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Old January 27, 2014, 09:56   #1
Mark
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Legal / Copyright

Has the Angband community ever had (or feared) a letter from the Tolkien estate, claiming we are using their intellectual property without permission?

A few times I've had this thought, and it was sparked again by reading a question on the development forums about why no iOS port?

I figured one of the reasons for no iOS port is that Apple would review the game (unlike Google Play who more or less allow anything) and find we are using copyrighted names, and if it drew too much attention could be the start of having to remove references to Tolkien's characters.
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Old January 27, 2014, 10:28   #2
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It can't be ruled out (Anne McCaffrey's people came after PernAngband), but I think it's really unlikely.

Here is a quote from the Tolkien estate FAQ (about the tales of the Fall of Gondolin, and Beren and Luthien):
Quote:
Can I / someone else write / complete / develop my / their own version of one of these unfinished tales ? (or any others)

The simple answer is NO.
You are of course free to do whatever you like for your own private enjoyment, but there is no question of any commercial exploitation of this form of "fan-fiction".
Also, in these days of the Internet, and privately produced collectors’ items for sale on eBay, we must make it as clear as possible that the Tolkien Estate never has, and never will authorize the commercialisation or distribution of any works of this type.
The Estate exists to defend the integrity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings. Christopher Tolkien's work as his father’s literary executor has always been to publish as faithfully and honestly as possible his father's completed and uncompleted works, without adaptation or embellishment.
So my guess is that we are inoffensive and amateur enough for them not to care. The only times I am aware of them suing people are for things that they feel are destructive to the legacy (eg slot machines) or in the case of the movies and associated merchandise where there was the prospect of losing control (and also lots of money involved).

Opinions on Christopher Tolkien vary; I tend to think that the last sentence of that quote expresses his attitude pretty well.

I think Warner Brothers are a bigger danger, but still essentially no danger.
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Old January 27, 2014, 11:58   #3
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Im very unversed in these matters, but curious. The estate quote clearly draws the line at commercial exploitation, which vanilla is obviously not, so I wonder why (and with what legal argument) they shut down Pern. Was there an attempt to sell it ? Or is the license viewed as something akin to commercial ?
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Old January 27, 2014, 12:28   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Estie View Post
Im very unversed in these matters, but curious. The estate quote clearly draws the line at commercial exploitation, which vanilla is obviously not, so I wonder why (and with what legal argument) they shut down Pern. Was there an attempt to sell it ? Or is the license viewed as something akin to commercial ?
The Tolkien estate had nothing to do with PernAngband. The story is here, but essentially it was because Ubisoft had the rights to make Pern games and did not want any competition. So PernAngband was changed to the (then) Tolkien-themed ToME, which was highly successful for several years in that form with no interference from anyone.

EDIT: BTW, loved Leon Marrick's response to the proposition that doing something against the author's will is disrespectful:
Quote:
And, if at any time J.R.R. Tolkien should rise from the dead and
make his will known, I will obey him. Until then, I shall believe
that we are part of the process of making him the greatest modern myth-
maker of the English-speaking world, a goal that Tolkien himself deliberately
set out to accomplish.
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Last edited by Nick; January 27, 2014 at 12:42. Reason: Obligatory Leon quote
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Old January 27, 2014, 14:23   #5
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Thanks for the link - it was an educating read.
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Old January 28, 2014, 00:10   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick View Post


So my guess is that we are inoffensive and amateur enough for them not to care. The only times I am aware of them suing people are for things that they feel are destructive to the legacy (eg slot machines) or in the case of the movies and associated merchandise where there was the prospect of losing control (and also lots of money involved).

Opinions on Christopher Tolkien vary; I tend to think that the last sentence of that quote expresses his attitude pretty well.

I think Warner Brothers are a bigger danger, but still essentially no danger.
I think Angband probably qualifies as harmless fan fiction that they tolerate. We are prominently listed on Wikipedia as "unofficial Middle-Earth videogames". So I am sure Angband has been given a good look over by a fleet of lawyers on behalf of the Tolkien estate, and has been judged "harmless".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-...in_video_games


I will admit, I did not think about this in my efforts to make a QT port that can be played on Ipads. Apple will probably never allow me to distribute it for free from their app store. I would have to redo all of the Tolkien based elements in the game, which, outside of the names and descriptions of some ego items, artifacts, and monsters, isn't very much.

Looks like in the ipad version the player will have to descend into the pits of Ingband to kill Norgoth at level 100.
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Old January 28, 2014, 01:05   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nppangband View Post
I will admit, I did not think about this in my efforts to make a QT port that can be played on Ipads. Apple will probably never allow me to distribute it for free from their app store. I would have to redo all of the Tolkien based elements in the game, which, outside of the names and descriptions of some ego items, artifacts, and monsters, isn't very much.
...thus implying that if you charged money for it, Apple would be A-OK with the game?
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Old January 28, 2014, 01:27   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nppangband View Post
Looks like in the ipad version the player will have to descend into the pits of Ingband to kill Norgoth at level 100.
Translate the names from whichever in-universe language is used into English. So you head into the Iron Prison to kill the Black Foe of the World and his lackey, The Abhorred Dread.
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Old January 28, 2014, 03:21   #9
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Originally Posted by ekolis View Post
...thus implying that if you charged money for it, Apple would be A-OK with the game?
I actually threw the "for free" in there so nobody in the Angband community would get the impression that I intended to charge for any version I manage to get up on the apple store. I just didn't word it as well as it should have been.

I don't think Apple would allow a work that uses so many Tolkien characters and names without permission. IMHO they would be at risk, even for allowing me to distribute a free game.
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Last edited by nppangband; January 28, 2014 at 04:07.
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Old January 28, 2014, 04:17   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Derakon View Post
Translate the names from whichever in-universe language is used into English. So you head into the Iron Prison to kill the Black Foe of the World and his lackey, The Abhorred Dread.
That's a good idea! I was also thinking about just using the random name generator to scramble all the Tolkien character's names , places, and artifacts as well. The gameplay really has nothing to do with the actual works of fiction. It is not like the ultimate goal of the game is to drop the one ring into a volcano or anything like that.

To download and play the real game on a mac computer would be simple. The player could just download the game from the Apple App store that includes sanitized edit files, and then just replace them on the computer with the real NPPAngband and NPPMoria edit files. I don't think that could be done as easily on an Ipad, however.
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