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View Full Version : Are fan-made army-books illegal?



zhu bajie
19-07-2012, 17:35
I've seen a few really cool fan made army-books around, one for Amazons, one for Halflings floating around the internet, both were really good.
Have there been any legal implications for the people doing this? I understand GW is right to protect it's IP, but was wondering if in the case of army and rules development they are turning a blind eye.

BigbyWolf
19-07-2012, 17:51
No, because I don't think they've ever tried to make a profit off GW's IP.

I made my own book for Estalia and didn't have the Nottingham Goon Squad chasing after me, so I doubt anyone else did.

Also- it's worth noting that some of the ideas from the Guilder-originated April Fool fake Dark Eldar Codex a few years ago are very similar to some things in the latest Dark Eldar book.

Perhaps WarSeer should be taking action against GW...:shifty:

Malorian
19-07-2012, 17:52
A guy brought one to the club a few weeks ago and was arrested. I think he's getting the chair :(


No but seriously GW doesn't care about stuff like this. It isn't taking money out of their pocket is it's fairly obvious that it's fan based and not made by GW.

Lord Zarkov
19-07-2012, 17:54
Attempting to *Sell* such an army book would be illegal. Simply making and distributing one is not as long as you display the appropriate acknowledgements of GW's ownership and don't attempt to profit from it.

That said, making one that is essential a free distribution of an existing book would also be illegal.

zhu bajie
19-07-2012, 18:56
Hmm. I'm hearing you - but are you guys remembering when they told Boardgamegeek to pull all their files? These were mostly fan-made, not-for-profit, add-ons to out-of-print games. See here (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/467096/gw-one-step-forward-two-steps-back-file-remova). Just because you're not making a profit doesn't mean it's not against the law.

Thanks BigbyWolf, good to know your Estalia army-book is flying under the radar of the Nottingham Black Ops!

AlexHolker
19-07-2012, 19:35
Attempting to *Sell* such an army book would be illegal.
You are incorrect. If you are doing something wrong, whether or not you're doing it for profit might be a consideration as to whether the judge finds in your favour or not, but there is no hard rule stating that selling derivative works is illegal or not selling derivative works isn't.

In this case, I think there'd be absolutely nothing GW could do to you except threaten to pit their lawyers against yours in a war of attrition.* After-market modifications are legal, even if you sell them.

Unless you're copying the content of GW's rules, you are not infringing upon their copyrights.

Unless you're passing your army book off as an official Games Workshop product, you are not infringing upon their trademarks.

Writing and selling fandexes is legal.

*The most likely result. GW doesn't send out C&Ds because they are morally or legally in the right, they do it because it scares people into doing what they say.

shelfunit.
19-07-2012, 19:43
Hmm. I'm hearing you - but are you guys remembering when they told Boardgamegeek to pull all their files? These were mostly fan-made, not-for-profit, add-ons to out-of-print games. See here (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/467096/gw-one-step-forward-two-steps-back-file-remova). Just because you're not making a profit doesn't mean it's not against the law.

And just because GW told them to take them down doesn't mean it was against the law to have them up. BGG didn't want the expense, hassle and stress of going through a legal battle that could have taken years to sort out.

TheDungen
19-07-2012, 20:08
except you are copying gw's background to some extent. so its copyright infringement.

Urgat
19-07-2012, 20:26
Yeah, but its' a hobby. They encourage people to make up their own rules. So?

AlexHolker
19-07-2012, 20:37
except you are copying gw's background to some extent. so its copyright infringement.
That's not what copyright infringement means. Copyright only protects works, not ideas.

eron12
20-07-2012, 05:56
Not to mention that most of GW's "background" comes from other sources. Maybe Bigby Wolf should be more worried about the Spanish government coming after him than GW.:D

NTJ2010
20-07-2012, 06:48
Are you selling them?
If no, you can do whatever you want so long as the content is original (or at least not obviously taken, like an army book called the Black Elfs that is just a copy of the Dark Elf book is kind of illegal, I think)
If you are selling them it's a larger matter entirely (for example does it bear the logo?)

Plexi
20-07-2012, 06:50
Not to mention that most of GW's "background" comes from other sources. Maybe Bigby Wolf should be more worried about the Spanish government coming after him than GW.:D

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Lord Dan
20-07-2012, 07:22
Copyright only protects works, not ideas.

Which, incidentally, didn't stop GW from suing chapterhouse studios for making a model based on its description in an army book. I agree with you wholeheartedly, I just wanted to point out that "legality" doesn't seem to enter the discussion when GW makes the decision to litigate.

TheDungen
20-07-2012, 12:59
that would be fine as long as i wasn't using names and concepts that they have the right too. You can copy everything and change the names and you're in the green to sell it but if you keep the names you are using their material and must have their permission to sell it. However as long as its free you're in the green.

Wishing
20-07-2012, 13:10
Which, incidentally, didn't stop GW from suing chapterhouse studios for making a model based on its description in an army book. I agree with you wholeheartedly, I just wanted to point out that "legality" doesn't seem to enter the discussion when GW makes the decision to litigate.

I don't know law, but I think that's the case with most corporate lawsuits really. When GW sues you it is not because you have directly broken any laws, it is because they feel that they have rights that you have infringed upon. When it comes to cases like the Chapterhouse trial, it is not clear who is right and who is wrong, otherwise there wouldn't be a trial. There is a trial because GW feel that they are right, CH feel that they are right, and they need a court to decide which of them is most right. It can be argued either way.

Haravikk
20-07-2012, 13:22
If anything GW encourage you to make up your own rules, and for armies that aren't otherwise available they're necessary if you want to play.
The legality of ripping images to include is a bit more questionable, same with copying text, but I doubt GW would ever really bother to pursue anyone about it unless they were trying to sell copies of their book.

Wishing
20-07-2012, 13:53
That's the thing, in most cases, homebrewed army books have the effect of inspiring those who are interested enough to read them to start new armies and conversion projects that they would not have done otherwise, thus giving new sales to GW (assuming these armies use GW models). In cases like that, GW wins, the fans win, so why would they want to sue?

BigbyWolf
20-07-2012, 14:44
Not to mention that most of GW's "background" comes from other sources. Maybe Bigby Wolf should be more worried about the Spanish government coming after him than GW.:D

Nah, I made them super-coolz...they should make me an honorary Spaniard!

Charistoph
21-07-2012, 05:03
That's the thing, in most cases, homebrewed army books have the effect of inspiring those who are interested enough to read them to start new armies and conversion projects that they would not have done otherwise, thus giving new sales to GW (assuming these armies use GW models). In cases like that, GW wins, the fans win, so why would they want to sue?

There many variables involved with the decision to involve the courts, most have to do with regional case law and what the lawyers/big wigs/bored intern think they can get away with. What may work in Nottingham may not see the light of day in L.A. or Berlin and vice-versa.

But, if you are careful about distribution, careful about printing and production, give proper acknowledgement to GW IP, and don't try to publish it or sell it, you can usually avoid the problems.

Ebon
21-07-2012, 05:32
Back before Black Templars had their own codex (just a WD mini-dex), I cobbled one together with an SM codex, the WD mini-dex, a scanner and Photoshop. Shared it with the gaming club I was with at the time and didn't have any problems. Now, things might be different if you put it out on the web and get a load of hits but I'd still bet that GW don't care about this kind of stuff.

TheDungen
21-07-2012, 09:09
they dont, its free advertising. as long as you dont charge people money for it they dont mind

yabbadabba
21-07-2012, 20:01
Of course its not illegal to make a fandex - have fun and enjoy yourself, GW even encourage it.

How you get the community to view it on a wider access than just your mates, then that's where you have to be careful. Take a good look at their legal page on such issues. Remember when it comes to you and your mates, GW doesn't care what you get up to as long as you have fun and buy the stuff.

M4cR1II3n
21-07-2012, 20:20
Being the guy who made 15 fan-made army books (Amazons and Halflings among them), I can personally tell you that no, GW has never pursued me to take them down (not even the 8th ed Bretonnian book). However, I was personally congratulated by Andy Hoare for my work on the Amazon book :)

yabbadabba
21-07-2012, 20:31
Being the guy who made 15 fan-made army books (Amazons and Halflings among them), I can personally tell you that no, GW has never pursued me to take them down (not even the 8th ed Bretonnian book). However, I was personally congratulated by Andy Hoare for my work on the Amazon book :) Name dropper ;)

zhu bajie
21-07-2012, 21:59
Being the guy who made 15 fan-made army books (Amazons and Halflings among them), I can personally tell you that no, GW has never pursued me to take them down (not even the 8th ed Bretonnian book). However, I was personally congratulated by Andy Hoare for my work on the Amazon book :)

Well, I'll personally congratulate you as well. Yet somehow it doesn't have the same kudos! Andy Hoare does seem like a top bloke.

Glad to hear you've not been told-off the the lawyers. Would be nice if they produced something akin to the OGL that made it clear what was and wasn't acceptable use.

Lord Dan
22-07-2012, 19:29
Well, I'll personally congratulate you as well.

I'll second Pigsy, here. Great work.

Thommy H
22-07-2012, 19:52
I think GW used to have some legal blurb somewhere about not making anything that could be mistaken for an actual GW product. This is understandable - they don't want anyone thinking they wrote something that they didn't, in case it contains something offensive or illegal. They obviously wish to retain editorial control over anything done in their name.

That said, I made a Chaos Dwarfs Armies book that is almost indistinguishable for a GW publication in terms of layout, in full knowledge that it occupies a legal grey area. The secret is not to sell it, not to try and get GW to publish it (a serious suggestion you almost always get whenever you make anything that looks enough like a real GW book) and just generally keep it under the radar. If GW ever ask me to take my book (http://issuu.com/thommy_h/docs/warhammer_-_chaos_dwarfs) down, I probably will - because it does infringe their IP and, even though I've given credit where it's due, used entirely fan-made artwork with permission of the artists and wrote every word myself, you have to know what you're getting into when you do it.