View Full Version : Making an "army builder", how much GW IP is too much?

03-12-2009, 08:33
I am thinking about making a free online "army builder" for 40k similar to the one by Lone Wolf Development. I plan on basing it on a database with all the relevant stats and options for each unit, which is again very similar to Lone Wolf's data files.

My question is, how much information is too much? Obviously I am going to pull the stats etc. from legal copies of the codex, but I am afraid that there will be enough information in my database that a user would no longer NEED their own codex to make an army.

Of course I can omit all rules summaries etc. as it is only intended for making/managing an army list, and I will have an appropriate disclaimer mentioning GW and everything else they say on their site. AND I won't be making a profit as Lone Wolf is (though not directly off of GW's IP).

Also, do you think a free site (with no ads) like this would attract more attention from GW than their program that costs $40?

03-12-2009, 08:37
There was a website called Army Roster which did armies online and the GW lawyers took it down as it infringed on thier copyright and Army Roster did both 40k and Warhammer. Hope that infos helpful.

03-12-2009, 09:09
It looks like Army Roster was shut down because they had paid memberships and planned on selling adspace, neither of which I am going to do (I'm not that stupid, lol). Looks like their site might be working on coming back, though everything appears to be "in beta"(and if you read a little you'll see the creator is still planning on "sponsor memberships":rolleyes:).

EDIT: it seems like they are getting around the copyright by having users enter all the information themselves...which seems to defeat the purpose IMO.

But GW still doesn't care about Lone Wolf making money?

According to one of the articles that came up from google about Army Roster:

Why does Army Builder work and these do not?

GW can exert control over the AB files at will, but if they do so they risk the files going rogue and becoming far more than simple guides but full-fledged rule replacements. So there is a vested interest to keep the tool under a nominal measure of control--and with US copyright law being what it is, it's not a good fight for GW.

No one who makes the AB files profits from the AB files and fair use doctrine covers the AB files.

This just reinforces my thought that GW wouldn't mind as long as I don't profit, right? But as far as I can tell without buying Army Builder, is that one wouldn't necessarily need a codex if they knew the rules (which spending some time on forums one can easily accomplish), so why doesn't this upset GW? they should be thinking that they could potentially lose sales (especially going by GW's radical IP protection stance).

03-12-2009, 14:20
sucramreverse > Army Roster was shut down because publishing another company's IP is copyright infringement; it has nothing to do with profit - a thief can't steal someone's property and claim he's innocent cause he gave it away instead of selling it.

You're thinking of Trademark infringement, where if the infringing brand is seen to devalue the copyright or easily be confused with that of another is grounds for a Cease and Desist.

Here's a good article on copyright misconceptions from Brad Templeton: http://www.templetons.com/brad/copymyths.html

03-12-2009, 14:29
Just because you're not making money doesn't mean you're not infringing on their IP or trademarks in problematic ways. Your idea would befall the same problems that Army Roster's did.

Army Builder is in the clear because essentially the only thing that Wolf's Lair does is the database software, which has no inherent link to anything GW related. The datafiles themselves are done by unaffiliated volunteers, so going after AB would be a lot like trying to go after Microsoft, because people are using Excel to make army list calculators.

03-12-2009, 18:09
Bookwrak > agreed... though GW may still have the right to stop them from advertising Army Builder as "Supporting Warhammer 40,000".

Tzar Boris
04-12-2009, 00:11
Haing steeping myself in the intricacies (and not so) of the IP law concerning this kind of issue, it's unfortunately gonna be quite hard to publish, even for free, an army list that has any relevance to GW codices.

1. The names of the units are copyright. Particularly pertinent moreso the naming of characters - some of the unit names are possibly a tad generic to stand up in court.
2. The publishing of whole/part of published work - fair use. The fair use clause that so many people quote is primarilly for the benefit of journalistic review etc.

This, no matter how much you try, pretty much ties up the publishing of this kind of thing. The only reason that Lone Wolf gets away with it, is that they don't publish the work themselves.

If you stray to much from any of the rules, it could be seen as a form of piracy (redistribution of copyright materials). It's a sticky subject, but not that hard if you really want to. To be totally clear - an example:

You could say: (totally safe!)
Armoured Space Warrior Tactical Squad

As soon as you say:
Armoured Space Warrior Tactical Squad - x points

Ooh, dodgy territory

And if you even think of saying:
Space Marine Tactical Squad - x points (x models armed with x, x, and x, and one sergeant with x and x)
it may be goodnite Vienna.

It all lies in the wording and how far you'd be willing to take it. Some things are tenuous at best - the wording of the law varies on which territory you're in, and since it's electronic publishing it'll come under whatever region they have registered it in, at their discretion. You could double check with GW and send a letter of intent, and perhaps come to some form of clarification of what they would permit without following legal action, which at present, ain't a helluva lot.

Their aim at present is to protect everything, and under the British law it is registered under (esp. as they publish in book format regularly) may be liable to plagiarism, copyright theft and trademark violations - aligned with the laundry list of piracy kak they could hit you with. You would still be distributing IP via electronic means which is much the same as photocopying the rules and sticking it on Bittorrent.

It's a massive shame they choose to follow the legal side of it so closely for such a community fuelled hobby. I understand and agree with much of what they're doing. I understood whay Damnatus had to get pulled, I understand that they are pulling stuff that infringes logos and symbols and takes any form of monies - they license their own IP for huge sums to third parties, therefore they must chase anyone not paying for its use or else those third parties feel they no longer need to pay those huge sums. It figures.

The fact that in the US, game rules are not subject to copyright, (I'm still researching the exact law UK side), the method of writing them down is still protected - this would possibly include the familiar WS|BS|S|T|W|I|A|Ld|Sv format - which would knacker up the chances of even the most basic roster sheet - and the format in which it is presented is preserved, including points costs etc.

This is all conjecture mainly, as no-one has gone to task against GWs legal steamroller on these finer points, but I've a feeling that unless you had a great IP lawyer behind you, they'd find something to shut you down.

In my other thread http://www.warseer.com/forums/showthread.php?t=232916 I'm exploring the possibility of a compatible games system, just for this very reason. I've no desire to gain a "I've been censored by GW legal" badge, but to remove the element that prevents us from pursuing these types of projects for the good of the community. The general consensus is to avoid discussing stuff that MAY infringe IP - and the point is that until someone actually takes it all the way, it'd be hard to say exactly what parts of their IP policy actually NEEDS to be followed. Take a look at Apple vs Psystar. It wouldn't be cheap.

So, the letter of the law is still out, but there's nothing stopping you developing it for private use. As long as it never sees t'internet.

04-12-2009, 01:28
You would have to have users externally load their own XML files containing the data.

It can be done, but it's not going to be easy.

04-12-2009, 01:28
You would have to have users externally load their own XML files containing the data.

It can be done, but it's not going to be easy.

04-12-2009, 01:41
I've been slowly building my own army builder that also catalogs your models.
In the end, I provide the structure but the user has to populate the database based on their codex.

04-12-2009, 03:56
@malface & bookwrak - I still don't see why Army Builder is able to get away with it then. Sure, they don't make the datafiles themselves, but they are up for download on their site, and the first game advertised to work with Army Builder is 40k. I'm not trying to go after Lone Wolf or anything, but trying to understand GW's logic when it comes to allowing this to go on.

@tzar - very informative, thank you :D. I also find it a shame that they choose to take such a strict legal philosophy. Honestly they could make more money by supporting the fans just a little bit more, of course I've been around long enough to know only the opposite will ever happen.
I'd also be interested to know what UK's stance is on game rule copyrights, and how far either law can really be taken. But since no-one is going to actually challenge them (mostly because GW made us poor when we started this hobby...clever them.), we are unlikely to ever find out.
I'm also checking out your thread :).

@scarletsguig & hokiecow - the problem with that is it defeats the purpose of what I want to accomplish. An easy to use site that eliminates most of the need for the player to flip back and forth in their codex for exact numbers ( eventually writing one down incorrectly), and spend more time on actually perfecting their lists. By making it so players have to upload their own, or user shared, 'XML' files it limits it to those users who have the 'technical ability'.

But Army Builder is allowed to get around this by having it automatically add the datafile when you click 'warhammer 40k' :wtf:.

now excuse me I have to go work on my Void Trooper Strategic Gang(TM pending):rolleyes:

04-12-2009, 04:13
sucramreverse, perhaps the following thread on our website may answer some questions or help clarifiy some things:


, specifically the second message from one of the creators of Army Builder.

shaggai / lead maintainer AB40K files.

04-12-2009, 06:30
Hi shaggai! I read over that thread fairly well and I get the impression that GW doesn't take direct action because some of them actually use it themselves. Seems like it shouldn't be that hard to make their own program, but I suppose the ability to hire excellent model designers doesn't translate to hiring programmers. Also that the creator made a concerted effort to get licensing, but was turned down. I don't understand GW's double standard on this issue, but that certainly does make it seem like any hope for a web-based builder isn't going to receive the same treatment as GW itself already prefers to use AB.

Again thanks for the information, and like I said, I don't mean to attack AB. I just don't think people should have to pay $40 on top of the already steep prices for the codex's. And that EVERYONE should be encouraged to print out a verified armylist to use for games, as having to go over the opponent's hand written list is...difficult.

04-12-2009, 12:40
@scarletsguig & hokiecow - the problem with that is it defeats the purpose of what I want to accomplish. An easy to use site that eliminates most of the need for the player to flip back and forth in their codex for exact numbers ( eventually writing one down incorrectly), and spend more time on actually perfecting their lists. By making it so players have to upload their own, or user shared, 'XML' files it limits it to those users who have the 'technical ability'.

The approach I'm taking only has the user enter the information once. After that they can build their armies to their hearts content. Someone has to enter the info in and who going to guarantee that person did it correctly?

04-12-2009, 13:28
trouble is, your method takes effort on the part of the user.
I just renewed my AB sub, $12.50 a year, ridiculously cheap for what it is.
My time is worth far more than that.
Good luck with your project, I hope it works out for you.

04-12-2009, 16:32
For something that's free and a hobby, it should be well worth the time and effort.