SunRuanEr
 member, 4 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 15:27
What rights do players have regarding their characters?
A friend and I recently joined a game, submitted characters, and began hashing some stuff out with the GM.  Our characters never actually entered the game, nor was there ever an IC thread opened up to us (it was a pseudo-solo game).

I come to find out this morning that I am no longer a player in the game (for reasons unknown to me, although I was truly considering dropping it anyway), yet my character (and my friend's character) still remain on the cast list, as NPCs.

Is this legit?  Can this GM hijack our characters, complete with our names and descriptions and what-not, without any recourse?  This is not a case of needing to NPC a character in order to keep a game running, because the characters were never IN the game to begin with.

Thanks for answering.
Taurarius
 member, 60 posts
 aSK ME ABOUT HOMESTUCK,
 };)
Sun 6 May 2012
at 15:37
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
In reply to SunRuanEr (msg #1):

Huh, I've seen GMs keep characters who had already posted as NPCs, but not the situation you describe. Did the game have a tag saying that the game and its contents are the intellectual property of the GM?
bigbadron
 moderator, 12815 posts
 He's big, he's bad,
 but mostly he's Ron.
Sun 6 May 2012
at 15:42
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Regardless of whether or not the game had a "sole ownership" tag in place, the only option you have is to contact the GM and try to resolve the issue with them.
SunRuanEr
 member, 5 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 15:51
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Thank you, Ron.

I have already contacted the GM. I just wanted to go ahead and see what else there might be in place in case he's not willing to remove them.  I guess I'll just keep my fingers crossed, now.

My concern is that this is a pair of characters we're actively shopping for a home for, and I don't wish to see our search hampered by them being misrepresented as belonging to someone that they don't - especially since he's kept our names and handwritten descriptions.


re: Taurarius -

The game does not have a proprietary tag, and neither character posted in anything other than the OOC thread.
facemaker329
 member, 4861 posts
 Gaming for most of
 30 years, and counting!
Sun 6 May 2012
at 16:20
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
My general experience on here has been, once you submit a character to a GM to be part of their game, the character is 'part of their game'...ie, keeping or removing it is the GM's choice.  Most of them are good with removing characters that people don't want used after their departure from the game...some of them can be more than a little headstrong on the point, however.

But it's also been my experience that your search for a game will likely not be much hampered if your characters are in someone else's game, especially if they're NPCs there.  First off, the odds that you'll RTJ to a GM who would discover the presence of your never-played-character-turned-NPC are pretty long, to start with, unless you're playing some obscure game that's only being run by the same group of players (so the GM in one game is a player in others).  Second, while some GMs are very vocal about 'no recycled characters', my experience has been that most really don't care, as long as you don't expect your character to be able to do a bunch of outlandish stuff because of the character history from another game.  So I wouldn't lose much sleep over it.
jase
 admin, 2771 posts
 Cogito, ergo procuro.
 Carpe stultus!
Sun 6 May 2012
at 16:55
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
This is a question that's come up a few times, and though I'm not sure I've ever come up with a clear answer, there's a few things to remember as far as copyright law is concerned;

  1. As the creator of a post, you obtain copyright of said text when you submit the message.
  2. Nothing on the site circumvents copyright law, or makes you give away rights to your copyright material.  I've seen it written (but have not been able to confirm) that it is impossible for a site's T&C to make you give away your copyright carte blanche.
  3. As with email, just because people have access to your text does not give them permission to use it as they wish.  Apparently it is illegal to repost emails in a public forum, so I'd assume the same applies for reposting forum posts outside of the original site.


That said, in posting on RPoL you have given us permission to store and display the post on this site, and similarly given the GM(s) permission to utilise that post within their game.

Character names are, for better or worse, not protected by copyright (though they can be trademarked, if you go to the bother).  Putting aside what's the nice or ethical thing to do, it is legal for GMs to do whatever they want with your character names.  The description etc that goes along with it is protected by copyright (that you hold the rights to).

So if you've posted your description to your character description then I think you've already given the RPoL and GM consent to store it there.  If the description was only via PM and the GM has now posted it in your character description -- well that's a grey area that I have absolutely no idea about (on one hand you've posted it to their game, on the other it's (as far as I'm aware, at that stage) private correspondence).  The nice thing to do in either situation, especially considering your character hasn't been integrated into the storyline, would be to remove all information immediately.  In running games we do not expect GMs to suddenly wrench characters out of games in a manner that's jarring to the story, but (purely based on what you've described of it) this situation just sounds like character/idea hijacking.


The advice that BBR gave is the best one available (plus facemaker329's advise not to worry too much about it).  I can't start making judgement calls on this kind of thing as I'm not a lawyer, and alas RPoL cannot afford to obtain the services of one.

We will absolutely strenuously enforce and rights (copyright or otherwise) that any and all member has, if we definitely know it for fact.  Unfortunately it call gets a bit grey in collaborative storytelling.


This is all my opinion, so is most likely largely incorrect.
SunRuanEr
 member, 6 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 17:03
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Thank you all for the responses and kind advice.  I appreciate it.  (Especially the reassurance not to worry. :) )

The GM did change the characters' names, which I promptly thanked him for, and then asked if he would be so kind as to wipe the descriptions as well - explaining that it was something that would be used again when the characters found a proper home.

Unfortunately, asking that just earned me a game ban, with my description still in place on the now-NPC.  Alas, and oh well.  In the future, clearly, I'll have to re-do the order in which I submit a character's information into games to prevent this.  Which is sad, but life goes on.

Have a wonderful day, everyone, and thanks again.
cruinne
 moderator, 6070 posts
 Get comfy while I warm up
 the neurotoxin emitters.
Sun 6 May 2012
at 17:39
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
I've suggested to site users in the past that if they really are very concerned about their character concepts and so on, that before they submit one they use their RTJ to tell the GM exactly what they expect if they leave the game (no matter the reason), and get the GM to agree to it beforehand.

That is: Before I apply for your game, I want you to agree that if I leave this game -- whether by abandoning it, giving you notice, or being kicked out by you -- this is what will happen with my character ...

I (personally) think that it's a little extreme; as a GM I'd probably refuse to consider the character under those terms.

That said, it is a recourse.  While what we can do is limited by grey area and general legal cloudiness, players can be quite proactive.  And, in the end if things get serious, copyright enforcement is something that the copyright holder is largely responsible for, anyway -- they're the ones that must pursue the legal orders and such generally.  In either circumstance, having a "licensing agreement" with the game GM greatly strengthens the leg you're standing on.

This message was last edited by the user at 17:41, Sun 06 May 2012.

SunRuanEr
 member, 7 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 17:47
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
cruinne:
I've suggested to site users in the past that if they really are very concerned about their character concepts and so on, that before they submit one they use their RTJ to tell the GM exactly what they expect if they leave the game (no matter the reason), and get the GM to agree to it beforehand.


While I agree that that's a little extreme, just for future reference, if such an agreement to remove all identifying information for a character upon the player's departure was documented in an RTJ, would the moderators enforce it?

(Admittedly, I suspect it would be hard to prove, since removed players appear to lose all access to their Private Messages and/or the messages are wiped. Unless mods retain access to PMs after the fact, that is.  Screenshotting PMs for posterity seems a little ridiculous, personally.)
cruinne
 moderator, 6071 posts
 Get comfy while I warm up
 the neurotoxin emitters.
Sun 6 May 2012
at 17:50
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
I would have no problem enforcing that if there were a clear agreement between the GM and the player that I could see.

I'd hate to start adding that sort of clean-up to my daily work here, but I would do it where there was a clear agreement.

That said,  I wouldn't take a screenshot, for tampering with those is pretty easy.  Even if you're removed from a game, you should still be able to view your RTJ (especially if you retain a bookmark to it).  Be sure though that any agreements like this are from before you join, while you're still posting under your RPoL ID, and you should be able to retain access to them.

Note, of course, that GMs can purge PMs, however.  I see very few who do, but it's therefore not a perfect solution.

This message was last edited by the user at 17:53, Sun 06 May 2012.

SunRuanEr
 member, 8 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 17:58
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Would such an agreement be valid if it was done in rMail, prior to an RTJ, in order to prevent the GM from purging the PMs (and the RTJ right along with it, since that apparently counts as a PM)?

This message was last edited by the user at 17:59, Sun 06 May 2012.

cruinne
 moderator, 6072 posts
 Get comfy while I warm up
 the neurotoxin emitters.
Sun 6 May 2012
at 18:02
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Well, you cannot show an rMail to the moderators without "Reporting" it as abusive.

I cannot say whether this would be a valid use then, since I can't personally speak for how jase would see that particular use of the "report" function.
writermonk
 member, 167 posts
 Freelance Writer
 Librarian
Sun 6 May 2012
at 19:02
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
I started writing a long post to try and explain and address some of this, but basically it's going to boil down to the following:
  • Copyright and Trademark law are going to vary from nation to nation. Since RPoL has users from around the world, copyright and trademark stuff is going to be really complicated.
  • If you created a character to use in a GMs game, you're entering into a collaborative creation. Typically , individual characters are only copyrightable as part of the larger work they are a part of. Thus, while you may have some individual rights as to profits derived from such work, the characters are assumed to be part of that larger work, which the GM has rights to.
  • Unless you're willing to legally pursue and defend trademark/copyright, there's really not a lot of recourse. As part of that, you'd have to show how your rights to the character are being abused and what you're losing as a part of that. And, let's be honest, as far as a non-profit, free to use, gaming site is concerned, you're going to have a really tough time of that.


This guy does a good job of describing things - http://www.ivanhoffman.com/characters.html

This has more information -
http://www.public.asu.edu/~dka...ain/Vanpelt-s99.html

And this -
http://www.wipo.int/copyright/en/faq/faqs.htm

Look into the whole Gaiman vs McFarlane suit that dragged on for over a decade.





It boils down to this:
If you're so attached to a character/character idea that you don't want to see it used by anyone else, it's best not to discuss it with anyone else or use it online. Period.

RPoL's FAQ/Terms of use states:
quote:
All content published to this website remains the copyright material of the original author, as per copyright laws. If the poster is not the original author then normal copyright law must be obeyed.

But unfortunately in many jurisdictions, the onus is on the infringed to prove loss or damage.
Ekorren
 member, 53 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 19:17
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
I'm a GM who have sometimes NPCed certain PC characters. I generally don't, but sometimes a player just disappears from a game and stops posting. If the PC is a vital part of the story at that point, then turning it into an NPC could be just as vital in regards to the other players' experiences, the circumstances of the scene/story and how well the character has been established in the overall plot.

Three NPCs in my game are former PCs long gone, but I've always removed all their information and completely rewritten their sheets, information as well as changed their character portraits -- though not changed their names. In the end, they've turned out to become my creations as the story has progressed. I think that I, as the ST, have the full right to do this with my game. Should a former player contact me and ask me to remove those characters, I wouldn't do so without a very good reason. And even if there was a very good reason, I would only change the name of the character to get rid of the last traces of its former player.

As for taking a PC that hasn't even joined the game, kick the player and turn it into an NPC -- that's bad manners and near to theft, in my opinion.
Shannara
 moderator, 3002 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 19:30
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
IMO, we would be starting down a very slippery slope to try to 'enforce game agreements' made between players and GMs, and I would advise against it.

There are many agreements between GMs and players - posting frequency, quality of posts, cooperation with other players, etc.   Should the moderators get involved when someone doesn't live up to the terms of their game agreements, or should it be an 'in game' dispute handled by the individuals involved?  Are we going to force players to stay in a game and post until a convenient time for their character to be written out?  No?  What if they agree to it before someone decided to go their own way?  What if the player was acting like a jerk and did their level-best to disrupt the game for the GM and the other players?

I would advise any GM who agrees before-hand how to handle the character in the event of a player's leaving the game to honor their agreement, simply because they had the choice not to make such an agreement in the first place -- and it's the right thing to do to keep your agreements, as well as being cautious in the agreements you make.

This message was last edited by the user at 19:31, Sun 06 May 2012.

cruinne
 moderator, 6073 posts
 Get comfy while I warm up
 the neurotoxin emitters.
Sun 6 May 2012
at 19:58
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
Shannara is, of course, right.

It's not uncommon for GMs and players to agree beforehand on a certain posting rate.  Do site moderators step in if someone is not meeting (or is far exceeding) that rate and making others unhappy?  No.  If the GM decides mid-stream to change the game from D&D 3 to 4, are we going to make them stick to 3 just because that was the game the players joined and they don't want to move to 4?  Definitely not.  It goes on and on.

Just a few thoughts to add:

  1. In the case of a character who was "licensed" to a game and the GM not honoring that license, I'd do what I could, which is basically have a word with the GM.  But, in the end, if I look at that realistically, a GM who won't follow their agreements with a player is also unlikely to remove a character just because I said hey, you really should honor your agreements, man.   And the way RPoL works, I could remove the character but the GM could just put it back... then where are we?  Am I going to lock down a game (and thereby stop the other six people who are still playing all kinds of problems) just because the GM is being a banana about it?  It's prolly not a good site policy; Shannara is right that it's still probably best for players and GMs to work out game issues between themselves as maturely as possible.

  2. One of the fundamentals of copyright is that it doesn't really stop others from using copyrighted materials.  What it does is provide the owner of that content a legal framework to recover any losses they have incurred if others do use it without their permission.  Demonstrating such a loss because the character you used in a game is still being used in that game (even though you quit/were kicked out) is going to be mighty tough, especially if the game is being run for free on a site that is also utterly free (and doesn't even run ads).

This message was last edited by the user at 19:59, Sun 06 May 2012.

pdboddy
 member, 368 posts
Sun 6 May 2012
at 20:52
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
I think, were I in this situation, I would want a copy of my character sheet, description and background rMailed to me.  I would be okay with the GM using my character as NPC, especially if I were dropping out of the game or being kicked out, after the game had started.

I'd be a bit annoyed at having been booted without the game having started, but I could deal with it.. as long as the work creating my character was at least acknowledged by having the sheet, desc and background given to me, assuming the GM was using or planning on using my character.
jase
 admin, 2772 posts
 Cogito, ergo procuro.
 Carpe stultus!
Mon 7 May 2012
at 00:48
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
writermonk:
If you created a character to use in a GMs game, you're entering into a collaborative creation. Typically , individual characters are only copyrightable as part of the larger work they are a part of. Thus, while you may have some individual rights as to profits derived from such work, the characters are assumed to be part of that larger work, which the GM has rights to.

Collaborative creations are very tricky, and I haven't been able to find much definitive stuff about it myself.  I do know that copyright does not cover concepts, but the original author retains all rights to the original text within posts.

So, while what you've said may remain true for derivative works, it doesn't not give the GM any rights to the unique content a player has created.

Pretty much any reputable web bulletin board will reaffirm that all original content remains the copyright of the submitter.  It is up to the original author to enforce said right.

This message was last edited by the user at 01:21, Wed 09 May 2012.

Brianna
 member, 1584 posts
Tue 8 May 2012
at 21:03
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
The problem could be if the character has been an integral part of the story line.  It's a fine line between the player's right to the character created, and the GM's need to continue a story for the remaining players without leaving a great hole where there used to be an active character/player.
Heath
 member, 1992 posts
 If my opinion changes,
 The answer is still 42.
Tue 8 May 2012
at 21:31
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
What's the monetary value in it?  Are they using your characters for profit?  No.

So you take your characters elsewhere (i.e., don't abandon the copyright) and use them.

What you will want is some sort of proof that you are the originator of the characters/posts in case they ever took your stuff and tried to make a profit on it.  Something time stamped.

But if there's no profit for them or dilution to the value for you, you really don't have any loss/damages to speak of, other than a battered ego and feeling that you've been wronged.
convolution
 member, 123 posts
 If there is a will
 there will be a way.
Fri 18 May 2012
at 15:45
Re: What rights do players have regarding their characters?
One of my fav npcs in my game is a former player character, Jess Darkwood.