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Thread: Building maps for existing (published) settings

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      Djaii is offline
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    Question Building maps for existing (published) settings

    I wanted to get some feedback or discussion started around the idea of producing maps within existing (i.e. published) campaign settings. My specific thoughts are:
    1) is there any reason to believe that mapping out a specific area of an existing work would be considered copyright infringement?
    2) what are the social (i.e. "credibility") implications of working by building on top of established work?

    I have a specific example: I'm running a 1st edition D&D Forgotten Realms game (not because I'm an OSRIC adherent, I just felt like doing it for nostalgia) and I've created some really nice alterations of area maps by emulating existing map styles and building on top of them for the campaign. Would posting that kind of work alienate other cartographer/artists here? Would it be in poor taste? If so, why?

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    Publisher Gamerprinter's Avatar
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    Two answers for this:

    1. If a map created for an existing published setting is not intended for sale, posted only here (for example), I don't see a problem. Some people have created maps for published modules that didn't have a given map in the product, so a cartographer here created those missing maps posted here. There didn't seem a problem.

    2. World maps for some existing published worlds, like Paizo's Golarian isn't available anywhere online. There are a couple fan created maps, but official maps of Golarian can only be purchased from Paizo. This would seem to mean that one couldn't or shouldn't recreate Golarian and post, as there seems to be some kind of IP issue in doing so. You can't even post a Golarian map to gamewiki - according to the license.

    I don't see issues of conflicts with non-official cartographers, or a case of bad taste. Map the world you want to play, even if the world is a published one - why would there be a problem.

    That said, I primarily create worlds or regions that have no existing map, nor is officially published - except of course my own published setting. I don't make fan maps, as any map I create has the potential to becoming a product to sell. If due to IP or license prevents me from selling such a map, in my mind, that's a waste of my time. I won't generally create maps that I can't potentially sell (except commissioned maps which I'm being paid for to create, but cannot sell myself.)
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      Djaii is offline
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    That is very a very helpful point of view, much appreciated.

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      Mark Oliva is offline
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    Making such maps for your own campaign and private use should pose no problems.

    Making such maps and posting them online can lead to serious problems, so serious that the best advice is to talk to a lawyer first. Wizards of the Coast (R) has been pretty friendly on this level, but its predecessor, the old TSR (R) Inc., (unrelated to the new TSR Inc.) was downright nasty with such things and created a lot of legal problems for folks who did what you're asking about doing. Such legal problems can become quite expensive and certainly were in some cases involving the old TSR Inc.
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    If something should go wrong regarding a Wizards of the Coast owned map that you've created and posted online, a cease and desist order from WotC, or they simply ask you to remove the map from online could be expected. Unless one is trying to sell the map, a legal action shouldn't happen at all, but the former could happen. So something to watch out for.

    As Mark Oliva suggests, however, if you're creating the map for your own personal games and you do not post it online, there should be no problem at all.
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      Djaii is offline
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    This would never be posted with an intention to sell.
    The only thing I might be inclined to do is provide the full render with the .psd as layers so that DMs with Photoshop interested in using it can gradually reveal features to their players - a technique I'm using quite successfully in my current 1st edition AD&D game.

    I've been playing games since 1982 and am well aware of the old TSR inclinations to sue first and ask questions later - but it seems to me that WotC isn't really inclined to garner any bad press around the hobby currently as they try to reinvigorate the brand. I was mostly concerned with the community here viewing it as bad taste, but it does not sound like that is anything I should be worried about.

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      Eilathen is offline
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    I'm no lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt (it's mostly my opinion) :

    Why should it be a problem if you post a work you did youself? Even if it is of a world not of your making. As long as you do not claim it is your original work and do not sell it, there is no problem. I'm pretty sure that in switzerland (where i live) no one could take action against you.
    If you start to sell it or use it in published magazines or similar venues, that's a very different thing.

    As a customer, i would vote with my wallet if i found out that a publisher (WotC etc etc) goes after fans who put up their fan-work for free. They make all their money from us fans...and then they try to screw us over?! Yeah, no thanks...i will never buy from you again.
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      Mark Oliva is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eilathen View Post
    I'm no lawyer, so take this with a grain of salt (it's mostly my opinion) :

    Why should it be a problem if you post a work you did youself?
    I'm not a lawyer either, but the stuff that we publish certainly is reviewed by one, and we certainly have discussed the issues involved here extensively with our lawyer. There is a lot of law and case law involving derivative works, in other words, works derived from the intellectual property of someone else. Switzerland also subscribes to the international copyright conventions that cover such matters. What Djaii is proposing is a derivative work.

    As a customer, i would vote with my wallet if i found out that a publisher (WotC etc etc) goes after fans who put up their fan-work for free. They make all their money from us fans...and then they try to screw us over?! Yeah, no thanks...i will never buy from you again.
    No one has suggested to date that WotC has gone after anyone for doing such things, however, I think even a Swiss lawyer will tell you that they could do so. Above and beyond all of that is the question of whether one perhaps - plain and simply - should post only legally proper artwork here, regardless whether the IP owner is nice or not.
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      Eilathen is offline
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    So it is illegal to show my interpretation of an existing world? Even if it is clearly labeled as such (aka fanwork) and is not going to make the artist any money?

    If so, thats just screwed up. Nobody should be able to bar me from doing that. It is kind of like "freedom of speech".

    And you did get that i didn't single out WotC, right? I just took up the example from above.
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      Mark Oliva is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eilathen View Post
    So it is illegal to show my interpretation of an existing world? Even if it is clearly labeled as such (aka fanwork) and is not going to make the artist any money?
    If so, thats just screwed up. Nobody should be able to bar me from doing that. It is kind of like "freedom of speech".
    Whether it's legal or not isn't completely clear. If the owner of the intellectual property that you're using allows you to use it, you certainly can. But things like the Forgotten Realms and Eberron belong to Wizards of the Coast (R). This material is copyrighted. You can't simply make your own maps of things in these worlds and publish them without permission of the copyright holder. WotC owns these things and has legal protection under copyright law.

    And you did get that i didn't single out WotC, right?
    Yup. I wanted to make clear that I wasn't going after WotC either.

    About a dozen years ago, WotC released a policy that specifically allowed what you want to do as long as it was legitimate, non-commercial fan material. That policy was rescinded later by WotC. It was replaced by a less liberal policy. When I was moderator of the German language Forgotten Realms Mailing List (no longer exists), WotC informed me that we could post fan made maps of the FR only if no official geographical names appeared on the maps. List members could make maps, for instance, of the Sword Coast and place a dot on the map to show where Waterdeep is, but the names Sword Coast and Waterdeep could not appear on the maps.

    I asked WotC several times by E-Mail if there was a new policy statement available for fan made products, but I never received a reply. I never found a successor statement on the WotC web site either. I have no idea whether there is one today.

    In those days our project group had just finished the Northern Journey campaign for the Realms (now available free at Candlekeep) and we were working on a sequel to be called In the Land of the Lich Lords for the FR. We discussed this issue and the lack of a clear-cut policy statement with our attorney, and he strongly advised us to drop the whole thing.

    We did just that. That was in 2005. At that time, we stopped writing for and using WotC products and started creating our own open gaming, open source content instead. I have no idea what WotC's positions on fan-created material are today.
    Mark Oliva
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