Wednesday, August 15, 2012

IP Hammer.

Well it had to happen.  I knew it would happen because it always does happen.  I just received a message from Games Workshop's legal department asking me to remove content that infringes their Intellectual Property.  I've asked them to clarify which content they feel is infringing.  I'm guessing I'll hear back from them tomorrow.  I suggest if anyone wants any shoulder pads that they order them now.  Even then I’m not sure what will be done if you order them and GW throws a fit. I haven’t gotten a message from Shapeways so I’m guessing GW is dealing with me directly.  After I get a response I'll be removing the files they claim are in violation.
Please understand a couple things. While I have a great deal of vehemence towards what I feel is a neglectful attitude, on GW's part, towards their fan base I can't carry a banner against them on this. In spite of my feelings regarding the rising cost and lowering customer satisfaction involved in the hobby, I understand that many of my products are directly inspired by GW's Intellectual Property.  I am not an expert in Intellectual Property and can't afford to seek one at this time. As a result I can't say for sure what is legitimately infringing in the eyes of the law and what isn't.

While I feel that the amount of work and effort I’ve invested in my 3d models makes them significantly different than Games Workshop’s Intellectual Property that doesn’t mean it’s true in the eyes of the law.  The design elements involved I believe are public domain or at the very least not Games Workshop's property.  Indeed until the chapterhouse studio lawsuit is concluded the question of how legal producing expansion parts for GW products are won’t be answered.  Even then it won’t answer the legal question of whether 3d printing items are legal in the first place. 

I would dearly love it if GW would allow us both to coexist, me making addon products to support their products and them inventing new and original items to expand the mythos of 40k.  But that isn’t going to happen.  Games Workshop claims a very broad trade mark on 40k products and regardless of the ethics of threating small product producers like me they are within their rights to exercise their legal ability to sue to protect what they see as an Intellectual Property violation.

On a personal level I feel Games Workshop is disingenuous towards their fan base. Many of the chapters that are “official” have been created by fans who submitted them to white dwarf.  There after the GW has “Claimed” them due to their popularity as their own.  Even the big 18 were created by specific employees at games workshop and inducted into cannon.  GW’s IP is over all made by the company claiming the ideas of others as their own.  This is morally disingenuous to tell people to buy their products and make cool things but 5 years from now we’ll claim your cool thing as ours and sue you if you produce it too.

I bet I sound like sour grapes at the moment.  I’d be lying if that wasn’t part of the whole thing.  But for a long time Games Workshop has been fighting their own fan base for control of the destiny of their game. While I am perfectly comfortable with GW defending themselves against a company that intentionally undermines their business I wish they would make a better distinction between those who are encouraging people to buy more of their products and those who are trying to take away their business. I firmly believe that I fall into the former category rather than the later.

So what happens now?  Well I don’t really know.  I’m positive the large collection of shoulder pads are going to be axed because thats what Games Workshop and Chapterhouse are suing over.  Along with any full models that fall into the GW’s umbrella of IP.  This definitely includes my stealth suits, drones, and probably the Exo Armored Terminator as these are closely inspired by existing GW models.  The Gyrojet line along with my heavy weapons will likewise be removed as well.  The "ground taker" will of course need to be taken down though who would buy a 300 dollar model is beyond me.  Most of my vehicle and hand weapons lines will be fine including my gun ship and grav-bikes along with several other models in those lines.  My main worry is my female star marines which have an Aquila on their torso, at the very least I’ll have to remove the Aquila but I’m afraid they will also claim the tubing and armor details also fall within their IP making the overall design not viable.  From their wording I also question if they consider my swords/pole arms that use elements like electrode wiring are recognized as GW IP.  At this point I just don't know.

What I’m gonna do now? Well mostly I’m going to start by dragging my feet.  I'm partly waiting to get feedback from GW’s legal department about the specifics of their claims. This will allow people who are interested slip an order in though I don't endorse doing that.  I would be lieing if I didn't admit it was partly because it’s quite depressing.  But mostly its because I work a lot at my real job and don't have the time to act on this right now.  Games Workshop attacks everyone in the hobby at some point.  While I knew it would happen eventually I had hoped to give the community more before I got kicked by GW’s legal team. Though I suppose it was too much to hope that I’d get through all 300 chapters designs before it happened. For my own edification I might finish the shoulders even though I cannot offer them for sale. I’m sure GW thinks 3d printing the shoulder pads is the same as copying a DVD but I put a lot of real work into my products. It would be a lot different if I had a 3d laser scanner and could just stick a mini in and print an exact duplicate.  It took me a long time to painstakingly draw every icon in illustrator then transfer them to sketchup and add volume and modify details so they’d print, then bend those icons to go on the shoulder pad shape. Scale them for the shoulder variants, Boolean and multiply them, union and output to stl, upload and so on.  In July I made a grand total of 34 dollars on Shapeways and spent 118 dollars on test prints, half of which I haven’t received. Many of those tests are pointless now because I can’t offer those products for sale without having to defend myself in court. 

I wonder if the other 28mm bits people on Shapeways got tackled by IP as well.  I’m guessing I’ve been a bit more brazen than others have.  I think the 300 shoulder pads were a bit over the top in GW’s eyes.  It sort of asked GW to stop me.  I mean I was literally doing it because GW had never bothered to do it. I blatantly called them out a few posts ago.  So really it’s my own fault. Still, I can secretly hope that GW’s legal team loses the Chapter House studios lawsuit and makes my hobby viable again.  I doubt that, GW has more money than Chapter House and so I see no light at the end of that tunnel.  Ultimately GW wants to protect their money.  They may claim they want to grow the “Hobby” but they really mean “Money”.  Its pretty standard business really, if I was rich I’d probably agree...

No scratch that, if I was rich I’d buy a laser scanner and print GW’s miniatures for all of my friends. Or at least that’s what GW’s legal team would believe of me.

*Sigh* I’m getting very pessimistic.

Long Term? Well in the long term this isn’t that bad.  I won’t be able to do “official” shoulder pads or icons and miniatures inspired by games workshop's products were always a bad idea.  Instead I can do more unique weapon options and full on custom models.  Assuming the female marines are outside of the claim I can make more parts for them.  If not… if the female marines and all shoulder pads are off the table I’ll be disappointed but it’s not the end of the world.  I’ll expand my advanced gyrojet line, add new sword options, remove iconography from bits and end up fine. I’ll also be a bit freer with my time to do custom models of my own. Though, I’ll need to be careful since many of my personal projects are also 40k armies.  What I would call, "inspired by" Games Workshop may choose to challenge so its best I choose my designs more carefully.  It will definitely impact sales.  Most sales came from shoulder pads or small upgrades like the gyrojets.  This will likely mean that most of the products I put up will be of no interest to 95% of the people.  The other 5% being myself and those of us who just like random crazy stuff.  

So that suck huh?  You know what really sucks. Intellectual Property Law in general.  I realize people need to own ideas to make profits these days.  I get that.  Back in the 15th century anyone could make anything and that was just part of life.  Back then you steal a man’s idea you weren’t taken to court you went out back for a duel.  And you know what, I’d like my odds better with a sword or pistol in my hand than in a court room.  IP encompasses so much stuff and it’s so hard to contest anything.  I know my shoulder pads are directly inspired by GW’s products, I get that.  At the same time games workshop has named a bunch of crap in books just to tie up those names in IP so no one can use them.  Same with the icons, half the GW icons are directly drawn from coats of arms of medieval knights but they trade marked them and I can’t use them.  Corporations have all the power here. If you want to make something you need to tie your ideas to one of them and then you don’t own it anymore. Corporations aren’t people, they are faceless edifices that just seem to take things from people.  GW wants our money but doesn’t want to let us express ourselves, doesn’t want to produce the products we want, and doesn’t want to allow others to make things that are compatible with their products.  They make rules that are unbalanced and pretend the game shouldn’t be balanced.  They charge outrageous prices for their products and claim they are a luxury so its ok.  They charge unfair prices to certain market sectors and then tie their customer’s hands against alternative products.  Corporations are inhuman and we give them the rights to own things, is it any surprise that corporations own us now? 

Well all that aside I encourage people to email me regarding requests they have placed but have yet to be filled. I don’t know what is happening yet but I would still like to work with people to make products.  I’m not sure how that will happen.  I wish I knew a Chinese casting service that I could work with LOL. That’s a joke GW, don’t actually sue me for it.

*Sigh* I hate intellectual property laws. I was born a few hundred years to late.

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