IP of Wotc - will they chase me with a stick?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by D9#11, Aug 3, 2010.

  1. D9#11

    D9#11 New Member

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    we're a group of indie devs trying to figure out a way to revive an old project, to cut to the chase-we don't own the license(we did 10 years ago) and we've got the "no comment" response from the owners, probably due to NDA.

    the question is, since i know many modders use copyrighted material without license, is that something i can just ignore? and when i get(if) enough followers i can try and negotiate somekind of premission, since its promoting their franchise-without them doing nothing.

    i know this means a violation of copyrights laws, but to some extent if the purpose of the project is artistic, and non profitable, fan project-why should it be illegal?
     
  2. Desktop Gaming

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Because it just is - you don't own the IP any more. You're associating your own project with theirs (even if you say you aren't - you are!) and bluntly, if yours stinks, that could be harmful to them.

    The bigger question is "are they likely to do anything about it?"

    I don't know since you've been vague on details (I have no idea what "WOTC" is). Some people don't bother themselves too much while others defend their IP vigorously and if they fall into the latter category then you're in a world of trouble. The fact that its a non-profit project doesn't much matter.

    My advice would be to forget about it and do something else.
     
  3. andrew

    andrew New Member

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    Assuming WOTC = Wizards of the Coast? Which is owned by Hasbro?

    If so, you'd be foolish to assume you won't get a cease-and-desist, probably right at the point where you're seeing some success. Then, your project will be dead unless you have a very large pile of money to throw at the problem.

    - andrew
     
  4. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    I wouldn't advise it.

    One of the firms I work with (and whose top brass are personal friends) do a lot for WotC, and some of their guys also visit here from time to time.
     
  5. Allen Varney

    Original Member

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    If your motive really is artistic, you could easily get away with mild creative modification of the original franchise -- rubbing off the serial numbers. The comic-book writer Alan Moore did that quite a lot in such comics series as 1963 and Supreme. Every reader knew who the characters "really" were, but he skillfully avoided legal recrimination because he'd changed them sufficiently from the original inspirations.
     
  6. D9#11

    D9#11 New Member

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    i know you're all right, and that it's dangerous. but. there is a pretty wide community out there who's been neglected, meaning no one want to create a game for them because they're hoarding the rights.
    i have no problem revealing it, since i'm asking question and nothing has been developed yet, its called "darksun" based on best seller books by troy denning, on the 3.5 AD&D edition.
    there were three PC games that came out, the third was being developed by the former team i'm involved in called darksun online, which is brought down by hackers.

    my thought of it is getting a petition, showing public interest, and then-since its good publicity for them, ask for non profit license.
    its not that a long shot, i know for a fact that's one of the ways someone did get license that way.
     
  7. TimS

    Original Member

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    If you're not making money and it is clear that you're not making money, you will probably be ok with 'DarkSun'... WoTC is just a company and they're only not getting back to you because they can't SEE you (in the sea of stuff). They may not care... or they may even just let you run with it if you can manage to get some face-time with someone in licensing... it's impossible to say from the outside.

    That said...

    If you can help it, don't mess with WoTC.
     
  8. cyodine

    Original Member

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    Too much World of Warcraft for me. See WotC and start thinking Wrath of the... hmmm. what starts with C?
     
  9. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    Seriously, why can't you just create your own IP? It's not hard.
     
  10. Bad Sector

    Original Member

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    But then who will play it? :)
     
  11. D9#11

    D9#11 New Member

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    the problem is getting the rest of the team motivated for the project, we've had our own ip running for about 8 months and very little progress due to huge programming that needs to be done to create the engine, and editors etc.

    the team is very enthusiastic about darksun and so is the community, and it was the original idea for the people to gather up, since its such a great world to work on.
    we also have all the material, editors, working client from the previous working team-which kinda saves a huge amount of years.

    we actually got to talk from someone on the staff there but she didn't want to reply to any of our questions, kinda " i know you exist, but i can't help you(beat it?)".
     
  12. Nexic

    Indie Author

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    If your team isn't motivated with your own IP, it isn't going to be any more motivated using someone else's. They might say that they will, but I can assure you 8 months into that and the same thing will happen. If you want to keep them motivated you need to pay them.
     
  13. luggage

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    Steer clear. They know about you, if you put something out there they will come down on you. They have no choice - if you put something out what about others? Your best bet would be to try and negotiate a licensing deal. If they would have let you carry on regardless I'm sure a licensing deal would be quite reasonable.

    If the deal is out of the question make your own IP. If your team can't get enthusiasm for that wait until you receive a cease and desist and watch it plumit.
     
  14. lennard

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    OK, I'll be the jerk. And... I'm not even looking for a battle or flame war here, I just gotta say the following.

    How much money, over time, do you think they invested in that IP? If we are talking about Dark Sun then that's a title that everybody knows and has real value.

    If you were to buy or build something as an investment then you would be rightfully pissed if somebody else came along and said, "Hey, people are really interested in this and the owner doesn't even seem to be doing anything with it. I'm going to take it."

    You can create a parody, you can create a knock off, you can work in the same genre... you just can't take the original just because they aren't doing something with it right here and now. They own it.
     
  15. zoombapup

    Moderator Original Member

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    One thing people seem to ignore, is that if you own the IP of something and you DONT protect it, then its deemed fair for whoever to come along and use it. So its basically a requirement to attack anyone who infringes an IP. Of course they could come along and grant a license (it does happen occasionally), but its incredibly rare.

    Basically, dont mess with this. If you've never seen software litigation cases running before, let me tell you it isnt pretty and it CAN and WILL end up bankrupting you. Consider yourself warned.
     
  16. Qitsune

    Qitsune New Member

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    This is not a game, but I know the guy who did this movie http://www.shadowrunmovie.com (and it's actually pretty good.) He talked to the people who now own the Shadowrun franchise and basically their answer was: we sold the rights to a movie to someone so we can't give you permission to use it, but it's a cool movie and if the person who has optioned the movie doesn't complain, we're not going to do anything. Because they think it's cool and flattering that someone would go to all this trouble. It also doesn't do bad publicity for the brand because it's well done.

    I don't know how WotC reacts to fan games, but I know they do appreciate fan art (and the D&D AD mentioned recently that it's not a bad idea to have D&D fan art in your portfolio when showing it to him, as long as it's GOOD ART.) So really, it depends on the company, it depends how you present it, but it's never 100% safe if it's going to be a publicly available large scale game.
     
  17. electronicStar

    Original Member

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    Seriously, do you really need the Darksun brand setting?
    Just create your own fantasy-in-a-desert universe and avoid mentioning Darksun and you'll be fine.
    It's not like Darksun or any other TSR settings are really original to start with :rolleyes:
     
  18. Maupin

    Original Member

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    I'll be even more of a jerk. ;)

    If you spend any effort working on a project using other people's intellectual property and you don't have their permission... you're an idiot. Or you're planning for failure.

    It's like building a house on someone else's land.

    Agree 100% with electronicStar and others.
     
  19. D9#11

    D9#11 New Member

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    guys guys, please.... ;)
    but seriously, that argument of "you are not original" is seriously out of the equation, since there are 4 authors of the darksun books-all developed from the original author. and thats not even including the adventures people made up. there is nothing un-original by taking a world and creating an adventure for yourself. in fact, that's what Dungeons & Dragons all about.
    people do mods of existing worlds, people play it, communities love it-and its legit.

    regarding the motivation of the team, what can i say, they are all volunteering, and so am i, if they aren't motivated by another project, there is really nothing i can do about, and i sure as hell can't pay no one.

    licensing is the only option, but its catch 22 since no negotiation is in place, we thought about creating a demo, but that might hurt its IP as well.

    but thank you all for taking the time and answering.
     
  20. Allen Varney

    Original Member

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    Sounds like you've already made up your mind -- I expect you'd already decided before you even posted your question here -- but your statement is meaningless in legal terms. The players who create adventures using the D&D rules and settings aren't publishing them, unless it's under the Open Gaming License or some similar defined license. The OGL and other open licenses don't apply to the Dark Sun campaign setting, which Wizards has defined as "Product Identity" not subject to the license.

    If you publish your game, you're in violation of Wizards' copyrights and trademark, whether or not you make any money off the game. Wizards is legally obliged to defend its trademark, or else it risks losing the mark. As soon as the legal department sees your game, they'll send a C&D letter, and the whole project will halt. Don't say nobody warned you.
     

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