Editorial: Copyright – Part III

d6ideas dice2During the last two parts (part 1, part 2) we addressed the potential copyright issues of role playing games but it is self-explanatory that many of the things which may get you into trouble quickly in other fields of media is an integral part of role playing. Without public performance and derivative work, the hobby would not work the way it is supposed to.

Nonetheless this use is not clearly protected by law. Fortunately, the role playing community is small enough to appear uninteresting to the content and cease-and-desist industry and the publisher are fortunately not so dumb to pull out the rug from under their own feet although especially in the case of fan-generated content many bridges have been burned.

The two currently visible trends concerning alternatives to existing copyright is on one hand the so-called culture flat rate and on the other hand copyleft. Culture flat rate is definitely the more recent of both concepts which is perceived as somewhat sitting in the communist corner and as such probably has not too many chances in the Anglo-Saxon territories. Then there is the question of allocation, since, to stay with the rpg industry, is a quick-and-dirty system like RISUS worth as much as a system developed over many years like DnD? The other way round may a small, high-quality and dedicated system not be even better than a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none system?

The principle of copyleft on the other hand is well-established and originates from the Anglo-Saxon law sphere. Stemming from license models used in the share- and freeware sector of software Creative Commons has become a standard and a number of role playing game publishers adapted the idea. With its license models explicitly regulating derivative work and sharing of existing works, these module licenses are made to bring rpgs in a more legally admissible way to the customer. As such, it would be great if all rpg would be published at least with the options to share them and to create derivative works. Role players and rpg publishers from the US probably do not see the need as much of what is happening in the rpg environment is covered by the Fair Use defense, but in Germany e.g. an identical defense does not exist. Additionally, Fair Use is a legal defense and no license, and so we get back o the topic that the threat of legal dispute might discourage some people to insist on that defense.

But enough of copyright, this week we have a new page in our atlas in German and in English coming on Thursday.

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