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Games Workshop Forbids Warhammer Fan Films 251

EikeHein writes "Made by dozens of fans over a period of several years and featuring impressive special effects, the feature-length Warhammer 40.000 epic DAMNATUS ranks among the most elaborate fan productions ever made — and yet may never see the light of day. Despite initially giving a go-ahead to the project, UK-based Warhammer franchise owner Games Workshop has come around to forbid distribution of the film just as it was being readied for release. What's more, they've amended their IP Policy to forbid any such projects in the future. At the heart of the matter appears to be Continental European copyright law, which grants the German film makers certain irrevocable rights to their creation which they cannot sign away. Given that the owners of the other two SF mega-franchises, Star Trek and Star Wars, have been able to come to terms with such issues and arguably benefit greatly from the media attention paid to popular fan productions, it would seem that Games Workshop still has to learn a thing or two about how to capture fan enthusiasm for their benefit."
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Games Workshop Forbids Warhammer Fan Films

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  • by iknownuttin ( 1099999 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @02:42PM (#19828473)
    Then it turned out that according to German copyright law, the producers are prevented from signing away some of their own rights, which derailed the deal.

    There, you have it. There's a lot more to this story that's not even mentioned in the summary - it's just another /. IP is EVIL story. Just the summary on Wikipedia is kind of confusing. And to honest, I don't blame GW for putting the brakes on the movie. Wikipedia summary of German copyright law. [wikipedia.org] I'm trying to find more English versions, but even then, I'm not a lawyer, let alone a German lawyer.

    There's more to it than GW maliciously hurting fans.

  • Re:IP Laws (Score:3, Informative)

    by EikeHein ( 686534 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @02:45PM (#19828505) Homepage
    Indeed, this has implications for European open source developers as well. The FSF Europe's mechanic for dealing with this problem is called the "Fiduciary License Agreement" (FLA) which works by giving $central_body a license that allows it to e.g. relicense code contributions made by the copyright owner. Press coverage on the FLA: http://www.linux.com/articles/60129 [linux.com]
  • Re:IP Laws (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zatic ( 790028 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @02:46PM (#19828515)
    You can't sign away Urheberrecht, which simply states that you are the original creator of a piece of art. Kinda makes sense to me.

    They could sign over the copy/distribution/whatsorever rights with no problem. But still GW can't say that they created this movie. Which they haven't. That's all there is to it.
  • by jdb2 ( 800046 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @02:47PM (#19828535) Journal
    ... "damnatus" means condemned. (perfect passive participle of "damno"/"damnare" -- "to condemn") YIAALG Yes I Am A Latin Geek jdb2
  • Re:IP Laws (Score:3, Informative)

    by Gorath99 ( 746654 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @02:55PM (#19828621)
    IANAL, but this may be about the moral rights [wikipedia.org] of the authors, which includes things like the right of attribution. In some countries/jurisdictions these rights can go quite far and cannot be transfered or waived. For instance, in The Netherlands, artists can object to defilement of their work. This can have nasty implications, for instance, when you want to alter a building you own in a way that the architect or interior designer objects to. My alma mater [www.uu.nl] cannot alter the interior design of one of its libraries for this reason.
  • Re:IP Laws (Score:2, Informative)

    by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @03:25PM (#19828991) Homepage Journal
    What you cannot sign away is the fact that you are the creator (Urheber). If you are an employee, it is a different story.

    You can however sign away commercial rights (usage, protection).

    This is what the German Wikipedia says (and what I recalled).

  • Re:Preposterous (Score:2, Informative)

    by BadMrMojo ( 767184 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @03:42PM (#19829183)

    I mean, it's not like Games Workshop actually sells games. They sell miniatures. ...
    Except for Blood Bowl, of course. That game is two shots of high-proof awesome.

    Important note: Blood Bowl - along with Necromunda, Mordheim and some of the other Specialist Games which essentially got axed - did not require a huge investment in miniatures. One team per person is enough to play. A full collection (one of absolutely every possible legal team configuration) would probably be less than 200 miniatures (although I can't be arsed to figure it out exactly at the moment).
  • Re:A Lesson Learned (Score:2, Informative)

    by EikeHein ( 686534 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @03:51PM (#19829291) Homepage
    One thing they (Games Workship) did do, however, was promote the movie project in their own official magazine publication, the "White Dwarf". While not being a written permission, it does serve to illustrate how hypocritical GW's turn-around is on this one.
  • Re:Preposterous (Score:3, Informative)

    by lakeland ( 218447 ) <lakeland@acm.org> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @03:59PM (#19829381) Homepage
    No, nothing like D&D. It is battle reenactment except it also has fantasy sets (hence orcs) and futuristic sets (robots). There isn't any role-playing or characters - the players are sorta army generals trying to coordinate their armies.
  • Re:Preposterous (Score:5, Informative)

    by Control Group ( 105494 ) * on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @04:01PM (#19829401) Homepage
    Warhammer is a tabletop - ie, using miniatures - tactical war game with role-playing elements. Rather than using a hex map or other grid, all line-of-sight and range measurements are actually taken relative to the actual analog position and facing of the miniatures. The business proposition from Games Workshop is that they sell you the rulebooks for the game. The rules include provisions requiring you to purchase Games Workshop miniatures (eg, if the miniature on the table doesn't have a boltgun in its hand, the character it represents also doesn't have a boltgun in its hand); GW is, first and foremost, a seller of miniatures. Warhammer as a universe encompasses several different game systems and miniature series: Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, Battlefleet: Gothic, and Necromunda all spring to mind, though I believe there are others.

    In my opinion, the game aspect of it is particularly shallow in comparison to most other similar games (tabletop tactical), with odd and limiting provisions such as only being allowed to fire at the nearest enemy.

    One way to look at it is that Games Workshop is the grown up (that is, expensive) version of playing with toy soldiers: you collect your toy soldiers, then get to use them in a game structure.

    (Note: I completely understand the attraction of buying and painting miniatures, building up huge collections of them, and getting enjoyment out of deploying them in a structured game format; I don't mean to disparage it as a hobby. I, personally, prefer the game to be more involving than the game pieces, but I'm not much of a collector.)
  • Re:Preposterous (Score:4, Informative)

    by BridgeBum ( 11413 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @05:04PM (#19830457)
    There is a role playing version of Warhammer (with the ever so original name of Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing or FRP), which is actually not a bad system at all. Brings back memories from many years ago. It is true that when most people refer to 'Warhammer', they are thinking the miniatures battles.
  • Re: Preposterous (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @05:20PM (#19830697)
    First of all, Games Workshop does *not* produce miniatures of any sort. The miniature models come from Citadel Miniatures. Games Workshop produces games.

    This is a meaningless distinction. Citadel Miniatures is a *brand* of Games Workshop. What you just said is akin to saying "General Motors does not produce cars of any sort. The cars come from Chevrolet."

  • Typical GW. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nim82 ( 838705 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @05:39PM (#19830963)
    I really am not surprised by this, I used to be quite a fan of GW products ~13 years ago. At the time they were quite cheap and you could collect armies relatively easily, they had a greater range too (I collected EPIC mostly). Then slowly but surely they began to ramp up the prices, first they made all £3.99 blisters £4 (not a big deal), then every couple of months £4 would change into £5 into £6. They began dropping gaming systems they couldn't market easily, EPIC got the chop - they replaced it with a LOTR themed Warhammer to tie in with the movies. Even the official rag White Dwarf has changed from a hobby magazine into an overpriced catalogue.

    When I first started they would let you play with custom armies in-store, if you had the odd model from another dev they didn't care, if you didn't have a Terminator with a Flamer they would let you use a normal one and put a counter by it. Nowadays the staff are nazi's, they wont let you play with a badly painted army, they wont let you use other miniatures in your army, you have to have the proper model for everything (unless it's a custom conversion using their gear). They wont even let you play their old games there anymore. The higher ups only want people to see in-store what they can buy, in-store gaming is now product placement, using the unpaid kids who game there these days.

    Since GW floated they have tried to screw everyone over, and a few of their big name developers walked (unsurprisingly). They are now in a catch 22; their steep price has deterred many from pursuing the hobby and they have driven away the vets (who now use Ebay). The result is lower sales, necessitating yet higher unit costs. In the not too distant future I can see them having to bail on miniature gaming altogether, and simply use their IP for video games and literature.

    Talking of games - I wonder if this will have an impact on the modding scene? There are an awful lot of WH/40k themed mods, most of which directly compete with the official games (and some tabletop systems). Time will tell I guess...

    They really are shooting themselves in the head with this one, utterly retarded given their predicament.
  • Re: Preposterous (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:09PM (#19831385) Homepage Journal

    First of all, Games Workshop does *not* produce miniatures of any sort. The miniature models come from Citadel Miniatures.
    They were once a separate company (in theory) but now they're not even a wholly owned subsidiary. More like a department.
  • by LukeCage ( 1007133 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @06:59PM (#19831983)
    Maybe I'll get modded down for this as off-topic...but I wanted to say it anyway.

    Most people think that Games Workshop is the only "real" miniatures game in town. But it's not. There is another really good game out there called WARMACHINE (and it's companion product, HORDES).

    WARMACHINE (yes, it's spelled in all caps) is much cheaper to get into. A "battle box" of a commander and two to four "warjacks" (basically a walking locomotive with weapons - and no they don't look as dumb as that sounds) is 50 bucks, or 35 dollars online. And it comes with the rules and unit stats included.

    Whenever you buy a unit, you get a card with all the unit stats. You don't have to ever buy a rulebook if you don't want to. And the miniatures look really nice. Just search around and see. The fiction (aka the "fluff") for the game is just as good as Warhammer. For example, one of the nations in WARMACHINE is a Russian-style fascist state that discovered hundreds of magical swords in an ancient tomb buried under one of their cities. The swords are powerful, but unfortunately cursed, and anyone who uses them goes berserk. So what do they do? They chain convicts to the swords and point them at the enemy! That's the same sort of grim pragmatic feel you get in Warhammer.

    I suggest anyone who is sick of GW and Warhammer (I sunk 500 bucks into the game and got 200 back, there are literally hundreds of ebay auctions selling these units at a loss because the game is simply a grind and NOT FUN to actually play for most people) but wants to play a fun miniature game give WARMACHINE a look. I got into it and am enjoying it way, way more than Warhammer. It's tons cheaper and just as fun.
  • Worng wrong wrong (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @07:28PM (#19832285) Homepage Journal
    The can create a licensing saying they own all the rights. Done, nothing given up, and it's only the trademark that's at risk. A risk that is simple to mitigate with a trademark icon.

    This is another company that doesn't understand the new way of making money. They no they offer nothing that can't be easily duplicated. Fear of that makes them do stupid crap. I can't wait until the desktop modeling tool get cheaper. I will make copies of several of the warhammer miniatures and mail them to there head quarters. Just to hear the scream.

  • by spir0 ( 319821 ) on Wednesday July 11, 2007 @11:43PM (#19834265) Homepage Journal
    GDW. there's a company I've not heard of in years...

    This article is about Games Workshop, not Game Designers' Workshop. GDW shut down down in 1996. :)

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser