RPG Anthology, blog comments and Creative Commons

With the upcoming RPG Blog Anthology some discussion about copyright and other legal issues on the RPG Bloggers Network was inevitable. Perhaps you already have read the posts on The Bonemaster and The Core Mechanic.

Jonathan from The Core Mechanic included comments from the original posts into the first draft of the RPG Blog Anthology. That is not uncommon for this kind of publication and it was his impression that comments are considered part of the blog post and that the comment’s author has already given the blog author the right to share, modify and republish the post. Others are not so sure and added some “Terms of Service” to their site to make sure they don’t have to ask the permission of the blog’s author when they want to use the comment in future publications.

And perhaps you’ve noticed that I decided to release the content of this blog under a Creative Commons license. Then it struck me! I already have a binding contract with Jonathan in which I gave him a non-exclusive license to publish one of my blog posts in the upcoming RPG Blog Anthology. Does he have to release the anthology under the CC now, too? Or have I broken my agreement with him? At first I was a bit worried, but then I noticed a small word that at once solves everything: non-exclusive. The CC license is non-exclusive, so as the owner of my content I am still allowed to enter any other non-exclusive agreements.

But back to the comments issue. From what I know the US law regarding copyright etc. has already been adapted to the internet age. That’s not the case in many other countries like Germany, where I live. That makes things a bit more difficult. But even without a TOS we can take some things for granted:

  1. the comments are owned by their respective authors
  2. the comment’s author already gave you a world-wide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, modify, adapt and publish the comment solely for the purpose of displaying on your blog

I thought about adding some legal mumbo-jumbo in addition to the CC license already there, but I decided against it. When I want to use a comment in something like the RPG Blog Anthology I will just ask nicely for the author’s permission. And if I don’t get it or I can’t contact him or her? Then I am obviously out of luck and live will go on…

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

3 thoughts on “RPG Anthology, blog comments and Creative Commons”

  1. Yes, it's a strange new world we live in. Until the Anthology issue come up I really didn't think about these types of things. It should be noted for those that read my post, I have made some modifications to it. I removed some language that some people found objectionable. I'm currently looking at the CC, but not sure if it's right for me yet.

    <abbr><abbr>bonemasters last blog post..A Second Look at Adventure Outlines</abbr></abbr>

  2. There's a key thing most TOS agreements do not include – and that is permissions to "sub license" the comments. My new TOS currently has this stipulation so that, in the future, if some anthologist contacts me and want to use one of my posts with the comments; I already have the rights to sub license the comments to the anthologist – there's no need to contact the comment author. This is excatly the situation I've run into. As the Anthologist most of the bloggers in teh RPG bloggging community did not, and still do not, have any kind of TOS or comment policy posted. Thus – anything I did with their comments would be under Fair Use or under an implied release; both of which are too grey for me to want to be hooked into.

    thanks for the bump!

    <abbr><abbr>jonathans last blog post..RPG Blog Anthology Weekly Update</abbr></abbr>

  3. Hehe, I wonder in what way US copyright has been adapted to the Internet. 🙂

    In my not so humble opinion the first change in the right direction would be a severe shortening of the protection time down from death of the author + 70 years to something like 20 years at most. But that's an entirely different discussion.

    My blog has two license related notes: "Please make sure you contribute only your own work, or work licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License." and "Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation." I think it follows that all comments are automatically licensed to readers using the FDL.

    "Any later version" means that you can also use FDL 1.3, and this version contains a passage saying that certain sites are eligible to relicense the content using CC-BY-SA. The legal language is not really simple to read, unfortunately.

    Too bad that all of us Internet folks suddenly have to deal with copyright on such a massive scale, because in the old days copyright was the domain of a very small minority of specialized people (publishers). This is where we get back to the first paragraph: Instead of adapting copyright to the new user groups dealing with it (and simplifying it significantly), we're all being confronted with cease and desist letters, legal threats, license mumbo-jumbo, and lots of paperwork instead of just sharing stuff.

    Too bad.

    <abbr><abbr>Alex Schröders last blog post..Comments on GM System vs. Player System</abbr></abbr>

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