In the old days if you wanted to get stuff published in the Citadel Journal you’d have to fill in one of these:
Basically it’d say “your work now belongs to us, no take-backsies”.
Take Da Necron Rayd. Andrew Mcaleer wrote it back in the late ‘90s and it was published in Gubbinz. In those days there were only four Necron units – total. These days we’ve got loads!
So, say you want to make a new version based on Andrew’s work and share it with the rest of us. No can do – Games Workshop own the rights.
Okay, so you write a new set of rules instead and stick them on your blog. No problem there.
A couple of years later though the campaign you wrote them for is a distant memory; the blog goes down and no one notices. Dave finds an old download folder on his computer with your rules in it. He wants to put it up on his blog so his friends can get it for their campaign.
Except he can’t without your permission. He has no way of reaching you so legally he’s kinda stuffed!
Permission is granted to photocopy this sheet for personal use only.
Whoever creates something owns the rights – that includes distribution. Just because you didn’t pay for the file doesn’t mean it’s yours!
Showing up in Games Workshop with a photocopied codex isn’t exactly going to win you friends, if you catch my drift?
But wait – don’t those things expire eventually anyway?
Yep, but we’re talking your great, great grand children. UK law currently makes things public domain 70 years after the creator’s death [source].
Gav Thorpe wrote some rather fun treacherous conditions rules for Gorkamorka – published in White Dwarf 227 in November 1998. Assuming he reaches average UK male life expectancy (79 at the time of writing) when can we share his rules freely?
As long as the duration of copyright isn’t extended again.
We like creating stuff and want people to read it and share it. We don’t want anyone to get in trouble for sharing or building on our work.
We do that through Creative Commons. Go to their site, pick a few options, done.
They handle all the legal fidgy-widginess.
Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain and it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want with it. But – if there’s a Creative Commons license that says you can – go for it!
Think Flamekebab’s Burna rules are wrong? That’s cool – you’re welcome to change them and release your own version! He licensed them under CC-By-NC-SA. That means that as long as you give credit to him for the originals and share your work under the same terms you’re more than welcome to. Oh and you aren’t allowed to sell his rules – but sharing them for free is fine.
Why does it even matter? Do whatever with my rules, it’s fine by me.
A clearly defined license makes it easy to see at a glance what the copyright status of the content is. It can’t be argued with and sharing the file is very clearly legal. “The author said it was fine on his old site ten years ago” isn’t exactly clear cut if governments keep trying to clamp down on file sharing, is it?