Copy Right and the MWF Gamemaster

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Whiterook
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Copy Right and the MWF Gamemaster

Postby Whiterook » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:08 pm

Let’s get the big guns out and firing!

Before I get into the nuts and bolts, a lot of what you are about to read translates to one specific concept and rule-of-thumb:
DON'T COPY THE FULL GAME RULES!!!!!


Keep in mind that what I am about to relay to you is based on United States of America copyright law.

http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl108.html

The U.S. Copyright Office specifically states, and I quote:

“The idea for a game is not protected by copyright. The same is true of the name or title given to the game and of the methods or methods for playing it.

Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form. Copyright protection does not extend to any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in the development, merchandising, or playing of a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles.

Some material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game, or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container, may be registrable.”



As you can see, as with a lot concerning the law, there is a lot of room for interpretation; but on the whole, this is what most gamers cite as the Holy Grail of Home Rules Published on the Internet. Note I said "Home Rules". Keep this in mind, and the words above....
DON'T COPY THE FULL GAME RULES!!!!!

So how do we interpret this?

Well, I have seen the first paragraph published repeatedly whenever the subject arises of whether it is an infringement of copyright to fiddle with a games’ rules and come up with home rules; and even for designing a game from scratch with “inspiration” from another game. One could reason using a games' mechanics to play out a game on the Internet is a form of "Home Rules", as long as you don't print out the entire rules from the actual game. Note, “…copyright protection does not extend to any…method, device…in…playing a game.”

To me, the hot button to stay away from pushing involves the “author’s expression” element, which would be in the artwork/pictorial or literary expression content used in the game materials (i.e., cover art, the author’s personal views and literary verbiage, pictures included in the game manual, etc.). But this is still all rather subjective and loosey-goosey. The big thing I get out of it is, do not quote verbatim en masse; and do not copy and post pictures of any game art, players aids and charts, entire sheets of counters, etc…..avoid those and you should be OK.

Where the biggest crux may lie is the game board; I just don’t know what the ramifications are there…..probably depends to a large extent on what that gameboard looks like. On the one hand, if you are playing a miniatures game based on Axis & Allies Miniatures, for instance…and you are playing it out on a diorama you build, no problems on the “gameboard” used; whereas if you use the mapboard sheets provided with the game, is that tempting fate with the pictorial matter presented on those sheets? Well, a cursor inspecion of Boardgamegeek.com will show TONS of full game boards....so, who knows for sure. In this example, I advise contacting Wizards of the Coast (the manufacturer) and asking.


Further guidance:

OK, so what is “Copyright”?

Well, basically, it’s a form of protection of ownership, or a better term for this would be “authorship”, for original works, which automatically comes into existence the moment a work is created and “exists in a real form” (i.e., not just an idea in their head); and if the work is registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, can be enforced by law in legal proceedings. Think of it as a form of protection for the Author, Artist, Musician, etc., which offers safe haven from their work being “stolen”, generally in the form plagiarism, duplication for profit, personal gain…well, you get the idea. Where the rubber meets the road though, is in the definition of what specifically is copyrightable…..as noted previously, not everything is. Reference the following link for a full explanation of “What Copyright Is” http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#what


So, I’m still confused….what do I do???

Here are some simple and not so simple strategies to consider:

Provide a link.
If the goal is to provide a large chunk of an existing rules set, is the game manual online? Check the game manufacturer or Designer’s web site and see if the rules are provided online. Many game companies and designers now offer their rules online, usually in PDF format, for download and saving on your computer. This is the best case scenario, as the Players will be able to reference the rules at their leisure, and then it’s just a matter of discussion and clarifications in the Discussion boards.

Quote.
So, I guess one of the questions that is springing to your mind is…..How much can I use or quote without getting the Owner’s permission? I have seen plenty of examples where people on forums discuss a rule element in a post, and quote the rules as reference. It is always strongly advised that you put the reference in quotes (preferably italicized). But this may be a bucket with holes...I don't know.

Ask the owner.
The safest way to go!!!
You can always contact the owner of the game directly and explain that you are interested in hosting a game(s) on an online forum, as a Gamemaster, and want to share the rules with the community. Many designers give their contact info these days, as they want feedback and interaction in how their games are being played. Chances are, they may even stop by to take a look! If you don’t know who the owner is or how to contact the, you can also go to the U.S. Copyright Office and search their records, and some of the records are now online on their web site. Alternatively, you could request the U.S. Copyright Office conduct a search of their records, but it’s gonna cost you big time, as the hourly fee is not cheap.


Are these three suggestions mandatory?
I don't believe they have to all be in play, but they are effective strategies.


Other Resources you may want to look at:

Copyright law of the United States http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

US Copyright Law, go to the following site http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/

The Fair Use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute
http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-fairuse.html#permission
http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

And remember, a little common sense goes a long way!
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning

Chrisd
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Re: Copy Right and the TCG Gamemaster

Postby Chrisd » Tue Aug 23, 2011 6:39 pm

but if we are actually playing the game how are we in any violation of the copyright rules?
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Whiterook
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Re: Copy Right and the TCG Gamemaster

Postby Whiterook » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:18 pm

Chrisd wrote:but if we are actually playing the game how are we in any violation of the copyright rules?


It all comes down to the preference of the game designer/company: Some are more toleratnt than others in allowing their game rules to be copied, and in our case posted online. Some see it OK and in seeing their game played online as we do, another promotional vehicle; while others feel it an infringement of their intellectual property.

On some real old games, they've almost attained a "public knowledge" status where the game company may not exist anymore, and the game designer and their heirs long passed. New games are obviously different.

The best way around it is to see if the designer or comapny offer the rules on their site. Beyond that, our putting up a Q&A thread and tackling elements one at a time is a loophole of sorts in that we are discussiong the rules (and thereby learning them) rather than copying the whole rule book word-for-word.
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Re: Copy Right and the MWF Gamemaster

Postby Duncan » Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:55 pm

Check BGG or the publisher's website if you need rules. They are often available there. But don't post them here.


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