How Dungeons & Dragons protect their IP as its popularity grows

How Dungeons & Dragons protect their IP as its popularity grows

Analysis: With the rise of role-playing games on the rise, how does a classic like Dungeons & Dragons protect their intellectual property rights?

Past Liam Sunner, Queen’s University Belfast

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in interest in table role-playing games. This has stemmed from many factors such as nostalgia, increased accessibility through structured events, song games and of course, Stranger Things.

The main recipient of this increase in popularity is Dungeons & Dragons (D&D or DnD), the largest and most well-known of these games. But with this increase in popularity, the wider public has often confused all forms of role-playing with Dungeons & Dragons, so it has become a shorthand for an entire medium.

What does this mean for the actual Dungeons & Dragons as a unit of intellectual property (IP) across different media formats?

“By aggressively protecting the prestige and value of the name, Dungeons & Dragons is unlikely to become a generic term”

First, there is the issue of gentrification of IP. This is where the proprietary term (trademark and trademark) becomes synonymous with the industry or service it provides. On the other hand, D&D publishers The wizards from the shores (WotC) are quite active in their protection against this, and often ensure that it is genuine Dungeons & Dragons and not a generic dice game when the wider media uses Dungeons & Dragons.

By aggressively protecting the name’s prestige and value, Dungeons & Dragons is unlikely to become a generic term.

However, it can still be used outside the protection afforded to WotC, even if this is subject to specific requirements and restrictions for permitted use and largely depends on the legal jurisdiction. This has led to some clever parodies or tributes.

We need your consent to upload this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage additional content that may set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their information and accept them to load the content.Manage settings

Secondly, the player base and society’s use of the protected material is an important element to discuss. This is important because unauthorized users’ use of the IP may lead to the termination of the right and has led to certain very aggressive attempts to protect an IP right in the past.

This is a more complex line to follow where there is significant community involvement. A clear example of this is the various live game shows or podcasts, where players use Dungeons & Dragons as a basis for their performance. Critical role is the most prominent, and uses the D&D system and IP to run long-form narrative productions. From a strict legal perspective, WotC may issue a legal warning to stop using and commercializing its IP. But when companies have done this before, the player community has looked at it quite negatively.

In addition, live shows and podcasts can generate a significant number of viewers and this acts as free advertising for D&D and acts as an intrusion or entrance. The IP holder will often allow such fan-driven work to continue provided that it does not risk the IP address either through inappropriate content, a significant deviation in tone or attempts to assert ownership of the fan-created work. Such fan-driven work can often lead to partnerships, as Wizards of the Coast has done with Critical Role.

We need your consent to upload this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage additional content that may set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their information and accept them to load the content.Manage settings

Finally, it is important to take a brief look at the IP behind the game itself. Other role-playing games, both past and present, can use similar mechanics, such as skills, or cause players to be attacked by orcs. Often this is about the copyrighted material, but it would only protect the expression of an idea and not the idea itself, ie it would protect how Dungeons & Dragons have written about the orcs in their environment but not the basic concept of orcs.

In addition, such fantasy elements are considered public property or free to use, subject to certain restrictions. As such, we can have orcs within Dungeons & Dragons and a myriad of other games and settings without conflict.

READ: The biggest lie online: why we ignore legal terms

READ: Colin the Caterpillar and the strange case of IP rights

From a gaming mechanical feel, WotC allows the use of The D20 system by third-party developers through Open gaming license. This allows other companies, subject to a license from WotC, to design and sell additional game material and indicate compatibility with the basic Dungeons & Dragons rules.

Examples of this often change the environment from fantasy to sci-fi or historical environments. Such a license has given rise to many alternative gaming options, including Pathfinderwhich some saw as a return to more traditional role-playing elements after unfavorable changes from the Wizards of the Coast.

Dr. Liam Sunner is a senior lecturer at the Department of Law at Queen’s University Belfast


The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ



#Dungeons #Dragons #protect #popularity #grows

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.