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This is a site about Role-Playing Games. We are experts on Role-Playing Games. There is a sickening number of questions about law, that are only tangentially related to games, and they are being treated as on topic. This is highly problematic:

  • The questions are almost always far too broad. 'Is this a violation of copyright?' Where? In what country? Under what law?
  • They are only tangentially related to role playing games anyways. Every single one of the questions could be re-posted, swapping a role playing property for some other media, and get the same answers.1
  • We are literally giving legal advice without being lawyers. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that it's probably not a good idea for us to be doing that.

On the first two points alone, they should be closed, but arn't currently. The last point explicitly spells out that We Are Not Legal Experts. Why are we answering questions for which we are not experts? These questions are painfully off topic.

1 - With the exception of one question that I cannot figure out the reason for being tagged as such.

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Because, despite what some lawyers might like most of us believe, it's not actually illegal, counter to good sense, or constituting practising law without a license for creators and users of copyrighted materials to share their knowledge about copyright and how it impacts their works and uses of such works.

Publishing is on topic, and copyright (and trademarks and patents) is an integral part of RPG publishing and licensing. Since publishing is explicitly on topic, that aspect of publishing is part of our topic.

That's really all there is to why we host such questions. You cannot be a content creator in this day and age without familiarity with copyright issues, and due to the vigorous creative reuse of materials, it's hard to even be a mere user of RPG materials without being exposed to copyright issues (especially in the last 15 years, with the rise of the OGL and the OSR).

The questions are almost always far too broad. 'Is this a violation of copyright?' Where? In what country? Under what law?

Almost never too broad. Copyright laws are widely harmonised (for better or worse) among Berne Convention countries. Being the Internet, it's also nearly impossible for a Berne Convention signatory to not be involved in any given RPG publishing situation. So, it's actually usually pretty clear what copyright regime is relevant to a question about copyright.

Every single one of the copyright questions could be re-posted, swapping a role playing property for some other media, and get the same answers.

To the contrary, our answers are almost always extremely pragmatic—that is, they are focused on the particular issues that a real RPG publisher has to be concerned about, which are not universal and are particular to the RPG publishing environment.

We are literally giving legal advice without being lawyers. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that it's probably not a good idea for us to be doing that.

This is a widespread myth. The only way to violate the prohibition against practicing law without a license is to mislead your audience into believing you are a lawyer. We haven't had a problem with that, and our community moderation tools are sufficient to the task, in the unlikely case that we ever do have that problem.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By that logic, Typesetting is on topic, and so is bookbinding, and the internals of the PDF format. Where do we draw the line. \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 May 13 '15 at 4:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 As it relates to an RPG-specific issue? I imagine so, yes. Except it would be pretty hard to ask a question about bookbinding or typesetting that requires knowledge of the particulars of the RPG scene and industry, so it's exceedingly unlikely to ever happen and that is a false equivalence. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 13 '15 at 4:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ So long as they relate to the activities of those topics with respect to an RPG and represent a real problem that they're facing and are scoped well, we draw the line in the usual place: "is this about RPGs?" \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 13 '15 at 4:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here's an example of a question that was deemed to not have any aspects that were specific to RPGs, and was closed as a result: Reproduction of copyrighted content by website users. That might demonstrate how we do discriminate between on topic and off topic copyright questions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 13 '15 at 4:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to note that I've had to ask - and answer - questions about RPG-specific work in terms of PDFs, typesetting, and the placement of illustrations; typically, questions relating to a standardized format and selection of fonts and placements. It can be relevant, usually in terms of looking to mimic an established style. \$\endgroup\$ – Lord_Gareth May 13 '15 at 5:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Lord_Gareth Now that you mention it, we do have one dealing with mimicking layout and typography: What's a good way to design and layout an Apocalypse World playbook? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 13 '15 at 5:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 As someone who is friends with a professional typesetter who volunteered his time for an RPG book, we discovered that the RPG industry and use-case constitutes a rather unusual challenge for typesetting. In hindsight, he has commented that he applied the wrong standards to the work because he misunderstood how the text was going to be used and what that meant for the typesetting (despite being a gamer himself). So there very much could easily be questions specific to RPGs on the subject of typesetting. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan May 13 '15 at 19:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth noting that actual lawyers may be required to state this fact and disclaim any pseudo legal advice they give, e.g. “I am a lawyer, but you are not my client and this should not be read as constituting legal advice, just a statement of my experiences and understandings without having personally investigated this specific situation,” or something. At the least, this is the sort of thing I have seen lawyers do in the past. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 9 '15 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think sharing general knowledge (e.g. "a specific piece of text is protected by copyright or a similar legal right/property in most Berne Convention countries if you're the author") and providing links of interest or to support a statement like that constitute legal advice. On the other hand, games are interesting because the specific rules are ideas, and not texts/designs/trademarks etc. so as much as you may want to claim IP in them, it might be a bit difficult. I Am Not A Lawyer and this is not Legal Advice. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Jul 6 '16 at 13:36

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