Often – and it should be always, but I forget – when Geek Native alludes to legal decisions, options or consequences, I rush to say that the blog does not give legal advice. I cannot provide legal advice. I am not a lawyer.
But, Boyd Stephenson is. Stephenson is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Whereas I rush to say that Geek Native can’t give legal advice, Boyd Stephenson stresses that he is not your attorney. Downloading the pay-what-you-want Intellectual Property in RPGs from DriveThruRPG does not create an attorney-client relationship with you.
Once downloaded, you now have 9-pages of clearly written insight on the American system. And that’s a system worth knowing!
We kick off with an introduction to what can be protected, which means learning the difference between copyright, trademark and patents.
Then we’re on to an understanding of what cannot be protected, and that’s things like game mechanics, public domain content, publically licensed content, layouts and “scenes a fair and stock characters”.
The latter is so central to a concept or genre that they cannot be removed from it. That’s why no one has grabbed control of “dragons” for fantasy RPGs. However, there’s no clear cut and easy way to determine whether something has become a “scenes a fair” or not.
Scattered throughout the 9-pages, presented in bold green boxes, are tips and need-to-knows. For example, not all publicly licensed content is open for any sort of free use.
This article isn’t a review. Who am I to second guess an actual lawyer? What I can say is that I found the short guide to be hugely useful, and I’m glad I don’t actually need legal advice and am coming from this in a purely academic sense.
Intellectual Property in RPGs is easy to read in terms of English (no legalese here) and in terms of layout.
Boyd Stephenson concludes by saying that they wrote the guide because small creators need to understand the system. I agree. I also think this guide grants that.
I’ve read lots of great tips, tricks and introductions to the hobby scene, and I’m in communities where RPG creators offer each other all sorts of help. I think, though, Intellectual Property in RPGs is as close to required reading that I’ve seen.
Thoughts? Can you contribute to this article? Share your insight in the comments below.