Monday, April 26, 2010

Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, and the Game System License

I believe that Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast owns a complete Intellectual Monopoly over Dungeons and Dragons and the 4th Edition of said game.  This belief is reinforced by comments on Enworld stating that they believe that Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast has the 3rd Party Publishers where they want them.

Contrast this with Paizo Publishing and their efforts to keep 3.5 Edition alive and in print with the Pathfinder game.  Paizo Publishing uses the OGL and encourages everyone to do the same.  This means that Paizo Publishing does not have an Intellectual Monopoly over Pathfinder.  But Wizards of the Coast does over Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.

The secret is in the license.  Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast are protecting their intellectual monopoly through the enforcement of the Game System License on third party publishers.  Secondly, they do not allow third party publishers to add to the DDI.  Thirdly, to protect their monopolies, they took down the option to buy PDFs of earlier editions of the game.

Now, why would you think they want to do that?  They wanted to protect their monopoly.  However, locking an important piece of gamer culture away.  Possibly forever.  Future generations will be unable to play the games their parents or grandparents played.  And this is bad.

The U.S. Constitution, an inspired Document made to guide and limit the power of the U.S. Government, provides for Copyrights.  Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, the Copyright and Patent Clause (or Patent and Copyright Clause), the Intellectual Property Clause and the Progress Clause, empowers the United States Congress: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

This is really a good thing -- Copyright is supposed to protect the consumer as well as the production.  But how Wizards of the Coast is using their art is not a good thing, and they are hiding behind the Constitution and various Copyright Laws that came into existence since then.  Especially the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.  About a decade ago, Wizards of the Coast embarked on the Open Game License because Ryan Dancey understood what had happened during TSR, inc's stewardship over Dungeons and Dragons under Lorraine Williams.  TSR, inc. attacked their own fans for posting derivative works of the Dungeons and Dragons game.  To prevent this from happening, Ryan Dancey convinced everyone at WotC to open the game up.  Thus the Open Game License was born!

However the license was a dismal failure.  Not because of the license itself.  But because of WotC itself.  They hardly, if ever, used the license.  WotC kept their own toys to themselves while ironically publishing them.  In other words, they never supported the Open Gaming movement themselves.  They just wanted to keep their own intellectual monopoly on everything they produced.  When 4th Edition was released, I saw the writing on the wall and never bought into the new system.

Wizards of the Coast fears the Open Gaming Movement they inspired.  They also fear the Public Domain, since they believe in intellectual "property" rights.  Such a stance, however, is in line with the Big Six media companies -- one of which is the Walt Disney Company.  Content, information, CULTURE, should be free.  Books, DVDs, Computers, Film Prints, and Concert Performances should not be free.

People should be able to build on the Dungeons and Dragons game and other open games, adding to our culture and enriching the culture base.  Dungeons and Dragons the game, in what ever incarnation, should be free.

So I propose that Copyright should be limited to physical media of distribution -- Books, computers, DVDs, CDs, Film Prints, and Concerts.  And not to the culture contained within.  All information should be released into the public domain for Artistic Expression and Advancement of the Arts; but the containers they are contained in should be restricted by copyright.  Copyright should be a publisher's right to reproduce all culture in a PHYSICAL form.  Culture should be free and in the domain of the public.  The public has the Unalienable Right to produce derivative works on all culture.  No culture should be locked up by Big Media companies.  If it's physical, there should be a copyright or printer's right ("printer's right, I love that!").  If it's energy, or if it exists as 1s and 0s and is transmitted by laser, airwave, sound, or analog communication -- then copyright should not apply.

 Copyright is bad.  Printers' Rights -- the Right to reproduce culture in a physical form -- is good.  Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro is doing a very bad thing by enforcing their Intellectual Monopoly.  Lets abolish this and give Artist's the right to endorse a publisher to publish their work on the Internet, in books, on film, or whatever.  Artists create by deriving their work on what has come before, not by creating out of whole cloth.  Therefore, I urge everyone who reads this blog to send a letter to Wizards of the Coast and tell them in no uncertain terms that their Intellectual Monopoly over all editions of Dungeons and Dragons is bad for the gaming community, bad for artists, and bad for the world at large.

If they don't listen, boycott them and buy from 3rd party publishers only.  Or buy from Paizo and send a letter to Paizo that you support the Open Gaming Movement by patronizing them and their products.

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