[Date Prev][Date Next] [Thread Prev][Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: Rules for submitting licenses for review

On Sat, 2005-08-27 at 13:07 -0700, Sean Kellogg wrote:
> Sure, there is an underlying mathmatical formula.  And you are free to use any 
> mathmatical formula to create charts to your heart's content.  But the D&D 
> people chose a particular formula and have created tangible works of 
> authorship with that formula.  When you use their underlying formula to 
> create your own new tables, you are copying their expression.

My point is not that you can "cheat" copyright by skipping through
mathematics, but that the game mechanics - the rules themselves - are
not expressive enough. I think there is a distinction between the rules
and the description of the rules. One can describe how the rules work
and can copyright that description or expression, but can one copyright
the underlying concepts and ideas the rules themselves?

In the same way that lists of items for recipes are not copyrightable,
one could similarly argue that tables of numbers are not copyrightable
either. I think what you are trying to say is that, for example, the
combination of the idea of "experience progression" (gain points to gain
levels and extra powers) and the tables is a substantial or original
expression. I would argue not.

I also think this argument is centering around whether it is possible,
through the existing law, to copyright game mechanics, and not so much
on whether it is right to do so. As we have seen from recent legal
shenanigans, it's possible to do lots of things with law in certain
territories as long as you have enough money. I would say, it does not
necessarily follow that it is right to do so.

> You're absolutely right.  Microsoft and IBM violate eachother's patents all 
> the time, but I assure you they both believe patents cover software.  Just 
> because industry players violate eachother's IP does not mean the industry 
> does not believe the IP exists.  Lots of reasons not to sue...  and a bit one 
> is the chance the court may totally disagree with the argument and end IP on 
> games all togehter. But for the record, WoTC's market share in the game 
> industry is of good size, and when you remember they are actually owned by 
> Hasbro, it is nearly 80% of the game market.

I'm not really talking about big companies: roleplaying is a pretty
small industry, if you can call it an industry. It's made up of a couple
of big companies and lots and lots of little companies. Neither am I
talking about violating patents: I don't think a patent for game
mechanics would stand up, although WotC have certainly tried.

I don't think one could simply characterize the general opinion of the
"industry" in that way. We know WotC consider game mechanics
copyrightable, but I would pause to state that the rest of the
"industry" would consider it so.

I would also note how undemocratic it is that those companies with the
highest market share would seem to be able to dictate interpretation of
the law. IANAL but I hope the law doesn't always work that way,
certainly for the sake of smaller companies and groups like the Debian
Group, and free software in general. Certainly in Europe, despite the
efforts of various market leaders, we are still fortunate enough not to
have software patents, yet.

> They are a list of numbers combinded with extensive 
> instructions (wow, extensive...  I've been learning them again in preperation 
> for starting a campaing...  the stuff is as complicated as case law).  One 
> migth even call it "substantial literary expression in the form of 
> explanation or directions."

I would agree the extensive instructions are copyrightable, but the
disagreement would center on whether the underlying concepts and ideas
(i.e. the actual mechanics) are copyrightable.

Kind regards...

Ricardo Gladwell <ricardo.gladwell@gmail.com>

Reply to: