Games Workshop LLC, the largest and most known company in the miniature wargame industry, has taken legal action against several well-known, much-loved, and oft-visited wargaming Blogs. The big question is, is this a "final blow," or merely a "first volley"?
On April 16th, Apocalypse40k was served with a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) notice, informing them that an article recently submitted on their blog had been an infringement of the company's Copyright protections. According to Alec at Apoc40k, when this occurred, the offending article was removed from publication automatically, sent to his "drafts" folder, and he was sent a notice as to the reasoning for this. As he states:
"I then deleted it because, though I find Games Workshop legal overbearing and meglomaniacal, if I step over the IP line, I am happy to comply. And of course, the fact is I am an attorney by training (I don't practice) so I know when they have a case."
The copy of that DMCA order can be viewed here. Apoc40k has since returned to their normal state of affairs, reporting on the games we all know and love.
On April 22nd, Faeit212 was served with a similar DMCA notice, which you can find here. Now, the Great and Pwwerful Naftka is a well-known "rumor monger", or at least a collection of such, and this is not the first DMCA notice he's received from Games Workshop. He is also, however, arguably their largest proponent in the blogosphere, generally supporting every move made by GW- even when against him. Faeit212 is currently listed by blogger as "removed." As I know he's currently travelling, it's a bit too early to know the final outcome of this. If Blogger has indeed received several DMCA warnings, they are within rights (and indeed, it states so in their T&C) to suspend or remove blogs. The timing of all this is... unfortunate. It is possible that the blog is not "dead," but merely "content stored and pulled" until such time as Naftka gets back in contact with Blogger, agrees to play nice, and accepts a slap on the wrist. It is also possible Blogger (or their parent company Google) decided it was not worth themselves potentially facing legal action, and will not be reinstating the blog. We'll try to keep you updated.
On April 22nd, the frontp age for Bell of Lost Souls. Larry Vela, the owner of BoLS, claims that the problem is a "Google IT issue." Larry posted the following on his forum:
A formal heads up.
We are working with Blogger to figure out what's up with the frontpage.
The domain is fine, and the Lounge is (obviously) in fine shape.
We are still proceeding under the impresison that we are dealing with an internal Google IT issue.
We have received no takedown requests, or any emails from any parties regarding any IP related issues.
We are treating this outage as out top priority and working on it round the clock.
I can not speak to the outages of any 3rd party sites, or the timing involved with them.
Thanks and feel free to visit the Lounge even more in the hours ahead.
What you choose to read into the timing of these events is of your choosing. It is possible that they are non-related. It is possible that Larry is concealing notices for the smoother operation of his business and a less hate-spewing forum to deal with- not entirely a bad business decision.
The known facts of the matter are these: Games Workshop LLC has stepped up their enforcement of their IP claims. [You will note we show no GW properties on our blog... we're one of the few that play by their rules, specifically because as a blog tailoring to "non-GW interests" we wish to make sure we avoid any legal entanglements.] Brother Tyler of Bolter and Chainsword sums it up well with his statement on the matter:
"How will GW's new approach affect the B&C and our discussion of rumors? Members need to be aware of what GW will and will not allow with regard to rumor discussion at non-GW websites, and it seems that this is especially focused on imagery and things that pre-emptively confirm rumors (before GW officially announces them). A review of the recent complaints that GW submitted reveals that they didn't "take sites down." Rather, they formally requested that those sites remove certain material. How those sites reacted was a decision of the site owners, and I won't speculate on the reasons for the different actions taken. I have no doubt that the Bolter & Chainsword will be in receipt of similar requests in the future. If/when that happens, you can expect us to remove the material in question immediately, adding an explanation (something along the lines of "material removed by request of Games Workshop"). If we see things that we think GW might complain about there is a possibility that the mods will temporarily close/remove topics/posts so that we can discuss them in order to determine if we need to clean house before GW makes an official complaint. This doesn't mean that we'll automatically kill all rumor-mongering, but we will act in a prudent manner in order to protect the site. The range of what GW will/will not allow is somewhat vague right now, so we might seem a little overzealous at first; but once we figure out the limitations, our actions will be scaled back as much as possible in order to allow the full range of GW-allowed rumor-mongering. I don't see us enacting any disciplinary action when members post material that GW doesn't want to see released early, especially not as we are all figuring things out. Once the pattern has been established and it becomes clear what is and is not allowed, however, we may see the posting of prohibited material (as in GW doesn't want others to post it early) result in disciplinary action if it is clear to us that the member knowingly violated the rules (because we will make this as clear as possible in our own site rules, again, to protect the site).
GW is changing the rules of the game, so to speak, and we will do our best to observe those rules (whether we like them or not).
Only time will tell what further affect (if any) this has on the blogs. I know if a certain well-written chap in the Great Northwest wanted to submit an article for us about Dark Age, we wouldn't turn it down.
One last note: Anybody that turns this into a "Rawr GW sucks" diatribe in comments, expect your comments removed. This blog is not the place for those commentss- there's enough places in the interwebz for those conversations. The reason this was reported was that while we generally prefer to keep a "positive spin" on our hobby in LXG (and as such, our avoidance of discussing GW), journalistic integrity required that we discuss this very newsworthy topic.
EDIT: Larry Vela, owner of BoLS, has released an official statement:
Thanks for the concern and the kind words,
As you can tell, the BoLS frontpage is down and we are actively working the issue.
We are working this issue up the chain with Google via multiple channels and making plans to avoid any such service interruptions in the future. BoLS has not received any IP notices, DMCA alerts, or violations from anyone, so at this moment we are still treating this as an IT issue on Google's side, but it is looking mighty suspicious by the hour. I'll let you all connect the dots.
There is a possibility that BoLS temporarily got caught in the crossfire between GW and other 3rd party blogger sites - we shall see.
In the meantime, all your favorite writers, are submitting their columns as new threads on the Lounge and we will be getting out links to them via Facebook, Google+, etc... Your BoLS content isn't going anywhere and if you poke around you will find lots more.
We will be back fullly operational shortly - My first priority is ensuring that BoLS keeps on delivering the news on all the game systems we cover to the wargaming community and we will do so, come Hell or high water (or any other bad actors)...
We will be moving to a more robust and secure blogging platform in the weeks ahead. We simply cannot allow this type of potential danger from 3rd parties to endanger BoLS ever again.
For our fans and readers - we love delivering the news and opinion on our beloved hobby to you day in and day out, and have been for over 7 years. Please stand with us during these trying times and tell your friends. Blog about us, and enjoy the BoLS Lounge where your favorite authors will be publishing during this time of need, and we will be back shortly.
Best regards and my deepest thanks,
We now return you to your regularly scheduled wargaming.