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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 51 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Should I bother registering my RPG for copyright?  (Read 3274 times)
Palaskar
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« on: October 05, 2003, 10:20:32 AM »

Both my parents strongly suggest I register my RPG in the US under form TX for $30.  Since they're ponying up the money, I don't mind.

Now I know that under US copyright law, all works since about 1988 or so are copyrighted as soon as they are created. And since it's fairly likely I'll be updating my RPG, I don't know if I would have to re-register it with every revision. So registering for a patent doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

Does anyone out there have any experience or opinions to share?
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Brian Leybourne
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2003, 12:24:49 PM »

I'm not an expert on US law (OK, I know almost nothing about US law), but I'm quite confident you don't need a patent for written material, copyright protects you.

In fact, I suspect you wont be able to lodge a patent, but you can always try.

Brian.
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Brian Leybourne
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RPG Books: Of Beasts and Men, The Flower of Battle, The TROS Companion
Chris Passeno
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2003, 02:02:06 PM »

I would like to preface this with.... we are not lawyers, so consult a copyright or patent attorney for correct answers.

I don't believe that you can patent an RPG.  A copyright is for written or graphic works.  A Patent is for a physical objects or original process, like drink umbrellas, but the jury's still out on that.  I remember hearing WOTC trying to Patent the "tapping" mechanic.  Who knows, they have the lawyers and money to try it.

An interesting thing I heard on TechTV the other night compared a copyright, trademark, or patent as a Hunting License.  It doesn't automatically protect you... it just gives you the right to go after them.  It's still a very long and expensive court process to protect your copyright.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2003, 04:51:22 PM »

Hello,

There are some older threads on this matter full of useful links for real information. For now, here are a few points.

"Copyright" isn't a matter of registry. The current law essentially means that you can sue anyone you decide is infringing on your stuff, without having to have some kind of pre-designated document. The power of your claim (i.e. whether a lawyer busts a gut laughing before he hangs up on you, or whether he says, "Yes sir") is a matter of many, many things.

Registry, if I'm not mistaken, refers to the Library of Congress and may have some merit or claim regarding protecting one's copyright (i.e. aiding in said suit). The actual merit involved remains untested for RPG material, especially at the small press level (which is nearly every RPG company by out-of-game-industry standards).

Does "Form TX" refer to Library of Congress registration, or to patenting the work, or to something else? It's awfully hard to understand your inquiry as it stands right now.

Best,
Ron
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Valamir
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2003, 07:05:59 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
"Copyright" isn't a matter of registry. The current law essentially means that you can sue anyone you decide is infringing on your stuff, without having to have some kind of pre-designated document. The power of your claim (i.e. whether a lawyer busts a gut laughing before he hangs up on you, or whether he says, "Yes sir") is a matter of many, many things.


Greetings, just popping in from sunny FL on my vacation.

Unfortuneately, its not quite so simple.

While it is true that you don't have to register to claim copyright, you DO have to register in order to sue some someone for violation.

If you are not registered you can't sue...so while technically you are copyrighted just from writing it down, you can't actually enforce your copyright without being registered.

Fortuneatly, you don't have to register right away.  You can wait until someone violates your copyright THEN register THEN sue.

But there's a catch.  

There are 3 types of damages you can collect in a copyright suit:  1) actual damages...lost sales...money you can prove you lost as a result of the violation.  2) statutory putative damages...where the courts award you extra money above and beyond what the actual damages are.  3) legal fees and court costs

Here's the catch.  You must be registered BEFORE the violation occurs (with 1 exception for violations occuring before publishing) in order to collect statutory or legal fees.

In other words, if you wait and register just before filing suit after the violation has already happened you can only collect actual identifiable damages.  You cannot get any putative award for especially egregious violations, nor can you get the other party to pay your legal fees.  Given that damages that can be identified for small press publishers would barely cover your legal fees anyway in most cases...you're pretty much SOL.

So, the bottom line is if you don't care if someone violates your copyright because you know the damage wouldn't be much anyway...don't bother registering.  If you really do care and you really want to be able to sue for real money you need to register ahead of time.  Registering also requires sending several copies to the library of congress also.

This info comes right from the government copyright law site which I believe is linked to in the Resource Library
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jrs
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Posts: 373


« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2003, 06:41:50 AM »

A point of clarification: the U.S. Copyright Office is part of the Library of Congress.  When you register for copyright, you do so with the U.S. Copyright Office and include two copies of the published work for use by the Library of Congress.

The source for Ralph's description of copyright registration can be found at the U.S Copyright Office site.  The particular section on copyright registration is here:

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#cr

If you read through the site, you'll also find out about the mandatory deposit of two copies of any work published in the U.S.  (That is, the deposit is mandatory; copyright registration is voluntary.)  I did not investigate to see if rpg's are included in the exempt category.  I'm curious, are the game publishers out there depositing copies with the Library of Congress?

Julie
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Palaskar
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« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2003, 01:03:05 PM »

I didn't proofread my first message properly. When I said "apply for a patent" at the end, I really meant "register for a copryight." Sorry about that.

Many thanks to Ron and Valamir.

Ron wrote:
Quote
Does "Form TX" refer to Library of Congress registration, or to patenting the work, or to something else? It's awfully hard to understand your inquiry as it stands right now.


Lemme check my copy:

"Use form TX for registration of published or unpublished nondramatic literary works, excluding periodicals or serial issues. This class includes a wide variety of works: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, textbooks, reference works, directories, catalogs, advertising copy, compilations of information, and computer programs. For periodicals and serials, use Form SE."

Essentially, I picked form TX as the closest choice for registering a copyright of an RPG to prevent people from "stealing my ideas" (to quote my parents.)

Ack. Just reading that sounds dubious. I mean, you can't copyright ideas. Besides, half of the RPG industry "steals" from the other half in terms of mechanics, at least.

Does this explain things better?
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2003, 02:56:24 PM »

Hi Palaskar,

Yeah, I got it. Make sure and pay attention to Ralph and Julie, rather than to me; I seem to have mangled any number of things I was trying to say in this thread.

But this one stands: nothing stops anyone from stealing anyone else's ideas. Copyright, registration, and anything like that are all about empowering the injured party when seeking redress. As such, they're important. But again: there's no "armor" against theft. Think hunting hound, not guard dog.

Best,
Ron
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jdagna
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« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2003, 03:22:58 PM »

Julie, I've been depositing the two copies of each of my books with the copyright office, since I haven't seen anything that makes RPGs sound different than other books.  Of course, if you want to register a copyright on an unpublished manuscript, only one copy is necessary.

Palaskar, check my comments on your version of this thread over on RPG.net for my response to the original question.
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Justin Dagna
President, Technicraft Design.  Creator, Pax Draconis
http://www.paxdraconis.com
Valamir
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2003, 07:16:08 AM »

Quote
If you read through the site, you'll also find out about the mandatory deposit of two copies of any work published in the U.S. (That is, the deposit is mandatory; copyright registration is voluntary.) I did not investigate to see if rpg's are included in the exempt category. I'm curious, are the game publishers out there depositing copies with the Library of Congress?


There is a list of things that are exempt.  I don't remember them all now but they primarily were of the the "greeting cards" and "brochure" nature.  There was nothing on the list that looked to me like it could be stretched to include rpgs.

I would be very interested in knowing if the larger game manufacturers are doing this.  I would guess not simply because in all of the threads I've ever read where publishers are listing off the stuff remaining to do on a project I've never seen mention of it.  Perhaps that's just because its so routine that it didn't merit mention...

Perhaps Peter can share whether or not WotC ever registered its books with the LoC?
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Space Cowboy
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2003, 08:54:15 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
If you are not registered you can't sue...so while technically you are copyrighted just from writing it down, you can't actually enforce your copyright without being registered.


I only tangentially covered copyright in two courses in law school, but, while I'm not an IP lawyer and, thus, totally certain, I'm pretty sure that this statement is wrong.

Given the fact that reducing an idea to a tangible medium grants automatic copyright, it wouldn't make any sense to require registration in order to sue.

The big benefits of copyright registration are 1) a presumption of ownership, so any challenger to your copyright is going to have a tough time defeating your claim of ownership, and 2)  you are entitled to  statutory damages, rather than just actual damages (the former not requiring any proof and also likely to be much larger).

Again, though, please consult an attorney practicing IP law for the exact situation.

Hope this helps!
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Nature abhors a vacuum... Saddle up, Space Cowboy!

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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2003, 08:20:07 PM »

hate to break it to you cowboy, but its true.  Taken directly from the government's own copyright info website.  

As I said, there's a link to it in the resource library, so rather than speculating, go check it out for yourself.  I was rather shocked to find it there myself...but its right there in black and white.
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Palaskar
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2003, 01:08:36 PM »

Alright, I'd like to thank everyone who answered my question. I guess I will be registering for copyright.

Pal
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aghori
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2003, 07:30:54 AM »

Check out The writers guild of America at http://www.wga.org/ , they have a service that consists in storing a fingerprint of your work and give some support in case of legal troubles.
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