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How do spells work in D&D Essentials Starter kit?

I've seen some answers rolled back because the copyright wasn't owned. Ultimately all one would do to go around this example, though, would be to type out the relevant line -- still copying the information although less of it (probably).

Related to Links to "D&D Tools" / dndtools.eu and similar sites in the sense that we're facing the same issue in a different way (which I'm still seeing plenty of links to that source).

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While copyright issues on sites like StackExchange are always thorny because of the international audience, the copyright laws I'm familiar with include provisions for Fair Use, which include criticism, commentary or teaching - which I think most questions on RPG.SE fall under. As Joshua Aslan Smith says, as long as you're only quoting the specific bits you're asking about, it's probably reasonable.

A somewhat different issue, however, is whether it is whether posting the images of the power cards falls under Fair Use. Personally, I believe that as long as the question is about the power and not the card, posting the image isn't justified when the text alone would suffice, and be more search engine- and accessiblity-friendly to boot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ IANAL but I believe the teaching exception is only for actual teaching institutions. I don't believe it applies to anyone else. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 27 '14 at 23:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Quite likely. Still, we'll always have "comment". \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Jan 28 '14 at 5:37
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Images that we might want to use here are almost always going to be copyright violations that have no Fair Use protection, since using an image simply as an informational reference isn't protected by Fair Use. Other transformative uses like parody, that are protected, just don't apply to our site.

As a rule of thumb, quoting a complete "item" is going beyond Fair Use, because it no longer requires the reader to have access to a legit copy in order to use it and benefit financially (by not having to buy the book/subscription). Such uses are very unlikely to be covered by Fair Use since they are more than necessary. A quote should always be the very minimum necessary for clarity. Generally, it can be assumed that both asker and answerer have access to the text and should use citations to refer to it, to avoid quoting anything. When quoting is absolutely necessary to make it clear what is being discussed, a very small extract is all that is "necessary".

This only applies to copyrighted material that we can't use under license, of course.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair use also includes commentary, so I think bringing a citation - say, a feat description - and asking a question about it, or explaining what it does, or commenting on its applicability or feasibility, seems within the scope. Of course, then we just have to define what an "item" is. \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Jan 28 '14 at 5:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @lisardggY It does include commentary, but I think you have the relationship backwards: first the four-pronged test is applied, and only if none of those fail does the nature of the use matter. So even if the work is used for commentary, if "(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work" of the copying is negative then it doesn't matter what type of use it is intended for. For an exception-based game like D&D where quoting a whole feat/power means you don't need the book it's from or DDI, that's likely not protected Fair Use and is a problem for us. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 28 '14 at 16:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I agree. Didn't mean to imply otherwise. But I think a single Feat or Power description doesn't really negatively affect the market potential of a game. You can hardly use a single feat as a replacement for the entire game. \$\endgroup\$ – lisardggY Jan 28 '14 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @lisardggY No, but copyright has not concept of "game", just works. If WotC can argue, even just barely, that we have impacted their sales even once, we've copied too much. We shouldn't quote entire powers or feats if we can at all help it. In the question in question, the whole of two powers wasn't needed at all, just the one line that was causing confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 28 '14 at 17:37

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