Wizards of the Coast ends PDF sales entirely, files copyright lawsuit

wotc-logo Found via my friend Alexander “Zamiel” Williams’s LiveJournal: it seems that Paizo’s loss of PDF sale rights is not due to any disagreement with Wizards of the Coast’s new on-line sale policies after all. In a move that could charitably be described as “puzzling,” Wizards of the Coast has decided to stop selling PDFs on-line entirely, citing piracy concerns.

This makes just about as much sense as J.K. Rowling’s famous piracy-driven refusal to authorize any electronic editions of her Harry Potter novels. In both cases, the “pirated” copies circulating on-line come not from authorized versions, but from people scanning in the dead-tree book. The Wizards PDFs are watermarked with the names of their purchasers, and only a terminally dumb person would put such self-incriminating documents on the pirate networks.

In Zamiel’s LiveJournal entry, he points out that a number of independently-published role-playing games have started putting blurbs in their books asking people who obtain copies illicitly to send them some money or buy a legitimate copy if they like it.

I approve of that. It treats criminals like customers. People do as they’re believed to, very often. Treat a customer like a thief and he’ll take off your table with a disgruntled hiss until he can steal you blind. Treat a thief like a customer and they’ll buy as much as they can afford to. For life.

Meanwhile, Wizards of the Coast has also filed suit for copyright infringement against 8 people in the United States, Poland, and the Philippines for allegedly uploading its new Player’s Handbook 2 onto peer-to-peer networks. Hopefully that works out better for Wizards than the music industry’s lawsuits have for them.

Some believe that PDF sales account for as much as 20% of total RPG sales, and Wizards was one of the biggest sellers of that market segment. That’s a lot of money for Wizards to leave on the table. But Wizards is not necessarily entirely abandoning it. According to the ICV2 article:

WotC is apparently not ruling out digital delivery of its products using a different format or model. “We are exploring other options for digital distribution of our content,” the spokesperson said.

Which undoubtedly means DRM. Good luck with that, too, Wizards; you’ll never keep gamers down on the DRM farm after they’ve seen the bright lights of unencrypted PDF. They’ll say, “Forget that” and download an illicit, scanned-from-dead-tree PDF version, and Wizards won’t see a penny.

4 Comments on Wizards of the Coast ends PDF sales entirely, files copyright lawsuit

  1. Dave Robinson // April 7, 2009 at 7:27 am //

    And what are they going to do about Dungeon and Dragon magazines which are now PDF-only?

    IDIOTS

  2. Good question about the PDFs of “DRAGON”.

    The hypocrisy of this behemoth is amazing.

    WoTC brazenly violated the copyrights of hundreds of artists (myself included) that they ripped off when they reproduced all of the DRAGON magazine issues on CDROM several years ago, WITHOUT PAYING THE ARTISTS FOR NEW USAGE/PUBLICATION AS THEY WERE CONTRACTUALLY BOUND TO DO and even though they were ASKED TO DO SO (under contracts negotiated, originally, with TSR–so either they should’ve honored the contracts, or they are guilty of theft of intellectual property and copyright infringement at the very least–hundreds of times over).

    But they have money and lawyers, and plenty of people willing to keep buying their products, enabling them to do whatever they want to do and shaft whoever they want to shaft.

  3. Ironically enough, I am a former Wizards of the Coast employee and avid gamer. I have been a consumer of their products for roughly two decades now, since I was roughly 8, with their acuquired TSR Properties.

    Suffice to say, I have some insight. This is very reminiscent of the flailing practices of a corporate license whose owners have no idea what to do with. “Puzzling” is far too charitable. However, like the Microsoft Business model, with built in obsolescence and brute force being the key, Hasbro can continue to do as it likes with its intellectual property, despite critique from all sides.

    Filesharing is going to become MORE of a problem, not less with these policies. Many hope that through this novice ineptitude with a market it increasingly fails to understand, Hasbro will in its ignorance declare their Wizards acquisition or at least D&D specifically a “failed venture” and sell it to more capable hands.

    Given the gross ignorance and shortsideness in question, I think it far more likely they will cling to the property and sink the ship to the depths of economic jeopardy.

    That being said, the 3.0 and 3.5 editions of the game, under their old open game license, will allow publishers like Paizo to continue as they are, selling updated and customized settings.

    As usual with industry-related practices of the “gaming” niche, there are those who can create content, such as Monte Cook with Malhavoc and Paizo with their Pathfinder editions and tons of other independent publishers, and then there are those who simply sling some money around to buy a franchise, and thus with ownership, believe they know better how to appeal to consumers of an extremely mishandled product and market.

    I think the coming years are going to show us very interesting developments in the economic crisis and the value of intellectual property and DRM, and who is really going to support which corporate culture.

  4. i was just wondering if this is the same publishing company who did the hallowmere series by tiffany trent?

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