Friday, April 15, 2011

Dungeons and Dragons should be Public Domain

Really, I think it's a shame that a few have a monopoly over Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.  While it seems to be a good idea for everyone, it does leave some Memes undeveloped for 4e.  In other words, certain scenarios can only be developed for Pathfinder and not D&D.

What a tragedy, what a shame, for you guys who play 4e.  For you see, I kinda like psions.  Enough to write an adventure for them.  Without the Players Handbook 3 being in the SRD, you have no chance of seeing certain adventures coming to life for 4e officially except if they are printed by the first party.  But they are in the 3.5 System Reference Document and under the OGL.

But Wizards has a habit of buying the rights right out from under the author.  This is work for Hire.  The author gets paid a paltry sum and really . . . who in their right minds would sell their rights?  Especially on a planet with an Internet?  Boy the internet sure screws things up for publishers, doesn't it?

Dungeons and Dragons shouldn't be owned by a few, but by all the inhabitants of the Earth.   Having a Monopoly over Dungeons and Dragons, even a partial one, is insane.

Comic by Nina Paley and republished under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 License.


Timothy S. Brannan said...

I am not quite buying your argument here. Frankly I don't want "D&D" to be public domain, there are plenty of other fantasy worlds that can be used, plenty of other rules that can be used.

Now your bit about Work for Hire. Yes, that is what work for hire is. Wizards is not the only company that does it, every game company does it. They pay what they pay because that is what the market will allow for. My check from WotC was just as good as my check from Eden Studios. I am equally proud of the work I did for both, but I don't need to "own" anything. I was paid for my work. It was never about "selling the rights" I never had the rights to begin with. WotC owns D&D and the work I did for them was agreed on. If I didn't like terms, well there are 1000s of others behind me that would have.

I am happy with D&D4, as I am with Pathfinder, Mutants & Masterminds and Ghosts of Albion or any of the other games I play. If one doesn't have what I want, then I can make it myself or find it another game.

D&D as public domain would not strengthen it's appeal, only dilute it.

Elton said...

Maybe. But I know the opposite is true.

Think about Shakespearean plays. Are the value of those plays diluted since the Copyright of them expired? Have you been to see a Shakespeare play recently?

Now compare a Shakespeare Play to the Crucible. Have you seen the Crucible? About how many times? Do you remember the Crucible vs. a Midsummer Night's Dream?

How many Shakespearean festivals are there compared to Arthur Miller festivals?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

There is a difference.

While the initial intent of the plays was to pay the bills, it has passed into art.

By that logic then should the Mona Lisa belong to everyone? In a way it does since we can view it anytime I like, but I can't put it up in my house.

D&D is different. It is owned and it is a piece of intellectual property designed to make money for it's owner.

Your individual game expression is owned by you, but the game trademark is not.

In truth WotC has done a lot to make it easy for people to have the experience they want to have even if that experience is publishing something for the game. In the end though they own it and that is not likely to change since it does bring in some cash.

Elton said...

Take a look at it from another angle, then.

Suppose our Modern Copyright law existed in the time of Shakespeare. Now we know that Shakespeare copied a lot from history and in his time, modern events.

Now, if we had a litigious society back then, would Shakespeare even write a line of prose?

Lets take it back further. Suppose our Modern Copyright Law existed in the time of Solon of Athens. Since students of Sculpture studied the Masters of Sculpture in their day, they would copy other people's sculpture.

Now in the case of both of these: how long and how much would Shakespeare or the Sculptor of Venus Felix to clear the rights before Shakespeare could perfom his play at the Globe or the scupltor's patron could display his work?

If Copyright is a given, couldn't God sue us every time we quoted the Ten Commandments at the pulpit?

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I think you are confusing copyright with trademark. the Copyright on D&D will run out at some point. Once the last company no longer produces it and then some time after that.

WotC owns the trademark which is something they will want to hold on to, even if they no longer produce a game named Dungeons and Dragons.

While the new 4e license is not as permissive as the 3.x OGL, we also don't have the firehose rush of "D&D" material that typified the d20 glut of the early 2000s where often times quality was suspect.

Opening that up would only be worse.

Elton said...

Actually, I have my suspicions about trademark law. Trademarks are great for advertising, so a simple license would work out for trademarks. As long as the license wasn't violated, everyone should be alright.

As for the Glut, go on the Paizo site and read the reviewers' comments on their products and also 3rd party products. Also, read the recommendations by the Paizo folks on 3rd Party material. There is your best way to control the glut of bad and sucky products.

Notice that Wizards didn't have any recommendations on 3rd party products during the first ten years of the 21st century, nor there was much peer reviewing done on most of the products that came out.

We pretty much learned the hard way that in order to control d20 glut, you need to have some system up to guide people to the best products. That is why there is peer review and the Paizo folks themselves give free advertising on the products they liked the best. Now Peer Review isn't the best way to deal with the problem, as the True Scientists are finding out that the Peer Review system is being used against them. But it is the best way we have so far.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I have been working as a freelancer since, during and after the d20 explosion. Peer Review won't work for a lot of reasons.

Say I am working on a licensed product. There may be restrictions in the contract on who can work on what.

Plus I would not want my competition to see what I have before I am ready to go to market.

The profits are so slim in this biz that no one is going to do anything that will potentially shave more off.

Elton said...

You could do what I do -- follow the cobbler model instead of following traditional models. I basically write and publish myself (or through Misfit Games) --- and agressively market what you created through merchandise.

You basically use your written content to sell the rivalrous derivatives you create yourself. This means print books, shirts, calendars, etc.

The Internet makes it possible to be profitable. You have your audience be your distribution network, and as more of your work gets out, the more they will want to buy derivatives from you.

Say you write a D&D Adventure. You put a Creative Commons license on it and tell everyone that they are free to copy it and distribute it as they wish. Your releasing it for free.

Now, for the purposes of our scenario, it's good. The audience loves it and they show it by copying it. You then get to work by building a merchandising empire off of your Adventure.

The more your work spreads, the more publishers would want your endorsement. Say like Wizards would want to publish it. They get your endorsement, and now Wizards of the Coast is printing your adventure with your Endorsement on the front cover. Your fans buy it up and find your merchandise.

True, this way is slow. Your creations aren't cash cows at the short term, but over time, they become much, much more valuable to you and eventually will out last your life and become your lasting legacy.

This is compared to the old model, when you copyright your work, sell your work [i]and Wizards of the Coast owns it[/i]. There is a big media blitz, people buy your work, the blitz lasts for a few years, and it dies. Then they make you write another work.

The value of the piece in the cobbler model accrues value over time after your natural life, especially if its good. However, in the Monopoly model, the art looses value in a couple of months after the media blitz.

In the Cobbler Model, a good piece of work stays in print forever. While in the Monopoly Model, the print run lasts for only a couple of thousand copies.

At the most.

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