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Subject: Copyrights and BGG rss

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Roger Boykin
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A shy friend of mine is working on an Excel spreadsheet that will (in short) allow players to check the legality of their moves in old Avalon Hill/Battleline game.

He has put in significant time into this labor of love and I suggested that he post it in the files section where others might enjoy it. But he is worried about Avalon Hill suing him for copyright infringement and thereby hesistant.

Neither of us are lawyers and while I feel the chance to be miniscule in the extreme for legal action, I would hate to see him become a victim of the addage 'no good deed goes unpunished'.

He wanted to know if Aldie or Derk would perform some kind of 'vetting' of the material before he posted it to the files' section of the game in question?

Personally, I wanted to hear from other geeks as to the legal yardstick they use for copyrights when posting files for games.

Thanks!
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Tom "Snicker Daddy" Pancoast
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I would be curious, too. My *opinion* is that if he has created a derived work that does not copy significant text from the original, he should be fine. I think you are looking at more than opinion.

I had a case where I created a quick reference for a small game from a small publisher, and I submitted it to their Yahoo group for fans to check. They asked me nicely not to post it. They would probably be better off with more content on the Geek, and I do not think it would have been a legitimate copyright violation either, but small game companies have it hard enough all ready. I would not want to cause even a little heartburn.

My quick reference had a fair amount of text, and some of it inevitably was worded the same way as the original. Alot of the file postings here are actually scans and word-for-word transcripts. I'm surprised these have not been an issue. Perhaps the companies involved recognize the greater good, but I find that unlikely to always be the case. Apparently there is a legal precedent where undefended copyrights are effectively lost. At least that what FASA was claiming at one time. This was pre-Microsoft, but maybe they were preparing for a buy out and making sure everything looked extra profitable...

Anyone want to chime in who actually knows something?
 
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Robert Martin
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Are you serious?
You are afraid of Avalon Hill suing the guy because he created a player aid for some old outdated game? Man, the IP owners really do have us all shaking in our boots these days. Sad...
 
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robin goblin
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know nothing
Well, I know nothing, except that from being on different web-sites and stuff, I can't imagine anyone would sue you. If they don't want the material up, they'll ask for it to be taken down. If they do, it gets taken down, nobody gets hurt.

Iirc some companies have in the past asked that their games be removed from the counter scans over on the wargaming sites, but then you just take them down, no big deal. How could they sue you if you were co-operative when they asked you to remove the file???

Robin
 
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Mike Bourgeois
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If you are making a profit from your posting then there is call for concern. If you are merely providing a player aid to make the game a little easier and not asking for renumeration... then there is no cause for legal concern. And yes, if a company doesn't want you to post info they will simply tell you 'please don't post it'. If your friend wants... they could always send a copy of the player aid into... umm... is it Hasboro/Avalon Hill? They have an article listing place and I'm sure they'd post it there as well.
 
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Chris Keller
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Copyrights are tricky...
Copyrights are tricky things --- and often you won't find 10 Copyright Lawyers to agree on the same thing

Generally, any work derived from another's Copyrighted material is still held under the old Copyright, and, depending on each individual situation, could be subject to Copyright Infringement --- even if there is no monetary gain!

The Copyright for many, many games are not held by the publishing company(s) --- they are, often, retained by the Designer. So, even if a game that is made by "Publisher X" goes out of print, and then "Publisher X" goes out of business, it's quite possible that the ownership of the Copyright is retained by the Designer.

IOW, there's probably no definitive answer anyone on here can give ... talking with a Copyright Lawyer is the best bet.
 
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John Lopez
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The old days of being total hard cases about such things seems to be mostly over. Remember, they *do* want to protect copyrights and trademarks, but most of the game companies have also realized that allowing fans to communicate is to their benefit. Tricks to avoid deliberately annoying the company:

a) Specify in the copyright information for the program and in a splash screen that this is a player aid for XYZ, a product owned by ABC company. This avoids the appearance of challenging trademarks. You really want to avoid appearing to challenge a trade mark.

b) Use a distinct name. Calling it XYZ Helper will cause major problems for the trademark holder of XYZ: by law they *have* to challenge your useage or risk losing the trademark. (Stupid law, but true).

c) Don't use scans of peices etc. The statistics are usually fair game (current copyright law prevents copywrite being applied to databases, although they are attempting to change that).

d) Be polite to anyone who contacts you. Make any requested changes quickly and you will avoid the courts (they don't want to spend the money for enforcement if they don't have to).

(Disclaimer, I'm not a lawer, but I do create my own Intellectial Property for my own company and have had to deal with these issues).
 
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Norman Petry
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Copyrights cannot be 'lost'
Tom wrote:

"Apparently there is a legal precedent where undefended copyrights are effectively lost. At least that what FASA was claiming at one time."

As far as I know, this is complete nonsense. I know that trademarks can be lost if they are not enforced, but I do not believe it is possible to lose a copyright or a patent through selective enforcement. If that were the case, the record companies and movie studios would have lost the copyrights to their products a long time ago!

It sounds to me that FASA was spouting legal nonsense in order to excuse their antisocial behavior.
 
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Tom "Snicker Daddy" Pancoast
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Quote:
It sounds to me that FASA was spouting legal nonsense in order to excuse their antisocial behavior.


This was quite a few years ago, and my memory is not great, but it probably was about trademarked symbols as well as copyright. They were requesting that web sites remove Fasa graphics, and some of those graphics were probably the trademarked Shadowrun symbol.
 
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Roger Boykin
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Tha;nks for the advice/information!
Gang,
I appreciate your views/advice. The game in question is "Airforce/Duantless". My friend's excel spreadsheet uses much of the information found on the airplane data cards, but no scans. He is not planning on making any money, he just wants to play the game online/FTF. It all started when I showed him Cyberboard...

I created a monster!
 
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Bernd Wechner
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Ethics vs. Law
Like robartin, I'm sad that this is even a question in this context.

I'm no lawyer either, but I'd use the following yardstick any day (and may get my butt sued off one day as a result, who knows, pigs may fly too ):

If it's not costing anyone income, if it doesn't cost them prestige, then do it ...

The law, as I see it is a way of protecting these two things and enforcing it against people who don't look after them for you. Simple ethics with the right criteria do a better job generally and keep you out of (most) legal trouble.

And then, well before you get sued, they'd only ask you to pull it off line and if you complied they'd have little recourse for any charges unles sthey can demonstrate that you've cost them something in the way of income, prospective or image through your actions.

But don't worry, there are plenty of "letter of the law" vs. "spirit of law" people that will shout down views like this.
 
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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What I've gathered over the years about IP Law and games concentrates mostly on the specific language used to describe the rules and the specific graphics used to implement the game. This is why you see all those -opoly games all over the place, 'cuz the actual mechanics of the game are impossible to protect. So long as they re-write the rules from scratch and don't use the graphics or names, then those knock offs are okie-dokie. So IMHO, you should be fine to release a derivative work that doesn't feature graphics from the the original game.
 
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David Boeren
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Copyrights
OK, this isn't specifically about your situation, but It does relate...

I was recently interested in trying out a card game I'd heard good things about, but didn't want to buy it without trying it first. Well, the company posts images of all the cards on their web page! So, I downloaded them all and compiled them into a single easy-to-print file format using QuickCards. Then I printed some copies on cardstock to try out the game. It seemed interesting, so since then I have managed to trade for a real copy of the game with another BGG member.

It occurred to me that my files could be of use to other gamers, but also that they could offend the company since people could just print out the game instead of buying it. Well, I emailed one of their contacts, explained the whole thing including links to the software I was using and asked their opinion. After brief consultation, they said they would prefer that I not make the files public, so I have withheld them.

I'm fairly sure that they could not press legal action since the images are all publicly available on their web page, but I have respect for the company's wishes and more importantly respect for the quality games that they produce!

Perhaps you can try to contact Avalon Hill and ask if they mind or not. They may not respond, but at least you can say you tried to contact them if they complain later.
 
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Joe Krow
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interesting read
I'm in my second year of law school and if i've learned anything its not to offer an opinion untill you know the material. Unfortunatly, this would entail a considerable amount of research which, at the moment, I don't have time for. I'm certainly curious though. Anyone who is interested can read a pretty good summery of previouis litigation at:

http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/copyright/newgames.html

If anyone would like some of the cases pulled or if the moderators would like answers to specific questions feel free to ask. Anyway, hope the link helps.
 
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Joe Krow
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couldn't help myself...
Pulled a couple cases. Heres an interesting quote from ALR:

The court of appeals in Allen v. Academic Games League of America, Inc., 89 F.3d 614, 39 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1470 (9th Cir. 1996), dismissed out of hand that a game manual was a derivative work of a previously published rulebook, although the manual contained some of the rules discussed in the rulebook. The appellate court employed the doctrine of merger, which states that the expression of an idea cannot be copyrighted when the expression cannot be separated from the idea itself. The appellate court found that the expression of the rules were merged with the ideas that generated the rules, and since ideas cannot be copyrighted, the manual could not be derivative of uncopyrightable ideas.
 
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