are Kobolds public domain?

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  • DaWaterRatDaWaterRat Posts: 1,555
    edited December 1969

    When White Wolf was supporting their fan sites, they at least had the courtesy to distinguish between (for example) talking about the Verbena plant, which wasn't related at all to their copyright, and talking about a Verbena Mage, which they would consider a derivative work, since Verbena as a type of Mage was covered by their copyright. Or something like that. I haven't needed to look at those pages in years, and I'm pretty sure they aren't on the site anymore anyway.

    Early White Wolf was especially bad about just picking things on the "coolness" factor.

  • ZaarinZaarin Posts: 385
    edited December 1969

    Jay_NOLA said:
    A couple of other companies aside from WOTC have tried to copyright and claim ownership of words that are public domain. White Wolf and FASA are two that come to mind. In White Wolf's case many of the names that the writers assigned to things are nowhere close to what they word is actually meant to convey if you start researching it. I've spoken to several of the people who designed games, supplements, etc.for White Wolf about this and they admit to misusing the words and giving things a certain name just because it sounded cool.

    Some companies and individuals will also just file lawsuits even knowing that the term or concept is public domain in attempt to bully a person to make changes to a product, cease publication, or try and get financial gain.

    Todd McFarlane threatened legal action against Paladium books for releasing an RPG called Nightspawn, which has no relation to the Spawn comics. Paladium ended up changing the name of the RPG to Nightbane because they didn't want to have to deal with legal fees and going to court, even though McFarlane would have lost if it had gone to court.

    John Banville in 1971 wrote a novel called Nightspawn by the way too, long before Todd McFarlane created Spawn.

    One friend of mine is involved right now in a federal legal dispute for a book and the plaintiff is claiming ownership over things related to myth and folklore that can be gotten from Wikipedia and other public domain sources. The use of the word loup-garou is one of the things in that case.


    Bethesda also tried to sue the company that made Minecraft for releasing a game called Scrolls. Sorry, Bethesda, but making The Elder Scrolls does not mean you own the word "scroll." ^_^

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,215
    edited December 1969

    according to Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/320790/kobold

    kobold, in German folklore, mischievous household spirit who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons. He is temperamental and becomes outraged when he is not properly fed. He sometimes sings to children.

  • ZaarinZaarin Posts: 385
    edited December 1969

    according to Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/320790/kobold

    kobold, in German folklore, mischievous household spirit who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons. He is temperamental and becomes outraged when he is not properly fed. He sometimes sings to children.


    Essentially identical to an English brownie/boggart.

  • StorytellerStoryteller Posts: 80
    edited December 1969

    I use Kobolds in one of my games. they are hairy, dog like goblins. they are very common in my mock-asian country and wear a lot of wooden armor and use crude weapons. they are semi-intelligent and like in matriarchal burrows on dens. they are not afraid of water and have sailed to almost every country. they are less destructive than goblins but more feral. they rarely exceed 4 feet in height.

    Im pretty sure you can use the word and extrapolate on it yourself.

  • RCTSpankyRCTSpanky Posts: 550
    edited September 2012

    Zaarin said:
    according to Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/320790/kobold

    kobold, in German folklore, mischievous household spirit who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons. He is temperamental and becomes outraged when he is not properly fed. He sometimes sings to children.


    Essentially identical to an English brownie/boggart.

    More like the irish Leprechauns.

    Because of her more positive image as mischievous household spirits, the most successfull german vakuum cleaner was named "Kobold" and is a registered Trademark by german company Vorwerk.

    Post edited by RCTSpanky on
  • ChoholeChohole Posts: 19,408
    edited September 2012

    Irish leprechauns and Clurichauns are not really synonymous with Kobolds,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprechaun
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clurichaun

    Post edited by Chohole on
  • edited December 1969

    I always wanted to write a heroic fantasy novel with an intelligent kobald as a main character.

    MEEPO!! :P

    I'd love a Poser or DAZ Kobold, been aksing for one for years :)

  • KageRyuKageRyu Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    I keep seeing mention of things belonging to Wizards of the Coast in this thread, such as things from Forgotten Realms, and just needed to point out a couple corrections -

    Dungeons & Dragons in all it's glory and splendor was not created by Wizards of the Coast, nor were the Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, or most any of the other asociated properties to D&D, they were created many decades ago by Tactical Rules Studies, and later (in the new millenium) bought by wizards of the coast. TSR was notorious for using creatures and descriptives from common myth and legend as well as popular fantasy fiction (and indeed fought many lawsuits over the decades with the Tolkien estate and the Lovecraft estate for use of their intelectual property...as well as with the creators of Elfquest, and other fantasy comics).

    That being said, I would suggest checking mythology and folklore and if the creature exists in that in any region, it is safe to use the name and or common properties with your own artistsic tastes...that is not to someone might not still try to claim an infringement and file suite...as has been mentioned some companies out there believe using a word in a product gives them eclusive rights to that word. I recently had an encounter with such a company over one of my images (last year), and in the end it was resolved in my favor without going to court, but lack of actual ownership did not stop them from trying. As long as you dot your I's and cross your t's you should be safe - do the research and compile references.

  • Serene NightSerene Night Posts: 5,458
    edited September 2012

    There was a lawsuit White wolf filed against the creators of Undreworld the film for the plot device of vamps vs. werewolves and a romeo and juliet style vamp/werewofl relationship which they said was lifted from them and a story one of their writers wrote. It was settled out of court, but personally, I think sometimes copyright stuff can go too far. Especially when the designers of a game borrow heavily from Anne Rice and existiing lore to create a game which is by itself somewhat derivative and hogs up most of the folklore,.

    I don't think the traditional kobolds are at all doglike. More like little people. I tend to prefer the traditional stuff rather than the RPG interpretation.

    I do admit the depictions of drow-like elves I've seen in some stores do seem derivative off TSR. I don't recall ever seeing black-skinned elves with white hair, in any folklore outside of the world created by TSR. There were dark elves, but never ones that were black with white hair.

    Post edited by Serene Night on
  • KageRyuKageRyu Posts: 0
    edited September 2012

    I do admit the depictions of drow-like elves I've seen in some stores do seem derivative off TSR. I don't recall ever seeing black-skinned elves with white hair, in any folklore outside of the world created by TSR. There were dark elves, but never ones that were black with white hair.

    While this is true (the dark blue/black/purple skinned elves with white hair) of the later rendition of Dark Elves in Dungeons & Dragons, as with so much in TSR works they did not start having dark skin. In the earlier TSR works, Dark Elves were described as having a pale to almost white skin from living in subteranean caverns and cities (later coming to be called Underdark). These early Dark Elves were very much styled after the Dargon Lords of Michael Moorcocks famous Elric series of works (with very evolved sorcerous powers). As with much that TSR did in those days, they faced impending legal action from the Moorcock estate and changed the Dark Elves (this is also why the names of things from Tolkien lore were changed and an entire section of their old Deities and Demigods books was deleted - the section refering to C'thulhu and his Mythos). Some of the references to these sources still persisted into the late 90's (in fact the Demon Sword Stormbringer wielded by Elric can be found in the encyclopedia of magicl items that was released in the ending days of 2nd edition). It was continued legal action along with dropping sales as more once-traditional Role Players moved to online gaming and Mush/Mud games that caused TSR to face bankruptcy and sell their properties off.

    I had mixed feelings when WotC bought D&D, and unfortunatelt the route they went was not what I had hoped for.

    Post edited by KageRyu on
  • DaWaterRatDaWaterRat Posts: 1,555
    edited December 1969

    There was a lawsuit WOTC filed against the creators of Undreworld the film for the plot device of vamps vs. werewolves and a romeo and juliet style vamp/werewofl relationship which they said was lifted from them and a story one of their writers wrote. It was settled out of court, but personally, I think sometimes copyright stuff can go too far. Especially when the designers of a game borrow heavily from Anne Rice and existiing lore to create a game which is by itself somewhat derivative and hogs up most of the folklore,.

    It was White Wolf, not WOTC. :) Otherwise your point stands, and was talked about in White Wolf's own forums at the time of the lawsuit.

  • mjc1016mjc1016 Posts: 7,258
    edited December 1969

    It was kind of funny, though...there was a time when some authors and publishers turned a blind eye to what TSR was doing...as long as it resulted in more sales for them. Once those sales dropped off, threats and lawsuits started flying.

    Same with TSR itself...as long as it was something that brought more sales, it was fine (some of the stuff at the Cons, back in the day). Yeah, there was a time when TSR really started to get annoying about stuff like this, but I don't think it was ever the level it's been since WotC bought them out. It's like some weeny-brains decided that this was a 'real' thing and should be making tons more money than it...but it's not, because too many people are 'stealing' 'borrowed' IP....>:(

  • ZaarinZaarin Posts: 385
    edited December 1969

    Zaarin said:
    according to Britannica http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/320790/kobold

    kobold, in German folklore, mischievous household spirit who usually helps with chores and gives other valuable services but who often hides household and farm tools or kicks over stooping persons. He is temperamental and becomes outraged when he is not properly fed. He sometimes sings to children.


    Essentially identical to an English brownie/boggart.

    More like the irish Leprechauns.

    Because of her more positive image as mischievous household spirits, the most successfull german vakuum cleaner was named "Kobold" and is a registered Trademark by german company Vorwerk.


    Leprechauns don't do household chores. In fact, according to Yeats's fairy classifications, leprechauns would fall under solitary fairies, I believe.

  • KageRyuKageRyu Posts: 0
    edited December 1969

    mjc1016 said:
    It was kind of funny, though...there was a time when some authors and publishers turned a blind eye to what TSR was doing...as long as it resulted in more sales for them. Once those sales dropped off, threats and lawsuits started flying.

    Same with TSR itself...as long as it was something that brought more sales, it was fine (some of the stuff at the Cons, back in the day). Yeah, there was a time when TSR really started to get annoying about stuff like this, but I don't think it was ever the level it's been since WotC bought them out. It's like some weeny-brains decided that this was a 'real' thing and should be making tons more money than it...but it's not, because too many people are 'stealing' 'borrowed' IP....>:(

    Authors never turned a blind eye to it, and it wasn't just when WotC bought the property that authors sought compensation for stolen and borrowed IP. It had little to do with sales dropping off either, as with many of these literary sources we are not talking about Harry Potter or something recent, we are talking about books and novels published as far back as the late 1800's in some cases, and the 1920s and 1930s in others. The only more contemporary source that led to a battle with TSR that comes to mind was with the creator of Elfquest in the 80's, and that started as soon as the creator became aware of the infringment (forcing renaming many of the elven races and rewriting some of the background for them). Further, the laws regarding fair use, and requirements of IP owners to maintain and keep their IP and rights have changed, especially in the late 90's. Following many revisions to copyright laws and regulations in the 90's uses of trademarked and copyritten IP that companies used to allow as they considered it non-threatening to their purposes and goals, became a loophole that could cause loss of ownership of said IP and grandfather it in to public domain. In light of these changes, companies now will be strict if not draconian about enforcing their IP. Some of the biggest backlash was to the Star Trek community, which had countless fansites across the net, all gone now as all were forced to take down anything deemed protected under Paramount's IP. Additionally some things are very difficult to enforce and next to impossible to get re-imbursement for (some of the things that go on at cons being among them). By the time a court order is issued to cease and desist, the con is over, and it was a pointless legal expense... finding the person could cost even more in legal costs, typically two to three hundred times the possible loss due to infringment - and all of these are things that companies consider - but I would not call it turning a blind eye. Some of the third party IPs in question had problems of their own (disputed ownership for example) which needed to be resolved before action could proceed for infringment by others. It's not a simple situation, it is very murky and complex.

    It really has little to do with whether it's considered "a real thing" or whether it should be making money or not - it has to do with using the intelectual property of someone else, that party being aware of it, and whether enforcement is feasible.

  • MistyMistMistyMist Posts: 15,215
    edited December 1969

    in the case of using, say the cupboard monsters and calling them kobolds for my story, there is nothing to copyright, since buying the figure is only a license to use it.

    but, i could write a backstory for these cuties 'as kobolds' and license the backstory for use?

  • DaWaterRatDaWaterRat Posts: 1,555
    edited December 1969

    KageRyu said:

    It really has little to do with whether it's considered "a real thing" or whether it should be making money or not - it has to do with using the intellectual property of someone else, that party being aware of it, and whether enforcement is feasible.

    Companies and individuals absolutely have a right to protect their IP. And we, as consumers, have a right to point out when they're being asses about it. It leads to this sort of creative paralysis where everyone is paranoid about using something that happens to use the same terms or concepts, but in a different way, and fearing what is going to be perceived as a frivolous lawsuit that your average person can't afford to fight.

    What Misty Whisky is proposing does not, as far as I can tell, in any way infringe on TSR/WOTC's IP of their expression of Kobolds, which sound more like potentially troublesome brownies/traditional Kobolds to me anyway. But she's worried that some overzealous WOTC employee is going to see that her work has something called "Kobolds" and bring the hammer down on her, even though her expression of Kobolds has nothing to do with theirs. She is not using their intellectual property, just using the same word to describe her ownvery different Intellectual property.

    I swear, sometimes I feel that Copyright law has done more to stifle creativity than protect it. I realize it's more because some companies are overzealous about it, but the paranoia that results is ridiculous.

  • Serene NightSerene Night Posts: 5,458
    edited December 1969

    I do feel the copyright laws go too far. When a company like.. For example White Wolf copyrights every possible permeation of a vampire, including the classic nosferaturu, whose image was devloped by a film (the bald head spindley legs), and borrows heavily from Myth and Legend.... And concepts developed by other authors... Like Anne Rice... Then what is left for other creators?

    Tough to come up with something original and vampire these days without treading on someone's copyrighted work.

    I respect the artist's right to have some level of ownership... But when companies take every possible variation of something, consider it theirs, then... It becomes to restrictive then I have a problem with it.

    With regard to Fairy's and kobolds, I think they can look the way you want. Many fairy's could change their physical shape to be tricky, so having them look as you like.

  • Jay_NOLAJay_NOLA Posts: 0
    edited September 2012

    "Kobolt

    This is the name of two types of spirits in Teutonic mythology.

    (1) The goblins who inhabited the underworld of the mines, like the knockers of Cornwall and who were skilled in the art of mining and metalworking.
    They are also known as Cobolts.

    (2) The name of the household spirit of German folklore that behaved much like the English brownie.
    These Kobolts, also known as Kobold, Kobelt, Kobel, looked like gnomes with their wizened little faces and garments with pointy hoods. They inhabited the hearth area of the home or the barns and stables, where at night the would complete all the tasks that the humans had left unfinished. As long as they were treated with respect and given their portion of family supper all would be well. However, if this were forgotten, then the Kobold could be most malicious in exacting revenge before leaving. Some Kobolds are known by the local names of Chimmeken, Heinze, Hinzelmann, Hodekin, King Goldmar and Walter"

    - Spirits Faeries, Leprechauns, and Goblins, by Carol Rose, pgs. 182-183


    Thomas Keightly in his 1880 book The Fairy Mythology has a whole chapter dedicated to Kobols and includes te tale of Hinzelmann to illustrate the nature and properties of a Kobold.

    Keightly's book was latter republished under the title of, The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves, and Other Little People.

    Keightly description matches the household spirit type of Kobolt. Keightly also mentions that the word Kobold wasn't used before the 13th century and talks about the origin of the word.

    In Katherine Briggs's An Encylopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures mentions in the section on Knockers that these Cornish mine spirits are not evil and malicious like the German Kobolds.

    The Briggs book is out of print, but it is one of the re fence books that most RPG designers and writers have used when researching fairies, elves, etc. It shows up in the bibliography of many RPGs and in personal conversations with numerous game designers it was mentioned.


    Nancy Arrowsmith in Field Guide to the Little People: A Curious Journey into the Hidden Realm of Elves, Faeries, Hobgoblins & Other Not-So-Mythical Creatures indicates that Kobolde were spirits that used to live inside of trees. The trees were cut down and carved into figures that were locked up and brought indoors and became house spirits.

    Children were told to never open the box the Kobolde was keep in else it would escape and cause troube. To teach this lesson toys that housed a scarry Kobolde figure were made, which survive today in the form of a jack-in-the-box.

    Arrowsmith goes on to mention that a Kobolde is about 2 feet tall, with a skin colors ranging from dark green to dark grey, and thei clothing is red or green.


    And, I'll shut up about this as I don't want to start pulling more books off my shell, etc.

    Some quick additional things about WOTC,, TSR, and other game companies.

    WOTC is now owned by Hasbro. TSR which latter got taken over by WOTC had numerous internal problems that resulted in legal among the people and they made numerous bad financial mistakes.

    In regards to the old Deities & Demigods book Wikipedia says this.

    "For the first 1980 printing, TSR obtained permission from Michael Moorcock for inclusion of Melnibonéan material (from his Elric series of books). The Cthulhu Mythos was believed to be in the public domain, so TSR assumed they could legally use it without any special permission. However, Arkham House, who claimed to hold the copyrights on a number of works by H.P. Lovecraft, had already licensed the Cthulhu property to the game company Chaosium. Furthermore, Chaosium had also licensed the Melnibonéan copyright from Moorcock. When Chaosium threatened legal action, the first printing was halted and the two companies agreed on a compromise: TSR could continue to use the material but must provide a credit to Chaosium to do so. TSR added the credit for the second printing of the book.

    The Cthulhu and Melnibonéan sections were removed from the 1981 edition, making it a 128-page hardcover (and giving the original edition a high collector's value).[2] TSR felt its material should not contain such an overt reference to one of its competitors and removed the two pantheons altogether, thus negating the need for the credit. For this reason, the first and second printings have generally been in greater demand by D&D fans and collectors.[6] The credit to Chaosium and some references to the deleted pantheons were still included in some of the subsequent printings."

    Tactical Studies Rules did get in trouble with ERB's estate over a John Carter game and John Carter references in "Whit Box" D&D products.

    Drow in the old Demonweb series (G,D, & Q modules) are described as having dark skin. In an old Dragon magazine I used to have Gygax mentioned on where the inspiration for them came from.

    One of the bad finical decisions that they made was connected to dice manufacturing. They wasted a bunch of money on that one.

    If you ever get a chance to talk to Lou Zocchi he'll tell you all about the things that various game companies did that ended in them losing money and how nasty various game companies are.

    I best shut up before I start going on about why Mattel end up making the Masters of the Universe toy line and other things connected to the gaming industry.

    Post edited by Jay_NOLA on
  • mjc1016mjc1016 Posts: 7,258
    edited December 1969

    Jay_NOLA said:
    The Cthulhu and Melnibonéan sections were removed from the 1981 edition, making it a 128-page hardcover (and giving the original edition a high collector's value).[2] TSR felt its material should not contain such an overt reference to one of its competitors and removed the two pantheons altogether, thus negating the need for the credit. For this reason, the first and second printings have generally been in greater demand by D&D fans and collectors.[6] The credit to Chaosium and some references to the deleted pantheons were still included in some of the subsequent printings."

    Dang...that means I've got the 'valuable' one? COOOOOOOOOL....

    I had that thing on order for ever, before the shop got it in...since it was on hold, I got one from the first shipment they got. Still have it and it's been rather 'well used'...at least it's still in one piece, unlike my original Player's Manual...I think all the pages are still there, but I'm not too sure about that.

  • KageRyuKageRyu Posts: 0
    edited October 2012

    [Companies and individuals absolutely have a right to protect their IP. And we, as consumers, have a right to point out when they're being asses about it. It leads to this sort of creative paralysis where everyone is paranoid about using something that happens to use the same terms or concepts, but in a different way, and fearing what is going to be perceived as a frivolous lawsuit that your average person can't afford to fight.

    What Misty Whisky is proposing does not, as far as I can tell, in any way infringe on TSR/WOTC's IP of their expression of Kobolds, which sound more like potentially troublesome brownies/traditional Kobolds to me anyway. But she's worried that some overzealous WOTC employee is going to see that her work has something called "Kobolds" and bring the hammer down on her, even though her expression of Kobolds has nothing to do with theirs. She is not using their intellectual property, just using the same word to describe her ownvery different Intellectual property.

    I swear, sometimes I feel that Copyright law has done more to stifle creativity than protect it. I realize it's more because some companies are overzealous about it, but the paranoia that results is ridiculous.

    You quoted me out of context, and then argued against my statement meaning what it never meant.

    I was not discussing companies launching frivolous lawsuites, and yes many companies do. I specificly addressed statements of a completely different nature about enforcement and it just starting now because of monetary gain, when their are other factors.

    Please at least keep quotes in context when replying and reply to the context they are in. Thank you.


    Also, in reference to posts from wikipedia, I can say for absolute fact wikipedia is wrong on this. I was alive and playing D&D in the 80s, have many of the magazines in question, as well as the books. I lived through it. Wikipedia has never been reliable in and of itself, and really should be coroborated with other sources, as anyone can edit a wikipedia article (one of it's biggest failings as it causes a lot of misinformation to be posted on topics).

    **Edit to clarify**
    As I said before, there are many reasons Lawsuites may not have always been forthcoming over suspected IP infringement, and it has very little to do with a sudden realisation that it's "profitable". The examples I gave were just a few, but some key reasons a company may not immediately bring suite is that it may not be aware of the potential infringement. This is also why it seems more common for suites to be brought today than 20 years ago - because we live in an age of ever faster, ever more intrusive information technology, and it is far easier to learn of potentially infringing products and merchandise than 20 years ago...even 10 years ago. Not all fantasy writers are into Role Playing or tabletop games, so in the past they had to rely on word of mouth to learn of a potential infringement, where today there are far better means.

    Additionally, this technology is part of the problem in regards to seemingly frivolous suites. While there are companies that intentionally use frivolous lawsuites to bully competition, not all lawsuites involving something that should be public domain is the result of this. Often times the legal departments or agents simply do not know any better. They rely on software that scours for key terms and situations, and if those come up they are too fast on the trigger finger, sending out lawsuites and DMCA takedown requests - resulting in the takedown of perfectly legitimate content and material, and apparent frivolous lawsuites. There was a much publicised case of this regarding a video with bird songs on youtube that was flagged as commercial by the automated software - the real problem is that the people operating the software seem to be lazy and uninterested in following up the results to make sure they are valid, instead thinking the software is infallible. There are lots of other causes too (for example over zealous attorneys advising a client they have a case when they really don't, etc...).

    My point is it is not a simple "it's making money, so we're going to claim it" and even when you are the target of one of these baseless actions to enforce IP that is not owned by the party claiming an infringment, you don't nescessarily need to go to court to clear it up (you don't nescessarily even need an attorney). As long as you dot your "I"s and cross your "T"s, do your research (wikipedia is OK for a starting point, but generally not considered reputable in court or research circles so you will want to back it up with as many books and other references as you can - though wikipedia can be useful sometimes to find other books and references for a subject), and keep notes (such as a bibliography of references supporting the property being puplic domain) you should come out on top.

    In regards to Kobolds specificly - the manner of appearance, cultural descriptions, etc... as depicted in D&D are protected under various IP laws. the word is not. They appear in a lot of fantasy works, in a fashion similar to their appearance in D&D, and if you can show that those works are unrelated and unliscensed, you might be able to justify them being Grandfathered in to public domain, but it is a slipery slope.

    Post edited by KageRyu on
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