This is in relation to this question here:
Is there a limit to how much stuff you can carry?
And in particular this comment from a mod:
[...] Age of Rebellion is not open licensed and quoting its rules here for everything not in the beginner book is piracy pure and simple, don't do it.
...which basically says "don't answer this question (in any meaningful way)". The exact same comment also appears on a different question with the same tag.
Interestingly enough, other users question the rationale, and are basically threatened with having their answers deleted if they ignore the "don't answer this question" advice. Which I think is wholly inappropriate, and also contrary to the accepted policy on this issue, which is to:
- Avoid playing armchair layer.
- Take down content if and only if a copyright holder complains.
...and ironically enough was put forward by the same mod who's leaving behind these boilerplate comments and making preemptive threats about deleting people's answers.
I left my own comment pointing out that the rationale in the mod's comment was not technically sound, and it was silently deleted. And...well here we are.
Is ANY discussion of private rules piracy/copyright infringment?
I know the answer to this one and it's just plain "no", for many reasons.
Fair Use doctrine allows for summaries, paraphrasing, and direct quotation from copyrighted works, provided that the amount summarized, paraphrased, or quoted is reasonable.
While the rulebook itself is a copyrighted work, individual rules are not. Certain things just cannot be protected by copyright. Individual rules/game mechanics tend to fall into that basket (similar to mathematical formulas and recipes). A specific explanation of a rule (or recipe, or formula) may be protected by copyright, but the rule itself generally can't be. It's copyright infringement if you reproduce entire sections of text (and graphics) verbatim. It's not if you explain the same concept in your own words. For instance, if I give you a photocopy of a cheeseburger recipe from Mickey's Awesome Cookbook, that's copyright infringement. But if I tell you in my own words how to cook a cheeseburger, that's fine even if the end result is the same as what you'd get by following the cookbook recipe.
Copyright doesn't protect against knowledge transfer. For instance, a GM reads his core rulebook to learn all the rules he needs to run the game. At some point, he'll probably need to explain some of the rules to his players. Is he committing piracy by explaining to them how the game works? No, of course not. No more than I'd be committing piracy if I read a book to learn how to program, and then go on to teach someone else how to program based upon the knowledge that I've gained. Copyright covers specific works and their derivatives. It doesn't give you absolute authority over a concept. The closest thing to that is a patent. Though to suppress discussion of a game's ruleset, forcing everyone you tell your ruleset to sign an NDA first is probably the best option. But we're not here to discuss (or enforce) NDA's.
It's up to the rights holder (or their nominated legal representative) to enforce copyright claims. And there are established procedures for doing so. We should not be co-opting those procedures, nor acting on behalf of rights holders without their knowledge or consent. Perhaps they'd actually like to have answers like "Yes, there's a rule for that and it's basically X, you should go and buy an official rulebook because this is a super-fun RPG with deep mechanics and there are lots more rules that you need to play it properly", particularly as opposed to "all discussion of this topic is verboten because we think the creator is a vicious copyright troll". Which is what it sounds like what you've got moderator comments that basically say "don't answer this".
Is there ANY validity to the boilerplate comment?
Well yes, if you interpret it literally and ignore the surrounding context. Quoting rules for everything not in the beginner book would indeed be copyright infringement/piracy. But the question was asking for information about a specific rule, not a dump of all the rules. Or even a dump of that one.
So maybe there's a slippery-slope argument being made? In the vein of "if a question is eventually asked for every rule, we'll end up with a collection of answers that copy every rule out of the book, and that collection will constitute piracy"? Which is true, should that slippery-slope eventuate.
But even if we set aside the general issues with arguments of the 'slippery-slope' variety, there are at least a couple of issues with that.
We're not even close to the nightmare scenario yet. There are a grand total of 18 questions with the
age-of-rebelliontag. And as far as I can tell, only two of those 18 have answers which contain direct quotes from the rulebook.
Preemptively discouraging, suppressing, or deleting content goes directly against the currently accepted site policy. What good is the policy if the very person who proposed it isn't going to follow it?
So while technically correct when viewed in a vacuum, the boilerplate comment seems inapplicable in the contexts where it's been used, and its message of "don't answer this" and especially the threats of "answers will be deleted" strike me as heavy-handed and inappropriate, bordering upon abuse of power.
Should there be a clear and consistent policy on this issue?
I think yes?
What should the policy be, if any?
This is what we're here to discuss.
My suggestion is that the current policy is fine:
I think that we need to do only two things.
In the FAQ or other prominent place, warn people against plagiarism. (and/or copyright infringement, blah blah)
Take down stuff IF a copyright holder complains or issues a DMCA takedown notice.
We as moderators/site people do not need to be engaging in unschooled Lawyer Junior behavior. In fact if we do we become more legally liable for policing the content on the site. Plagiarism is bad, and we should say "don't do it," but should not try to make our own "calls" about it beyond the clear remedy by US law (DMCA).
It just needs to be followed.
The alternative appears to be a lot of cleanup, deletion, and censoring of existing content, followed by a long and pointless game of trying to preemptively stop people from talking about the things that they come here to talk about.
Or has a takedown notice actually been received? My assumption is not. I don't see how one could have been, given that the comments were cropping up before any answers were posted.