Copyrights & Copirates

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AppleJax

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There is nothing stopping someone from making basically the same thing as the old TSR properties with different names. What does Gamma World offer that Mutant Future or Mutant Crawl Classics doesn’t? I don’t really play video games but I take it from earlier comments that there are video games that also give the same approximate experience.

I love Boot Hill but it isn’t like we have a lack of western games on the market plus you can get it PoD from DrivethruRPG, what else do you need?
Do those other post-apocalyptic games have cryptic alliances and secret societies like the Friends of Entropy or the Knights of Genetic Purity?

I’ve tried finding an equivalent of Star*Drive with stellar nations, the Verge, and the Externals, but there’s nothing comparable. And you can’t make anything comparable without risking being sued by WotC. WotC has no intention to ever touch those IPs again and copyright law prevents anyone else from even making close approximations.

The original authors of Alternity took the lapsed trademark and tried to make a retroclone that quickly fizzled out. Part of the reason they failed was that fans were angered to learn they didn’t actually own the rights to Alternity.

Copyright law is broken and is strangling creativity. Copyright terms are too long. By the time the copyright to TSR products expires in the late 2080s, everyone who played it will have been dead for decades. There will be no one around who knew it existed, much less wants to continue it.
 

sharps54

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Even if WotC does something with one of these properties what are the chances it will not only tank but also not be what older gamers want? Better to make what you want for you and your group to play. There is no reason to whine about copyright laws when they have zero bearing on what you and your group do at your table. Make the game you want and play it, you aren’t required to play published material. Be creative.
 

TristramEvans

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I've always been against copyright but right now I'm feeling a little less so than ever before.

At least there's only one company right now making Marvel and Star Wars. Imagine if everyone was doing it?

Yeah, but it's like...everyone could be making a Robin Hood RPG...but they aren't.
 

Black Leaf

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My main issue at the moment is pragmatic.

If we downgrade copyright laws I suspect it won't be fans who benefit, compared to Google deciding they own everything.

(At the very least I'd want to distinguish between commercial and non commercial use).
 

sharps54

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My main issue at the moment is pragmatic.

If we downgrade copyright laws I suspect it won't be fans who benefit, compared to Google deciding they own everything.

(At the very least I'd want to distinguish between commercial and non commercial use).
that’s where I am at as well. My biggest desire for these older properties is continual access for new generations, I don’t personally care about new material as much as I want the old material to not be buried and inaccessible.
 

raniE

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Selling copies of old books isn’t the same as providing active support, and even that had to be forced out of them after their last hissy fit. They can withdraw it at any time. Or something might go wrong on the technical side.

Fact is, unless an IP is being actively maintained with new entries and promoted to audiences then people will forget about it. Communities will atrophy and eventually vanish.

A ton of great IPs languish in obscurity because they’re owned by those that have no interest in it. Or are greedily abused by those that don’t understand it.

We need copyright lengths to be reduced. 14 years or so is more than sufficient. Trademark covers the rest.
I'd say 20-25 years, because that will cover any children you might have, even if you die before they're even born, through their adult lives. Making it a bit longer can also allow creators to cash in on the first nostalgia wave which usually happens around 20-25 years later (although the never-ending 80s nostalgia is really stretching that out). But this might be getting too far into the realm of politics too.
 

Black Leaf

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that’s where I am at as well. My biggest desire for these older properties is continual access for new generations, I don’t personally care about new material as much as I want the old material to not be buried and inaccessible.
And I think we should recognise that most companies (even WoTC) pretty much ignore pirate sites when it's ancient out of print material. The problem is that places like the Trove always put up piles of stuff that's recent and commercially available. (Because, realistically, those of us looking for copies of 1e Bunnies & Burrows or Alma Mater are an unrepresentative group of weirdos. What the punters actually want and what draws site traffic is up to date 5e material).
 

EmperorNorton

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And I think we should recognise that most companies (even WoTC) pretty much ignore pirate sites when it's ancient out of print material. The problem is that places of the Trove always put up piles of stuff that's recent and commercially available. (Because, realistically, those of us looking for copies of 1e Bunnies & Burrows or Alma Mater are an unrepresentative group of weirdos. What the punters actually want and what draws site traffic is up to date 5e material).
This also is kind of my thoughts on piracy: If it can't be purchased except through collector's markets, I'm ok with it. And most companies seem to lean that way too.

Except maybe Nintendo. But they are noticeably more litigious than most companies.
 

Bunch

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And I think we should recognise that most companies (even WoTC) pretty much ignore pirate sites when it's ancient out of print material. The problem is that places like the Trove always put up piles of stuff that's recent and commercially available. (Because, realistically, those of us looking for copies of 1e Bunnies & Burrows or Alma Mater are an unrepresentative group of weirdos. What the punters actually want and what draws site traffic is up to date 5e material).
I think it's telling that most of the in print items get pulled from the Internet Archives copy of The Trove while out of print stuff isn't often.
 

Black Leaf

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I think it's telling that most of the in print items get pulled from the Internet Archives copy of The Trove while out of print stuff isn't often.
Yeah, there's a reason Abandonia has survived for 23 years operating in public. Not only does it not put up stuff it knows to be commercially available, it takes down instantly on copyright holder's request. Compare that to a lot of fly by night abandonware sites that aren't as strict and last a few years.

(Ironically, it started as a full on warez site and shifted)
 

sharps54

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Although to be fair there often is no one to request an out of print property from an out of business company be pulled.
 

AppleJax

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I've always been against copyright but right now I'm feeling a little less so than ever before.

At least there's only one company right now making Marvel and Star Wars. Imagine if everyone was doing it?
Due to trademark law, they wouldn’t be allowed to advertise it as such. That’s why there’s no Tarzan or Princess of Mars adaptations.


that’s where I am at as well. My biggest desire for these older properties is continual access for new generations, I don’t personally care about new material as much as I want the old material to not be buried and inaccessible.
The Alternity books still haven’t been restored to drivethru after the 2008 wotc hissy fit. The d20 modern web enhancements have been missing since then too
 

Agemegos

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I'd say 20-25 years, because that will cover any children you might have, even if you die before they're even born, through their adult lives.
I do not accept the argument that the children of artists and writers deserve a legal privilege that none of the rest of us get. When I see my doctor I pay him on the spot and that's that: he gets rich and his children flourish without my having to pay repeatedly for decades. The bricklayers who built my house got paid in 1965, and it was up to them to save for their retirements and to endow their children if they wanted to. I don't go on paying rent to the children of the builder even though my house still produces accommodation services.

Writers, composers, and recording artists need a term of copyright to capture the value of their creation because we do not pay them a lump sum on publication. The term cannot be limited to their life because if it were elderly and ailing artists could not get paid. But their children, or in Tolkien's case great-gandchildren, don't have anything to do with it.

My main issue at the moment is pragmatic.

If we downgrade copyright laws I suspect it won't be fans who benefit, compared to Google deciding they own everything.

I consider my concern to be pragmatic too. Pragmatically, the current excessive term of copyright makes works unavailable to the audiences without producing royalties for the artists' children, wages for the printers, interest for the owners of the presses, or anything for anyone. Works from the 1880s are more likely to be in print than works from the 1980s. (Citations: HOW COPYRIGHT KEEPS WORKS DISAPPEARED, The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish).

It seems to me that the pragmatic thing to do would be to commission a study of the way that royalties income for a work tends in fact to vary over time, and then to set a term of copyright that allowed writers and artists (in general, not case-by-case) to capture 90% or 95% of the net present value (at time of publication) of expected future royalties.

While I have my ranting hat on, and before everybody realises that this is getting political, I will note Eldred v. Ashcroft is a garbage decision: an extension of the term of copyright after the work is published is too late to provide an incentive to the writer to produce the work already produced, and therefore does not promote the progress of arts and science. Congress has the power to create copyright and patent protections only to promote the progress etc.
 
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Voros

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Due to trademark law, they wouldn’t be allowed to advertise it as such. That’s why there’s no Tarzan or Princess of Mars adaptations.

Modiphius has a John Carter of Mars game.


[insert Endless Flight Endless Flight 2d20 joke here]
 

EmperorNorton

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But we have plenty of sword and planet games that do Princess of Mars quite well, including ones by members of their s forum. I guess my question is why do we need a “branded” game? Many, including myself, would say the best “Conan” game is Barbarians of Lemuria.
This is the same thing I was talking about in the Walking Dead thread. The only time you need a "branded" game is if there is something unique to that setting that works a very specific way and that branded game is integrating it into the mechanics. Star Wars and the way the Force works is an example.

But for stuff like Princess of Mars or Conan, they are pretty much what the genre IS (mostly because of being such major parts of the genres and helping define what the genre is), so a game that just matches the genre is already going to match them.
 

sharps54

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I can 100% get behind arguments that will lead to keeping older material available to the public but I don’t see why people need access to publish new additions to that media faster than currently allowed. Have current trademark laws hindered the publication of stories in the Lovecraft Mythos?
 

TristramEvans

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I'm pretty sure there would be no problem with a Hyborian age game either. You may not be able to mention Conan because of trademark (I think) - but who cares? It's not like you'd be playing Conan.

Conan is in the public domain up here in Canada at least
 

AppleJax

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Modiphius has a John Carter of Mars game.


[insert Endless Flight Endless Flight 2d20 joke here]
IIRC the Burroughs Estate tried to send a C&D but gave up after accidentally revealing they pirated the book.

I can 100% get behind arguments that will lead to keeping older material available to the public but I don’t see why people need access to publish new additions to that media faster than currently allowed. Have current trademark laws hindered the publication of stories in the Lovecraft Mythos?
Trademark law doesn’t prevent you from writing new additions. You can’t advertise it as such, but for public domain work under trademark you can totally publish your fanfiction on Kindle.

Branding is overrated nonsense anyway. Most branded products are shovelware trying to cash in on gullible consumers.
 

urbwar

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One of the most amusing things about Copyright in the US is this: Had the Bono act not been passed, Spider-Man would be PD by now, and Marvel would not have had to deal with Sony about including Spider-man in the MCU. Disney was one of the major companies who pushed for it, so of course, they didn't own Marvel at the time. But it's ironic that their past actions put them in a position where they have to work with the competition in order to use one of Marvel's best known characters for films.

I'm also in agreement with Agemegos Agemegos about children of creators and copyright. They tend to try and stranglehold material, or sell it off to others who do so. Look at lawsuits over using the original, PD version of Buck Rogers, Sherlock Holmes and Zorro as three main examples in the last 5-10 years.

Letting family members hold onto rights defeats the purpose of the public domain imho.
 

Black Leaf

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Wait, is Holmes not public domain in the US yet? It has been here since 2000. (And that was with a controversial 20 year extension).

Honestly, the US system is starting to sound quite broken. Personally I'd be good with life + 50 (as stipulated in Berne), much stronger fair use/fair dealing provisions (this is something the US is better on currently) and a Use it or Use it Clause for non creator ownership (make it widely commercially available in 10 years or lose all rights) and make all copyright rights licensed not assigned with a maximum term of 20 years before it's rengotiated.
 

TristramEvans

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Wait, is Holmes not public domain in the US yet? It has been here since 2000. (And that was with a controversial 20 year extension).

He is, but not all of his stories. I think the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (and maybe one or two of the novels) is still under copyright in the US
 

TJS

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I think most countries are life + 70 years but the US is life + 95.

I was just looking into Conan and it seems, as far I can tell, to be public domain everywhere except the US.
 

Endless Flight

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So if somebody wrote a Conan story in Australia, for instance, they could do so but not actually promote the fact that they wrote a Conan story because the trademark is held by someone else?
 

TJS

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So if somebody wrote a Conan story in Australia, for instance, they could do so but not actually promote the fact that they wrote a Conan story because the trademark is held by someone else?
I'm not really sure to be honest. I don't know anything about the law in this area and most of the information I was able to find was on forums like Quora.

My impression is that it might be legal to publish outside the US.

I'm not entirely sure if a trademark of the term "Conan the Barbarian" is part of the same issue or not.
 

Black Leaf

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I think most countries are life + 70 years but the US is life + 95.

I was just looking into Conan and it seems, as far I can tell, to be public domain everywhere except the US.
Most are life +70. The Berne Convention (which almost every country has signed up to) is life +50 as a minimum. One major consequence of leaving that would be that all foreign copyright protections are null and void. So if France left, publisher in the US would be able to completely ignore the copyright of any works from France when it comes to republication. (I don't think any solution that nullifies Berne is feasible for that reason, not unless you got a critical mass of countries leaving at the same time).
 

Agemegos

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For the record, my preferred Copyright term would be 20 years, renewable every 20 years during the creator's lifetime, with rights non-transferrable
Non-transferrable rights would suck for elderly or ailing creators. Unable to sell their copyrights or use them as security for borrowing, they would find themselves cash-poor and heir-rich.

And why require renewals? Why not have rights automatically continue if it is just that the authors should have them? Requiring renewal seems to me to generate paperwork, the need to hire lawyers to do paperwork, and the chance for someone to mis out on what they ought to have because of neglecting or making mistakes in paperwork, without actually doing anyone any good. What's gained by making creators perform a routine formality?
 
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Black Leaf

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Non-transferrable rights would suck for elderly or ailing creators. Unable to sell their copyrights or use them as security for borrowing, they would find themselves cash-poor and heir-rich.
Licensing already sorts that though I think.
 

TristramEvans

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Non-transferrable rights would suck for elderly or ailing creators. Unable to sell their copyrights

Thy could still license them the same as if they were not "ailing"

or use them as security for borrowing

lol, what?

"do you have any intangible assets Mr. Bildenrung?"
"well, I have this great idea for a superhero lawyer named Justin Case"

The only reason the property would have value to be used as security for borrowing is if they had already generated income. An ailing an elderly "creator" who is coming up with idea that they are 1) not doing anything with or 2) not licensing out, has nothing of value.

And why require renewals?

So the properties don't just end up abandoned but unuseable - y'know like a HUGE percentage of copyrights over the last century

The original copyright terms were 14 years. And then these got extended to 14 years plus renewable once - I think my proposition is much more generous than that.
 
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