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Author Topic: curious about protection  (Read 2398 times)
JohnG
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« on: April 19, 2005, 06:01:13 PM »

I know that the best way to protect the stuff I come up with is to copyright it.  Duh.  My question though is what other ways can I protect myself, and how can I protect things that are in the creation process.

I want to work with people on projects but I've been hesitant because of these kinds of concerns.  I'm also not sure if this is the right forum for this, if it should be somewhere else, sorry.
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John Grigas
Head Trip Games
headtripgames@hotmail.com
www.headtripgames.com

Current Projects: Ember, Chronicles of the Enferi Wars
Gordon C. Landis
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I am Custom-Built Games


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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2005, 06:37:41 PM »

This probably fits best in the Publishing forum, and I seem to recall similar discussions in the past, but couldn't find anything with a quick search.

The question I'd ask, though, is what exactly is it that you are trying to "get protected" from?  Someone else "stealing your stuff"?  Someone accusing you of stealing their stuff?  Something else?  Such concerns aren't commonly monetarily significant here in the RPG world, so typical corporate IP (Intellectual Property) practices don't really seem worthwhile - but you can Google-up "Non-Disclosure Agreements" and "Trade Secrets" to get a sense of some methods.  If you're going to go that route, though, you probably need an attorney . . .

Gordon
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2005, 08:45:41 PM »

Hello,

Gordon's right. For this thread to be useful to you, you have to tell us what you mean by "protected."

Best,
Ron
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JohnG
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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2005, 09:42:00 PM »

right, gotcha.

By protected I just mean I want to be able to share my ideas without them being stolen.  I'm not concerned about it happening once it's finished, then I can copyright it.  I'm just wondering how to protect it while it's being worked on.

I'd like to get people's help but there's only so many people I know personally who can or would want to help with something like this.  I'm still in the brainstorming stage so I'd like people I can bounce ideas off of, but I'd hate to see my idea suddenly turn into someone else's just because I haven't got enough to make it worth sending it in for a copyright.

I suppose the second part of the question should also be if anyone knows people who are trustworthy for me to bounce my ideas off of, or even to help me once I get to the point that it'll take more than one person typing a keyboard to its demise. lol
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John Grigas
Head Trip Games
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www.headtripgames.com

Current Projects: Ember, Chronicles of the Enferi Wars
Ben Lehman
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Blissed


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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2005, 10:07:36 PM »

Clearly, you must consult a lawyer for any genuine legal advice.

You might want to try asking here, where there are lawyers to answer your questions: http://www.intelproplaw.com/Forum/Forum.cgi

I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but it is my understanding that you cannot have any legal possession over an idea.  Thus, your best protection is to develop your own ideas and rest assured that all of us have our own ideas that we are developing and, as professionals and colleagues, have no desire to steal yours.

yrs--
--Ben
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JohnG
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2005, 10:12:33 PM »

Thanks, and I don't honestly expect someone to run off with my ideas cackling like a super villain.  I'm just looking for every scrap of info I can get.
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John Grigas
Head Trip Games
headtripgames@hotmail.com
www.headtripgames.com

Current Projects: Ember, Chronicles of the Enferi Wars
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2005, 10:14:17 PM »

Everything you write is copyrighted right then and there, when you write it. What you're talking about is registering your copyright, which is this peculiar difference in the US copyright law. The difference lies solely in the kind of restitution you can claim if somebody breaks your copyright, not in the rights themselves. Thus, your work is already protected, and if somebody uses it without permission, they're breaking copyright law. You can force them to stop it even if you haven't registered your copyright.

Furthermore, ideas cannot be copyrighted. Chances are that if you're going to invent some really good gaming ideas, they won't fall within the purview of copyright. The things you can copyright are the fiction bits and presentation of the work, and likely that's not the part anybody would want to steal. Easier to take the mechanics and rewrite the presentation.

The deeper question, however, is one of realism. Who are you afraid of? Are your ideas so good that somebody'd take them, when they have their own? No offence, but if I'm going to steal from somebody, it'll be Ben Lehman or Jonathan Walton or someone like that. And even then, frankly, I have plenty of ideas of my own, thank you. The point is that I don't know of one designer who is both bereft of ideas and actually able to write a game. Writing is a high discipline art, one that most people are unable to do. The kind of person who actually could write up your ideas into a game is also the kind of person who has too much invested in the craft to waste his time on ideas of other people. Which brings us to another point: why the f**k would I want to take on the social damages you could heap on me by any claims of plagiarism? Even if you had no legal recourse, my reputation would be hurt in a major way if there were reasonable evidence of my having plagiarized your work.

Finally, there's the idea of reciprocity: if you want help, then the least you can do is not to bitch about idea theft. Or you could pay for critique, conseivably. However, for the most part the deal is clear: the people who are willing to help you do it because they're intrigued of your ideas. This will mean that those people might at some point of future time write something similar, perhaps influenced by your work. After all, they're interested in that kind of stuff, otherwise they weren't interested in helping you, right?

So my points are as follows:
- legality: actually the most part of "stealing ideas" is perfectly legal and commonplace. It's called "taking influence", and it's utmost naivete to think that any kind of art happens without it. To the contrary, a good artist will for the most part stand on the shoulders of giants.
- likeliness: really, I don't know anybody whose ideas were stolen in an offensive manner. If it happened, I would assume that people would take it up somewhere. Therefore I'm forced to conjencture that nobody is actually stealing anybody's ideas. Thus it's rather foolish to fear it happening.
- reciprocity: I share my ideas with you, you share your ideas with me. Both get better art out of it. That's only sensible. If you want me to sign a NDA just to take a look at your jevel of a game... perhaps you'd better find somebody else.

As for people to bounce ideas off, I recommend the Forge Indie Design Forum ;) If you need help in designing a game, throw your problems out there, and it's more than likely that somebody will take it up. Dozens of designers have used the forum for just this purpose, and nobody's complained about idea theft so far.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2005, 07:13:13 AM »

Hello,

Everyone's presented some great points so far, and Eero, that was a fantastic summary.

Speaking as a publisher (and hence only for comparison, not as advice), I look at it this way: I cannot protect my ideas/works from being "stolen," but I can set up a fairly visible array of retaliatory devices. Registering copyright, trademarking, and so on are good examples. These devices apply to things like logos and highly specific terms - recognizable, textual things.

I also welcome people's use of any concepts or procedures that I have presented in my books, if they acknowledge where they learned about it or at least that I published it first. No one needs my permission to do this. Technically, they don't even have to acknowledge me, but the payoff for doing so seems to be high - by providing positive support for them when they do it, I seem to have helped create a nice community of mutualism where no one worries about theft.

Again, all of the above may be taken only as a personal policy statement regarding Adept Press. To make your own decisions, learn about copyright and other IP laws, and consult a lawyer.

Best,
Ron

Best,
Ron
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timfire
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« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2005, 07:36:59 AM »

If I may add in my own thoughts. Even if someone wants to "steal" your gem of an idea, actually developing and publishing a game takes time. A lot of time. Even if you publicise your idea, you'll still have a good 3, 6 or whatever month jump on anyone that wants to use it. Your product will still get out first, and you'll be recognized as the parent of the idea.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
jrs
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2005, 07:45:17 AM »

I am in the camp that ideas cannot be protected; ideas are meant to be shared.  Attribution is usually expected when sharing an idea obtained from another source.  It is my understanding that it's only really possible to protect the expression of an idea.  If you want more information about issues related to intellectual property, I can suggest the http://www.wipo.int/">World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) website.

In the commercial world, I believe that proprietary information is protected through non-disclosure agreements -- a rather extreme measure for all the reasons mentioned by Eero.

Julie
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jdagna
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« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2005, 11:40:29 AM »

I'm going to back up Timfire, and even take it a step further.  Not only is the whole process of design, playtesting, writing, editing, layout, publishing very time consuming, it's actually what gives the idea value.  There's a very mistaken concept out there that the idea itself has value - in reality, the idea spurs on a chain of events that create a product, which gives the idea its value.  

Admittedly, some ideas are better than others from the beginning, but even the best idea is worth less than the worst product.  Perhaps more importantly, even if someone does steal your idea and turn it into a product, it may not hurt you.  You certainly don't think WotC is being hurt by the d20 license, which not only gives away the idea, but half the work necessary to make a product from it?

Going back to the original question of how to protect the idea, I'd say the answer is to do something with it, and do the best job you know how to.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
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JohnG
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« Reply #11 on: April 20, 2005, 05:37:08 PM »

Thanks everyone  for the information as it stands.  It's enough for me to work with to be certain, and as I said, I'm not terribly worried about any idea theft.  This was more of a "what if?" thread so I could learn a little more.

Thanks again.
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John Grigas
Head Trip Games
headtripgames@hotmail.com
www.headtripgames.com

Current Projects: Ember, Chronicles of the Enferi Wars
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