What is Fair Use?
We at Atlas Games have spent many years and dollars in creating and publishing our games. Copyrights and trademarks give us the exclusive right to profit from this investment -- and that in turn keeps us in business, letting us develop new games and continue to sell the ones we've already published.
We need to protect our livelihood, but we don't want copyrights and trademarks to prevent our customers from enjoying the games they buy. We recognize that for roleplaying games in particular, a big part of that enjoyment is in creating fan material based on our games. In the age of the internet, another important pleasure is sharing that new material with other fans, whether they live down the street or in a different country.
Fair Use is the legal doctrine that allows use of copyrighted material in limited ways. Some of what fans do with our games clearly falls under Fair Use and doesn't need any special permission or policy -- it's simply allowed under the existing laws and precedents about intellectual property. Other things don't clearly fall under Fair Use, but may be okay with us anyway.
We don't want legal ambiguity to stop anyone from fully enjoying our products, so here are some guidelines about what is or is not a problem from our standpoint. This isn't intended as legal advice, or to give up any of our legal rights to our property, but to provide informal guidance to fans.
What's Okay to Use
Here are some examples of things that are either clearly allowed as Fair Use, or that Atlas Games permits as a matter of policy even though the law might give us the right to prohibit it:
- You can make photocopies of a few pages for your own use, and you can give them as handouts to your friends who are playing, especially those pages marked "Permission granted to reproduce for personal use."
- You can scan any pages marked "Permission granted to reproduce for personal use" and post them for free online, for example on a "file sharing" website or similar (though they're probably already up on our website, so check the product's page first to save yourself some effort).
- You can create your own original works -- like adventures, fan fiction, short programs, and spreadsheets -- to use yourself and to share with your friends who are playing.
- You can create your own original works -- like adventures, fan fiction, short programs, and spreadsheets -- and put them on such a website as a free download. However, you should include a disclaimer at the end that reprints the copyright and trademark notice from the back of the product and then says "Use of these copyrights and trademarks is done here without permission, and does not constitute a challenge to their ownership."
- You can make a fan website or fanzine supporting one of our products as long as you're not charging people for access to it, making money through advertising, or otherwise generating income. In fact, we invite you to use any of the images on our website to promote our games and company (see our Media Assets & Resources, too), and you're welcome to use short text excerpts for the purpose of reviews. However, you should include a site-wide disclaimer that reprints the copyright and trademark notice from the back of the product and then says "Use of these copyrights and trademarks is done here without permission, and does not constitute a challenge to their ownership."
What's Not Okay to Take
Unless it's covered by the Fair Use doctrine, commercial use of our intellectual property without written permission or a licensing agreement is NOT allowed. We also frown on non-commercial copyright and trademark violations that undermine our ability to sell our own goods and make a living. Here are some examples of what we mean:
- You may NOT photocopy or scan one of our products in its entirety, or a substantial portion of one of our products, and give it to your friends, or post it online for free or for sale, for example on a "file sharing" website or similar. This competes directly with our sales of the product (which may be available for sale in digital form now or in the future), and it's basically stealing from us. Taking sales away from us makes it harder for us to publish new supplements for the game. Why not buy it legally from Atlas Games, instead, and support your hobby instead?
- You may NOT create your own original works -- like adventures, fan fiction, short programs, and spreadsheets -- and sell them either online or in print form without our explicit permission. To request such, please email us at email@example.com
- You may NOT make a fan website or fanzine based on one of our products then charge people for access to it, make money through advertising, or otherwise generate income, without our explicit permission. To request such, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- You may NOT take images or text from our products and offer them printed on vanity regalia, for example as t-shirts and mugs made by a printer like CafePress, even if you don't add a markup. Many of our artists own the rights to their art, as we sometimes only buy first publication rights, so you're stealing from them. Also, we sometimes offer our own regalia for sale, so you'd be competing with our sales again.
- You may NOT turn the game into a mobile phone or computer game and post it online for free or for sale. We sell the computer game rights to our products to developers, so doing it for free is competing with our sales. If you're a developer interested in turning one of our products into a computer game, please email us at email@example.com to talk about licensing it.
- You may NOT translate the game into another language and post it online for free or for sale. We sell the translation rights to our games to publishers in other countries, so having you post it for free competes directly with our sales of the product again. If you're a foreign-language publisher, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about licensing it.
If we discover violations of our copyrights and trademarks, we have to protect them. Failing to protect our intellectual property may jeopardize our continued rights to it.
If you've realized that something you've already done violates our intellectual property rights, please stop immediately. Then you may want to contact us to see if we can give you permission or negotiate a formal license for what you want to do.