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Starshade Posted - 07 Aug 2020 : 23:27:45
If I write an basic independent-world Fantasy book, where creatures and races, items and places, could be functionally written up as D&D entries to be of use for any setting, what legal issues do this create? and how do one make it known legally?

Do 3.5 and self-publish, or use 5e and do DnDnext?
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Wooly Rupert Posted - 10 Aug 2020 : 22:42:47
I'm pretty sure it takes more to lose an IP than just fanfiction -- if that's all it took, there wouldn't be an intact IP anywhere.

Some authors/companies will ignore any fan material so long as money isn't involved... I've read that US companies that do anime actually keep an eye on the fansub communities to see what subbed material is popular, and then buy rights to the IP based on that.

And then you go the other way with the authors/companies that fire off a cease and desist if you have a 500 word story of a character enjoying a sandwich.

If you look online, a lot of people produce a lot of fan-made material for D&D. I've even seen some Harry Potter conversions, recently, because of this topic.

WotC isn't going to care as long as money doesn't change hands, and as long as you're not trying to publish via the DM's Guild -- in which case, they have particular rules about which of their IPs you can play with.
Starshade Posted - 10 Aug 2020 : 22:03:47
Ok, then I avoid it all by keeping all "D&D" versions quite private, for the moment.
Rowling, is fond of basically watering down her IP... A writer should never be "fond" of fanfiction, basically if you allow it in some jurisdictions, you might loose copyright. She also start do strange things as deciding her Werewolves is feminist symbols of fear of Aids and gay people, afterwards, many years after writing it... You should not do that kind of things.

A writer need to, keep up to an certain standards, at the moment I don't know how RPGs work, in that regard. Just curious, for the moment
Wooly Rupert Posted - 10 Aug 2020 : 02:54:19
From what I've seen, the biggest thing for WotC is: is money changing hands? It doesn't matter if a profit is being made, once money changes hands, they call out the lawyers. There was someone several years ago who hosted some sort of online character sheet site. Nothing happened until he asked for money to defray the costs of storage -- and that's when WotC shut him down. He wasn't looking to make a profit, but money started changing hands, and they came running.

I don't know where JK Rowling weighs in on all this, though I'd say the absence of an official Harry Potter TTRPG suggests that someone -- either Rowling or her publisher or both -- is not keen on the idea. They've certainly had plenty of time to put one out there... We've had plenty of popular books/movies turned into TTRPG before, and there are more coming -- A He-Man RPG was recently announced! Given the number of media properties that have become or are becoming TTRPGs, the absence of a Harry Potter one is notable.

That aside... The DM's Guild likely wouldn't accept it for involving someone else's IP. So it's basically something you'll have to do on your own, which means you can go with whatever rules work for you. I'd suggest 5E, if only because you'll have a bigger audience that way.

(You could also file off the serial numbers: make it as close to Harry Potter as possible in mechanics, but replace any names/HP references with something else. Instead of House Ravenclaw at Hogwarts School, you could have the Corvid Society at Tuskwyll Academy, and so on)
Ayrik Posted - 10 Aug 2020 : 01:15:59
You automatically gain legal copyright on any original material you create or publish into public domain. Most creators/authors explicitly assert or claim their copyright just to firmly establish it beyond any doubt (copyright laws in some nations require this assertion to be recognized).

The validity of your copyright can be challenged by anyone who can convince a court that you've duplicated their copyrighted material. There's a lot of blurry lines and controversial definitions because art is always "inspired" by other art. Copyright law has become a multi-billion-dollar industry full of specialized legal subdomains, the big publishers and studios and record houses are fiercely territorial towards anyone who trespasses on their properties, although they don't really get aggressive unless they're losing money or they can see somebody else making money. Hasbro (owner of WotC) is an entity which is sometimes notoriously hostile.

You can peruse the signature lines on some of Candlekeep's most prominent scribes (or just search through sites like deviantart) to see all sorts of fan-published adaptations and reworks of D&D material. I wouldn't expect WotC to get snippy (or even take any notice) towards yet another fan-made D&D-Hogwarts crossover rulebook - unless they decide it's going to undermine their brand or interfere with some project of their own. If you strictly comply with all their OGL terms then you also protect yourself (and your work) vs legal challenges because they have to provide compelling proof that you're violating the "agreement" they've already forced onto the public.

As for Hogwarts, Harry Potter, JK Rowling, whichever corporation(s) made the movies, whichever corporation(s) published the books ... they might have their own fan-content directives or guidelines, individually or collectively. They might not care at all, they might maintain a draconian stanglehold. I don't know. Best to google around if you're worried about it.
Starshade Posted - 09 Aug 2020 : 11:01:40
My thoughts were more on the issue of writing up a fanon version of my own Fantasy product, akin to what would happen if JK Rowling were to write up a D&D ruleset for Hogwards for fun (no profit). Its one of the issues where I would be watering out my own copyright, right? Not the other way round?
Ayrik Posted - 08 Aug 2020 : 00:17:22
Google "Open Gaming License", "d20", and "SRD".
Always consult "Fair Use Copyright Law" before routinely claiming that it applies to your particular content.
And start reading the comprehensive "Digital Millennium Copyright Act" if you plan to duplicate anything which WotC distributed in digital or electronic media formats.
You could even read Candlekeep's "About" page to see a typical sample of the legal/licensing info.
You could read the legal fine print in any legit d20 product (like basically half of Paizo's RPGs) to get better examples.

If you're planning on releasing anything commercial (that is, if you're planning on publishing, selling, or otherwise making money) on any of WotC's branding, trademarks, or intellectual property then you could be ordered to halt the project and (if you've trespassed too much or gotten too rich) you could also be sued for infringement "damages".
If you're planning on fanon stuff (an online wiki or public domain campaign or review blog or whatever) then you're probably okay, numerous people and sites already do all that. Although you might still be subject to a cease-and-desist or takedown notice if WotC happens to be feeling ornery.

The word "licensing" usually implies that an owner (like WotC) has explicitly agreed to allow a licensee (like you) to do something with their product or their branding - their legal property. Licenses always have strictly-defined conditions and limits. Licenses usually involve some sort of payment or other negotiated arrangement (although many licenses are free for all). Licenses only have real legal power (in courts) if they're written contracts, anything else is almost automatically viewed as legal theft or intrusion. WotC has published various free "fan licenses" and free "fan license kits" which you might find suitable.

You can always contact WotC with your questions. Though truth be told, they tend to automatically ignore or shut down unsolicited business requests and they've historically demonstrated hostile kneejerking responses to anyone outside of Hasbro who approaches them.
Copyright lawyers would be able to properly answer any questions you have. And would be able to contact WotC with a voice which forces them to generate a civilized response.

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