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Copyrights and RPG settings


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Copyright is one thing, but patent is quite another. Keep in mind that, while copying your setting directly is not legal, developing a very similar one that uses the same mechanics and ideas is perfectly legit. IIRC, WotC and White Wolf have several patents on techniques they use in their games.

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Here, in Canada, the Copy-Right protection is authomatic for an original work of art from the moment of creation (legislation may wary). Registering copyright is possible, but not necessary. Copyright extends for 50 years from the year of the author's death. However, one must keep in mind that copyright only applies to the original work, not the ideas, plot, title, character names etc. The work that will be protected by copyright are literary (or artistic) works including the electronic texts (ie computer program). If you are doing your work for someone else, the copyright most likely belongs to the employer. However, as an author you always retain so called 'moral right' which allows you to prohibit distortion of your work.


Patent, Trademark, Industrial Design and Circuit Topography are the other forms of protection of the intellectual property available in Canada.

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In Britain it would be covered by intellectual property law also HOWEVER I would also point out that putting something on a web-site such as this where there is 'peer-development' would almost certainly constitute some kind of permission for others to use/adapt said 'world' as well as placing it in the public domain.

It would also depend on what the peer did to the said 'world' - for example if they totally undermined it with their mod or made it farcical you may have a case to argue you would not have given permission for that had you known in advance. It depends on the country, their laws and YOUR lawyer.


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One thing I would add to this discussion is something relatively simple depending on the nature of what you want to protect. Mail it to yourself.


Doing this essentially gives you an authenticated date stamp by a government agency. While in and of itself does nothing to legally protect you it can however give you means to prove "this was my idea first". If it's too large to mail is there some way to boil it down to pertinent facts that will establish a link to the larger idea? Quantitative outline, photographs, etc..


Mail it to yourself, don't open, then put it somewhere safe and forget about it (along with an external copy). It is a quick way to get a little insurance early on for the price of a stamp. Also, if it looked to be going to court you simply have your lawyer set up a legally verifiable opening and quite possibly find the opposing party more amenable to a solution you like.


Hope you find this idea useful.

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