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"Copyright System for Rules" Topic

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666 hits since 30 Apr 2008
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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freewargamesrules Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 1:37 p.m. PST

I have come across a very good system for placing Copyright on rulesets you are publishing for free on the web.

They are by a free organisation called Creative Common Deeds. (Website:

You can select how much copyright you want on the rules and they will draft a clear simple copyright for them. They will also draft the complex legal documents too.

You have a choice of:
Allowing other to alter it, amend it or not. They can use it commercially provided you are credited, or not use it commercially at all. They may be able to use it providing they put a new licence on it if they change it. Or you can put a complete lock down on it stopping all changes and distribution.

I have added it to all the rules I have placed on the web and if you want to see what the copyright licence looks like try this link:


You can also use this copyright for images, videos, PDF documents etc.

Pete Jones (webmaster)

freewargamesrules Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 1:39 p.m. PST

The above link fro creative commons somehow became corrupted when posted the correct link is:

cloudcaptain10 Jun 2006 1:40 p.m. PST

Very cool. I was under the impression that you could not copyright a rules set, only fluff.

I'll have to read up on this more to figure out how they circumvented that.

Here's a corrected link:

Thanks for all you do Pete.

Frog God of Team Frog Studios Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 2:00 p.m. PST

You can copyright the words of a rules set…this will not stop anyone from lifting the mechanics of a rules set…to protect those, you would need a Patent…and for games those have been quite rare and/or suspect ("Mr. President" & the "Magic: The Gathering" patents fall into the suspect category in my opinion…).

Griefbringer10 Jun 2006 2:08 p.m. PST

The only country that I am aware that allows patenting of games mechanisms is the US, thought there are probably others that also allow it. But the European patent legislation usually tends to consider itself to be outside the scope of patentability.


The Dread Pirate GeorgeD Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 3:06 p.m. PST

Great link though. I was wondering about just this subject in regards to a project I am working on. Thanks!!


No Name02 Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 4:38 p.m. PST

And you defend it how? All very well having rights but a right you cannot exercise is pointless.

Lentulus Inactive Member10 Jun 2006 4:56 p.m. PST

Odd webite. This sort of thing is common enough in software development — and important for the protection a license agreement provides the developer even of free software.

But I would expect to get the text of the license pretty much up front, same as the various s/ware forms.

SeattleGamer Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2006 5:43 p.m. PST

Justin . . . stating that something is copyrighted simply sets the stage for the future, IF you ever decided to take somebody on for taking your thing and running with it as their own.

A judge will take the simple notice of copyright to mean you think of this product as your baby, and it belongs to you.

Copyright (c)2006 by Seattle Red. All rights reserved.

That's all it takes. No lawyers. No fancy paperwork. No need to file with any government office.

Will it stop anyone? No. But without those few simple words, if you took a story (or game or whatever) that I wrote and made it your own by tweaking it, and managed to sell it to Hollywood and they make it into a movie and make you a fortune, I would have zero legal ground to stand on. My work lacked any public notice of intent to protect my work. I would have failed to notify the public that "this thing here" belongs to me. All rights reserved.

Games are very funky things to try and protect anyway. As was mentioned, trying to protect actual game mechanics is a rough road to take, and requires that you really have invented something new, a novel approach.

I think it's worthwhile to put a copyright notice even on free work. Free simply means it costs you nothing to have, it doesn't mean that it's free to be altered or resold, etc.

(Two attorneys in the family, one specializes in patents).


Zephyr110 Jun 2006 8:56 p.m. PST

This is a disclaimer I put on my free game link (in addition to the copyright stuff):

"If you paid money for this you paid too much."

No Name02 Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 1:46 a.m. PST

"A judge will take the simple notice of copyright to mean you think of this product as your baby, and it belongs to you."

My belief is that you have copyright simply by creating a work – no notice required. A statement might be a warning/notice to others but is not required.

Going before a judge implies spending money and I think it is worth mentioning that defending copyright is going to cost.

Lentulus Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 11:55 a.m. PST

"worth mentioning that defending copyright is going to cost."

True, but if the chap stealing your IP makes a fortune and you have any sort of case, you will find some lawyer to do the work for a percentage.

With wargames, of course, the most you will do is hasten the bankruptcy. You can't get blood out of a stone.

If I produce a set of rules, I will copyright them out of habit. If someone wants to print and sell them, I would be happy to cut a deal that said publisher would find pretty good indeed.

freewargamesrules Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 2:46 p.m. PST

A long time ago a writer of a certain ruleset who shall remain nameless told me to remove a set of ruels from my site because they used a system of card activation which used the phrase "Sequence Deck".

He sent a very threatening e-mail, said he was going to sue us because he had copyrighted that phrase for use in rules.

I hadn't written the rules my friend had. Whether he was right or wrong we didn't wish to know. So we changed the name of this deck of cards to "Gameplay Deck".

So in my rules I put:
You are free:
* to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
* to make derivative works

Under the following conditions:

You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

You may not use this work for commercial purposes.

* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
* Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.

I think that is a very fair notice to have on my rulesets. I don't want people to make profit out of something |I have written for free. However, I want people to use and play around with them for their own use, or mates use.

SteveJ Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 3:09 p.m. PST

Justin Taylor is right. Copyright is implicit in any work you personally create. A copyright symbol or declaration isn't required.
Proving your ownership is another matter. Posting a date marked copy of your rules to the relevant copyright office is good practice.

SteveJ Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 3:13 p.m. PST

I should qualify the above. That's UK law. It may well be different in the US but, from memory, I'm sure it's the same.

Grungydan Inactive Member11 Jun 2006 3:56 p.m. PST

It is. The only reason one would "register" a copyright would be to give themselves a bit more ammunition for future copyright disputes. You automatically hold copyright to anything you create.

I just finished looking this stuff up for a discussion elsewhere.

rmaker11 Jun 2006 5:29 p.m. PST

Registering confirms the date and establishes priority. Without registration, you can claim you thought of it first all you want, but you have no proof. In fact, if your competitor registers and you don't, you are unlikely to win the case without a lot of neutral witnesses to testify to your priority.

mandt212 Jun 2006 8:53 a.m. PST

Mail a hard copy and CD of your rules to yourself via registered mail. DO NOT OPEN IT.

This is your proof that you are the originator of the rules. Should anyone knock off part or all of your work, you the earliest documented record of the work, and the strongest claim.

That said, unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on lawyers to protect your creation, you will pretty much have to trust to the basic honesty of your market demographic not to rip you off.

nebeltex Inactive Member12 Jun 2006 11:35 a.m. PST

i think game mechanics can be a slippery slope. the wargaming thing has been around for a while. there are rule sets now considered public domain (just because it is free doesn't mean it is "public domain", in case any readers don't know). if i re-arrange various mechanics from a public domain work and add a twist or two of my own, i've got some rules. if the mechanics i have used (derived) from public domain coincide with mechanics you have in a copyrighted set, i won't be changing anything. a copyright is a claim. sometimes those claims stand up in court, sometimes they do not. usually it is enough to state a certain gaming mechanic was borrowed from a referenced public domain work and any mis-understanding can be avoided.
if you knowingly borrow something in the public domain and attempt to copyright it as your own (non-derivative), you could end up with no copyright at all.

No Name02 Inactive Member12 Jun 2006 4:33 p.m. PST

"So in my rules I put:
You are free:
* to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
* to make derivative works"

I would not include derivative works. Most freebies I have seen specify to be used as is without modifications. That makes life so much easier.

Note that in James F Dunnigan's book "How to play and design Commercial and Professional Wargames" he says (p147) first rule is to keep it simple, second rule is to plagiarize. I just don't think there is any protection for ideas, just for the form that ideas take. So copying a combat table verbatim is wrong but using your own designed combat table is fine. If someone does pursue you for breach of copyright (as in the recent Da Vinci code case, which failed) get them to explain why they think they have a case and if that seems reasonable then you can modify your approach.

Two years ago I was told by Games Workshop that they had trademarked GW. However a couple of hours research showed that they were only at the stage of applying for that trademark. The actual holders of the GW trademark (in the UK) was Glaxo Wellcome and I had a nice chat with the legal team at Glaxo Wellcome who explained the facts of life as to how trademarks work. So I cheerfully ignored GW legal, as their statement was intended to produce their goal and was not in fact the case they stated.

I am afraid that too often in life people will try to mislead you.

Lentulus Inactive Member12 Jun 2006 5:41 p.m. PST

"second rule is to plagiarize"

But, please, always to be calling it "research".

Zephyr112 Jun 2006 8:01 p.m. PST

"Mail a hard copy and CD of your rules to yourself via registered mail. DO NOT OPEN IT.

This is your proof that you are the originator of the rules. Should anyone knock off part or all of your work, you the earliest documented record of the work, and the strongest claim."

From what I've heard, that doesn't have much legal standing. It would be just as easy (in the US at least) to send in the required forms, payment, and number of copies and just get a real copyright certificate….

black5 Inactive Member18 Jan 2007 9:52 p.m. PST

well well here we are again trademarks and copyrights, in the US who ever registers first wins posting something to yourself is considered poorman copyright and holds no weight in court… who is to say that you did not send yourself an unsealed envlope and stuck your stuff in later… tell you what send yourself if you in UK a unsealed registerd letter after GW comeout with something new and sue them for copyright and trademark infrigment .see my point?

billthecat19 Jan 2007 12:43 a.m. PST

You need the copyright documentation AND the postmarked hardcopy. This is common practice amongst many authors and worth it if you forsee any profit being made off of your work in the future.
sidenote--isn't some guy trying to sue disney for using the plotline in the first pirates of the carribean movie, claiming it was his IP?

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