On Reader Mail, The Accusation

This wasn't traditional mail, names have been left out

"You stole from Rick, a small press publisher [of Grimtooth's Traps] and an old man, from a book still published today. Then you took credit for it. Who is exploited now?"

Followed up by a comment, now un-accessible because that person blocked me, that is paraphrased below said:

"You're just upset that you got caught plagiarizing!"

What unexpected vitrol!

Rick Loomis of Flying
Buffalo Games
Of course, each of these claims is wrong. That's not even the half of it though, we get Grimtooth's publisher himself to weigh in.

Now, IANAL, and will be glad to be corrected on anything I have gotten incorrect, by someone who is a lawyer. A specific legal claim is made above, That I am infringing on the intellectual property of a work. Then non-legal accusations were made, first that I plagiarized Grimtooth's traps, second that I was somehow 'hiding' this fact or that it was secret.

First is the claim that I am somehow infringing on the intellectual property of a work.

If you take a look at the index page for the trick/traps, you will see the text "Each of the following articles is not just a description of a trap, but how to present that trap to preserve agency of the players."

That is, in fact, something writers are allowed to do. I can discuss the text and writings of another author and provide my own insight into the implementation of those ideas. What's more, ideas are not copy-writable. Only the specific implementation of those ideas. Facts and ideas are separate from copyright. Anyone can write a story about someone who discovers that the world is a computer program. (Or, say a pit with an invisible barrier hanging down over it, Or a megadungeon built by a crazy wizard). It is only when the specific similarities of a creative work are so great that an intellectual property claim can be brought against the person, and in those cases brought to trial, it is extremely subjective.

I should also note that these legal filings are about profit, hence the 'taking advantage of'. Anyone know what 100% of 0 profit is?

The second claim is that I committed plagiarism.  This is when one attempts to take credit for the writing of another persons work. This is not a legal claim, but rather a moral one. There are two factors here. The first is that every word of text on my website is written myself. No text is knowingly lifted directly from another source, and in no form am I attempting to take credit for any writing that I did not myself write. This is important. If anyone can point out any instance of plagiarism on this blog, I will immediately remove it. 

The second factor is that the entire series of tricks and traps is about taking traps from a variety of sources and discussing ways in which agency can be applied to those traps. You can see the first reference to Grimtooth being a source of a trap idea is On the Poison Pit surprise in April of 2011. Another mention of Grimtooth as a source is in March, 2012 On the Wrong Choice. I'm certain with a more detailed perusal, you'd find mention of Undermountain pits and another source or two I might be discussing (Such as Ragnar's man trapping series).

I wasn't being secretive because there wasn't anything to hide! In fact here is an example where someone compliments me on the creation of a trap, where I reply that I wasn't the creator of the trap. Based on this recent issue, I've moved that source to the body of the article. The whole point of the series is to discuss agency in regard to old traps. Some research (like signs, or elevators) used many different source documents and webpages, others take a specific type of trap, where the ideas and agency are discussed. Part of the issue is that most of the traps people are 'sure' came from a specific source, are located in around 40 of the 500 or so books and magazines I use as research (A truncated listing of these will follow later in the week). It was my general assumption that my erudite readers knew that the traps and trap ideas came from a wide variety of sources. As ideas are not copy-writable, I take credit only for my writing, and my mention of primary sources is indicative of that.

The erudite reader might ask, "Why don't you credit the source for everything on the blog forever!" Well, the answer is that, now, I try to. Originally the blog was for me. The agency involving trap series was a tool for me to use in dungeon creation. An online database reference. Since I already know most of the sources, and have referenced them in the past I just figured if anyone was curious, they could ask. It's not like it's ever been a secret.

There was also some question over the use of the art of Stephen S. Crompton. Now as Mr. Crompton himself has commented on the blog saying "Hey - Thanks for remembering me!" He is well aware of my use of his art. Every time it has been posted, I have credited him as the artist, as I try to do with all art used on my blog. There was a piece of art used in one of the trap articles, credited to him. It falls AFAICT under the criteria of fair use. It 'stimulates creativity for the enrichment of the general public' and does not attempt to 'supersede the objects' of the original for reasons of personal profit. For certain extremely popular pieces by Otis, Trampier, or other fantasy art greats, I sometimes leave off the attribution because it is so well known.

There is nothing illegal or immoral about any of these actions. But that's not what's up. This person was angry about how I was just a horrible person! He was going to reveal to the world things that I would gladly admit to. As a person, I like to address the needs and concerns of others. So I asked him, "What action could I take so that you might feel mollified that I wasn't taking advantage of anybody?"

His reply: "Email Rick Loomis with the blog posts in question and ask him how he feels about it."

So I did! And truthfully, I can't imagine why I waited so long to get in touch with someone who I admired so long. I wrote him, with a link to each of the various traps on my site, asking what he thought. This is also a good idea, because regardless of the fact that I am in good legal or moral standing, I respect the writers of Grimtooth's traps, and making them happy and doing the right thing is more important than any law. His reply back?

"Hi. It is always nice to hear from a fan. That's why we are in this business. . . If you would mention on your main page that you are discussing traps from Grimtooth's Traps, and that Grimtooth is a trademark of Flying Buffalo Inc, and include a link to our webpage, I would be happy."

This seems like a totally reasonable request, and will be implemented shortly! Also, It was a real pleasure to get to talk to him.

How's that for reader mail!

If you've got any questions, not just for me, but for anyone in your life, give them an e-mail. You never know how it might turn out.

11 comments:

  1. what's the picture credit on that angry businessman cartoon?

    ...sigh. You mean you discussed other people's art? Bad blogger!

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's not the internet without sex, fandom, and moral outrage, or at least two of the three.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was going to say that your accuser needs a hobby, but then I thought "If this person is reading Hack & Slash, then roleplaying must be their hobby." Therefore, it seems that this person has no real excuse to be such a busy-body. Don't they have something better to do, like roleplaying for instance? Some people, I suppose, just need to believe they are "right" about something...even if they are really wrong about said something. Sheesh.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like how the complainant fails to asks what Rick Loomis paid for the traps in the first place. My thirteen year old self got a contributor's copy of Grimtooth's Traps Lite for his four submitted traps, with no mention of license terms or rights... I was perfectly fine with this at the time, and my only regret is that a couple of the traps I submitted are lousy. They took all four of four, they weren't terribly selective.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Bloggers in my experience are a well meaning bunch. Trolls are not. Bloggers share art, info, ideas, etc. Trolls are d-bags, plain and simple. Bloggers have fun using other people's work...probably the whole reason it was put out there in the first place. Trolls munch on billy goats who trip trap across their bridge.

    I don't think you've done anything wrong. I think this yahoo is a wanker.

    No profit? I just willing gave you two cents ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. The core of the issue is that Courtney has failed to cite his sources, especially in circumstances where the traps are nearly identical.

    You, the reader, may decide he has done no wrong; however, I urge you to look at the comments of the following posts, where I have posted the relevant quotes.

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/12/on-thursday-trick-signs.html

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/09/on-thursday-trick-peephole.html

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-thursday-trick-natural-hazards.html

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-thursday-trick-falling-up.html

    http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2011/05/on-thursday-trick-more-player-agency.html

    There are several more blog posts which are clearly 'inspired' by the Grimtooth books.

    Read the material and judge for yourself.

    A final note: Each of these comments will require approval by Courtney. If you don't see anything, you'll know why.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You misunderstand or choose to ignore.

      It was never my intent to hide my sources. Every time it's come up (as pointed out above) I've discussed the original sources.

      The whole series is about discussing agency in regards to old traps. It says so right on the index page

      I am fully indebted to the originators of the work and am so comfortable with the moral correctness of what I am doing, that I did not hesitate to write him at your request.

      This is an unpaid hobbyist blog. I am writing these articles about agency for me. I want to do what is correct, so as these are pointed out to me, I will gladly take my unpaid time out of my busy day to make sure that these get cited.

      Robert Parker, Did you read this article? I did what you asked, and here you are, still stomping your foot. I am not going to delete any of your comments because I am not trying to hide my sources. They aren't cited not out of a desire to screw anyone but because this is a blog and not an academic journal.

      Your comment is here. Your comments are on the other articles. The ones you have pointed out have been or will be cited shortly. I have an article on my extensive (several hundred documents long) list of sources.

      If my continual attempt to address every one of your concerns does not appease you, then the problem is not some random free blog out on the internet.

      Delete
    2. I think Robert is way off base here, but as you have a source page set up, you could give a 3 letter code to each source and then insert the code parenthetically wherever you had a specific instance in mind.

      Or you could tell him to go to hell.

      Delete
    3. Pretty much he's already there if he's raging that someone is discussing old gaming stuff on the internet without his permission.

      Delete
  7. Those interested in further disscussion that I am having to insure that I am doing the right thing, are free to visit This linke.

    Any further behavior that indicates that people have not read the article in question that they are commenting on will be treated as what it is, trolling, and will be dealt with accordingly.

    ReplyDelete
  8. By Parker's standards, anyone who writes a dungeon adventure scenario is plagiarizing Gygax & Arneson.

    The main problem is that Parker doesn't have a leg to stand on. There is no LEGAL definition of plagiarism; it does not exist as a legal concept in any statute in the United States. What does exist are laws against copyright infringement. Plagiarism is an academic concept, one that writers who are writing for academic audiences or audiences which demand academic standards (such as scientists, researchers, etc.) value more than the vast majority of the public. It is an ethical and moral issue, not a legal one. And while moral outrage gets attention, unwarranted charges actually make the accuser look foolish.

    Why does Courntey have to prove he ISN'T plagiarizing? Here's a concept, Parker-prove that he is. Show us highlighted copies of passages in Grimtooth's Trap series compared side-by-side to Courtney's posts. The onus is on the accuser to show the evidence of the "crime". In this case, there isn't one that I can see.

    Before making charges of plagiarism, I suggest Mr. Parker at least read Wikipedia's entry on the topic, or better yet, read this article by Richard Posner, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2002/04/posner.htm

    and then go read his book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Little-Book-Plagiarism-Richard-Posner/dp/037542475X

    I teach writing at the college level and have to deal with discussing what does and does not constitute plagiarism on a regular basis. What Courtney is doing here is discussing general concepts and critiquing their application, not representing Loomis's work as his own.

    What's even more ironic is that Parker is, like many bloggers (including myself), a blatant copyright infringer. His blog is covered in unattributed photos and artwork, and it isn't clear whether he has the copyright owner's permission to use on his blog. In a legal sense, this is the greater crime, as you can be held accountable by the copyright holder for such unwarranted use (not all use is fair use). The only thing you have to lose with charges of plagiarism is your reputation; with copyright infringement you could lose your house.

    Which of course leads to another long discussion about our outdated ideas of copyright in an age of instantaneous digital duplication. But that's another blog comment altogether.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...