'd want them printed well. If the publisher or designer does not approve I don't really care; I paid for the game and I'll modify it any way I choose. Throws off game? Yeah, tough, I'll shed a tear.

If they're promotional materials, give them away at an event, fine, but then get them commercially available. Don't expect me to care if the only way to get them is to print them myself.

Game out of print? That's sad. Get it back in print or don't complain about people printing their own copies.

If the complaint is about people using scans of cards that are readily available for purchase that's a different story. But as someone who has spent a lot of money on entertainment products I've grown weary of whinging and whining from copyright holders about their right to control how I use something I paid good money for.
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Scott O'Brien
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kaytel wrote:
spearjr wrote:
Folks are fine to make custom cards, but when the cards are being offered for purchase at a site like Artscow, then Lookout has to speak up or could loose their intellectual property.

Well they're not being offered for purchase. Artscow is a printing service and unless people are just keeping images of the cards in their heads someone is making money out of them being printed.

hakko504 wrote:
He's probably more objecting to people taking the scans of the L & Ö deck and using Artscow to print them.

So what's all the whinging about play balance then?

If I were going to use fan made cards with one of my games I'd want those cards to look as much like the original game cards as possible and I'd want them printed well. If the publisher or designer does not approve I don't really care; I paid for the game and I'll modify it any way I choose. Throws off game? Yeah, tough, I'll shed a tear.

If they're promotional materials, give them away at an event, fine, but then get them commercially available. Don't expect me to care if the only way to get them is to print them myself.

Game out of print? That's sad. Get it back in print or don't complain about people printing their own copies.

If the complaint is about people using scans of cards that are readily available for purchase that's a different story. But as someone who has spent a lot of money on entertainment products I've grown weary of whinging and whining from copyright holders about their right to control how I use something I paid good money for.


Don't expect you to care if the only way to get them is to print them yourself? Where did this arrogant sense of entitlement come from?

what right do you have to get a copy of promotional items which you did not participate in the event necessary to get them? Promos arent made for everyone, they are made for a select exclusive group of individuals.

the company doesnt need to make them be commercially available...If you want the promotional materials, then pay the money, get off your ass, and go to the event where they are being distributed. You had your opportunity... and chose not to go. So yeah... no promos for you.

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Again with the elitism. Awesome.
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Carlos Robledo
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http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/416629

in case someone forgot
 
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Brad Weage
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kaytel wrote:

Well they're not being offered for purchase. Artscow is a printing service and unless people are just keeping images of the cards in their heads someone is making money out of them being printed.


Wow! I really couldn't follow your point here. The next logical sentence would seem to be "In this case, Artscow is the someone making money out of them being printed - and they are printing something using copyrighted art and layout that they do not own." But that doesn't seem to fit the position of the rest of your reply.

kaytel wrote:

If the publisher or designer does not approve I don't really care; I paid for the game and I'll modify it any way I choose.


That is a valid opinion but not a legitimate one. You did pay for a game and you can do pretty much anything you want with the components - including melting them or cutting them up. But that doesn't give you the legal right to extract assets from those components and use them any way you choose. Nor can you buy a book and extract the text of a few pages and present it as your own work; or scan in a plate, put it on your site and claim to be the artist; or even type the entire text of the book onto the web, give full credit to the author, with no intent of making money from it. All are violations of copyright. You are allowed to destroy the book, give it away, resell the book, and even change its medium by reading it aloud. In the USA, you are allowed to give a public reading of the book or portions of it, with a lot of restrictions - like mentioning the title, giving proper credit to the author, not charging any fee, not allowing any gratuity (however, this is not necessarily a right granted in all countries) but you are not allowed to record that reading and then post it in a public forum for download without an agreement with the copyright holders.

kaytel wrote:

But as someone who has spent a lot of money on entertainment products I've grown weary of whinging and whining from copyright holders about their right to control how I use something I paid good money for.


I have sympathy for your view. The music and film industry is often way out of line in my opinion. The contention that they only license you a CD is faulty - when it is obvious that you buy it. This started as an attempt to clarify that when you buy a CD you buy "that" CD and you get the right to play it - but you are not buying the rights to take the music from that CD and modify it and pass it off as your own new music, or to use it in the film score for your movie. This should be treated just like a book - buying a book gives you ownership of that one copy of the book, and no one reasonably expects that it gives them ownership of the text of the book. Buying one copy of a Harry Potter book does not entitle you to usage of the character names and situations for your own Harry Potter movie. But just like reading a book aloud to your kids, you should have the right to change the delivery media (to mp3 perhaps) for personal use, and also the right to resell the CD. (Some portions of the music industry have tried, or are still trying, to find ways to prevent both of these.) The film side of the industry is the most out-of-line. At least in the USA, with "government by the people" - the purpose of copyright is to grant a temporary license to the creator of an artwork, so he/she can make enough money off of it to encourage its creation in the first place - but with the eventual goal of increasing the public good by having the work enter the public domain some day. Despite the importance of "temporary" in that purpose, and despite the idea that the only legitimate reason for government to be involved is when there is a issue of the public good - the film makers have changed things so that copyright now protects things for the life of the author plus some number of years and then they claim that the author, for purposes of copyright, is an entity that never dies. This has created a fiasco and needs to change, but I don't know if it ever will. I have no sympathy for the big companies and big execs trying to extend their grubby paws in both reach and time - but not because they are big execs, but rather because there are legitimate limits to the concept of copyright and they are trying to exceed them. In a much smaller industry like designer board and card games, where we are such a small community that we can see that we won't get good new games unless we temporarily reward the artists who create them, we should know the appropriate limits of copyright and respect the rights which fall within those limits.

On the issue here of Artscow and Lookout assets:

What seems to be happening here is that Artscow is receiving copyrighted assets from their customers, and they are then printing them as a way to make money, when neither Artscow nor their customers are the legitimate rights owners for those assets, nor is there any agreement in place with those rights owners. That sounds like a violation.

If there were a book available in hardback, but not yet in paperback - should a customer be able to acquire a printable text file of the book, take it to a cheap vanity-press paperback printer, and have them print one copy at half the cost of the legitimate hardcover? That also sounds like a violation - somebody is making money by printing something they do not own. I can't imagine most publishers being concerned with one copy with no means of distribution. (Nor can I imagine a vanity-press in the USA that would agree to do this.) Now what if my file is saved at that printer, in such a way that anyone else can use it to also buy the book in cheap format there. Time-travel must be possible because the printer just got a cease and desist order in less time than it takes to prepare one. Would there really be people who contend that they should have this right, because the wicked greedy publisher didn't decide to release a paperback copy - so all is fair? Or maybe it is only okay until the legitimate paperback comes out. Or maybe it is only okay if it was once in print and is now sold out - even if we know a new printing is planned. Would claiming to be "only a printer" and that you just printed what someone sent you really get you out of trouble - especially if you are also running the storage library that holds the questionable content?

Personally, I've never dealt with Artscow, and I thought they were for printing cards for prototypes, and this is the first I've heard about the library holding function. So it may not be an exact match, but from what I've read, it sounds like the above scenario is the book equivalent of what is going on. Even in the above, a forward-thinking book publisher (aware of the easy transmission of a text file) would probably want to know about even one copy printed like this, even without a printer-provided holding area.

What to do:

One reply mentioned that Artscow provides a link to the library copy of the art, but does not provide any search features to find content. This suggests that their original reason for the storage feature was to allow a single user to make something custom and be able to send it to a few friends so they could also purchase an identical nicely printed deck. Not as a way to get into distribution as well as printing - and not with any intent to ignore the concerns of image and layout copyright holders. That is a good sign.

Hanno and company says that they encourage people making up their own Agricola cards. (That is a good sign - and consistent with his overall great behavior on behalf of the gaming community.) Many people who would make up their own cards would want the cards to be good quality and the artwork and style to match. But Hanno is in trouble for future protection of asset rights if he doesn't try to prohibit infractions as he discovers them.

I would suggest that Hanno and Artscow sit down and talk this out (though they probably already have some level of communication). There needs to be a way that a deck purchaser can get the "official" card-back image for a game in a way that benefits everyone. Hanno may not be the rights holder for the art so there may be levels of negotiation, and hoops to jump through. It may be that for a purchaser to use the official back - he must also have "user-produced enhancement" in 12 point font at the bottom of the face. And what does using the official back image cost? Some publishers might want to make it free as long as the disclaimer is on the front. Some might need to reward the artist - and even a penny a card should increase the price of a deck by less than a dollar. If paying for the back also allowed you access to layout templates for the face - with the disclaimer already present when desired by the publisher - then development could be streamlined. That is significant work for Hanno. Artscow would have to add some additional payment tracking to their system, strengthen the purchase agreement to make it clear that sending them artwork or layout you do not own is a serious violation as is obscuring or removing the disclaimer requested by the rights holders, and they might also benefit from a dual layer card-face capability that allows a customer's image to be combined with any existing template that goes with the official back being used.

Although I would enjoy seeing a consortium of game publishers reaching an agreement with a consortium of deck printers - that would unduly complicate things. Probably best to let Hanno work something out directly with Artscow, and then bring other members of the community in over time. For now we should simply be supportive. With any luck, we could eventually have a system where no card game ever had to go out of print, but would enter the same kind of limbo as the "print on demand" books where you order it and then the printer prints and binds it from stored files. The publisher can concentrate on recent and new games, and the ancient ones can still provide a trickle of income. The family that really cherishes an older game, can still get a new copy, even if they can't find 5000 people who would also want a copy. A really popular new game, with bunches of fan-made cards being printed, might generate enough income to fund the contest that selects the best for inclusion in the next edition or the fan expansion. There may be no free lunches, but we can have a better world if we work at it.
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Brad Weage
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Update: I asked a copyright lawyer about this one. He suggested that the best way to handle this would be to license usage of the official back artwork only if there was both an artwork copyright and some sort of "not official" disclaimer on the front of the cards. He said there are ways to work around needing an artwork copyright, that could be included in the online usage agreement, but that if the printing resolution is fine enough to allow for it, insisting on a tiny one at the bottom of the face would be more desirable for the owner of the art and layout.
 
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