The Positions of Other RPG Publishers

While many people see TSR's position as way off-base, others are worried that if TSR is allowed to succeed in legally maintaining its policy, other RPG publishers may follow suit. In an effort to tackle this problem early, several netters have asked other major RPG publishers with an online presence to expound on their policies with respect to the Internet and fan-authored materials.


Like TSR, FASA also wants fans to add a statement to their works, however, this statement is considerably less offensive than the one TSR came up with. Here's an example for Shadowrun-related materials.

Shadowrun is a Registered Trademark of FASA Corporation. Original Shadowrun material Copyright 1994 by FASA Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Used without permission. Any use of FASA Corporation's copyrighted material or trademarks in this file should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks.

Note that FASA is making no attempt to restrict the distribution of fan-authored material. Nor are they attempting to imply that the fan-authored product is necessarily a derivative work (realizing that such a statement has potentially serious legal repercussions for the fan-writer).


Sam Shirley wrote for Chaosium on 30-Jan-95:

Generally, we are happy to see people write material for our games, and don't have a problem with gamers sharing their original work and making it available to others in a not-for-profit manner. As we are loath to approach lawyers on any pretext, we had not formulated an "official" legal position concerning the distribution and archiving of Chaosium game-related materials on the Internet. We generally rely on people's good intentions to enable us to continue happily making books without these litigative concerns, but since you have so pointedly asked, we have discussed this and formulated this disclaimer, based in part on the one you provided from FASA:

Call of Cthulhu, Elric!, Pendragon, and Nephilim are trademarks of Chaosium Inc. All original material for these games is copyright by Chaosium Inc, on various dates. All rights reserved. This material is used without permission. Any use of Chaosium Inc's copyrighted material or trademarks in this file should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. Any commercial use of Chaosium Inc's copyrighted material or trademarks without Chaosium Inc's express permission is prohibited.

Game Designers Workshop

Dave Nilsen wrote the following policy explanation in August of 1994 (according to Loren Wiseman):

I'd like to take a few moments to explain some things so we can avoid some needless heartburn and speculation. This involves the nature of copyrights, letters of permission, and that awful s-word: suing.

I hope that these issues are already pretty clear to most people who will read this, and maybe this letter is unnecessary, but it never hurts to communicate.

The same way that Stephen King gets paid when someone makes a movie of one of his books, or Elton John gets paid when someone plays one of his records, we need to get paid for what we do. If musicians had to write songs and do concerts for free, or authors or game companies had to spend months writing books for free, how could we expect there to be any music or books or games?

Companies like GDW do not own physical objects like factories or gold mines or fleets of aircraft, things that have inherent value just sitting still. All that we own are our capacity to produce new ideas and games, and our copyrights on the ideas and games that we have already produced. Without copyrights, we would be working for free, and then how could we pay our rent, our utilities, our printers, our color separators, and, of course, our employees.

The problem with copyrights is that their owners must actively protect them if they are not to lose them. The law is pretty clear that failure to protect copyrights and trademarks is tantamount to voluntarily giving them up. Usually this involves trusting other people to not attempt to infringe on them, and nicely asking them not to if they try. However, if someone goes ahead and infringes on your copyright anyway, the only thing that you can do to protect it is to sue.

GDW is not now or ever looking to sue anyone, but our policy, and the policy of any company, has to be that if we are forced to protect our copyrights, we will do so by the only available means, which is suing. Reserving the right to be able to defend yourself if required is hardly a threatening or foreboding posture.

Copyright law is becoming increasingly complicated by the electronic revolution. We cannot afford to lose our ability to make a living doing what we do by not being careful, especially when a project looks like it takes our most valuable material and charges straight into the thickest part of the hedge, so to speak.

As far as letters of permission are concerned, we are not refusing to give out any more, but we can hardly grant letters of permission to do things that may lose us our copyrights. That wouldn't make any sense at all.

David Nilsen GDW Chief of Design

Steve Jackson Games

Mads Haahr (and I thought I had a difficult name) wrote Steve Jackson in October of 1994 requesting some form of policy statement after hearing that the company took an enlightened stance toward fan-authored products.

Date: Wed, 26 Oct 1994 14:46:20 -0700 From: Mads Haahr <> To: Subject: SJG Policy Question
Dear Steve Jackson Games, As you may be aware, there is currently a rather heated debate in at least one of the role-playing newsgroups on the Usenet. The debate has to do with TSR and material related to their D&D and AD&D game systems. TSR has recently been advocating its official policy concerning distribution of material related to its games. This has caused the closing of public archives carrying worlds, creatures, items, et. al. created by players and game masters for use with TSR's game systems. Allow me to quote from a letter sent by TSR officials to one of the sites carrying D&D/AD&D-related material, posted in the newsgroup (the site subsequently closed off its D&D/AD&D section): > You should also be aware that any items created without a specific > license are infringements of TSR copyrights. Such items include (but > are not limited to) any software, net.books, modules, tables, > stories, or rules modifications which contain elements from our > copyrighted properties, including characters, settings, realm names, > noted magic items, spells, elements of the gaming system, such as > ARMOR CLASS, HIT DICE, and so forth. To date, TSR has not licensed > any of these net publications. I find it reasonable that TSR claim the rights to software based on their creations and to material present in their publications, but I cannot accept that creations of individual game masters cannot be freely exchanged simply because they contain key words from TSR's rule books. The reason that I am writing to you is that I have decided to move away from TSR products, and GURPS is one of the systems I am considering instead. The change of system requires me to convert my existing AD&D campaign to another game system -- a reasonable amount of work that I hope only to do once. Therefore, I am carefully considering what game system to choose for the future. During the debate on Usenet I have become aware that one of the principal matters is to be able to share one's creations with other people. GURPS has been recommended to me, but before deciding upon it I would like to know Steve Jackson Games' official opinion on the free distribution of GURPS-related material. I apologize for the length of this letter, but I felt that some background was necessary to shed light on the matter. Regards, Mads Haahr <>

SJG's reply:

Date: Wed, 26 Oct 1994 17:42:59 -0500 (CDT) From: Steve Jackson <> Subject: Re: SJG Policy Question To: Mads Haahr <>
The answer is simple: If you're selling a separate product based on our material, or free-distributing something that competes with things we license (e.g, software), then we would keep a level of control and ask for a piece of the action. On free-distribution GURPS software, we go through a quality-control and licensing procedure but no money changes hands. If you're creating a fanzine, or sharing your own original stories online, then more power to you. We think it's great. We make no attempt to license or control fanzine writers, whether their medium is print or electrons. The two are indistinguishable these days, really. If you do create something neat, it would be a courtesy to send our webmaster a copy and give YOUR permission for us to archive it on our own system for our users to enjoy.