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It is well known that we do not condone piracy and usually the way to handle links to pirated sources is to replace them with corresponding legal ones.

A question asked today, Is the fencer subclass from 'Giger's' homebrew?, links to this fencer homebrew page. The homebrew is perfectly fine, but I think the site contains pirated non-SRD material for D&D 5e. There is no alternate location where the same fencer homebrew has been posted.

How should we handle this situation?

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Copy pasta: Creative Commons License allows for redistribution of content.

In this case, the content could be copied wholesale as it's CC-BY-SA. That wouldn't direct traffic to the pirate site, and would preserve the content being inquired about.

Attribution

In this case the creator has not supplied their name, so we wouldn't even have to include an attribution. Just clearly labelling it CC-BY-SA and a link to the license

Update: Found the author of the page. AnnieGrimmsdottre

https://creativecommons.org/faq/#attribution:

How do I properly attribute material offered under a Creative Commons license?

All CC licenses require users to attribute the creator of licensed material, unless the creator has waived that requirement, not supplied a name, or asked that her name be removed.

Example attribution:

Author: AnnieGrimmsdottre License: CC-BY-SA-3.0

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since there is no author described on the page for that homebrew, clear attribution probably requires identifying the site — i.e. linking to the homebrew page. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 5 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ You don't have to make the attribution a link. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 15:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Including a URL without making it a link is hardly much different: if we're providing a URL it might as well be a link. I would hate to suggest that it's totally okay to link to piracy sites as long as it's not actually a link. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 5 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener My initial thought was to use the name of the site instead of the domain. E.g. "Giger's 5E D&D" but I don't think that's even required. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given we have multiple names available (the root one being "Giger's 5e D&D"), how would you suggest we attribute this article? I don't agree with "we don't need to provide an attribution": there is a licenser (the website) and they have a name. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 5 at 21:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GcL Ahhh, you’re right. That only governs the license notice. Then I withdraw my objection entirely. Shall I delete those comments? (I’ll leave this one here for readers who were following those comments.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 6 at 0:12
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Link to a recreation on a site that doesn't violate.

I have reproduced the entire subclass word-for-word on D&D Beyond.

As D&D Beyond does not violate any OGL licenses like the source site does, linking here provides access to the information without needing to link to a site that violates a separate site policy. I suggest a sentence posted in a way like what follows:

...I came across a website called Giger's 5e D&D. In it there is a subclass called Fencer which I have fully reproduced on D&D Beyond...

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    \$\begingroup\$ You're missing the creative commons license and attribution. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not being accusatory here, but are you violating any licenses by copying the content without consent of the author? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 5 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GcL I added it to the D&D Beyond posting as a comment. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 5 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose I don't think so... It is Creative Commons. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 5 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ CC seems to have been followed here. Looks OK to me. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 5 at 21:16
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I think we should allow the link to the homebrew specifically, but not the link to the site's homepage currently in the question because it's not necessary. We should also quote or describe some of the homebrew to identify it when the page inevitably goes dead.

That's a weird conclusion but I base this conclusion on a few factors.

Let's get the most fundamental issue out of the way: do we accept the question? It isn't doing anything wrong itself, it's just asking about a piece of homebrew, so yes we should. That leaves the matter of how to clearly identify and reference the homebrew involved.

To identify it, we need to describe it or quote it. I believe our standard we'd expect from any new question would be to quote part of the homebrew and direct us to it, otherwise we'd close it as unclear, so we should follow that same standard here. Either way that means directing people back to the source, which is that page on that site that contains pirated materials.

Now, our policy about linking to dndtools.eu and similar sites was about proliferating references to piracy sites. It especially came up in the context of people linking to non-SRD materials (because they couldn't find it on SRD sites or on D&D Beyond) which represented an ethical and pragmatic problem: the ethical problem was we're effectively condoning piracy by hosting those references, the pragmatic problem was the site would inevitably become a 404 due to DMCA notices or other takedown actions.

Let's examine our situation against those two issues if we link back to the homebrew:

  • The ethical issue: Here we aren't facilitating piracy. We might send a tiny bit of attention to the host site by linking to it, but the more we try to avoid naming it the more attention we'd also draw to it by our conspicuous reticence to reference the source properly. Would anyone know it even had pirated content if we didn't make a point of banging on about it? The more we say about why we're not referencing it, the more we're saying “hey, here's a great piracy source”.
  • The pragmatic issue: it's going to 404 one day, so we should still describe the homebrew content so it can be at least somewhat identified. (It may get closed one day after the link dies.)

That leaves us with: describe (possibly partly quote) the homebrew and direct back to it like we would expect with any homebrew request, but do nothing more than that. Avoid drawing attention back to the site itself.

Usage of the site as a reference should otherwise be handled like normal: don't do that, and don't link to its non-SRD pirated content.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Linking to the site will increase the traffic it sees and it's search engine rankings. This will drive traffic to the site that hosts pirated content. Essentially, "we know they're pirates but we just don't touch the stolen goods directly" seems like a nod and a wink to me. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 16:07
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No link, but a Note about our policy about piracy/illegitimate sources

In this specific case the fact that there are no legitimate source does effectively answer the question, and therefore a link to the content itself in not necessary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting simply removing all mention of the site from the question? The problem with this though is that we might get a UA or book tomorrow that has a Fencer subclass in it. Then without the context of the actual source of the homebrew subclass, now all the answers look wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 5 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Therefore leave the information that (at time of asking) the referenced material is not available from an (legally) acceptable source. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 5 at 16:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Fencer material is legal. The rest of that site contains pirated material. E.g. content from cleric subdomains that is not part of the basic rules. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do we know that it is a legal copy of the Fencer material and not pirated from another place (one answer links to a Reddit post, which could be the original version)? \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 5 at 16:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ The reddit fencer subclass is different content. \$\endgroup\$ – GcL Apr 5 at 16:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ That doesn't mean the pirate site in question is publishing it legally \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Apr 5 at 16:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil we don't have to prove that. The fact of the matter is that it is the only site that has been yet found to host the content though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 5 at 16:28

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