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Posts by Mike

Old Games Need Never Die

Old Games Need Never Die

By on Jun 26, 2014 in General, RPGs | 0 comments

Do you have any hand-drawn maps, background fiction, or filled-in character sheets from games in days gone by? Turns out, it may belong in a museum! Just the other day I was creating a character for a roleplaying game a friend of mine I’ve known since college will be running. In an e-mail exchange he mentioned he still had a character sheet that I’d used in a game that happened 15 years ago. That’s a very special sort of nostalgia, one that may only be rivaled by finding poetry or fiction you wrote as an adolescent, and I immediately smiled remembering even the many awkward missteps I made being so new to roleplaying. In one of those synchronistic moments, the very next morning I learned of The Play Generated Map & Document Archive on the Ken And Robin Talk About Stuff (hosted by fiction and gaming luminaries slash raconteurs Kenneth Hite and Robin Laws) podcast. The purpose of the archive is best described in its mission statement: PlaGMaDA’s mission is to preserve, present, and interpret play generated cultural artifacts, namely manuscripts and drawings created to communicate a shared imaginative space.  The Archive will solicit, collect, describe, and publicly display these documents so as to demonstrate their relevance, presenting them as both a historical record of a revolutionary period of experimental play and as aesthetic objects in their own right.  By fostering discussion and educating the public, it is hoped that the folkways which generate these documents can be encouraged and preserved for future generations.  While I am not sure of the value to those outside the hobby, at least currently, as someone engaged with it in my personal as well as professional life I must say that I wish them luck. I’m even going to look through some old folders I found during a recent move, hopefully finding something I can donate. If you’re at all interested in helping them out, please take a look at the Participate page and let your friends (especially those who no longer play) know about the project. For those curious about the copyright of things like characters, character sheets, or story materials generated playing a game someone else has a copyright on (because intellectual property is something many people online tend to be...

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The War of the Lord of the Rings

The War of the Lord of the Rings

By on Jun 11, 2014 in Announcements, Film, News | 0 comments

Big licenses are often a source of serious conflicts, especially when the property has a strong following or is worth enormous amounts of money. In the case of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, primarily The Lord of the Rings but also The Hobbit, both cultural cache and lucrative deals are a factor. A History of Trouble This has led to a number of lawsuits surrounding those properties, with a number of the bigger claims occurring in the 2000s, mostly revolving around people involved with the rights to the film feeling like they weren’t getting what they were owed. In the news now is the battle between the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate Limited and Warner Bros. over whether Warner has overstepped the bounds of its license (with Warner Bros. counterclaiming that the Estate has harmed Warner by improperly revoking certain rights). Why Now? While I am certain that there are many reasons that this suit is picking up steam, and you can click through to The Hollywood Reporter here to see some of the action, what it really boils down to is Warner’s recent move to license tie-ins that include online gambling games that use Tolkien’s works as a theme. Not only does that have the already-protective Estate upset, reason enough for them to challenge these download or cloud-based products, but they claim that it and works like it violate the limited right to create “tangible” products given to the studio under the agreement. An Old Agreement Apparently the source of contention is what the specific terms of that agreement were or meant, something you would hope to be contained in the four corners of the document itself, but with evidence (in the form of witnesses and work-product) being fought for tooth-and-nail by both sides it seems that things are messier than outsiders could have imagined. This is likely in part because the agreement is decades old, meaning that applying it to the current markets using the language of its day opens up room of interpretation… but we can’t know for certain right...

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Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

By on Feb 27, 2014 in News, Videogames | 0 comments

“Gaming,” at least until fairly recently, has meant something very different to the general public than it does to people who play video- or tabletop games. With the explosion of the videogame market in the last decade that’s changing, but the association between the words “gaming” and “gambling.” And what does this have to do with Street Fighter? It was recently announced (Polygon’s brief article being a great introduction to the subject) by Capcom and Virgin Gaming that the two companies would be teaming up to provide a money match service for Street Fighter 4. This idea isn’t new to Virgin Gaming, as its business model is built around facilitating just that sort of exchange between online players, or to videogame players in general (that link explaining what exactly a “money match” is connects to a Super Smash Brothers wiki). If you’re not interested in following a link, money matches are exactly what they sound like; competitive matches in which a wager has been placed on the outcome. And if you’re not asking “wait, is that legal?” you are either already bored with this post or more on top of online gambling regulations that many. The law can be pretty confusing on the issue (and that’s without getting into the Federal Wire Act); many places online will tell you that games of skill are fully protected while games of chances are not, but in August 2013 a judge in the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals held that poker was a game of skill even while agreeing the defendant could be prosecuted under the Illegal Gambling Business Act. And then, just days ago, the Supreme Court refused to hear the defendant’s final appeal. So how are there so many skill-based gaming sites out there? Well, part of that relies on the fact that states have the freedom to legislate various types of events that have entry fees or prizes and to determine if these count as gambli ng. Every state is different, and it’s for this reason that many sites offering things like money matches will explicitly exclude states like Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee (it’s worth noting that the site Skillz also excludes Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, South Carolina,...

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Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

By on Feb 20, 2014 in Fiction, News | 0 comments

LJ Smith was the original writer for the popular series of Vampire Diaries novels, starting back in 1991, but in 2011 was fired by her publisher over a dispute as to what should happen in one of the stories. Considering that she was working the entire time under a somewhat extensive work-for-hire contract, meaning that Alloy Entertainment owned the property and works in their entirety because she was brought on to create the series for them, the series continued on without her even though it still had her name attached. Well, with Amazon dipping its toes into the world of fan fiction by letting people sell stories set in specially approved properties, it turns out that LJ Smith had an interesting opportunity. Yes, for those of you jumping ahead, the original creator and author of the Vampire Diaries novels is now writing and selling Vampire Diaries fanfiction [thanks to The Daily Dot for this one] in addition to her other projects. They’re also in the Top 5 Kindle Worlds sales at the moment, and the top two spots in the Teen section. I know that I’ve seen original authors accused of writing fan fiction in their own worlds before, but finishing the a trilogy as she originally planned instead of the direction the publisher took it (and getting 35%, IIRC, of the money from the sales) after getting fired? That’s new, at least for the Age of eBooks (having been recently reading about the glory days of printing piracy, I would be shocked if similar situations hadn’t popped up during that period). Anyone have additional thoughts or information? !!3 by Jūlija Mazhora on Flickr, available via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY...

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About Flat Fee Services

About Flat Fee Services

By on Oct 28, 2013 in Announcements | 0 comments

Billing by the hour is the traditional method of charging clients for legal services, but that may be changing. In the 21st century hourly billing looks to be on its way out, at least as the default, and that’s ok with me. One of the things I’ve brought to Geek Law is experience in creating flat fee packages, which allow me to take a careful look at the proposed representation and give my potential clients a clear idea of what sort of cost it will entail. So if a client is only interested in the creation of a specific document, needs me to write a memo about potential legal repercussions, or wants me to file a trademark application on their behalf I can tell them exactly how much it will cost to make that happen. It’s true that some circumstances, like extended legal proceedings or negotiations, would make coming up with a reasonable flat fee almost impossible; those times are the exception. Such situations are also not the normal daily concerns of independent artists, small businesses, and other working creative types. Flat fee services mean that every consultation is an opportunity for me to help a potential client, no matter how ambitious or limited their needs might be. It’s my hope that this will make it easier for all my future clients to get the representation they...

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