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Author Topic: Copyright and/or Trademark Infringement Horror Stories?  (Read 2976 times)
ace pilot
Member

Posts: 20


« on: March 17, 2003, 08:30:56 PM »

Hey all,

Someone just sent me an email that has given me some food for thought about intellectual property protection, basically highlighting the problem of unscrupulous individuals who steal ideas or other intellectual property.  I should think that the risk of theft should be low, but, being a first time publisher, I donít know.  I was curious if anyone has had any such experiences, and, if so, how they dealt with the situation and what was the result?

Also, I know that under the under copyright law, anything that is reduced to a tangible medium (e.g., written) is automatically copyrighted, and I know that registering a copyrighted work is a good idea, but has anyone found the need to copyright unfinished drafts of their work?

Cheers
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Jack Spencer Jr
Guest
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2003, 09:42:42 PM »

You know, a while back I had posted a horror story. I forget the name but a search in this forum on  my name should turn it up but I have a new perspective on that now, which is that thieve don't steal shit. Stop locking it up.

Raise your hand if you know someone who writes, or thinks they do, but it's some of the most unappealing garbage you've ever had the displeasure to read.

Now raise your hand if this person is paranoid that someone else will steal their crappy idea.

I can't see the hands, but I know mine is up. Let me tell you, people unscupulous enough to steal anything from anybody will only steal something that is worth their while. They won't steal bad ideas. They rarely steal good ideas. The world is full of good ideas. Ideas are cheap.

That said, there are things you can do to protect yourself. putting " (c) 2003 Jack Spencer Jr" Is enough to give something a copyright, but it's not a registered copyright. It has teeth, but registering the copyright gives it bigger teeth. With points on them.

My advice is to quit worrying. It won't help any.
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Kester Pelagius
Member

Posts: 508


« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2003, 10:13:44 PM »

Greetings ace pilot,

     In this time of doom and gloom and rumours of war and sabre rattling I'd just like to say. . . Glad to know ya, first time posting at you, hello and welcome to The Forge.  (Better late than never, eh? ;)

Quote from: ace pilot
Hey all,

Someone just sent me an email that has given me some food for thought about intellectual property protection, basically highlighting the problem of unscrupulous individuals who steal ideas or other intellectual property.


     As I understand it there is a difference between an 'idea' (which can not be copyrighted) and 'intellectual property'.

For instance:  The 'idea' of a band of adventurers of mixed races going off to destroy a magical artifact, as such, can not be copyrighted.  However specifically outlining *what* that artifact is *defining* the races with *unique* names and traits. . . now THAT can be copyrighted, and is subject to intellectual property right laws.

     And, I think, we all know the very tale I am talking about.  Yet, if you think about it for a minute, hasn't that basic idea been used in many many many MANY novels?

Yes.

Are they plagerising the idea or merely borrowing and expanding upon a basic concept?

     Me, I'd only worry about a finished work.  And then only if you saw it reproduced somewhere else like, say, a too similar story appearing from a source who you know for a fact had access to your original work.

     Believe it or not similar ideas happen simultaneously to lots of people, worse, ideas you think are unique and new, you will too often find, have been thought of in some form by someone else already.

     It's how you implement the idea, how you present it and make it your own, that is unique.


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
Treves
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2003, 09:18:58 AM »

Do a Yahoo search for the U.S. copyright office, and that should tell you most of what you need to know (ethnocentrism alert: I'm assuming you're in the US).

The official way to copyright something (in the US) is to register it at the US Copyright office.  This costs money, though, so it may not be worth it to register anything besides your finished version - and anyway, this is the version that everyone is going to see, anyway.

I wouldn't worry about it too much - Kester has a good point, and that same point is even more true when you consider fantasy rpg's.

Did your friend have material from an unfinished draft "stolen"?
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If you can hear a piano fall you can hear me coming down the hall
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2003, 10:04:55 AM »

Treves is a little off.

The official way to copyright something in the US (as ace notes) is simply to write it down.  Every written thing, including this post, is automatically copyrighted without needing to register.

HOWEVER:  and here is the catch that most people who know the above don't realize.

**You can't actually sue someone for copyright violation UNLESS you are registered**

You may register at any time (such as waiting until a violation occurs and then register prior to filing suit).  However there is a second catch.

***Unless you are registered PRIOR to the violation (or within a set time following initial publishing) your damages are LIMITED to actual damages.  You can't collect putative or statuatory damages unless the work is registered prior to the violation.


Further in order to register you not only must fill out a form and pay a fee but you also must provide two copies of the work (best edition) to the Library of Congress.
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 10459


« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2003, 11:39:45 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
The official way to copyright something in the US (as ace notes) is simply to write it down.  Every written thing, including this post, is automatically copyrighted without needing to register.

HOWEVER:  and here is the catch that most people who know the above don't realize.

**You can't actually sue someone for copyright violation UNLESS you are registered**
Which means, if I understand it correctly, that all the unregistered copyright leaves you with the ability to do is to get a court order to cease and desist.

Some other things to consider, however. Even if your work is good, it probably will not be stolen. Just unlikely. What's worse, if it is, there's not much you're likely to be able to do about it. An honest publisher won't put out copyrighted material. And you aren't going to catch the dishonest ones.

So what are you trying to prevent? The theoretical case where some publisher decides to be dishonest, and steal your ideas, not caring that they will most certainly be subject to, at least an order to desist (making whatever money they put into the project a loss)?

Just doesn't happen. Sure, there's sombody out there who'll tell you an urban legend about the time the guy made something cool, didn't document when he wrote it, somebody stole it and put it into production, and the guy lost his great idea.

Find me one documented case of this in the case of a fledgling RPG, and then we can talk.

People put their ideas out here in public all the time in full. Get this, they even put out full copies of their games when they are night ready for sale. Then, when they have a product, they pull the old copy, and offer the new one for sale. And you know what? People still buy them. Even if they have the old copy.

I too used to fret. Not an uncommon sentiment to think that your ideas are worth stealing. But I've learned better.

Mike
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2003, 11:46:29 AM »

[quote="Mike HolmesWhich means, if I understand it correctly, that all the unregistered copyright leaves you with the ability to do is to get a court order to cease and desist. [/quote]

That I don't know.  You certainly could hire an attorney to write such a letter for you but I'd doubt you could get a court order without it being registered.  I suspect that in order for the courts to give you the time of day on a copy right issue it has to be registered before they'll look at it.  That would require an attorney to say for sure.

As for the rest.  I absolutely agree.  Unless you've hit on the once in a decade amazing thing like Magic: The Blathering that's going to make millions...there 1) ain't enough money to be made to be worth stealing, and 2) the industry is insular enough that such a theft would tarnish a reputation fairly significantly.
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Kester Pelagius
Member

Posts: 508


« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2003, 03:13:17 PM »

Greetings All,

First, look up, see that "Resource Library" (it's underlined) listing at the tip of the screen?

Click it.  Add it to your favorites.  It links to The Forge's library of links.  Much info to be found within about Copyright.  But, for those who just need links right this second you can find the. . .

U.S. Copyright Office @ http://www.loc.gov/copyright/

Their page of circulars (downloadable stuff) @ http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/

I can't find my Trademark link but, if you enter that in Google, should pop up first thing.  Or, look in the resource section here, it's in there.


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis." -Dante Alighieri
greyorm
Member

Posts: 2233

My name is Raven.


WWW
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2003, 07:34:55 PM »

Quote from: Valamir
**You can't actually sue someone for copyright violation UNLESS you are registered**

Still not quite correct, Ralph: you can indeed sue someone for copyright violations even if your work is unregistered. You cannot, however recieve statutory or punitative damages, or the cost of your legal fees, only the actual damages incurred (ie: any profits made by the violator, or actually lost by you due to the violation).

Quote
***Unless you are registered PRIOR to the violation (or within a set time following initial publishing) your damages are LIMITED to actual damages.  You can't collect putative or statuatory damages unless the work is registered prior to the violation.

Again, still not quite correct. There are differences between a published and an unpublished work: a published work is protected for the first three months after publication, that is, if someone violates your copyright within those three months and you register the copyright after the violation occurs (but still within those three months), you can sue for statutory and punitative damages, and legal fees.

An unpublished work is as above.

From Corbis
Quote
UNITED STATES CODE ANNOTATED
TITLE 17. COPYRIGHTS
CHAPTER 4--COPYRIGHT NOTICE, DEPOSIT, AND REGISTRATION

Copr. © West Group 2000. No claim to orig. U.S. Govt. Works

Current through P.L. 106-180, approved 3-17-2000

ß 412. Registration as prerequisite to certain remedies for infringement

In any action under this title, other than an action brought for a violation of the rights of the author under section 106A(a) or an action instituted under section 411(b), no award of statutory damages or of attorney's fees, as provided by sections 504 and 505, shall be made for--

(1) any infringement of copyright in an unpublished work commenced before the effective date of its registration; or

(2) any infringement of copyright commenced after first publication of the work and before the effective date of its registration, unless such registration is made within three months after the first publication of the work.


Honestly, the best answer is not to listen to anyone here because no one here is a copyright & trademark lawyer (that I'm aware of), and thus you may get answers like the above: correct, but not quite, or you could even get hearsay presented as fact.

Instead, consult with an attorney on the matter. That's the best advice anyone here can give.
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2003, 08:49:07 PM »

Damn double postings.
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2003, 08:51:08 PM »

While you are correct that the best advice is to consult with a copyright attorney the second best advance is to consult the US Government copyright website (or site for your specific nation).  I am afraid Raven, that your correction of my statement is itself incorrect.  The website of the US copy right office confirms my statement.

From the US Copyright Office
Quote
Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registration is necessary for works of U. S. origin.
 Now while it may be necessary to consult an attorney for interpretation that seems pretty clear to me.  You cannot sue someone unless you are registered.

In fact, Corbis also agrees with this
Quote
U.S. copyright law requires you to register the copyright in your photographs before you can sue an offender.
 is the very first sentence following your link.

You are, however, allowed to register after the fact, which I noted.  However doing so triggers catch #2.

Quote

Quote
***Unless you are registered PRIOR to the violation (or within a set time following initial publishing) your damages are LIMITED to actual damages.  You can't collect putative or statuatory damages unless the work is registered prior to the violation.

Again, still not quite correct. There are differences between a published and an unpublished work: a published work is protected for the first three months after publication, that is, if someone violates your copyright within those three months and you register the copyright after the violation occurs (but still within those three months), you can sue for statutory and punitative damages, and legal fees.


Well I did say "or within a set time following initial publishing" in my parenthetical above.  I could not remember the specific time (3 months is indeed correct), thanks for clarifying that.
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Treves
Member

Posts: 7


« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2003, 09:30:41 AM »

Speaking of checking with the US copyright office, on their contact page they give the number for a hotline you can call with questions.
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If you can hear a piano fall you can hear me coming down the hall
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