A Survey Regarding MPGN

From: jimv@corsa.ucr.edu (james vassilakos) Newsgroups: rec.games.frp.dnd Subject: SURVEY: Your View on MPGN's Role in TSR's Policy Date: 11 Feb 1995 10:11:35 GMT Organization: University of California, Riverside (Dept. of CS)
Hi folks. As a few of you might remember, I'm the guy who used to edit that funky net- zine called the Guildsman. Because it contained some AD&D-related articles, it was nuked from Potemkin and elsewhere during the "Great Purge" that TSR invoked, and it ended-up getting archived on MPGN which TSR had basically designated as their sole-licensee to carry AD&D-related material. Well, several of my contributors got upset about this (i.e., MPGN being allowed to carry their work given that it was supporting such a restrictive policy), so I ended up having a long email-conversation with Rob Miracle (one of the more net- active people at MPGN), and the end result is that the Guildsman finally got yanked. Poof-gone! Now, I'm not the first person to ask Rob to yank stuff from his archive, and I doubt that I'll be the last. However, the whole conversation that we had got me to thinking that maybe, if enough of us felt the same way, MPGN might change its policy about supporting TSR. Y'see, Rob maintained throughout, that while he didn't necessarily like TSR's policy, he wanted to provide a service to AD&Ders on the net. He writes: MPG-Net is striving to be a neutral party in this situation. We honestly want to be the net's gaming archive, but if we don't abide by the perceived law of those companies that are represented by our site, then we open ourselves to a situation where we cannot be an archive site for a given company. I felt sorry for Rob, getting himself sandwiched between the TSR and the very people he's trying to do a favor for. The thing is, because of TSR's policy, MPGN has been forced to make a very crucial decision. Either: (a) Archive material for every popular game system but AD&D, and hence allow a huge amount of work related to AD&D to fall into the bit bucket, or... (b) Go along with TSR's policy, saving all that material from being lost, but at the same time legitimizing a very legally and ethically questionable policy, hence encouraging other game companies to follow suit (no pun intended). MPGN chose the second option. And, I grant... during the short term, they're doing AD&D enthusiasts a favor by providing this archive. However, in the long-term, they may be doing all gamers a disservice, because by accepting, obeying, and becoming an instrument of this sort of policy, they may be perpetuating it. Feeding it, in effect. I'd like to know how others feel about this, and if I get a significant number of responses, I'll post the results. The Question: Would you prefer that MPGN just remove the AD&D portion of its archive rather than support TSR in its policy? Oh, one more thing. If you want a copy of my discussion with Rob Miracle, just holler. He does a great job defending TSR/MPGN and is an illuminating read for people interested in this topic. jimv@cs.ucr.edu ============================================================================== The Question: Would you prefer that MPGN just remove the AD&D portion of its archive rather than support TSR in its policy? The Response: Yes ......... 22 No ........... 3 Undecided .... 2 Those in favor: 22 01 - James W Walden <jw63+@andrew.cmu.edu> 02 - jacobus@sonata.cc.purdue.edu (Bryan J. Maloney) 03 - S. Keith Graham <vapspcx@cad.gatech.edu> 04 - wolfling@expert.cc.purdue.edu (John Johnson) 05 - Joseph Delisle <jd@clark.net> 06 - Ordania-DM@cup.portal.com 07 - jeffpk@netcom.com (Jeff Kesselman) 08 - jgrace@netcom.com (Joseph Grace) 09 - drow@winternet.com (raving mad) 10 - The Amorphous Mass <robinson@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu> 11 - skreyn@netcom.com (Sean K Reynolds a.k.a. Veggie Boy) 12 - libs@erm1.uucp (Jean-Marc Libs) 13 - Brian.R.Vickers@jpl.nasa.gov (Brian Vickers) 14 - Dambiel <smally@river.it.gvsu.edu> 15 - ozyborn@aol.com 16 - Mike@trek.demon.co.uk (Mike Goodman) 17 - Chris@treehome.demon.co.uk (Chris Bourne) 18 - malcolm@chosen.demon.co.uk (Malcolm Sommerville) 19 - smooge@cs.nmt.edu (Stephen John Smoogen) 20 - nab@festival.ed.ac.uk (Neil Benson) 21 - joe.katzman@mail.magic.ca (Joe Katzman) 22 - Mike Whitaker <mike@elmail.co.uk> Those against: 3 1 - Daniel R Cormier <dc5m+@andrew.cmu.edu> 2 - Michael Hermann <hermann@fmi.uni-passau.de> 3 - John Michael Martz <jmartz@gibbs.oit.unc.edu> Undecided: 2 1 - Tony Karakashian <ak004c@uhura.cc.rochester.edu> 2 - graemea@iaccess.za (Graeme Adamson)

Some Arguments in Favor

jgrace@netcom.com (Joseph Grace):
I vehemently oppose any support of TSR and its current policies. If TSR does not want to pay for ownership of independently created works, and refuses to allow the authors of such works to distribute them at their own choosing (and without risk), then I believe TSR should lose its "good faith" community status and resources. Instead, those resources could help game companies which still hold the gamer at heart. I also believe that in the long-term, supporting TSR policy undermines the integrity of the entire gaming industry -- not just that of TSR fandom.
jeffpk@netcom.com (Jeff Kesselman):
If MPGN REALLY wanted to do us a favor, they would take a stand and say to TSR: "We will NOT support your games with our online capability unless you recant your position."
The Amorphous Mass <robinson@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu>:
Although there is a lot of cool stuff on MPGN and Rob should be applauded for his willingness to maintain a valuable service to AD&Ders, and for his care in weighing this issue, TSR should be rebuffed. MPGN is actually in a good position to do this, because they have leverage: they are now the only ftp site accommodating net-AD&Ders, and if they withhold that service until TSR's policy changes there will be considerable pressure on TSR to change. A parallel letter-writing campaign should be organized so that if Mr. Miracle does drop TSR, he'll have real support in his decision.
Brian.R.Vickers@jpl.nasa.gov (Brian Vickers):
I agree completely. I feel that by kowtowing to TSR now, MPGN will be, in the long run, harming the people they're trying to help in the short run. We should all say "Thanks" to Mr. Miracle for providing everyone with a chance to get some good fan-made products and info. However... continuing to support TSR's stance just tells them (and everyone else) that TSR is right, and that's wrong. Note how several other gaming companies have also released their Internet publishing policies and not one of them is even close to TSR's harsh stance. TSR is looking for as much support as they can get right now. By minimizing that support, a message is sent to TSR (and other gaming companies). The message is that we will no longer tolerate this kind of behavior.
S. Keith Graham <vapspcx@cad.gatech.edu>:
MPGN and TSR not publishing their private agreement does bother me, in that they are acting as a publishing agent, and net.works are being distributed under this private agreement. I do believe that MPGN and TSR should disclose this agreement.
Chris@treehome.demon.co.uk (Chris Bourne):
We were promised a revised set of guidelines/rules by TSR, and we haven't received them. Further, TSR have failed to produce a list of words, phrases, and concepts which they regard as trademarks making it impossible for us to take into account the specific areas of gaming which they regard as proprietary. TSR has had several months to come up with the promised response to legitimate Net concerns, and has rejected all efforts to extract a list of the phrases it regards as proprietary. Instead, it relies on a broad disclaimer which assigns rights to TSR on an umbrella basis. I have every sympathy with Rob Miracle's efforts to maintain an AD&D related site, but given TSR's failure to discuss or publish a response to just criticism, or provide a legally coherent statement of its claims, I do not believe it is appropriate for mpgn.com to continue to maintain its licensing agreement with TSR.
Mike Whitaker <mike@elmail.co.uk>:
MPGN, in my book, is actively harming the hobby by their stance. No one has *ever* denied TSR the right to protect their copyright, but, like most of the others around here, I think their `copyright' doesn't extend as far as they think it does. In the end, it's costing them, because people will turn away from AD&D.

Some Arguments Against

Michael Hermann <hermann@fmi.uni-passau.de>:
I am not happy with TSR's decision, but I prefer to have at least one site which can still carry AD&D material over no site. If such a decision has to be made it should be up to the authors of the material (they can do the same thing you did and ask MPGN to remove their material).
No, I would not want MPGN to remove the AD&D portion of its archive. As an editor of a netbook (the DARK SUN Net Handbook), I _need_ a means of distributing my netbook. I have a lot of contributors who count on me to deliver their work in a high quality manner as efficiently as possible. MPGN is, currently, the _only_ alternative. When TSR went ballistic a couple months ago, we saw many ftp sites close their doors to TSR-related material. I spent a month or two _e-mailing_ encoded copies of my netbook to anybody who asked. IT WAS A REAL PAIN IN THE ASS! Look, I have 3 kids (the newest only 4 days old as of this writing), and I'm trying to get my dissertation done and hold down a part-time job -- I simply don't have time to go back to such a practice; it's hard enough answering questions from users who have difficulty ftping it and keeping an eye out of potential new submissions. Given the total absence of alternative ftp sites, MPGN is my only outlet. I'll be damned if I would let all the hard work I and my contributors have done go to waste, so MPGN it is. I'm willing to give TSR the benefit of the doubt at this point. As long as they don't screw us over, I'll continue to support MPGN.

I am still accepting responses to this poll, and I want to hear from as many people as have an opinion on this issue. Please respond so that your vote can be included.

Jim Vassilakos jimv@cs.ucr.edu