Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Musing about copyright again

Y'know, for someone who actively dislikes both the 40K game and GW's business practices, I do have a fair few blog posts about it. "Methinks", to misquote the Bard, "he doth protest too much."

40K 7th edition is, apparently, out, to the usual collection of applause, curiosity and complaints about changes that break the system. Regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that, personally, I couldn't give the proverbial rat's posterior.

However, I am concerned to note that there are people blatantly making downloads of the text (both as ePub and PDF) available online.

Now, I do have to hold my hand up here and admit that I do have 'hooky' PDFs and/or ePubs of a few sets of wargames rules, but they are in all cases either long out of print (and sitting on my eBay watch list, as often as not, for as soon as a decent second hand copy comes along), or things for which I have a legal physical copy, wanted one for the iPad and one wasn't available. You are thus, if you wish, at liberty to call me a hypocrite for what follows, but I personally am very clear where I draw the line, namely at the point where I'm not paying for something for which the publisher/author is still in a position to take money from me for. That is unquestionably theft.

Seriously, folks? It may be GW, and it may be ridiculously expensive, but it it's a brand new, in print, set of wargames rules which you can buy. Whatever you think of their business practices, and whatever your views may be of the greyer area of out-of-print and/or digital copies of print rules, this is the wrong side of that line.


  1. In all probability it is the wrong side of the law, but here's a thing: what have you noticed about the law, lately? Yep. Got it in one. There are laws that legalize crime, and there are laws that criminalize acts that are not criminal.

    The UK is contemplating allowing prospectors enter your property without permission or compensation to prospect for minerals. So much for Tory respect for property rights. I believe it has already been enacted that Banks can take money (steal) from depositors accounts in order to avoid insolvency - I know for a fact it is the case in New Zealand.

    In other words, modern governments, unable to address socio-economic problems their own somnolent incompetence have created, have legalized theft and trespass. Well, when your own police force is permitted to go around murdering Brazilian electricians about their lawful occasions, what can you expect?

    Reverting to the topic at hand, it seems to me the big note publishers have only themselves to blame for what they see as breaches of their copyright etc. They are altogether too inclined to claim royalties on copyrights they don't own; fail to pay royalties they themselves owe (check out the James Taylor vs Warner Bros); (Try to) claim copyright, trademarks and patents on matters that are already in the public arena (Donald Trump's attempt to copyright 'You're Fired'; the Olympic committee reps touring Los Angeles and telling Greek restaurants to remove their 'Olympic' or 'Olympia' signs; McDonald's telling restaurant owners they can not use their own personal names for their restaurants).

    And the really bad part? These buggers get away with it because, not only is the little guy afraid to take on the big guy, even the judges in the cases can actually get the law wrong. McDonald's exclusive copyright on the name does not and can not extend to personal names. The Golden Arches - yes: that's a fair trademark protected by law (as are the Olympic rings). The image of the name in a particular font on a particular background (White on red) is equally fair enough. But the name itself? No.

    What constitutes ownership? Suppose I buy a figure from GW (speaking hypothetically). Do I own that figure or not? If I own it, it is my property, and therefore I can do whatever I like with it, up to an including making copies. To make copies, I use moulds that I bought and therefore own, metal that I bought and therefore own, heating materials that I bought and own. Or I might have a 3D printer that I bought and now own. Do these big note companies seriously believe they can issue constraints upon what I do with my own stuff? What is the point of owning a 3D printer (say) if you can't use it to reproduce expensive or hard-to-obtain items? Corporates are petty quick to jump up and down if they find themselves under constraints they don't like (this particular topic is a hot one in respect of the TPP - Trans-Pacific 'Partnership' [yeah, right] - presently under negotiation, and being pushed hard by the Obama administration. If New Zealand signs up for it, it's kiss my hand for good to New Zealand sovereignty. Foreign corporates can thenceforth take legal action against any New Zealand law they mislike).

    To be sure, if I make a whole bunch of figures in this way and then sell them, then I really am profiting from someone else's development work. Probably in law in makes no real difference whether it is a one-off sale of surplus, or is included in a disposal by sale of an army I no longer require, or is a genuine attempt to commercialize this ... erm ... piracy.

    The corporates allege that they have to stake their claims lest their protections under copyright lapse. Up to a point, that's fair enough. But I believe they are far too quick on the trigger for that argument to be entirely convincing.

  2. There is a difference here in that rights on physical objects are usually covered by patent law which has a shorter time span (20 years in the US for example) of protection compared with copyright on written and visual images. If you 3D print a 25 year old Warhammer figure you probably aren't breaking the (patent) law but if that figure has a Warhammer copyrighted symbol on it then you are breaking copyright law.

    There is no excuse for copying written materials like rules and those who do deserve to be hit by the full force of the law. Also, just because you don't approve of a law or don't like what the same organisation does in other areas doesn't justify flouting the law! That's exactly why we have laws - to prevent chaos (not Chaos TM!)

  3. Yes... distributing a copy of something someone has created is theft, legally or morally speaking. 'Who' that someone is doesn't matter, otherwise we would the very 'one rule for some' situation mentioned in the comments here. It's sad that it actually is this way, but two wrongs don't make a right either.

    As for copying figures... true you own the figure and you can chop it up, melt it down, or whatever you want, but the right to copy it does not exist... imagine a world where 'buying' something equals a right to copy.

    I earned this £20 note in my wallet, so I'm entitled to copy it and use it as legal tender 'for my own use'? I think not.

    The TPP and its corresponding Atlantic fellow are indeed things which people should be worrying about though... but have little to do with this topic.

  4. The problem for GW is that the target market for their overpriced products is already familiar with stealing electronically when they want something they can't afford. So if they want to play the game - and they have the miniatures, the obvious solution is to "pirate" them, sad but true.

    I agree - this is theft.

    Unfortunately - the poor business models of the first the Music Industry, then Film & TV and now Books have made "piracy" almost acceptable to many people across the world.

    Not because of price - but unavailability of legitimate copies in the required format.

    Music appears to be winning, with Amazon and iTunes increasing the availability of downloads, Film too is doing OK - especially since Blu-ray moved away from Regions - and started to release worldwide with digital etc at the same time, and now Netflix and Love Film (sorry Amazon Prime)!

    There are still pockets of problems - compare Breaking Bad with Game of Thrones - both hugely popular - one released almost everywhere including Netflix, the shown "exclusively" and then see which is most "pirated".

    Let us just hope that books do not go the same way, I note Amazon US already give you the ebook when you make a hard-copy purchase - sooner that comes to the UK the better!

    I am older - and more patient (and have more free cash) so I just wait for the DVD box sets - but if all your mates are talking about it and Mum and Dad won't get Sky - what do you do!

    Sadly the only way the world will improve is when people get a moral sense, you can't prosecute millions of "pirates" just shame them, but then you also can't prosecute all speeding motorists, but some laws just seem to be viewed as optional!

  5. For reason I won't go into again I'm a reluctant Nottingham fanboy (it's my own fault though). At one point I may have had content from them through questionable means and at a later point I had a lot more disk space, with an interlude of a very full recycle bin. I figured out 2 things:
    - Even though the freely spendable part of my income is modest, I can buy more than I have time to consume (be it novels, miniatures, boardgames etc), so even the minimal effort of pirating has zero pay-off
    - If an artist/company charges too much or makes it too hard to buy or use, they clearly don't want me or anyone to have it, and they probably hate people too. Therefor I don't want it.

    The best thing I got out of the follies of Big Entertainment has been discovering a world of better music. I spend more on music on Bandcamp or directly buying from artists than I ever did on the big names. I also, and that is an important distinction in this discussion, consume more independently offered music. Last week I bought €30 worth on Bandcamp alone. I will buy the occasional "bands I used to love back when" songs on Google Play but that's it. These days I eagerly await the release of albums by bands the world hasn't heard of and many of them are good friends of mine. Thank you for that, marketing department of Big Entertainment. You being misantropist money grabbers made my find a world of good music.
    It is mainly the attitude I despise.
    Having said that I allow a few exceptions: Big Bang Theory, a bit of Star Trek, and for music Rush and Peter Hammill/Van Der Graaf Generator.


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