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Old 02-23-2003, 09:02 AM   #1
Santrilla
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First off, I'd like to explain that I ask this purely out of curiosity- it has no relevance to me, my MUD, or any MUD in particular. I was just wondering.

A lot of MUDs out there use particular themes, popular ones being Robert Jordan's popular Wheel of Time series, and George Lucas' famous Star Wars. In these, I'm assuming that names are kept accurate- for example, AT-AT for Star Wars, and ter'angreal (sp?) for WoT.

My question is, is this legal? Evidently the original writers of these themes have copyrighted them, and everything in them. So by copying the themes into your own world, aren't you breaching that copyright? Or is it allowed as long as the MUDs themselves are free and gain no profit?

I guess it might be similar to fan fictions. Though they've recently lost popularity, there was a time when fan fictions on popular commercial themes were rampant across the web. And because the author of the FF gains no profit, they're allowed. Aren't they?

If anyone has an insight into this, please enlighten me.
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Old 02-23-2003, 01:55 PM   #2
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Absolutely not. I was astounded recently to see this site advertising a MUD that seems to take place in the Dragonlance world. I'm quite sure that Infogrames, who controls the Dragonlance license for computer games, has not given them permission to use the Dragonlance IP.

Whether or not the person stealing the IP makes money off it is entirely irrelevant in the eyes of the law. Just as this site does, I believe, ban people who are breaking the licenses that come with DIKU and whatnot, it should take a stand and ban people who steal the IP of others.

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Old 02-23-2003, 03:31 PM   #3
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MUDs that borrow a theme from an existing storyline are therefore derivatives and, unless they have a license, are violating the copyright of that story.

MUDs should be differentiated from fan fiction.  Some forms of fan fiction violate copyright, others do not.  Fair use allows some forms of fan fiction - but it will be evaluated under the following criteria:

1.  the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2.   the nature of the copyrighted work;

3.   amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4.   the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Fan fiction that borrows themes and charge money should definitely be concerned, especially about #1 and #4.  All fan fiction, whether they charge or not, needs to be concerned about #2, #3, and #4.

P.S.  In reference to the_logos suggestion that TMS remove possibly infringing MUDs:  It would be interesting to find out whether the DMCA would require ISPs to take infringing MUDs offline.  Though I know of no case law on this subject, I would imagine that if Lucasfilm or one of the other media giants requested it, no ISP is going to go to bat for a little MUD.
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Old 02-23-2003, 07:54 PM   #4
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I've seen 2 instances of WoT themed muds offer forth 'documentation' from Robert Jordan or Tor saying he doesn't mind people building MU*s off his world so long as they do not charge. His approval was said to be non-exlusionary or something to the effect that anyone could do so, not just these particular games.

Thankfully, since one was atrocious.
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Old 02-23-2003, 08:13 PM   #5
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Here is a link that says Robert Jordan gives his permission.

I know that several Dune MU*s have been closed down because they didn't have permission.
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Old 02-24-2003, 05:13 AM   #6
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Terry Goodkind doesn't want the Sword of Truth world used, either. #### shame...could have been a fun one to use.

-Chris
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Old 02-24-2003, 01:06 PM   #7
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Just to recap, when creating a MUD, you absolutely MUST have the author's permission to use unique aspects of his work, including but not limited to original place names, scenery, objects, magic systems, and characters. Permission may be obtained via non-exclusionary statements on the part of the author.

If you want to get rid of that stuff in order to make your world original, then you absolutely MUST start from scratch; no amount of phasing out will make the world any less a derivative of the author's work, because you still used the author's work to get to that point.

IMO, the only way the Fair Use rule could even possibly apply to a MUD is if (a) the whole purpose of the mud is obviously not entertainment but rather scholarly critique of the work in question, and (b) the potential player base of all such muds added together is so tiny that the author could not possibly be losing a money making opportunity. Such a mud privately used by the owner is conceivable, though unlikely. Any mud listed publically, however, doesn't have even a remote chance of the Fair Use rule applying to it.
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Old 02-25-2003, 03:10 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Mason @ Feb. 23 2003,14:31)
P.S.  In reference to the_logos suggestion that TMS remove possibly infringing MUDs:  It would be interesting to find out whether the DMCA would require ISPs to take infringing MUDs offline.  Though I know of no case law on this subject, I would imagine that if Lucasfilm or one of the other media giants requested it, no ISP is going to go to bat for a little MUD.
I think it would, though I'm not a lawyer. I did use the DMCA to get an ISP to take down a MUD that was violating some of our intellectual property once, but whether that was because it's easier for the ISP to just comply or because they had to comply isn't something I could answer.

--matt
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Old 02-25-2003, 10:14 PM   #9
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I have a question that might seem silly. But if mentioning Rand Al'Thor and Caemlyn and whatnot isn't allowed (unless you have permission) then how can so many muds (and other products) have hobbits and whatnot?

Is it because the book is so old that the copyright has expired? Or is it because Tolkien is dead? (I know that when it comes to programming in some countries the copyright expires once the author dies).
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Old 02-25-2003, 10:48 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (John @ Feb. 25 2003,21:14)
I have a question that might seem silly. But if mentioning Rand Al'Thor and Caemlyn and whatnot isn't allowed (unless you have permission) then how can so many muds (and other products) have hobbits and whatnot?

Is it because the book is so old that the copyright has expired? Or is it because Tolkien is dead? (I know that when it comes to programming in some countries the copyright expires once the author dies).
It's not a silly question. IP law is complicated. I don't know for sure that hobbits are a Tolkien invention (as opposed to taken from some obscure bit of mythology), but assuming it is, it's probably because Saul Zaentz's company (which owns the rights to all things Tolkien) doesn't really see the point in hassling small non-commercial games that violate their intellectual property rights. The Tolkien stuff is so big and so loved that they can afford to ignore a few hobbyists messing around with their IP.

On the other hand, they can be extremely litigious. There was a famous case a few years ago where they sued a guy from Long Island(?) who did children's parties as "Gandalf the Clown" in order to force him to stop calling himself Gandalf. It seemed a little ludicrous, given the incredibly small scope of this guy's children's birthday party business, but in order to maintain the value of the license, they need to, at minimum, ensure they're the only ones making money off it.

--matt
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Old 02-26-2003, 12:20 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (John @ Feb. 25 2003,21:14)
I have a question that might seem silly. But if mentioning Rand Al'Thor and Caemlyn and whatnot isn't allowed (unless you have permission) then how can so many muds (and other products) have hobbits and whatnot?

Is it because the book is so old that the copyright has expired? Or is it because Tolkien is dead? (I know that when it comes to programming in some countries the copyright expires once the author dies).
For a character to be copywritten it must have been developed enough so that you can identify it by those characteristics. (E.g. A story about an italian boxer who makes it to a title fight is not enough. However, an Italian boxer named Rocky who yells "Yo Adrian" is enough to identify that character.) So, while a a white wizard might not be protectable, one named Gandalf would be - because the character has been developed and given enough distinguishing characteristics. If hobbits were around befor LOTR, Tolkein would have no claim to hobbits per se. But, he would if one of them were one of the more popular ones from his books.

Does this make sense? If not I can clarify and cite to case law if you like.

Copyright does not die with the author. The rights are extended to whomever he/she has assigned. However, once the work has fallen into the public domain you can do whatever you want with it. But, derivatives created from the original work do not expire when the original does. (e.g. The copyright on the recent LOTR movies will not expire when the copyright on the books expire.)
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Old 02-26-2003, 04:42 AM   #12
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Well, that's more than satisfied my curiosity. Thanks, guys. *hug*
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Old 02-26-2003, 06:43 AM   #13
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Was Tolkien written before 1923, or afterwards?

I have very little interest in the stories, but I wish to know when it was written to see when the term expires.

Probably a long time in the future with the 95 year long copyright insanity in the US...

Edit: With further reading I've found it is not from publication date, but author's death the term starts from. So when did Tolkien die?
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Old 02-26-2003, 10:57 AM   #14
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Edit: With further reading I've found it is not from publication date, but author's death the term starts from. So when did Tolkien die?
Sept, 73. Which would make, if I am not mistaken, his copyright expire Sept 1. 2068....

To me the copyright extension is assinine. On the other hand, if I was the one receiving profit from it I may not think so.
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Old 02-27-2003, 01:25 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Burr @ Feb. 24 2003,12:06)
Just to recap, when creating a MUD, you absolutely MUST have the author's permission to use unique aspects of his work, including but not limited to original place names, scenery, objects, magic systems, and characters. Permission may be obtained via non-exclusionary statements on the part of the author.
Just out of curiousity, does this apply to single areas as well?
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Old 02-27-2003, 02:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (ScourgeX @ Feb. 27 2003,00:25)
6-->
Quote:
Originally Posted by (Burr @ Feb. 24 2003,12[img
http://www.topmudsites.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif[/img]6)]Just to recap, when creating a MUD, you absolutely MUST have the author's permission to use unique aspects of his work, including but not limited to original place names, scenery, objects, magic systems, and characters. Permission may be obtained via non-exclusionary statements on the part of the author.
Just out of curiousity, does this apply to single areas as well?
Yes, definitely. Even having a single NPC wizard named Gandalf, for instance, would be illegal.

With some exceptions (as always), you can think of intellectual property as, well, real physical property. You can't borrow or steal that property for your own use without permission. There are some "fair use" provisions such as criticism and academic use but those are unlikely to apply to 99% of muds.

--matt
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Old 02-27-2003, 05:03 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (the_logos @ Feb. 27 2003,01:04)
Quote:
Originally Posted by (ScourgeX @ Feb. 27 2003,00:25)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Burr,Feb. 24 2003,12<!--emo&[img
http://www.topmudsites.com/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif[/img]]Just to recap, when creating a MUD, you absolutely MUST have the author's permission to use unique aspects of his work, including but not limited to original place names, scenery, objects, magic systems, and characters.  Permission may be obtained via non-exclusionary statements on the part of the author.
Just out of curiousity, does this apply to single areas as well?
Yes, definitely. Even having a single NPC wizard named Gandalf, for instance, would be illegal.

With some exceptions (as always), you can think of intellectual property as, well, real physical property. You can't borrow or steal that property for your own use without permission. There are some "fair use" provisions such as criticism and academic use but those are unlikely to apply to 99% of muds.

--matt
Technically, using someone's intellectual property is not "illegal." A copyright violation is a civil offense (except in certain situations) and would onyl get you in trouble if the IP holder chooses to pursue a case against you. If a license were granted, or the IP holder simply doesn't care, nothing will happen.

Also to be mindful is that copyrights only extend to particular expressions of the idea - not the idea itself. (e.g. Superman is an expression of an idea, a superhero that flies is merely an idea.)

Hope this isn't too nitpicky
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Old 02-27-2003, 05:58 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Mason @ Feb. 27 2003,04:03)
Technically, using someone's intellectual property is not "illegal."  A copyright violation is a civil offense (except in certain situations) and would onyl get you in trouble if the IP holder chooses to pursue a case against you.  If a license were granted, or the IP holder simply doesn't care, nothing will happen.

Also to be mindful is that copyrights only extend to particular expressions of the idea - not the idea itself.  (e.g. Superman is an expression of an idea, a superhero that flies is merely an idea.)

Hope this isn't too nitpicky
It is nitpicky, but there's nothing wrong with that! That's how the law works, as you obviously know. Thanks for clarifying.

--matt
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Old 02-27-2003, 06:22 PM   #19
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A copyright violation is a civil offense (except in certain situations) and would onyl get you in trouble if the IP holder chooses to pursue a case against you.
Actually, I'm pretty sure copyright violation is a federal crime as copyrights are protected by federal law.  Which is different from a patent violation, which is a civil case.  If you have proof of a copyright violation, you could take it to the local District Attorney and ask them to follow up on it.  

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Old 02-27-2003, 07:43 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by (Sombalance @ Feb. 27 2003,17:22)
Quote:
Originally Posted by
A copyright violation is a civil offense (except in certain situations) and would onyl get you in trouble if the IP holder chooses to pursue a case against you.
Actually, I'm pretty sure copyright violation is a federal crime as copyrights are protected by federal law.  Which is different from a patent violation, which is a civil case.  If you have proof of a copyright violation, you could take it to the local District Attorney and ask them to follow up on it.  

Sombalance
Well, if you're a copyright violator, you can potentially be hit with both civil and criminal charges, though the US Attorney will only go after you for criminal charges if you're willfully violating copyright for profit. Otherwise, you really only have to worry about civil cases.

--matt
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