I'm working on a project to prepare roleplaying settings. We first wanted to make it for ourselves but we thought that if anyone wants to use it why not. We even thought further and figured that it might be nice to help one another with the settings and to be able to browse for ideas.

The question is: if we are writing a setting based on a book or a movie, will we have some sort of problems with copyright infringement? Where would this be stated?

I have seen wikis for different books and movies which is basically the same, so I was wondering if they had some rights or if it is actually no problem as long as it is non lucrative.

edit: I'm swiss and the server will be in switzerland too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ For those considering closing, questions about the law and role-playing games are, in many cases, on-topic. However, I think—and I'm not 100% positive about this—that this question may be improved by including your country of origin and the country where your intended Web servers will reside. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14 '17 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @heyicanchan - it matters little these days. Most of the time US law covers it. And when they don't you bet they have cooperation treatises. But did this Q gather any close votes? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mindwin
    Jul 14 '17 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mindwin Good to know, but if YannickSSE's in, like, one of the countries not on this list, the location may still be important… but, like I said, I honestly don't know. And, no, the question had not received any close votes yet, but law questions often do; it was a preemptive strike. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14 '17 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The folks at Law SE might be able to provide more exact details \$\endgroup\$
    – A.B.
    Jul 14 '17 at 16:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is the book/movie in question wholly Swiss in origin? Otherwise it may not be sufficient to consider only Swiss copyright law. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14 '17 at 16:57

Bold Letters Disclaimer: Stack is not a source for legal advice. The copyright lawyers can and will do whatever they fancy.

Derivative works must meet the criteria for fair use (References: stanford.edu - nolo.com) or you could face a lawsuit.

The four factors judges consider are:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.

There is a HUGE no-no: do not attempt to make money off a derivative work unless you have legal backing (i.e. hire a lawyer). This might mitigate the chances you get sued.

  1. Let's assume then you are creating your campaign for your own group's entertainment, or that you are going to make it available for free in the internet.

  2. Nature is almost aways moot. You are creating a derivative work of a copyrighted franchise. This one mostly fails. Also there are licensing issues. We are assuming you are not using a work with a copyleft licence (Creative Commons, GNU documentation, OGL, and so on).

  3. The amount. You should not be using large portions of the original work. Some references are ok, but it cannot for example contain the whole script of the movie. And most of the time, you should be using your own words to describe the settings instead of just copy-paste from the book or script. Think parody instead of plagiarism. Using images and screenshots of the works for mere illustration is also not good. See wikipedia on fair use and their policy.

  4. Economic impact. Would your product compete with an official campaign setting? Would people rather use your product than buying the official one? Would you make Ed Greenwood starve by releasing a FR atlas? This is subjective, but works both ways, and their lawyers are pretty damn good at lying proving their point in this matter.

So you should strive to meet criteria 1, 3, and 4, and probably nobody will send you a cease and desist letter.

As it clearly states on the first line, the copyright laywers can and might do sue you. What you can do is to make a case where you can claim fair use if you are ever brought to a court. The main issue as KRyan said, is if they are losing money (or even just losing a possible opportunity to make money).

There is no legal requirement or standard to meet before sending a C&D. They can send one on any grounds they like. You will only ever be tested on these conditions if you go to court and argue it in front of a judge—a very expensive proposition. (On the other hand, complying with a C&D letter, taking the material down, will probably be sufficient to get most copyright-holders off your case for something like this, limiting the amount of danger in this.) Also, whether or not you made money is really largely irrelevant—it’s whether they lost money. – KRyan


While I can't answer for the actual text - that falls under the 'don't give legal advice' rule - I can answer that best practice is to have a page linked to by a link named 'legal' and put the information there. You can see an example on any stack exchange site by scrolling down to the bottom of the page. Its the top row six or seven from the left.

This way, you have one place that is always consistent for any legal minutae that you need to have. I'd reccommend including the text of the OGL if you're going to include mechanics anywhere on the site for D&D of any stripe.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not what "legal advice" means. "Legal advice" is something much more closely approximating authoritative law interpretation in an attorney-client relationship. You can (and should) explain to the best of your knowledge how the law works, as long as you're not representing yourself as a lawyer while doing so. \$\endgroup\$
    – user17995
    Jul 14 '17 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having a page about legal minutiae has nothing to do with what the question is asking. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 14 '17 at 16:15

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