Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

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Big Mac
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Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Big Mac » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:19 am

James M. Ward just refuted the claims that TSR broke copyright law by including Melnibonean and Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods. Here is what he said:
James M. Ward on Facebook wrote:Deities & Demigods
I’m going to print this out once a year for the rest of my years. I absolutely hate it when ignorant people say TSR/me acted in copyright infringement for the Melnibonean and Lovecraft sections of the book.

When I was given the assignment for that book I listed the various pantheons that I wanted to use. Gary noted that maybe the Lovecraft and Elric sections might be a problem. He gave me the Arkham House and Michael Morcock addresses and I immediately wrote them explaining what I was doing and asking for their permission to include their material. Wonder of wonders I got two letters back giving me permission to use their work. I foolishly gave those two letters to the lawyers at TSR. They might still be in some lost file at Wizards. I would kill for them now.

Anyway we printed up the book and it sold great. We then got a cease and desist letter from Chaosium. I don’t blame them a bit, however they didn’t know about the two letters. TSR would have won a court case hands down. However, the company wasn’t rich at that point and Brian Blume didn’t want to go to California, get a California lawyer, and spend time and money winning the case.

I went nuts because I had done way more than I was supposed to in clearing the way for those two licenses used in the book I wrote. I even offered to write two more pantheons free of charge, but the Blumes didn’t want to bother. I fumed for years.

Now, when people talk on line about TSR in copyright violation it presses my maximum angry button. Maybe some of my facebook friends can pass along this word as time goes on so that my blood pressure levels can stay in the normal range.

Now this might seem like a rant and it is. However, when people say TSR was in infringement they are calling me a plagiarizer. I consider myself a very honorable man. I would never, ever steal material that was not my own. I will not put up with that moniker. Thanks for listening.
As James said he would appreciate a bit of signal boost, I think he will be OK with me quoting him here.

This certainly is interesting. I would love to see copies of those letters too. They should probably be in a museum somewhere. I wonder if James had one-off permission or if those letters would have authorised further Lovecraft and Elric content in later D&D books.
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:54 am

Michael Moorcock despises Chaosium, since they behaved for decades as if they were the lawful owners of his work in all RPG contexts, even licencing it out to third parties without telling him, despite never paying him a dime. He feels like he was tricked; when he gave them permission to make a game, he had no idea they would make it a franchise, or that they would threaten to sue other companies that he offered the same deal to.

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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Big Mac » Sat Oct 28, 2017 12:34 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:Michael Moorcock despises Chaosium, since they behaved for decades as if they were the lawful owners of his work in all RPG contexts, even licencing it out to third parties without telling him, despite never paying him a dime. He feels like he was tricked; when he gave them permission to make a game, he had no idea they would make it a franchise, or that they would threaten to sue other companies that he offered the same deal to.
Sounds like he is accusing them of being a "copyright troll". Have they actually taken anyone to court over this? I'd be interested to know what a Judge would say about a dispute over Michael Moorcock's right to licence his own work.
Last edited by Big Mac on Sat Oct 28, 2017 4:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 2:18 pm

From what I understand, Moorcock believed Chaosium was legally in the right but morally in the wrong. Anyway, eventually Chaosium went out of business and he made a new deal with Mongoose.
Last edited by ripvanwormer on Sat Oct 28, 2017 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Dread Delgath » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:33 pm

Chaosium is out of business? I just got a newsletter from them in my inbox. I get one every month or so. :?
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Angel Tarragon » Sat Oct 28, 2017 3:47 pm

It was a rumor that the debt amounted in putting out the current edition of CoC would put the business flat out on its back, but they did get bailed out...so they are still in business.

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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 6:01 pm

Out of the Moorcock business, anyway. Which I realize is completely different. Sorry, I overstepped and made an assumption I shouldn't have, possibly because it was early in the morning and I had no coffee or possibly because my brains are turning into hot garbage, or both. Michael Moorcock's own message boards are down but this thread from 2007 on the Mongoose boards alludes to what must have been a very contentious discussion over there.

Anyway, Chaosium hasn't had the RPG rights to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series for about ten years now. It sounds like they might have been shamed out of them, but I should be more careful about talking about a subject I don't have much knowledge of. I imagine there might have been more than one side to the story.

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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Falconer » Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:12 pm

Ward’s account is only part of the story. After TSR received the C&D letters from Chaosium…
…the two companies sat down to talk. Eventually, they agreed that TSR could continue printing the books with the two mythoi as is, on the condition that a note be added to the preface: ‘Special thanks are also given to Chaosium, Inc. for permission to use the material found in the Cthulhu Mythos and the Melnibonean Mythos.’ [This note can be see in the Second printing.]

When the time for a Third printing came, the Blume brothers decided that a TSR book should not contain such a prominent reference to one of their competitors. They decided to remove the two mythoi, and thus the need for the note. Source
So the real reason they were ultimately removed was not even from legal pressure; just a small-minded business decision on the part of the Blumes.
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Dread Delgath » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:34 am

ripvanwormer wrote:Out of the Moorcock business, anyway. Which I realize is completely different. Sorry, I overstepped and made an assumption I shouldn't have, possibly because it was early in the morning and I had no coffee or possibly because my brains are turning into hot garbage, or both. Michael Moorcock's own message boards are down but this thread from 2007 on the Mongoose boards alludes to what must have been a very contentious discussion over there.

Anyway, Chaosium hasn't had the RPG rights to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series for about ten years now. It sounds like they might have been shamed out of them, but I should be more careful about talking about a subject I don't have much knowledge of. I imagine there might have been more than one side to the story.
Hey, no worries! :cool: As an expert at putting both feet in my mouth on occasion, I am completely sympathetic. :lol:

If you meant that Chaosium is no longer printing Eternal Champion, then that's another thing altogether. I wish that I had had the opportunity to pick up Eternal Champion or Stormbringer, but, I believe that the last time I saw any of those titles was back in the 90's, and sorely, I was not interested in them, probably because I didn't know anyone who played.
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by willpell » Sun Oct 29, 2017 1:28 am

I'm not sure that any of Lovecraft's creations were copyrighted anyway. HPL was famously not interested in keeping his creations to himself; he preferred to actively encourage others to use his creations, creating what may have been the first shared universe in fiction, because it would lend greater verisimilitude to his work. It's possible Derleth et al felt differently and were more business-minded, so the copyright may exist, but it has to have some loopholes or something, because nobody ever sent Robert Bloch a C&D over his sequel to "The Haunter of the Dark".

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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by Cthulhudrew » Sun Oct 29, 2017 8:26 pm

willpell wrote: It's possible Derleth et al felt differently and were more business-minded, so the copyright may exist, but it has to have some loopholes or something, because nobody ever sent Robert Bloch a C&D over his sequel to "The Haunter of the Dark".
It's... complicated. As you surmise, copyright was not really a concern of HPL's, but was of Derleth, and so there are some works that at least nominally appear to have been copyrighted, and Arkham House has (at least from what I have heard) pursued copyright claims at times against certain publishers, and maintains some kind of licensing arrangement with Cthulhu Mythos works, but it is definitely not clear cut, and there are arguably at least a few works that are public domain at this point (in the US; I think most if not all are public domain in Europe).
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Re: Melnibonean/Lovecraft content in Deities & Demigods

Post by genghisdon » Fri Nov 10, 2017 11:38 pm

I knew all this, but yes, it needs repeating so as to penetrate the misinformation fog cloud out there

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