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D&D Handbook Distribution Lawsuit Settled For $125,000 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the lawful-neutral dept.
The Installer writes "Wizards of the Coast is in the process of settling its claim against several individuals for illegal distribution of its newest copyrighted handbook. 'In one of three lawsuits brought by Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc., US District Judge Thomas S. Zilly on Friday accepted a settlement in which Thomas Patrick Nolan of Milton, Fla., agreed to a judgment against him of $125,000.' These were the lawsuits that went along with WotC's decision to stop selling the handbook in .PDF format. 'According to court filings, more than 2,600 copies of the handbook were downloaded from Scribd.com, and more than 4,200 copies were viewed online before the material was pulled from the document-sharing site at Wizards' request.'"
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D&D Handbook Distribution Lawsuit Settled For $125,000

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  • Agreed? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cjfs (1253208) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @11:56AM (#29784655) Homepage Journal

    agreed to a judgment against him of $125,000

    So they didn't roll for damages?

    • Re:Agreed? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sponge Bath (413667) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:16PM (#29784781)

      Free advice: do not address Judge as Dungeon Master. IANAL.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So court procedure and etique is more important than things like the law.

      • by thedave (79572)

        Does the acronym IANAL bug anybody else?

        Because, while not a lawyer, I definitely not ANAL.

        • by zapakh (1256518)

          Does the acronym IANAL bug anybody else?

          A little, but I don't have a bug up my butt about it.

      • by DrOct (883426)

        Of course Dungeon Masters were originally called "Judges..."

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Damage: d20+124,990

      So, $125,000 is about average.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, that would be d20 + 124,989.50.

        How's that for combined geek and math pedanticity!

      • by Skevin (16048)

        Actually I think damages were 40000d6, for which a final roll of $125000 is slightly below statistical expectation. In order to count the sheer number of dice, a roller rink had to temporarily be rented out as bean counters dumped the entire truckload of all 40K dice.

        That's so many six sided dice, WotC has announced plans to buy out Chessex.

        In other litigation news, GW is suing WotC for the usage of the term, "40K dice".

    • Re:Agreed? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:51PM (#29784985)

      Unfortunately for the defendants, there is no saving throw against punitive damages.

    • Re:Agreed? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Tibia1 (1615959) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:42PM (#29785329)
      Sometimes it just comes down to the lawyer's plus to charisma.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        +1 sad but true.

        Although that should be "charisma modifier"

        • by Tibia1 (1615959)
          When I played we always used to say "plus to dex" instead of dexterity modifier. It was just one of those things that you would say, never realizing that it was only your group that said it.
  • by geekboy642 (799087) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:02PM (#29784693) Journal

    Is it wrong that my first reaction was to flip over to a torrent site and snag my own copy of the PDFs? Purely for research purposes, of course.

    • by mqduck (232646)

      Several days ago, I downloaded 40 (I just checked) D&D 4e books. Then I noticed their pulling of the PDFs from legal sites and was happy for being able to retroactively claim justification. :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by FlyingBishop (1293238)

      My first reaction was remembering that even though I own the 3.5 manual (which I paid $90 for some years back) I still don't have pdfs, and need to obtain them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrmeval (662166)

      They got their judgement. Now will they become for profit lawsuit machine or will they actually make something worth downloading? I suppose at some point I'll have to play that version of D&D but it sounds about as boring as some of the eternal leveling before the fun starts MMORGs.

      And yes it's wrong but it is obligatory. It's one of the fascinating facets of the Streisand effect.

  • Sigh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fooslacker (961470) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:23PM (#29784819)
    I'm tempted to just say "who cares 4th edition sucked" since I don't personally like it and think it is dumbed down MMO style mechanics made into a table top game. In fact I think the fact that I bought the first set of books probably hurt Hasbro in the long term. If I had previewed them somehow and didn't like them I probably would have continued to look at their products but since I bought them and didn't like them I haven't picked up another 4th edition product. However, in the spirit of an actual discussion I'll give my 2 cents beyond just my dislike of 4th Edition.

    I think you're about to see Hasbro get all litigious on folks because they are not making what they think they ought to from the brand. Whatever the reason I think when companies start worrying about this kind of nonsense rather than continually producing good content its a harbinger of hard times ahead. Hopefully they'll sell of the brand or others like Pathfinder will take their place. I think it was a bad sign when they nixed the d20 license from 3rd edition. I don't know what Hasbro's numbers looked like but the industry as a whole was much better off when everyone was writing d20 products and the bookstores and cons were full of the stuff. Today D&D is almost irrelevant among the people that I know who still play RPGs. As a disclaimer, I'm just a sad creature who still reads through the books for entertainment value and writes a few pieces from time to time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by im_thatoneguy (819432)

      On the other side of the coin: I got into D&D through 4th edition as have many people I know.

      Their marketing has dramatically improved, the game seems easier to pick up and I'm seeing D&D expand pretty widely beyond the original core. I imagine that was Hasbro's goal and in that regard they seem to be wildly successful.

      • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by fooslacker (961470) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:07PM (#29785977)
        I would disagree that their marketing has improved. 3rd edition was pretty impressive with how much it grew the industry. What I would be very curious to see is Hasbro's 3rd edition versus 4th edition numbers. I'd love to know how many the brought in versus how many they lost. etc. BTW, as a disclaimer I'm not super pro 3rd edition or anything I just think it was the pinnacle of business success for D&D so far. I played back in the 1st Edition (i.e. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) and 2nd Edition days and have played a small amount of 3rd edition, 4th edition, and various other systems.

        That said the rest of what you say has a pretty good point to it and I'm glad it brought you into a hobby that I hope you enjoy. I'd also be curious to see where you are in 2-5 years and if you've moved on to something that supports more complex and challenging role-playing side of things or if the tactical challenge is what you enjoy. 4th edition plays like a artificial tactical game to me and really doesn't provide the effective simulation feel of previous versions. I feel more like I'm playing a card game or a board game but that's just my personal feeling.

        Again, I am glad it introduced you to table top RPGs and I hope it helps grow the market as a whole. I just don't know if I believe that it has without seeing some numbers given the contentious nature of it's launch.
        • Maybe. But that's what DMs are for right? To make up rules on the spot. The group I play with really doesn't care at all about rules. We usually make up stuff in whatever we do because we almost always are doing things that no rule maker would ever think was reasonable. :D

          I would rather there be a good, simple core set of rules which are easy to get new people up to speed on quickly. It seems like most of the rule reduction occurred inside the player abilities, which is what a new player has to lear

          • Agreed good DMs will cover up a lot of problems with the rules but it's even more fun when you get both and the DM becomes more of a setting author and less of a rules referee (at least IMO)

            I take slight issue with your analogy regarding classic board games. They have very simple rules that allow for complex tactics but the complexity and freedom of the player are not the same thing. These games offer complex strategies but few options in individual moves. This results in strategies being an emergent
    • Re:Sigh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Chyeld (713439) <chyeldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:14PM (#29785145)

      On one side of the coin, I understand and agree how you could come to your opinion RE: the direction Hasbro is taking.

      On the other side of the coin, knowing the history of all the companies that have been behind D&D since it started, I have to think this is simply a rinse and repeat cycle that's been happening since the first edition and spats between Gygax, Arneson, and the Blumes.

      This is a franchise run by people that have always been willing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory whenever someone in charge wakes up and gets greedy. It just seems to be in genes.

      • Agreed. I think every time they grow the industry they get too worried about what everyone else is doing and try to get the piece of the pie the competition is eating rather than focusing on making the pie bigger. Hasbro is certainly not the only people to do this and it doesn't take a big company to do it. TSR and co. in the past have also as you point out snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
    • Re:Sigh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Gothmolly (148874) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:22PM (#29785217)

      4th edition does suck - simplified math, weird non-euclidean map geometry, nobody dies because everyone can heal, no usb, less space than a Nomad, no wireless, lame.

      • by Spacelem (189863)

        While I would heartily agree that 4E does suck, I don't think it's for the reasons that you mention.

        The simplified maths is good for everyone. Having 1d20 + half level works so much better than some of the 1/3rd of level that saves were using in 3E, or the "whatever we thought looked good" tables that 2E and earlier used. It also goes along way to fix some of the balance problems that plagued earlier editions, and made some characters unplayable or broken at high levels. Oh, it's very handy for eye-balling

    • by Stormie (708)

      I'm tempted to just say "who cares 4th edition sucked" since I don't personally like it

      I'm personally reserving judgement on the 4th edition for the moment, since I haven't actually played or DM'ed a session, I've only read the books after torrenting PDFs of them via The Pirate Bay.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        I've only read the books after torrenting PDFs of them via The Pirate Bay.

        Lies! Hasbro just dealt with that problem by suing people. Surely that means the PDFs are now completely unavailable?

  • *shakes head* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ltap (1572175) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:24PM (#29784829) Homepage
    I always knew Wizards of the Coast wasn't too great - they've cheapened tabletop gaming to an almost insane degree and discouraged many people from playing... but suing gamers? From my experience, I've found that when most people start out, they aren't too sure about what to get and tend to borrow or download materials. Gamers who have been playing a long time will usually buy handbooks, custom dice sets, player figurines, etc. So basically, WotC is driving away NEW players with this - and people wonder why tabletop gaming is getting stale and too introverted for its own good? To provide a comparison - imagine if there was a company from the mainframe days which created the first operating systems, and copyrighted the hell out of them. Now imagine that almost every other operating system was derivative from those original ones. This means that everyone would essentially be enslaved to that company, and to get freedom they would have to start from scratch, and couldn't use any of the ideas and refinements that that company had used.
    • Wizards of the Coast published Everway. They didn't *completely* dumb down table top RPGs. Granted it was a long time ago, but it is an historical fact.
    • That companies name is Oracle, and it is going to happen over the next 5-10 years as they integrate Sun's product line.
  • by I(rispee_I(reme (310391) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:33PM (#29784887) Journal

    Wizards of the Coast was bought out by Hasbro a while back and underwent a transformation from geek utopia to corporate cash machine [salon.com].

    The current dire state of the economy is forcing them to show their true nature to an unusual extent- for example, they've recently added a chase rarity to their flagship product, Magic: The Gathering, as well as releasing semi-monthly "collector's edition" products for same.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gnalle (125916)

      It looks like the pen and paper RPG-market is plummeting right now. That is bad new for me as a customer, because I really enjoy playing D&D. and I want to be able to buy new and exiting products in the future..

      I personally hope that Hasbro makes enough money to keep making new D&D products, and I don't support sharing their stuff illegally over the internet.

    • Thanks. Interesting stuff. That was a cool Sunday foray.
    • Can you give a little more information about the "chase rarity"? I assume it's a level above rare, and there aren't many cards in it. I remember the Star Trek CCG did that a loooong time ago, and people didn't like it. I haven't played Magic in many years, so I've lost track of this stuff.

      • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:15PM (#29785551)
        Basically, each set now has about five or ten "mythic rare" cards, many of which are game-changers, like the planeswalker cards, or see how popular the Lotus Cobra is in the new set Zendikar. I'll let you google the term from there.
        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Actually, they added "Mythic Rare" a couple of years ago. The set that is releasing right now has something along the lines of "secret rare"

          WotC has added "priceless treasures" into some packs of their newest release, Zendikar. It is estimated that about 1 in 20 boxes have a "treasure card". Some people have opened 2 treasures in a single box.

          Almost all of these cards are valuable cards from the early years that are on the reserved list. WotC did not violate the reserved list by including them because these

          • by Culture20 (968837)

            For the first time in over 15 years you now have a chance to actually crack open a Black Lotus from a $4 pack of MtG cards. Winning the lottery is more likely, but it is still possible.

            And buying it outright will still be cheaper.

      • by SEE (7681) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @03:11PM (#29786015) Homepage

        Can you give a little more information about the "chase rarity"?

        Yeah. Specifically, describing it that way is the sort of thing you see from people who can't do math. What they did was make rares more common, then introduced the "mythic rare" at the approximate frequency ordinary rares used to be.

        Odds of finding a specific rare card in the rare slot of your pack, older "large" sets:
        Alpha: 0.86%
        Beta: 0.85%
        Unlimited: 0.85%
        Revised: 0.83%
        4th Edition: 0.83%
        5th Edition: 0.76%
        6th Edition: 0.91%
        7th Edition: 0.91%
        8th Edition: 0.91%
        9th Edition: 0.91%
        10th Edition: 0.83%
        Legends: 0.83%
        Ice Age: 0.83%
        Mirage: 0.91%
        Tempest: 0.91%
        Urza's Saga: 0.91%
        Mercadian Masques: 0.91%
        Invasion: 0.91%
        Odyssey: 0.91%
        Onslaught: 0.91%

        Odds of finding a specific mythic rare card in the rare slot of your pack, newer "large" sets:
        Shards of Alara: 0.83%
        Magic 2010: 0.83%
        Zendikar: 0.83%

        Odds of finding a specific rare card in the rare slot of your pack, newer "large" sets:
        Shards of Alara: 1.65%
        Magic 2010: 1.65%
        Zendikar: 1.65%

        • So you can pull a Black Lotus from a pack. However I assume you cannot legally play with it in whatever the current format of tourney is? I haven't played since someone stole my T1 cards about 10 years back , I couldn't afford to replace the dual lands and juzams much less the power 9 and wasn't interested in trying. Was fun while it lasted though.
      • A card's rarity is usually describe as "chase" when you don't get a card of that rarity level in every booster pack. Magic had settled down to a three-rarity level system: in each pack you got 11 commons, 3 uncommons and 1 rare. Since the set would have the same number of distinct cards in each rarity class, there was three times as many of any given uncommon as any given rare, and 11 times as many of any given common as any given rare. (I leave out the complicating factor of "foil" cards, since they mad

    • I knew they were doomed when I ran into to WotC employees at GDC'06.

      It was after hours, and a few of us working at the conference were getting together for the yearly D&D game. We asked the two WotC people working the booth if they'd like to join us. "Oh... We don't play games, actually..."

      Big difference from the old days of any random person at WotC (even accounting [youtube.com]!) being pulled in to playtest the latest

  • In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sibko (1036168) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @12:41PM (#29784943)
    Other gaming companies are embracing the idea of open source and digital distribution, for example: Catalyst Game Labs [catalystgamelabs.com]. More importantly, their open source release [isohunt.com] of Eclipse Phase [eclipsephase.com], and perhaps even unofficial support for the fan-made MegaMek/MekWars [wikipedia.org] for their Battletech line.

    Meanwhile companies like WizKids and Games Workshop continue to show [games-workshop.com] their complete disdain [photobucket.com] for their customers and the fans of their products as well as their utter inability to properly market their games. Which is especially evidenced by the utter failure of WizKids' "Mech Clix" line for Battletech, and arguably evidenced by Games Workshops' constant price increases for Warhammer 40k; Catalyst seems to be going in completely the opposite direction - embracing digital distribution and open source in ways essentially unheard of in this day and age.
    • Re:In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gaderael (1081429) <gaderael@gmail . c om> on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:01PM (#29785041)

      Meanwhile companies like WizKids and Games Workshop continue to show [games-workshop.com] their complete disdain [photobucket.com] for their customers and the fans of their products as well as their utter inability to properly market their games.

      Wow. This part of the Terms of Service for Games Workshop is pretty disturbing:

       

      "SUBMISSIONS
      Any notes, e-mails, online messages or bulletin board postings, ideas, suggestions, concepts, designs, or other material submitted to any physical GW company address or to any web site owned or controlled by GW and/or to any e-mail addresses contained in or on those web sites ("GW Web Sites") will become the property of GW throughout the world and GW shall be entitled to use the material for any type of use forever, including in any media whether now known or hereafter devised. When you submit any material to any physical GW company address or any GW Web Sites, you agree, offer, warrant, and represent, both explicitly and tacitly (and GW accepts) that you are assigning all intellectual property rights in that material to GW and that GW has the right to use that material at any time entirely in its own discretion for whatsoever purpose including for commercial, promotional, and advertising purposes without any obligation (including any financial obligation) to you now or at any time in the future. You waive and relinquish any rights, including "moral rights," that may exist in any content to the furthest extent permissible by law and agree not to assert any rights over that content. We are afraid that in order to protect ourselves legally, this is the only way we can operate. If you are unhappy with this policy, then please do not post or send any material to GW.

      Is this just Games Workshop being incredibly greedy, or is this SOP for online sites now?

      • by Chyeld (713439)

        It's SOP for greedy companies. Before the days of the internet, many companies that allowed you to submit 'fan' work had similar disclaimers when they provided the address to send to.

        A good spin doctor will tell you it's to protect the interests of the company, since you are likely creating a derivative work based not just on their copyrights but using their trademarks. But it's mostly so that if you send them something they decide to use, they don't ever have to get into an issue with you asking for money.

  • by mqduck (232646)

    Haven't played D&D since middle school (AD&D 2nd ed era), though I did buy the 3rd edition core books and never used them. Are Planescape and Dark Sun still out of print? Those were the shit, man.

    • by mathx314 (1365325)
      Planescape and Dark Sun are out of print, although if you feel like getting into 3/3.5 then there are official fan conversions:
      Planescape [planewalker.com]
      Dark Sun [athas.org] (This one seems to be down, hopefully it's not down for good.)
    • Re:D&D (Score:4, Informative)

      by Zerth (26112) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @01:25PM (#29785233) Homepage

      They are supposed to be bringing back Dark Sun, but it'd be best to have very low expectations, cause they just want something "gritty".

      http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/drfe/20090814 [wizards.com]

      • by Valdrax (32670)

        They are supposed to be bringing back Dark Sun, but it'd be best to have very low expectations, cause they just want something "gritty".

        I can understand if you feel cynical after seeing how FR was treated, but I don't honestly see how you can read that article and just by its own contents imply that the people building the new product don't "get" Dark Sun. It was an incredibly gritty setting.

        • by Zerth (26112)

          Yes, it was a very gritty setting with lots of depth, but I believe they are bringing it back merely to fit a buzzword niche, not because they thought it was an awesome world. I expect them to 3/4-ass most of it and have "once you've made your X character, see the X Handbook for more than just subheadings" at least once.

          Perhaps I'm reading more into it, but all I saw was "this is EXTREME, so it will sell".

  • Anybody else notice that there are still copies of the book up on the scribd website?
  • No Surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Sunday October 18, 2009 @02:09PM (#29785507) Journal
    The main reason this was done was to protect the fact that Wizard's is spending most of its energy focusing on its online product. Ebooks are a direct competitor to their fee-charging online service.

    When they only release a decent amount of content for players once every year, its no surprise they'd be more protective of their content. Everyone I know who still is fortunate enough to have a 3.X DnD group has every WotC PDF on their computer and/or hard drive. And the group collectively owns every book. In my own group we have 5 copies of Lords of Madness, 2 of Draconomicon, 4 Complete Warriors, 3 Complete Arcanes and, of course, countless players handbooks, monster manuals and DMGs for 3.0 and 3.5. And we still downloaded content.

    And we were happy to pay money for the books since we weren't given these official online resources that you pretty much need to use more than half the content 4.0 has to offer. We liked paper and flipping through well printed books. Ebooks were an ok substitute when our book was being loaned to a friend or something...but for the most part nothing beat paper since there were no advantages to using ebooks other than search features (which, really, isn't that good a feature since a lot of the times you'll forget the exact wording of something and are better off flipping through a book until you find the adjacent picture).

    Every other month Wizards would release some amazing module for players to get new ideas. The complete and environmental series gave us feats, spells, items and classes. Campaign modules gave us the same. Monster Manuals gave players new races and summons. Nearly every module until May 2007 (Complete Champion) (hey, a month after 4.0 was announced to be released; coincidence?). Every month we'd also get a good dozen or so feats and a handful of prestige classes from a dragon magazine too.

    Flash forward to 4.0 where Wizards wants to make the game "easier" to attract a wider audience. Now we get ~6 powers per dragon magazine, about 3 classes races every 6 months and most updates to the game are to make it "easier" (Monster Builder tools, character creation tools, etc...) and to promote their monthly subscription service with some new online trinket no one asked for.

    DnD was played like Magic the Gathering in many ways. It was "collect the books/magazines/obscure article". And players loved it. It added a certain radical element to RPGs--the ability to have something no one player has or knows about without being substantially or necessarily stronger or weaker than them. Where RPGs like WoW or tabletop RPGs like Shadowrun have such limited content that nothing a player has on his or her sheet is ever 'new' to someone who scans the modules/playguides or has played for over a year, DnD flooded the market with so much 1st and 3rd party material that players had the opportunity to 'feel special'.

    The other bonus element was the fact that players who didn't like scouring every source for obscure little classes or whatnot could feel like they are doing something new and special using the player's handbook, as the optimizers and vorthos' preferred the unique classes and avoided the player's handbook classes like the plague (save for dips, wizards and druids).

    Of course it doesn't matter how many classes you make for 4.0. They all basically fill in the same 4 basic roles that ensure once you've played 4 different characters, you've done it all.
    • Long story short: We got PDFs alongside our books. Both are invaluable resources. PDFs can be scanned en-masse for particular entries. Books can't be used without electricity, scanned through more quickly if you know where your looking and don't have the same problems computers do when you try to maintain a proper gaming atmosphere (i.e. suddenly your paladin is showing your memes from 4chan instead of trying to kill a dragon).
    • by bannable (1605677)

      as the optimizers and vorthos' preferred the unique classes and avoided the player's handbook classes like the plague (save for dips, wizards and druids).

      You forgot about clerics, and sorcerers.

      • Right, anything that gets bonus feats and/or spells per day in its first three levels and isn't a sorcerer or bard.
  • GURPS [wikipedia.org]?

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