Saturday, February 16, 2013

Games Workshop, "Spots The Space Marine", and Gary Gygax

The reviews are good.
Saturday morning here at The Workbench, and it's time for the weekly news bulletin about the hottest news story in the game industry...

As reported here, the e-book version of "Spots The Space Marine" is back up on after the Electronic Freedom Foundation got involved; we got our hard copy from Barnes and Noble, and it'll be going off to the author shortly to be autographed. Reviews of the book have been good, and we suggest that you have a look at the author's web site for more of her work:

In what's a startling development by any standard, Games Workshop has removed their Facebook page. They didn't just pull off the goofy statement that they made about this issue, but the whole thing. Leading PR pundits think it was because of the huge number of very negative comments being posted by people on their Facebook page by outraged people; me, I think it was because of the decline in value of GW's stock over the past couple of weeks over this issue. Down four points as of a week ago, and that's real money...

And, I'd like to state once again, I am a strong supporter of reasonable use of trademarks, copyrights, and IP rights. I am not a supporter of bullying.

Let me tell you all a little story; yes, it's "Storytime with Uncle Chirine"!

A long time ago, and far, far away, there was a game company. It had started out as a very little game company, but with a lot of hard work and luck it got to be a very big game company. Along the way, as it got bigger and bigger, it hired people who weren't gamers. One of these people woke up one day and discovered that other people were writing about the big game company, and mentioning the company's IP by name. "Aha!" thought this worthy, "I'll use our trademarks to stop these people in their tracks!!!" So, he made sure that the big game company had indeed filed some trademarks, and sent out lots and lots of fiercely worded Cease and Desist letters to the people he had found using the big game company's IP.

One of the people who got this C & D letter happened to live in the same city that the big game company was located in, so he took his letter in to talk to the big game company about the issue. The sender of the letter told the guy that if he continued to use the big game company's IP, the big game company would sue him into the dirt.

"So," the guy says, "I take it you want me to reprint all my business cards?"

"Yes," he was told, "we own the trademark!"

So the guy pulls out his business card and his picture ID and hands them to the big game company guy. The business card says:

Gary Gygax - President - TSR, Inc.

"Now," said Gary, "did you really trademark my name without telling me, sent me a Cease and Desist letter forbidding me to use my own name, and expect me to pay you a royalty? Really?"

(Story told to me by Gary Gygax over lunch before a TSR stockholders' meeting.)


  1. That is a very interesting story. I wonder who "Big Company" was exactly? Avalon Hill?

    "I am a strong supporter of reasonable use of trademarks, copyrights, and IP rights. I am not a supporter of bullying."

    Now I am confused.

    Trademark, copyright and IP "rights" are, by definition, bullying - how can you be simultaneously *for* and *against* it?

    1. Thank you for your comment! To answer your questions:

      1) The "Big Company" was the largest and richest company in the game industry at that time - TSR, Inc., the company gary was the president of. As Gary's name was being used a lot in fanzine and magazine articles at the time, the compnay mangers thought that the easiest and fastest way to "manage the discussion" and make sure there were no negative comments about TSR was to trademark everything (including Gary's name) and then use the trademark laws to shut the magazines and fanzines down. It didn't work.

      2) As for rights, if you - Vargr - write a book, is it all right if I make copies of that book and sell them without paying you anything? If you create a piece of artwork, and I copy it and sell those copies without giving you anything, is that all right?

      Your comment states that copyright, trademarks, and IP "right" are bullying. Can you explain that, please?

      By your definition, I can come to your house and use your car without your permission; you may have property "rights" - are these bullying me, because I want to use your car? Think this one through, please...

      yours, Chirine

    2. Thanks for answering, sorry about this late replay but I forgot Google Reader does not tell you when you receive comment replies on blogs. :p

      Cripes! TSR was even more evil than I was told...those people tried to eat their own.

      I'll be happy to answer your questions but I warn you, it will take several comment posts due to the limit of 4096 characters. Here we go...

      "Your comment states that copyright, trademarks, and IP "right" are bullying. Can you explain that, please?"

      I define *bullying* as involuntary coercion via threats of initiation of force. It is a clear violation of the non-aggression principle and therefore unacceptable under my system of ethics and morality. It is wrong and "evil".

      Copyright, trademarks, and IP, leaving aside the fact that they are made-up, fictional concepts with no basis in reality created to enforce monopolies for bottom line profiteering for individuals that fall under a certain category, are *enforced* at gunpoint via state-sponsored violence, even, and especially, upon people who do not believe in those fictions, were never consulted about them and signed no voluntary contract with anyone agreeing to abide by them. If I "violate" your copyright, trademark or IP I will be the victim of aggression by agents of the state, if I do not comply with your one-sided demands I will eventually be assaulted, kidnapped and thrown into a cage, and my assets seized to assuage whatever vaporous grievance you claim to have against me. If I resist any of the above the level of violence the state will exert upon me will simply escalate, most likely ending with my death or mutilation if I actively resist their aggression on your behalf to the ultimate consequence.

      The process I described above is, by definition, bullying in its highest form. And it happens all around us and every day. Just because most people do not realize the system they are living under does not mean it doesn't exist.

      Yes, I do know the fictional concepts in question are coded into Law, but this is meaningless, of course. "Laws" are simply lists of opinions made up by some bureaucrats over time that are backed up by threats of initiation of force against those that do not agree or comply with what a that little gaggle certain persons who hold a monopoly on violence in a geographical area felt was OK on any given day. Defending any of the above fictions on the grounds that they are "The Law" means you must also support and defend the existence slavery in the American continent until the mid-19th century as correct, and support and uphold your current president's ability to "lawfully" execute citizens via drone attacks by personal fiat decision. It also means you have to defend stoning gay people when you travel to a Sharia-law Muslim country and be a staunch supporter of state-mandate equality and diversity in California.

      Granted, comparing incarcerations and state theft of assets under IP and TM laws to institutionalized slavery and legal state-sanctioned murder may at first appear an exaggeration, but we are not discussing the gravity and scope of consequence here. We are addressing ethical and moral values and principles. And under logical scrutiny anyone but a psychopath must eventually conclude that state-enforced initiation of violence against peaceful persons is wrong. IP, TM and CR are enforced upon unwilling, peaceful persons via state-enforced initiation of violence, or more precisely the threat of it (i.e. coercion). Therefore those concepts as they stand in our society are demonstrably wrong.

      End of Part I

    3. "As for rights, if you - Vargr - write a book, is it all right if I make copies of that book and sell them without paying you anything?"

      (we will deal with "rights" later)

      Of course it is. Where did you sign a voluntary contract stating that you would do no such thing? And what exactly did I offer you in return due to your voluntary obedience to my will? Nowhere and nothing? Then you owe me nothing and I certainly don't have a "right" to shove a gun into your face, or have the state do it in my behalf, to force you to comply with my wishes.

      After all, it is not your fault that data replication and distribution technologies have evolved to such a degree that they have rendered the primitive, millenia-old notion of "book author" if not outright obsolete, at least nearly non-profitable. If I choose to engage in a market model that does not function I can hardly complain if my profits are crap. I might as well scream at my trees to grow dollar bills instead of leaves, it would make about as much sense.

      If I see you planting a nice vegetable patch in your garden in a productive and aesthetically-pleasing pattern, even if you are the first person on the planet to come up with that particular method, I can copy it on my own garden and tell about the process to anyone I please. I can even aid them personally in setting up their own "Chirine-Patch". How the heck could you defend adding a (TM) to the idea of "Chirine-Patch", demand we fork over money for the "privilege" of using our own gardens as we see fit and shove guns into our faces if we refuse to comply?

      And if do not agree that gardening ideas should fall under the state-enforced violent aegis of Trademarks and IP...why is that? And why is it a permissible to do if we are dealing with books, games or stories?

      Copyright, IP and TM are just luddite attempts for the equivalent of authorial dinossaurs to maintain a coercive monopoly on fiction (the very concept boggles the mind , one of the times people were victims of violence en masse due to peacefully holding different different opinions than the status quo wanted we called it "The Inquisition").
      I can understand it sucks not being able to adapt to the current era and living, intelectualy, in the past, but shoving guns in people's faces because you cannot find a peaceful, profitable, creation and distribution process that is not anti-progress that would make you the miney you wanted is just foul. By that same logic we should destroy all cars and return to using carriages because the newer technology of the combustion engine effectively turned horses mostly obsolete and killed off that market. Of course, the horse breeders back then were not ingenious enough to patent or copyright the concept of "Transportation" or "Vehicle" and thus sue and aggress the incipient car industry into oblivion...and thus keeping their profits under an artificial, retrograde system supported by violence.

  2. Part III

    "If you create a piece of artwork, and I copy it and sell those copies without giving you anything, is that all right?"

    Of course. Those copies aren't mine to begin with and I have no claim to them. They are yours. You had to invest the capital and labor to produce them and your are the one taking all the risks if your business venture fails. You seem to be mistaking making fac-similes of something with stealing someone else's property. No one broke into my house and stole my painting, someone made prints inspired by my painting

    Just a note, if you were selling the prints of my painting and passing it off as the *real thing* done by me then we'd have a problem. Because then we are not dealing with fictions like IP and TM and all that; we are dealing with fraud (towards your customers) and identify theft (towards me) which is something very real and serious. If fact both of those are violations of the non-aggression principle and it is ethically permissible to use force to defend against them.

    "By your definition, I can come to your house and use your car without your permission"

    That is not my definition. In fact, I do not know how you could make such a claim given that you didn't know what my definition was as you asked me to provide it. What you did was make an assumption without enough base data and use it to make an affirmation about what you wrongly concluded was my position in these matters.

    Beyond that you are going on a tangent, talking apples and oranges so to speak and delving all of a sudden into the material, physical world when the issue at hand were fictional ideas.

    But to address the example in question and show you why it belongs to a wholly different category than the issue of IP, et cetera:

    If you use my car, which is a non-replicable tangible asset, you are depriving me of its use in very real manner because we can't both drive the same car at the same time to go to different places. That action is a form of aggression that falls under the definition we call "theft".

    However If you make copies of my painting as mentioned before, or if I use your idea on how to set up a vegetable patch, in no way, shape or form do any of those actions prevent me from enjoying the use of my painting or your from enjoying the use of your garden.

    Going into sci-fi mode now to take this into an extreme example:

    If you had a Tekumelian "Eye of Car Replication" that could make you a brand-spanking new vehicle exactly like mine out of extra-planar energy by pointing it at my car and pressing the stud...exactly how does that deprive me of enjoying full use of my car?

    Of course, the car manufacturer might not be to happy about it because thanks to your superior technology you don't have to fork over immense amounts of cash to buy the cars he builds using now-obsolete methods anymore. He is now a technological dinossaur and he can either adapt to the new tech paradigm or quit the business.

    But under the anti-philosophical principles that gave us fictions such as "IP" and "Copyright" what he can do his shove a gun down your throat and force you to pay "royalties" for the "privilege" of replicating a car which belongs to ME, using YOUR technology, know-how, energy, etc.
    And if you refuse he can have you put in a cage and expropriate you of assets. And if you forcefully resists you will be mutilated or killed.

    Now, how would that make any sense and under what system of values can it be classified as ethical or moral? What is that car manufacturer, if not a bully?

    End of Part III

  3. Part IV (final)

    "you may have property "rights" - are these bullying me, because I want to use your car?"

    You are committing two logical fallacies in that sentence and am unsure even how to respond because it makes no sense. First you assume that "property rights" exist...there is not such thing. In fact there is no such thing as "rights", they are simply fictional ideas like IP or Trademark. Unlike those they are nice, cozy ideas; but just ideas nonetheless. If you do not agree please show a me a "right".
    Second you seem to assume that non-existing, immaterial, fictional "rights" are capable of bullying someone when, by any definition I am aware of, bullying can only be committed by living people upon living people. Even non-sentient animals that attack human beings aren't considered to be "bullying" the person, so I don't see how you can make a serious claim that "rights" (i.e. ideas) by themselves and on their own can engage in the willful initiation of threats and aggression against a human being.

    Dealing with the car issue your sentence refers to: If you wanted to use my car without my consent and deprive me of its use then only bully in the equation would be *you*....not an idea.

    "Think this one through, please..."

    I did. And wiser folks than I have delved into these matters for much longer than I. I challenge you to come up with logical, coherent and non-self-detonating refutations to my positions. :)

    End of reply.