Conworlds and Copyright [Split topic from: Overview of my Realm]

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elemtilas
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Conworlds and Copyright [Split topic from: Overview of my Realm]

Post by elemtilas »

EvanFyous wrote:
09 May 2020 19:31
elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 01:25
Have you made any pictures of your peoples or places? (Apart from the map!) Would love to see those as well.
Just maps and flags so far, I'm not actually an illustrator and all I really know how to do are maps, flags, and kinda fonts. One of my players made some art of their dwarven character, but that's not mine to post. I always imagined character/location art as final touches or added as needed for game play. Once I get some more defined cultures I might do some commissions if all things go well.
Well then, more maps please!
EvanFyous wrote:
09 May 2020 19:31
Salmoneus wrote:
09 May 2020 17:29
Anyway, a serious point: you might want to reconsider having ents, as they belong to the Tolkien Estate. It's not really clear why - after all, he invented orcs too, and they exist in other fantasy worlds. Although outside Tolkien, they're often called orks, possibly for copyright reasons. Anyway, you'll note that D&D has orcs, it avoids (avoided?) ents, and renames "hobbits" as "halflings" to avoid being sued.


This is the first time I've heard this, I probably should read or watch some Tolkien sometime lol. Well once I have more substance to my 'ent' language, Aerdan, I will probably come up with a new name like I did with the Bonodu' and Zagi. I don't plan on having hobbits/halflings. Although, I'd probably let players use the stats of a halfling in game play if they wanted, they'd just canonically be a gnome or dwarf.
This is a valid point, and people have run afoul of it. Strictly speaking, it's the specific trademarkable or copyrightable content you'd want to avoid. After all, Tolkien didn't invent the words themselves -- "ent" is an Old English word, "hobbit" is a kind of folkloric sprite of some kind, "orc" derives ultimately and in several different ways from Latin. If you wanted to name a specific Hobbit "Bilbo Bagguns" and have him live in a place called "Baggend" in a country called "Shire", you might run afoul of the Tolkien Estate. Particularly if you tried to make money off it!

You know this already: What makes Tolkien's Ents his own is what he did with the concept of a giant being; if you make your Ents your own concept of giant being, rather than just copy Tolkien's creation, then you have little to worry about.

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Re: Overview of my Realm

Post by Salmoneus »

EvanFyous wrote:
09 May 2020 19:31
Salmoneus wrote:
09 May 2020 17:29
[wait, 'Grung'? There weren't enough sentient species in D&D already!? The Slaad and the Kuo-toa weren't enough, there needed to be a third frog species? Wait, Siv too...]
I based them off Grung since 5e is the only edition I have any real experience with, I didn't realize D&D even had that many frog people.
Whereas 5e is the only edition I know absolutely nothing about.

[I played AD&D (THAC0 ftw!), 3E, and 3.5. Some of my friends bought (in fact, I think I actually have, somewhere) some of the core rules from 4th edition, but it was highly unappealing - felt very dumbed-down, both in content (sort of cartoonised and slick) and in mechanics. My subconscious awareness of D&D monsters is still mostly drawn from the ad&d core rules CD I used to own - it had an interactive monstrous manual program on it...]

One of the problems with D&D conceptually is that it tries to be two things at once: a universal ruleset and dataset that individuals can use as raw material; and also a series of individual, characterful, specific settings. The latter demand unique, tailor-made creatures; the former requires those creatures to be available everywhere. So they ended up with lots and LOTS of creatures, many of which were very similar to others, because they fulfilled the same niche in different adventures, continents, or worlds. This was particularly an issue back in the early 90s (aka the glory years), when they were running a dozen different detailed settings simultaneously*. So even on Faerun, you'd have the ordinary creatures in the Forgotten Realms setting, and a whole other set of slightly different creatures, to nod toward Chinese and Japanese mythology, in the Kara-Tur setting.

So the Kuo-toa iirc may have started out as Spelljammer (slaves of the Illithids) but ended up Forgotten Realms, mostly squelching around the Underdark. I think they were meant to be fish people like the Locathah, but they seemed froggy to me. [hmm - who were the other aquatic scaly people? Another two word name... not the Yuan-Ti, they're snake-people...]. The Slaad, on the other hand, were a big part of Planescape - they're the fishlike embodiment of chaos (or xaos, if you're of a xaositecht persuasion) who hand around in Limbo, and sworn enemy of the Modrons. The Grung were apparently a thing in Greyhawk. And the Sivs apparently were an FR thing too, but instead of the Underdark they lived in one particular marsh (i.e. were invented by different people writing a different set of adventures).


[*hmm, is that true? Off the top of my head: Dragonlance; Forgotten Realms; Kara-Tur; Legend of the Five Rings (or whatever it was called); Maztica; Mystara; Hollow World; Spelljammer; Planescape; Ravenloft; Dark Sun; Council of Wyrms; Birthright; Greyhawk... not all at exactly the same time (Planescape replaced Spelljammer, because clearly they couldn't have the two best settings both available simultaneously...), but the same era, iirc... and probably forgetting some!]


Anyway, nostalgic rambling now...

----------------------

Salmoneus wrote:
09 May 2020 17:29
Anyway, a serious point: you might want to reconsider having ents, as they belong to the Tolkien Estate. It's not really clear why - after all, he invented orcs too, and they exist in other fantasy worlds. Although outside Tolkien, they're often called orks, possibly for copyright reasons. Anyway, you'll note that D&D has orcs, it avoids (avoided?) ents, and renames "hobbits" as "halflings" to avoid being sued.
This is the first time I've heard this, I probably should read or watch some Tolkien sometime lol.[/quote]

It's the first time you've heard of ents and hobbits being from Tolkien? Huh. Where had you encountered them?
[and yes, you should. if nothing else, the LOTR trilogy is easily watchable]

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Re: Overview of my Realm

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elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 20:49
This is a valid point, and people have run afoul of it. Strictly speaking, it's the specific trademarkable or copyrightable content you'd want to avoid. After all, Tolkien didn't invent the words themselves -- "ent" is an Old English word, "hobbit" is a kind of folkloric sprite of some kind, "orc" derives ultimately and in several different ways from Latin. If you wanted to name a specific Hobbit "Bilbo Bagguns" and have him live in a place called "Baggend" in a country called "Shire", you might run afoul of the Tolkien Estate. Particularly if you tried to make money off it!
IANAL, but AIUI the legal issues here are complex and largely untested. It's not clear where the line is - you can't copy characters (though conceptually it's not entirely clear why not...), you can make derivative worlds (cf the whole of D&D with its elves and dwarves and so on), but where the line is in-between, when it comes to, say, borrowing a species, isn't clear.

Elves aren't copyrightable; they were too established in folklore already (even though all modern elves are Tolkien elves that have nothing to do with previous versions). Likewise dwarves (ditto).

Hobbits definitely are copyright. The word "hobbit" was invented by Tolkien, so writing about hobbits is like writing about Klingons. [it may indeed have been subconsciously inspired by 'hob', a goblin, and a traditional English diminutive '-it'. But Tolkien himself thought the inspiration was the name of the protagonist in Sinclair Lewis' novel Babbit; 'babbit' became a common word in the decades after the novel's publication, meaning a boring, respectable, obedient, soulless follower of middle-class American social norms - Hobbiton was a satire of contemporary conventionalism.]

In between... the consensus seems to be that ents are copyright, but that orcs aren't, even though both names are from old english and not really used since then. The key may be that Tolkien identifies his orcs as simply another word for goblins, and goblins are a pre-existing concept (although again, of course, modern goblins are mostly ripped from Tolkien, though his in turn are from MacDonald); whereas ents are all his own idea.

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Re: Overview of my Realm

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plenty of precedent for https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talking_trees though, including non-Western mythology. I would just follow the same advice as above .... if youre not that familiar with Tolkien's work, chances are your ideas are unique enough that they wont be duplications of any prior ideas of Tolkien's, but it wont hurt to check .... even aside from copyright concerns, it's always good to see something new.
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Re: Overview of my Realm

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Salmoneus wrote:
09 May 2020 21:38
It's the first time you've heard of ents and hobbits being from Tolkien? Huh. Where had you encountered them?
I've always just assumed it was an actual mythological term akin to dragon or Minotaur. I have no idea where I first encountered it, possibly from video games or D&D?
elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 20:49
Well then, more maps please!
I'll have to see what I can dig up, mostly it's just the world map, I was working on a city map but I can't remember where I saved it to..
elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 20:49
You know this already: What makes Tolkien's Ents his own is what he did with the concept of a giant being; if you make your Ents your own concept of giant being, rather than just copy Tolkien's creation, then you have little to worry about.
My ents are pretty small in comparison and much more mobile it seems, most never get larger than 8ft and that was partly to keep them in the *medium* size category of D&D since they're a playable character race. The ones that do get larger I think become immobile sages who eventually just turn into regular trees. The biggest exception is Connirof, who appears as tall as the worlds tallest living tree, so whenever Connirof suddenly shrinks, people can get a lil upset. Of course Connirof can appear in many different forms since it's a divine being, but a super tall tree is the most common/recognizable one.

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Re: Overview of my Realm

Post by elemtilas »

Salmoneus wrote:
09 May 2020 21:51
elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 20:49
This is a valid point, and people have run afoul of it. Strictly speaking, it's the specific trademarkable or copyrightable content you'd want to avoid. After all, Tolkien didn't invent the words themselves -- "ent" is an Old English word, "hobbit" is a kind of folkloric sprite of some kind, "orc" derives ultimately and in several different ways from Latin. If you wanted to name a specific Hobbit "Bilbo Bagguns" and have him live in a place called "Baggend" in a country called "Shire", you might run afoul of the Tolkien Estate. Particularly if you tried to make money off it!
IANAL, but AIUI the legal issues here are complex and largely untested. It's not clear where the line is - you can't copy characters (though conceptually it's not entirely clear why not...), you can make derivative worlds (cf the whole of D&D with its elves and dwarves and so on), but where the line is in-between, when it comes to, say, borrowing a species, isn't clear.
Nor I. One could probably make a legal career out of studying the intricacies of just the legal ramifications following from In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit...

I suspect that the line really only becomes clear when a sufficiently large profit margin is in sight.
Hobbits definitely are copyright. The word "hobbit" was invented by Tolkien, so writing about hobbits is like writing about Klingons. [it may indeed have been subconsciously inspired by 'hob', a goblin, and a traditional English diminutive '-it'. But Tolkien himself thought the inspiration was the name of the protagonist in Sinclair Lewis' novel Babbit; 'babbit' became a common word in the decades after the novel's publication, meaning a boring, respectable, obedient, soulless follower of middle-class American social norms - Hobbiton was a satire of contemporary conventionalism.]
Not entirely correct; or rather, not the full story. Indeed "hobs" and "rabbits" may have played a part, but Tolkien himself could offer no definitive story as to the word's origin in his own mind. Could have been a flash of inspiration, he could have seen the word in print, or it could be an unconscious re-inventing of an older word or concept, as I'm sure most of us have done! (Just today over on Reddit, I witnessed a language inventor take very careful pains to describe her writing system as going along from margin to margin, and then lo! it makes a turn and continues on the next line going in the opposite direction! What a wonderful invention and ... oh, the deflation when another person came along and, with one word --- boustrophedon --- popped the balloon!)

"Hobbit" was indeed known to English folklorists as some kind of fairy or wee creature by the mid-19th century, along with loads of other hob- names. The name appears in the Denham Tracts, which were collected no later than 1859 and published by 1895. I don't know if JRRT was aware of this source or not. Could be that the particular inspiratom that struck his mind had a roughly H-B-T shape and could have resonated with any of a dozen words with roughly that shape already known to him.

Legally, of course, it's a can of worms, as T.E. proposes, through its orcish army of lawyers, to claim proprietary status via law suit. This is why early on, D&D Hobbits become Halflings and Ents become Treants. A strong-arm tactic, in my opinion, and one that only serves to cast a shadow over the underlying issue: basically, might makes right. Even though JRRT didn't invent the word "hobbit" first, the court sided with SZC & Warner in the matter even though their claim was factually demolished by the Denham Tracts in evidence. My guess is their legal theory boiled down to "everyone knows Tolkien, but who's ever heard of Denham??"

They've gone after a number of establishments that use the word "hobbit" in their name as well, and almost always successfully.
In between... the consensus seems to be that ents are copyright, but that orcs aren't, even though both names are from old english and not really used since then. The key may be that Tolkien identifies his orcs as simply another word for goblins, and goblins are a pre-existing concept (although again, of course, modern goblins are mostly ripped from Tolkien, though his in turn are from MacDonald); whereas ents are all his own idea.
Indeed. Hence the complexity! Word vs concept; moneyed attorneys vs poor creative; the dark side & intellectual orcishness of all things Tolkien. orþanc lahwitena geweorc!

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Re: Overview of my Realm

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elemtilas wrote:
09 May 2020 20:49
You know this already: What makes Tolkien's Ents his own is what he did with the concept of a giant being; if you make your Ents your own concept of giant being, rather than just copy Tolkien's creation, then you have little to worry about.
My ents are pretty small in comparison and much more mobile it seems, most never get larger than 8ft and that was partly to keep them in the *medium* size category of D&D since they're a playable character race. The ones that do get larger I think become immobile sages who eventually just turn into regular trees. The biggest exception is Connirof, who appears as tall as the worlds tallest living tree, so whenever Connirof suddenly shrinks, people can get a lil upset. Of course Connirof can appear in many different forms since it's a divine being, but a super tall tree is the most common/recognizable one.[/quote]

Interesting!

Well, I for one will eagerly tune in to this thread to learn more about your ents and other folks you come up with! Hopefully you'll try to draw some pictures of them for us too!

Also, sorry for clogging your brand new thread with Tolkien legalism! It wasn't intentional! I've asked the mods to separate those posts. I think we just got carried away!

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Re: Conworlds and Copyright [Split topic from: Overview of my Realm]

Post by sangi39 »

This was pointed out to us, and I thought this was an interesting topic that arose early enough in EvanFyous' Overview of my Realm thread, that it might be worth splitting apart (it makes for a broader discussion of the topic, and it prevents the original thread from being derailed too much).
You can tell the same lie a thousand times,
But it never gets any more true,
So close your eyes once more and once more believe
That they all still believe in you.
Just one time.

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