Thursday, July 7, 2011

This bugs me...

I read the Kobold Quarterly blog and they just put up a post about "Strigoi"

Go here to read it.  I'll wait.

It's not the post that bugs me; it's that little part at the end...
(This post is Product Identity.)
Well, that seems kinda uncool.  I mean, strigoi are like like Romanian vampires.  They are kinda in the public domain, like ghosts, or werewolves, or elves.

Well, let's just see if the content is super original and worthy of "Product Identity" status.

Here's a bit from the post --
An old gypsy remedy for killing strigoi:
  1. Dig out hearts; cut in two.
  2. Drive a nail into the forehead.
  3. Place clove of garlic on the tongue.
  4. Smear body with fat from a pig killed on a holy day.
Here's a similar bit from Wikipedia --
One gypsy remedy for killing a strigoi is as follows: dig up the vampire corpse, remove its heart(s), and cut the organ in two. Drive a nail into the forehead, place a clove of garlic under the tongue, and smear the body with the fat of a pig killed on St. Ignatius’s Day and rebury it facedown so as to send it to hell if it were to reawaken. 
There are more examples, but honestly, I don't think this kind of thing qualifies as PI.

Just sayin'


scottsz said...

I believe that most of that blog post could be P.I., the actual folklore creature cannot be.

I've requested a clarification update in the comments there.

James said...

People try to "steal" PD info all the time. It's lame and low down!

scottsz said...

This kind of stuff sends me off the deep end. None of the posts have a link to the Wikipedia page or to other source material that might be of interest.

The series gives the impression that this is original created work.

Paul said...

Agreed. Unfortunately, the public domain has no disinterested parties who police IP claims.

Although IANAL, I don't believe that copyright law encompasses "product identity", a concept (possibly with roots in trademark law?) familiar to us from the OGL (contract law). I don't see any reference on that page to the OGL, which makes this claim of "product identity" meaningless.

Of course, you can only copyright the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

Sean Robson said...

Yeah, claiming folklore as 'product identity' is lame. I have a similar problem with bio-tech companies that patent gene sequences.

scottsz said...

@Paul: Absolutely.

@Sean: Sometimes I think we might be better off with midwives and witch doctors... the Bio-Med patent stuff is very scary...

Stephen Simpson, CFA said...

In regards to biomedical patents, it's pretty simple.

No patent = no profit = no point.

Why are there three drugs for erectile dysfunction and minimal research for malaria? No money in it. Take away the patents and research will progress at the rate dictated by academic research and funding. In other words, don't hold your breath.

Paul said...

IP law is a tangled mess, and biotech patents are particularly rife with abuse—not just mammalian gene sequences (can you say "prior art"?) but also agriculture. My opposition to GMO crops is based far more on IP concerns than health and ecological reasons.

It's not as if the Kobold Quarterly is starving poor villagers with this IP grab, but it would be nice if there was broader understanding and discussion of the issue.

Stephen Simpson, CFA said...

@Paul - Totally agree. I basically make my living as a writer and it still chaps my ass that people think they have the right to take my work for free and use it as their own.

Seems to me that the line between "excerpt" and "wholesale theft" is fairly wide and obvious, but experience tells me otherwise.

(and for what it's worth, I totally agree with your point on prior art)

bliss_infinte said...

I'm not sure about the web these days but the post itself most likely is copyrighted automatically to the owner of the blog but the folklore creature cannot be unless he changed the name of the creature and made it his own.

There's some wacky copyright laws that have been and are being discussed in congress that would let one claim ownership of copyrighted material, including a lot of public domain material, if a legit search is made and the original owner can't be found. It stems from the fact that in the US anything that is created is automatically copyrighted to the owner - no paperwork need to be filed or anything.

Trey said...

The specific expression can be copyrighted, but not the content, I wouldn't think.

scottsz said...

@Bliss: Understood - it's the P.I. declaration on the posts that's a bit weird.

Just a note: Public Domain material isn't 'ownerless' - it's owned by everybody. A PD work can be sold for profit, but no one can prevent others from doing the same because no single entity can claim sole ownership. It's the most 'open' that content can get, really.

The 'automatic' copyright is the root of a lot of problems (Copyright Act of 1976, I believe, but it didn't take effect until 1978(?)). Prior to that changeover, copyright had to be registered.

Tamoachan module C1, for example, has a copyright listing in the 1978-and-beyond database. The registration, however, is for TSR - the text is a 'work for hire' situation. According to the law, the copyright can be 'sold' and transferred, as long as there is documentation to verify the transaction.

I'm curious if WotC has all the documents required for everything they acquired from TSR - particularly the PDF materials that they pulled.

Tim Brannan said...

@scottsz According to Ryan Dancey in an email to the old OGL mailing list they did. They bought everything and and everything that TSR owned they now own.

The trouble with the Strigoi post is that the "Clearly Identifiable" clause is broken. But given that I am a "reasonable person" I translate it as the exact text of the post. So I can't copy and paste this into a book and then sell it.

I can however (and it has been done already) write my own Stigoi that has nothing to do with PI post and is instead based on the myths and folklore.

Paul said...

To be clear, KQ has every right to assert their ownership of the text of this article (the expression of the idea). However, the folkloric strigoi is in the public domain, so KQ's claiming it as "product identity" under the OGL infringes on my right and yours.

The other issue is that "product identity" is not (AFAIK) a magic phrase in copyright law that affords any protection. It's only a stipulation of the Open Game License contract, and KQ doesn't actually mention the OGL on those pages. This makes their use of the phrase completely meaningless.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

It is, by definition, not Product Identity because it is not covered by the OGL.

Why? Because to be covered by the terms of the OGL, a piece of work must be accompanied by the OGL in its entirety in whatever published form it appears, whether in print or on-line. The Strigoi article was not accompanied by the OGL text, and is thus not covered under its provisions, including those which are published electronically.

Paul is entirely correct. If they ever tried to enforce that laughable "product identity" claim, I'd point out that simply putting the words "product identity" at the end of an article is not some sort of magical legal panacea; the term itself is meaningless outside the context of the OGL itself.

I am not a lawyer, btw. But I can read.