Sit up or shut down
The internet rumbles with the stirred ire of Warhammer nerds. Beware, international corporation. Beware!
Okay, so if you haven’t heard, some kind of legal team has been distributing cease-and-desist letters to various segments of the Games Workshop fansite cavalcade. And like all good web-based nerds, they immediately respond by whining on their blogs and forums. Thats the way, stick it to the man. Power to the people guys.
So the latest case in point is probably Boardgamegeek. The site has apparently been ordered to remove all its Games Workshop related material.You can even read the owners of the sites response on his blog.
It is hard to say what exactly Games Workshop are asking, as no one seems game to reveal these emails they are getting. They just bemoan the oppressiveness of the GW machine and take their stuff down like a good little lemming. So really, I can’t vilify nor condemn either Games Workshop or the websites. One party of this dispute is eerily silent, while another is seething with biased rage.
The general impression I get though is that in all cases the issues have not been with the websites as a whole, but with the use of Games Workshop intellectual properties and copyrighted material. Largely this has been sections of text from Games Workshop products as well as images created by the company being reproduced on the websites. The reason I come to this conclusion is that things like Skavenblight Gazette have received no such legal notices. The gazette website and webzine uses no images or content produced by Games Workshop, and all art and photography has been created independent of the company. While the basic setting and game mechanics created by Games Workshop is referenced, not content is reproductions of Games Workshops copyrighted material.
What this all lead to is this. While what Games Workshop has set in motion is annoying, it is well within their rights. I myself would be a hypocrite to suggest that the company has no reason or course to do this, as if I were in this position I would do the exact same thing. If something I had created, and I owned, was being used in ways I did not approve of or intend I would most certainly be asserting my legal rights.
I think the real problem is not that Games Workshop has taken this course of action, it is that they have done it in such a heavy handed manner. Instead of bringing down the mailed fist and demanding obedience, they should be educating those who are breaching their rights. As well as this, they should be offering them an out. In the computer game world this is often known as a ‘fan pack’, a selection of content freely available for fans to use for promotional purposes. This would certainly help to soften the blow a bit, and better define what the community can and cannot use.
In the end, though, the onus is on the website creators themselves. Especially where they enter into the tenuous legal maze that accompanies having a website that depends on other companies intellectual property and also runs advertising. Most companies don’t like the idea of them shelling out a bunch of money to create something and someone else making cash off it. Even a tiny amount.
Of course, everyone’s thoughts are welcome. Explanations from the GW legal team more so!