It was an eventful Monday for Wizards of the Coast. First, the company discontinued all sales of its products in PDF form, through sites such as DriveThruRPG and Paizo.com. The same day that WotC took its digital product marbles and went home, the company filed suit against eight defendants, in the United States, Poland and the Philippines, for copyright infringement of the Player’s Handbook 2 (released last month). According to the lawsuit, the defendants allegedly engaged in the illegal distribution of electronic copies of the PHB2 through file sharing websites.
Wizards of the Coast press release follows:
WIZARDS OF THE COAST SUES EIGHT FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT
April 6, 2009 — Wizards of the Coast LLC today filed three lawsuits in US District Court for the Western District of Washington against eight individuals, including named defendants located in the United States, Poland and the Philippines, for copyright infringement of its recently-released Dungeons & Dragons® Player’s Handbook® 2. The lawsuits allege that the defendants illegally distributed the Player’s Handbook 2 via free file-sharing websites and that these illicit uploads resulted in a substantial number of lost sales and lost revenue to Wizards of the Coast.
“Violations of our copyrights and piracy of our products hurt not only Wizards of the Coast’s financial health but also the health of whole gaming community including retailers and players,” said Greg Leeds, President of Wizards of the Coast. “We have brought these suits to stop the illegal activities of these defendants, and to deter future unauthorized and unlawful file-sharing.”
The complaint alleges, among other things, that one or more of the defendants purchased digital copies of Player’s Handbook 2 and then illegally posted the copies onto popular file-sharing sites for free access and download by the general public.
Wizards of the Coast is the leader in entertaining the lifestyle gamer. The company holds an exclusive patent on trading card games (TCGs) and their method of play and produces the premier trading card game, MAGIC: THE GATHERING®, among many other trading card games and family card and board games. Wizards is also a leading publisher of roleplaying games, such as DUNGEONS & DRAGONS®, and publisher of fantasy series fiction with numerous New York Times best-sellers. For more information, visit the Wizards of the Coast website at www.wizards.com.
Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons & Dragons, Player’s Handbook, and Magic: The Gathering are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. © 2009 Wizards
Although there are a ton of mixed feeling about this, I envy WotC for its efforts in one sense: they are trying to go after these jack asses that illegally posted the books in question. I publish “small press” PDFs on rpgnow.com and have watched my product purchased once then placed for free distribution, usually netting 3-5 times the number of downloads from the illegal sites that it receives through legal channels. On the one hand, I do subscribe to the notion that the illegal downloads are probably not lost sales–these are people who wouldn’t take it if it wasn’t free, essentially, but I do feel that the process is dramatically cheapening the intellectual value of any effort at all to provide content on the web. My next major book project will be print only because of my own experiences. I’d rather 50 people buy a physical copy and enjoy it than 500 people snag an illegal pdf online and then get upset because they can’t get more free product from other individuals who have no respect for the original author or creator of that product.
Anyway, good luck to WotC. I know the paying fan base is irritated (I’m one of them) that the PDFs are not available any more (legally) but at some point, somewhere, someoneone in the internet receiving audience needs to own up to the fact that apparently most of the online community are a bunch of thieves who can’t control themselves given the chance.
Separating this incident from the restriction of PDF sales through third-party vendors like Paizo, the backlash to this incident from the gaming community I found to be both ignorant and offensive. They’re a company and no matter how hard people try to rationalize file sharing, it’s stealing. They are wholly justified in this pursuit and I support them wholeheartedly.
I may throw my lot behind ninjas just to prove my point. Piracy = bad.
Hey, I make and sell PDFs too but cutting off your nose to spite your face isn’t exactly a wise move either. You’ve now eliminated your product from a market and guess what? If you can’t get it legally… you’re going to get it one way or the other. Its their choice to make this move but they should also be aware of the consequences of doing so.
I think it’s sad that if the PDFs are unavailable then people are automatically assumed to gravitate toward illegal file sharing and duplication. As a small press publisher, the idea that my product will automatically be illegally downloaded if I do not provide pdfs seems ridiculous, almost akin to the “better pay the ransom to get the hostages back” argument. In the end….if this is true, why would I want to sell to a bunch of thugs and criminals? I personally prefer to think that at least some percentage of the internet crowd, specifically the legal purchasers, would not stoop to illegal downloading if they can’t get their fix. But maybe James S. is right, which would be unfortunate.
Just as an aside. I am one of those who WILL NOT download them illegally.
Declining to sell PDFs if they’re going to be pirated is certainly one option. Another is to explore other media and other models for making money on content. WotC probably has that in mind, although I have very little faith left in their ability to execute competently on those ideas.
Let me clarify my previous statement –
Selling PDFs and then taking your ball and going home is not a wise move. You made noise about offering your product electronically and you’ve created a market for people willing to pay for your product electronically. And then you take a proverbial dump on your customers because of EIGHT cases of piracy. You’ve now told the people who like (or, hell, PREFER) the PDF that the only option they have is to buy a book.
How long is it going to be before the DM who has to travel is now going to have to lug along half a bookcase of 4E books with him because that is the only option available to him now.
It honestly sounds like they were just looking for an excuse if you ask me.
And, Mike? Yeah. Totally agreed. I mean we only have to look at that marvelous “digital initiative” and the fruits it has born (end sarcasm)
The pirates who bought the book as personalized PDFs and then shared them online are dumbasses to begin with and deserve to be sued. I’m not against pirating though – As a writer, or musician you should know how people are. If you leave it out in the open some will take it. So, if you put your stuff online then you should expect it to be spread all over the place. Don’t want it spread around, don’t up it online. Simple as that. Personally, if I enjoy a book I read as a PDF then I’ll go out and buy the hard copy. I’m actually blowing lots of money right now on out-of-print game books because I found a PDF of them, read it, enjoyed it and now searching high and low for the real thing. I’d rather read the hardcopy anyway. Wizards should also understand that their latest product line technically sucks – 4th ed is garbage – and their trash is also overpriced. It should come to no surprise that it’s not selling online and everyone is stealing it because they don’t want to spend their hard earned cash on crap.