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Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons, "No" to any use of Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer or other helping services.

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 21, 2017 06:45 PM, last modified Jun 22, 2017 06:42 PM
After years of trying to get any kind of response, the only one we could get for using D&D publicly, was "No" to any use by our company, RPG Therapeutics, or The RPG Research Project, or The Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer, and all of our community endeavors, including charity, special needs populations, brain injury recovery, veterans, Autism Spectrum, etc. Hopefully this is just a Tier 1 Support issue. But we just can't get a hold of a human being to speak to. Here is what has happened far...
Anyone suggest someone I can talk to about resolving this?

Wizards of the Coast Customer Support Email about our using Dungeons & Dragons: "No" to everything.

I would rather not have to tell all our clients, "Don't use D&D in your facility, or they might sue you". While Intellectual Property law is somewhat clearer with normal books, role-playing games are unusual in that they are DESIGNED TO BE SHARED WITH OTHERS DURING THE ACTIVITY. They are frequently shared/used in public venues, including venues that people must pay to attend, whether as a charity event or a for-profit organization's event, and without any explicit license from Wizards. Are all these organizations and individuals technically in violation of fair use of D&D? The question is, how far is the limit of sharing this shared activity? The activity is dead without sharing (except Choose Your Own Adventure books and solo modules). We're not talking about making derivative books here, or getting branding licensing to use their logo, or even asking for any kind of endorsement, etc. We are talking about providing RPG sessions, which sometimes the participants are paying to be involved in the activity, and might be run by individuals or by a charity of for-profit business.
 
This is critically important and of interest to anyone involved in the development of professional Role-Playing Gaming endeavors. We use many RPG systems for our many programs. We have been trying for years to get any kind of answer about using D&D for all the many things we do with RPGs,( http://www.rpgresearch.com -- http://www.rpgtrailer.com -- http://www.rpgtherapeutics.com ) including research and both free and billable services for training on how to play an RPG, using RPGs in the classroom, using RPGs for therapeutic goals, etc. We use, and teach people to use, many RPGs.
 
We were strongly considering "standardizing" on 5e as the base platform for our research projects, and for introducing people to RPGs. We've been using our own, and other's systems previously.
 
We thought this might be helpful to others, and to WotC, because of the availability for clients to easily buy the books and such.
Easy enough for us to use other products (we like TOR RPG, MERP, and many others), as well as our own systems developed over the decades, We have usually recommended other products, but we thought we would do the industry a favor in adding their product to the list of products to consider by in the future possibly recommending them at conferences, conventions, training seminars, and of course our clients, to use D&D 5e. One in King County alone claims to have around 70,000 to 80,000 youth they provide services to, and we are soon going to be training their staff in role-playing gaming...
 
As I have done for years, I will lay continue to out the pros and cons to clients about the different RPG options, including D&D.
 
Most of our clients buy exactly what we recommend. We don't actually sell any physical products by the way.
 
We're not asking about branding, or endorsement, or making any physical products. Only services. Much like folks paying for technology training classes on how to use Windows, Mac, or Linux on their computer, for example. (Btw, I've been running Linux personally since 1993).
 
I think this is more about not being able to get past Tier 1 email staff, I believe WotC's staff would have a more useful response.... if could just get through to someone to speak with...
 
After spending hours trying to get through by phone and never getting an answer, or the queue ever coming down from "there are more than 10 people waiting in the queue", and their system immediately hanging up if you choose the "provide your phone number and we will call you back" feature, and through email using their web form via our registered user account, we can't seem to get past their Tier 1 Customer Service email scripts, and they won't engage in any kind of conversation. In fact, until this week, we never received any response, and to my amusement their own records show that, from a 2014 request I sent with basically the same questions, never received a reply, but they tagged as "resolved" this January 2017. :-)
 
We finally received an email this week that stated they will NOT ALLOW ANY use of their intellectual property for ANY services by us.
 
"Thank you for contacting Wizards of the Coast. You have received this email in response to your request to use certain Wizards’ intellectual property. While we appreciate your enthusiasm, we will not grant you permission to use our intellectual property at this time." "we determined that we will not grant you permission to use our intellectual property for your requested purpose. While you may be disappointed, we hope that you can respect our decision."
 
Their second part of their (probably pasted script) response is more cryptic, "I must also inform you that we do not comment on the use of our intellectual property by other parties." Not sure what they mean there at all, not sure how it fits the context of our email.
 
No explanation as to why, or which of the many areas they would prefer we not use their products.
 
They did NOT at all clarify which uses were not okay, and which are still okay under normal use. We provided a long list of free, charity, and billable services. At this point, their email makes it look like we cannot use their products for any of our endeavors in any shape or form, including free or charity! I hope that is just a mistake of a lowly tier 1 support person.
Until now, our client base has been small enough to not be overly worried about such issues, but we now have a large number of client organizations waiting for us to train them in providing services using role-playing games. For example one client services more than 70,000+ clients themselves. When larger sums of money become involved, I wanted some clear boundaries established in advance, so that we can make informed business decisions and reduce the risk of third parties suing to get "their cut".
 
This WotC response makes it difficult to recommend their products, especially those clients with ongoing support contracts, since we wouldn't be allowed to provide support to the clients, when they have questions if it is D&D related.
 
If we can't get through to a human being at WotC, that can clarify better, and we're stuck on the record with them providing a blanket "no to everything", without any explanation as to the limits, we will have no choice but to recommend, use, and support other products exclusively, rather than giving clients a wider choice.
 
I emailed back once again asking for further clarification as to what the actual boundaries are.
 
I will keep trying to get through to a human being for a discussion with someone at WotC. I have only gotten through to Shelly Mazzanoble voicemail so far. Hopefully she, or someone, will find time in what I'm sure is a very busy schedule, to actually speak with me to help clear things up.
 
Anyone have any recommendations on anyone else I should try to get through to?
 
Thanks!
-Hawke

List of Use Cases Needing Clarification

All of the following use cases I, or people I know, have been involved with, and need clarification from Wizards about which are fair use, which cross the line, which will never be allowed period, and which could be allowed with a license agreement.
The question for each is:
  • Is this allowed (under their fair use or other terms) with purchase of the book(s)?
  • Not allowed at all?
  • Allowed only with special permission/license beyond purchase of the books?
If we are able to get any clear answers, I hope to update the list below so that others will be able to cross reference what they are doing to see if they are in the "Safe zone" legally, or not. I think I will color code them to with green (yes, no problem), yellow (only with permission or certain circumstances), and red (no permission at all unless explicit written permission provided directly to you to do so).
  • As an individual, I run D&D games in my home with my friends. I do not charge for their participation. - This is definitely allowed.
  • As an individual, I run D&D games in my home with my friends. I DO charge for their participation ($1+ each person per session). - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I run D&D game sessions at my local game store, with strangers joining. I do NOT charge for participation.- Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I run D&D sessions at my local game store, with strangers joining. I DO charge for participation ($1+ each person per session). - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, I have my employees run D&D games at my store. The employees are paid, but the participants are not charged. I just hope they will buy the products to make up for the expense. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, I have my employees run D&D games at my store. The employees are paid, but the participants ARE charged to join the game ($1+ per person per session). - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I am running a D&D game at a convention, and the convention is paying me to do so. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a not-for-profit convention, we are have either volunteers or paid staff running D&D games. We receive money for the convention, and some of that is paid to the GMs. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a for-profit convention, we have paid staff running D&D games. We receive money, and make a profit, from the convention, and the GMs are paid. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide free D&D game sessions to children at the local library for free. These are not my friends, and I advertise what I do. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I have been asked by the local library to provide D&D game sessions to children, and the library pays me to do so. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D game sessions to children at the local library, and charge for it and advertise this service. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games at a local rehabilitation facility (brain injury), I do so as a volunteer, assisting the paid Therapeutic Recreation Specialists, this is as a not-for-profit care facility. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games at a local rehabilitation facility (brain injury), doing so as a paid employee of the facility, this is a not-for-profit facility. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games at a local rehabilitation facility (brain injury), doing so as a paid employee of the facility, this is a FOR-profit facility. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games as therapy to clients, doing so for free at my own office. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games as therapy to clients, doing so for free at various free/public locations. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games as therapy to clients, charging clients for the activity, doing so at my office(s). - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D games as therapy to clients, I use a mobile accessible facility to provide this activity. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a non-profit organization, we provide D&D games as therapy to clients, and do not charge them for this activity. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a not-for-profit organization, we provide D&D games as therapy to clients, and we charge them (or their insurance) for this activity to cover costs, we do not pay the Game Masters or other staff. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a FOR-profit organization, we provide D&D games as therapy to clients, and we charge them (or their insurance), we do not pay the Game Masters or other staff. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a FOR-profit organization, we provide D&D games as therapy to clients, and we charge them (or their insurance) for this activity, and we pay the Game Masters and other staff. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D as skill building tools to clients, doing so for free at various free locations around town. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D as skill building tools to clients, doing so for free at either their house or mine. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide D&D as skill building tools to clients, I charge them for this service. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, we provide free D&D game sessions to children at the local library/school/park/church/office for free. These are not our friends, and we advertise what we do. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, we provide free D&D game sessions to children at the local library, and the library/school/park/church/office pays us to do so. The participants are not charged. These are not our friends, and we advertise what we do. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, we provide free D&D game sessions to children at the local library, and we charge the library/school/park/church/office a fee for the service, the participants are not charged. These are not our friends, and we advertise what we do. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, we provide free D&D game sessions to children at the local library/school/park/church/office for a fee, charged directly to the participants. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. I am not paid for speaking, and the event does not charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a not-for-profit organization, we speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. We are not paid for speaking, and the event does not charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As a not-for-profit organization, we speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. We ARE paid for speaking, but the event does not charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. I am not paid for speaking, BUT the event DOES charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an organization, we speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. We are NOT paid for speaking, BUT the event DOES charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I speak at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, talking about role-playing games, including D&D. I am paid for speaking, and the event does charge participants to attend their conference. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide training at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, I teach the participants how to play D&D. I am not paid for speaking/teaching, and the event does not charge participants to attend their event. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide training at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, I teach the participants how to play D&D. I am not paid for speaking/teaching, BUT the event DOES charge participants to attend their event. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I provide training at professional conferences in the healthcare industry, I teach the participants how to play D&D. I am not paid for speaking/teaching, and the event does not charge participants to attend their event. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
  • As an individual, I perform research using D&D, studying the effects of the games upon the participants. This research is provided free off charge, and published for free, and I am not paid for the research or publication. - Is this allowed? Not allowed at all? Allowed only with special permission/license?
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