FYI [GW Cease and Desist letters effect on the community]

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brotherjason
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FYI [GW Cease and Desist letters effect on the community]

Post#1 » Nov 27 2009 01:02

I'm surprised to not have seen any talk about this here on ATT, however GW has been on the offensive and sending Cease and Desist letters to websites which they feel infringe on their copyright, trademark and other intellectual property. The latest casualty, as reported by Tabletop Gaming News, is Librarium Online, which they say the double-headed eagle in Librarium's logo infringes upon the Aquila. Although any person with common sense would readily see that the similarities end at the double-headed eagle. I wonder if GW plans to send Cease and Desist letters to the Roman Empire for their double-headed eagle next?

My intent of this post is not to start a GW bashing thread. GW is well within their rights to defend their copyrights, trademarks and other intellectual property--although in my personal opinion in some cases (i.e. Librarium Online) they have gone a little too far. Rather my intent is to bring this to the attention of the ATT moderators and to have a civilized discussion as to ways we in the gaming community can continue to support our favorite games. Games Workshop clearly spells out what you can and can't do with their IP.

Personally I think that this latest spat of Cease and Desist letters will have a chilling effect on the GW gaming community. What Games Workshop should have done prior to sending these Cease and Desist letters was to produce a kind of fansite kit similar to what Blizzard does for World of Warcraft and make that available for some time prior to sending the Cease and Desist letters. Although that time has passed, I believe that GW should still release a fansite kit as a sort of "damage control" to the gaming community.

I've recently gotten back into GW games after taking several years hiatus and was surprised to find a very different company. GW's website seems more designed to push sales than support the hobby. The loss of bitz is especially disconcerting as I come from an era where you could go online and see all the individual components that made up a kit and purchase them individually for conversion. I used to be an Outrider, and with that organization gone support at independent retailers is pretty much dead. Suddenly now GW seems to be attacking the very community that it relies upon for sales. How can we, as gamers, send a clear message to GW that what they are doing is not in their best interests? I'm not talking about a boycott on buying product, but perhaps we should start an online petition to demand GW release a fansite kit to allow the gaming community to thrive and grow.

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Peregrine
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#2 » Nov 27 2009 02:41

My opinions?


1) It's completely unenforceable. The IP protections GW demands go well beyond what is legally protected and attempt to prohibit things that are clearly allowed under "fair use" laws. However, GW knows that few people are willing to pay the costs of defending their site/etc in court, so the actual legality of their cease and desist letters is pretty much irrelevant until they make the mistake of trying it on someone rich enough to pay their own lawyers* a bunch of money to tell GW to shut up and go away. The double eagle case is the perfect example, Librarium Online's eagle is much more similar to double eagles used in real-world heraldry than anything GW owns, so GW attempting to claim an IP violation is just insane. But will Librarium Online's owners tell GW to do obscene things with their letter and accept the legal bills of defending their logo in court (if GW takes it to the next step), or will they just give in and change it?



2) It's completely unnecessary. GW's claims that they are doing it for the good of the hobby are just incredibly stupid. Many other companies manage to make a solid profit without such absurdly restrictive IP policies. It's paranoid, short-sighted greed, and the only thing it accomplishes is convincing GW's customers and loyal fans to spend their money elsewhere. Not that GW cares, as long as they are able to sell more space marines to 10 year olds...




*This is why we need a loser-pays system for lawsuits. I suspect GW would be much less aggressive with their threats if they risked getting stuck with the defendant's legal bills (and ideally, a nice penalty on top of that for wasting the court's time), just like I suspect a lot more people would be willing to fight back rather than just being intimidated by the threats.

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paulson games
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#3 » Nov 27 2009 02:51

Peregrine wrote:*This is why we need a loser-pays system for lawsuits. I suspect GW would be much less aggressive with their threats if they risked getting stuck with the defendant's legal bills (and ideally, a nice penalty on top of that for wasting the court's time), just like I suspect a lot more people would be willing to fight back rather than just being intimidated by the threats.


If they actually proceed with taking the C&D order to court then they open themself up to counter suit based on damages. However most people and companies don't want to fight the legal battle and expensese even if they are in the right. They have to be careful how they pull the trigger on their lawsuits because there's plenty of greedy american attournies that'd love to go after a multi million dollar company like GW over a damages suit as that can mean seriously big money.

The C&D letters are a straight up bully tactic that does nothing to promote the hobby and the only effect it has is to make GW look like a bunch of fascist. In their mind it may be preserving their IP but in effect it drives good people away from the game. It's fine if they want t slap counterfeiters on ebay or china etc, but don't punish the fans because they run web sites or forums.
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Didi et Gogo
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#4 » Nov 27 2009 03:47

Be careful about the language used guys! I share the sentiments, but we should probably keep the comments about fascism down.

I'll violate the site rules momentarily and speculate on what I don't know: is there a legal consistency concern that GW is up against? If they don't consistently protect their copyright (aggressively), could this give legal fodder to someone who is illegitimately using their copyrighted material, and decides to take GW up in court? Common law is very into setting standards by convention, and an illegitimate user might have grounds to take GW to court arguing that inconsistent enforcement of GW copyrights is tantamount to GW ceding certain controls over their IP.

My wild, devil's advocate speculation in defense of GW's legal policy is neither here nor there when it comes to my feelings on the issue. The measures are overly harsh, and put GW in opposition with its clientele. That's never a good sign' from corner-stores to multi-nationals, if you pit yourself against the people who buy your stuff, it's a problem. Far better is for GW to try to bring fans on side by offering them tools, or even just an official GW blessing of sorts to use parts of their IP. Another thought is to invest (and it would be a huge investment) in fora on their server. A forum on GW's server could (presumably?) talk about stats and numbers until the cows came home, while providing them with a convenient - albeit very expensive - conduit directly to their clientele. Probably the fansite kit would be easier.

Maybe GW should sue the Russian Crown?

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Eiglepulper
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#5 » Nov 27 2009 04:19

GW used to have their own Message Boards forum until November 2005. Stats and so forth were not permitted on those forums either.

And please do be careful of the choice of language used. Whilst we may be irked by the actions of a particular company, this does not mean that we can proceed to use overly emotive language.

Shas'O

Warrio
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#6 » Nov 27 2009 04:20

brotherjason wrote:Games Workshop clearly spells out what you can and can't do with their IP.

I enjoyed the part about conversions being a "major infringement" (Games Workshop, 2009) of GW's intellectual property, that was entertaining. Obviously the laws will be different in different countries so all this huffing and puffing about IP remains just that. In any case I feel that it's only appropriate that we use full APA referencing any time we refer to Games Workshop since we dare not appear to present any sort of challenge.

Games Workshop, (2009) What you can and can't do with Games Workshop's intellectual property. Retrieved on November 28, 2009 from http://www.games-workshop.com/gws/conte ... 02&start=4

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brotherjason
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#7 » Nov 27 2009 04:27

Yes, please keep the thread from spiraling into a GW bashing thread, that is not my intent with this thread and I will ask the moderators to lock it if it simply becomes a bashing thread.

I agree with Peregrine's comments about most of these being completely unenforceable, Librarium being a prime example. Technically in the U.S. you could counter sue for legal fees and the like so the loser would pay. I wonder if the gaming community should draft an open letter, backed by some legal precedent donated by gaming lawyers (I'm sure there are some in the community) and supported by an online petition. I know if I was in Librarium's position I would draft a letter with example's posted here that their double-eagle technically isn't the first instance of such a design.

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Lyi'ot
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#8 » Nov 27 2009 04:35

Who else has GW contacted?

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Eiglepulper
Shas'O
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#9 » Nov 27 2009 04:42

There are a few names mentioned in the thread on Librarium Online. Suffice it to say that GW's legal eagles (double-headed ones?) appear to be on the warpath at the moment.

E.

Absintheminded
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#10 » Nov 27 2009 06:18

brotherjason wrote:Games Workshop clearly spells out what you can and can't do with their IP.

I enjoyed the part about conversions being a "major infringement" (Games Workshop, 2009) of GW's intellectual property, that was entertaining. Obviously the laws will be different in different countries so all this huffing and puffing about IP remains just that. In any case I feel that it's only appropriate that we use full APA referencing any time we refer to Games Workshop since we dare not appear to present any sort of challenge.
[/quote]

I don't how it's an infringement. Either it the image of the miniature was manipulated for satirical purposes or are within creative license(such as converting wargear/rules that aren't normally modeled). If someone makes a facsimile of a GW image with spare parts that aren't even GW products, it's still merely a facsimile.

It's not like people are having chop shops and reselling them for profit. Well, maybe for bitz, but GW eliminated support for parts voluntarily.
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Lyi'ot
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#11 » Nov 27 2009 10:55

In light of this, I have disappeared my "Official Tau Fluff" thread. Let the chilling effect begin.

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Kakapo42
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#12 » Nov 27 2009 11:49

You run when you ought to fight, and fight when you ought to deal....


Hmmm, from what I can tell, GW seems to be acting like one of those downright jerks you find in many schools that taunt/irritate you until you can't take anymore, and then once you lash out at them in retribution they run off crying to the nearest staff member, who promptly demonises you. Man I hate those people! :(

Anyway, I'm no law expert, but alienating the main fanbase seems rather suicidal for any franchise owning company, GW especially. GW also appears to be becoming increasingly ruthless. First it massacred the Specialist Games, as they were not selling enough, then they re-structure their website into what is little more than a giant advert (where have all the characterfull little articles gone?), and now these 'cease and desist letters'. It's almost like they are trying to be Fox (whom I will never forgive for the loss of Firefly).

I hope that was enough substance to justify this post and that it was well written enough (I am but a humble 'saal).

How can we, as gamers, send a clear message to GW that what they are doing is not in their best interests?


Revolution, of course! :fear:

P.S. I'm not quite sure how to put names in the quote boxes. If someone would be so kind as to explain how, it would be greatly appreciated. In the mean-time, a manta to the first person to correctly identify the movie my opening quote is from.
A Shas and a Kor walk into a bar...
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Absintheminded
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#13 » Nov 27 2009 11:53

Kakapo42 wrote:P.S. I'm not quite sure how to put names in the quote boxes. If someone would be so kind as to explain how, it would be greatly appreciated. In the mean-time, a manta to the first person to correctly identify the movie my opening quote is from.


If you put quote="name" within [] instead of just [quote] at the beginning that should do it.
Tau Physician: Patient Hunter

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Peregrine
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#14 » Nov 28 2009 12:08

Kakapo42 wrote:P.S. I'm not quite sure how to put names in the quote boxes. If someone would be so kind as to explain how, it would be greatly appreciated. In the mean-time, a manta to the first person to correctly identify the movie my opening quote is from.



You got it a bit wrong. It's supposed to be "you run when you ought to fight, fight when you ought to deal".


I'll violate the site rules momentarily and speculate on what I don't know: is there a legal consistency concern that GW is up against? If they don't consistently protect their copyright (aggressively), could this give legal fodder to someone who is illegitimately using their copyrighted material, and decides to take GW up in court? Common law is very into setting standards by convention, and an illegitimate user might have grounds to take GW to court arguing that inconsistent enforcement of GW copyrights is tantamount to GW ceding certain controls over their IP.



This is often proposed in GW's defense, but it doesn't really make any sense. There's a big difference between using the name "blood bowl" in your site's name and ripping off GW's IP for commercial purposes (and no, a donation button on your site doesn't count). Plenty of other IP holders allow the former (and many other things on GW's forbidden list), but have no trouble protecting the business side. For example, Star Wars fanfilms are allowed, and even promoted by the IP holders (unlike GW's policy), but would you feel safe publishing a Star Wars miniatures game without negotiating a legal license to do so? Does anyone think "but they allow fanfilms" would be sufficient to defend yourself in court?


Of course not. GW's IP policy goes way beyond what is necessary to protect against illegitimate commercial use.

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Das Boogie Man
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#15 » Nov 28 2009 12:16

Well, it is rather short-sighted for a company to be THAT draconian about a silly thing like an aquila. I would think that any business which relies on a fan/user base would welcome such open discussion as long as no outright theft is going on. Unfortunately, in order to remain in contact with the tastes of your customers, one must sometimes be prepared to flex the IP rules a bit (e.g. the trend with certain music labels "leaking" tracks and getting feedback), it's just good business. If the customer is alienated, the consequences are twofold:
1. your product loses popularity due lack of touch thus a reduction in overall sales
2. your public image is tainted as word of mouth spreads and you lose future customers

Eventually, the profits will fail because no amount of marketing can recover a lost image. GW has moved from the genial, hobby supportive company of olde and in to a real (albeit very crude) interpretation of a truly competitive business. We, as customers, cannot change that. What we can change is how we approach the hobby, even if it means several compromises (i.e. erring on the side of caution) along the way.
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TheAmbit
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#16 » Nov 28 2009 12:33

I'm quite sure GW sells far more product to the casual non forum user than the hard core hobbyist. For anyone here or online using 40k forums there are likely 20 more people who have armies who would not be affected even if all online support was gone.
Putting the corporate foot down on such an issue is unlikely to cause any harm to the hobby or affect their bottom line. It will upset some forum users on principle but not in any real way. I think people are just over reacting.

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Trevak Dal
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#17 » Nov 28 2009 01:06

Peregrine wrote:
*This is why we need a loser-pays system for lawsuits. I suspect GW would be much less aggressive with their threats if they risked getting stuck with the defendant's legal bills (and ideally, a nice penalty on top of that for wasting the court's time), just like I suspect a lot more people would be willing to fight back rather than just being intimidated by the threats.



Indeed, there would be far less knee-jerk lawsuits over piddly stuff like that. Seems sorta odd of GW. I've just gotten into the hobby (this past summer) and was basically suckered into it by friends ( :P ). From what they have said, it used to be a great company. I don't have great, or happy memories with dealing with them, so to me they just seem like Microsoft. Entities which believe that we should be groveling at their feet, offering up our first borns to them (with prices like they got...it comes close :P ) and our lives.
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brotherjason
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Re: GW Cease and Desist letters and the effect on the community

Post#18 » Nov 28 2009 02:19

Theambit wrote:I'm quite sure GW sells far more product to the casual non forum user than the hard core hobbyist. For anyone here or online using 40k forums there are likely 20 more people who have armies who would not be affected even if all online support was gone.
Putting the corporate foot down on such an issue is unlikely to cause any harm to the hobby or affect their bottom line. It will upset some forum users on principle but not in any real way. I think people are just over reacting.


I actually have to disagree with this. Sure, GW probably makes some off the moms who buy some figures for their kids, but it is the true hobbyist that are the repeat customers. Repeat business is very important and the way you make repeat business is by creating a community around your product or by allowing a community to exist.

I used to be an Outrider back during what I would now consider the "Golden Age" of GW. Back then there was a very strong community. Many people like myself volunteered their time to help grow the community. Sure there was a generous rewards program as well, but the community was prime. It was Outriders that made the Grand Tournaments possible. It was Outriders that made the Rogue Trader tournaments possible. It was Outriders the provided a large amount of the labor for the U.S. Games Days. It seems, however, IMHO that when GW started opening stores in the U.S. a lot of that started to go the corporate way. Outriders eventually disappeared, support for independent retailers disappeared and they've been attempting to consolidate their support at the GW stores. Yet at the same time they seem to ignore the online community as well, as several years ago they killed their own forums.

I look at it this way, GW can and should protect their rights. I do agree that some of them are a little far fetched (i.e. Librarium Online). But I'm also a firm believer if they are going to shutdown the customer based support community that they should provide their own forums as a replacement. I have a feeling that many of these C&D orders could be argued against in court simply by saying that GW doesn't run their own forums so how is running a forum infringing on their IP?

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