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are Kobolds public domain?
Posted: 24 September 2012 09:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Back to the OP’s question:

1 ) Kobolds as a concept in general are not under any copyright or trademark, and are similar in folklore to knockers, bogies, boggarts, etcetera.

2 ) The depiction of Kobolds, specifically, as really small, bipedal tailed creatures that resemble part draconic, part doglike critters and worship dragons and the dragon pantheon very possibly might be.

3 ) Any critter in any RPG that has its roots in legend, lore, and old tales (such as Kobolds or goblins), or is among a group of critters (such as orcs) that have entered public domain by cultural osmosis, is by nature not under trademark or copyright, though the SPECIFIC depictions therein may be. A space orc is fine, but a space orc that is actually a fungoid critter with ‘clap your hands if you believe’ tech, a crude variant of an “Oop North” accent, ramshackle vehicles that actually do go faster if you paint them red, and shout “WAAAAAAAAAGH!” as they charge into battle is pretty much a Warhammer 40,000 Ork, and best to err on the side of caution.

4 ) Any critter in any RPG that was specifically created for that RPG is probably copyrighted or trademarked by that RPG, though similar but different critters with a vaguely similar ‘one sentence description’ and different name might be okay. A slimy humanoid with tentacles around its mouth is fine (they appear from Lovecraft to Pirates of the Carribean), but one that dwells underground worshipping brains in pools and feed on brains by poking their tentacles through a victim’s skull and possess psychic powers (especially a stunning blast) is a carbon copy of a Mind Flayer.

5 ) If in doubt, best err on the side of caution. If you did not know for sure that the Aboleth, for example, is not from some obscure legend, then it’s off-limits (for the record, it is not - it is a creation of AD&D).

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Posted: 25 September 2012 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Richard Haseltine - 24 September 2012 12:19 PM

I hate to nit-pick, but Tolkien iss till in copyright so having something in the LotR doesn’t make it public domain - far from it. As Kachi says, the name is fine but the D&D Kobold is a unique creature and I doubt you could copy it legitimately.

Most of the creatures in LOTR are taken from older mythology, and are safe for use. Tolkien certainly didn’t invent orcs, elves, or dwarves. The NAMES ent, balrog, and hobbit aren’t. Critters with these names appeared in older versions of D&D/AD&D, but they were changed in later versions to treant, balor, and halfling, respectively. Nothing would stop you from doing intelligent trees, winged demons, or short humanoids with furry feet; just watch what you call them. Back in the day, TSR (pre-WOTC days) was very protective of their own trademarks, but tended to somewhat ignore others’ intellectual property rights.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 05:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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The point I was making was that something’s being in LotR doesn’t mean it’s fair game, though as you say some of the stuff is and only a little is totally unique.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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If you have the time there is an interesting lecture on copyright issues in fanart by the legal advisor on copyright matters to deviantArt, Josh Wattles (I’m bemused by the appearance of the masked man, at which point it seems to lose its way, but up to then I found it very interesting).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKBsTUjd910

I agree that Wizards of the Coast probably have a copyright interest in their depiction of the kobold (i.e. with the draconic/canine features). Given how that has been diluted, by other games, generic depictions, etc.,  not to mention the likelihood of fair use defence (explained in the video in this context), I think the probability of WotC pursuing a non-commercial work featuring this type of kobold is vanishingly small.

Of course if your work features a kobold of the traditional type (typically a small humanoid) then there is no problem. However, such a kobold would be difficult to distinguish from a gnome, small goblin, spriggan, etc.

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Posted: 25 September 2012 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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This came up last year on the ProFantasy forums

See the forum posts at these two links.

http://forum.profantasy.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=2567

http://forum.profantasy.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=2381


You might want to get a good general reference guide to mythological creatures to have to check on the origin of things.

I recommend these:

Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblins: An Encyclopedia, by Carol Rose

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth, by Carol Rose

An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures, by Katharine Briggs

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Posted: 25 September 2012 04:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Jay_NOLA - 25 September 2012 01:01 PM

<snip>

An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures, by Katharine Briggs

Seconded. Katharine Briggs is the authority on English fairy lore. If you have access to JSTOR, she has some good articles on there, too—I cited about four of them in a paper last semester. wink

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Posted: 26 September 2012 02:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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DaWaterRat - 24 September 2012 01:14 PM

At times like this, I take a deep breath and repeat Ecclesiastes 1:9

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Then I go ahead and do whatever the heck I want without worrying if it’s “Been done”

As a long time gamer (25+ years), I don’t think you need to establish “new” races.  You just need to make them suitable to your game world.  (See TV Tropes “Call a Rabbit a Smerp” and the various “Our x are Different”... note the lack of links, for everyone’s safety.)

Thank you for not including the TV Tropes links. smile I once accidentally found myself there and I think it was three days before I managed to break free. LOL

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Posted: 26 September 2012 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Kobold: Gnom, Spuk, Poltergeist are just some synonyms for this creature.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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http://www.daz3d.com/shop/tauran-for-m4
If this can get past daz’s legal department I think you’ll be fine with Kobolds.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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there’s a few things in the store i wouldn’t feel comfortable using, like the Angelina look-a-like.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 10:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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StratDragon - 26 September 2012 06:13 AM

http://www.daz3d.com/shop/tauran-for-m4
If this can get past daz’s legal department I think you’ll be fine with Kobolds.

Nope. The word “Tauran” is descended from the word “Minotaur”, just like the WoW word “Tauren” - but both are quite different views on what a minotaur would look like. There’s no real comparison there. The words are different, and the critters are very different. raspberry

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Posted: 26 September 2012 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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the word “Minotaur” descended from the word “Taurus”, which is the Greek word for a bull, but “tauran” I didn’t happen to see anywhere except in the game Warcraft and the model is very much detailed after the Tauran race from that game. I may be wrong, I’m limited to Google and Euripides.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I won’t really get into the fact that some of the problems are because some things should never have been allowed to be copyrighted/trademarked/etc in the first place.

Certain critters from myth and legend should not be given blanket protections…yes, a particular piece of artwork/graphic depicting someone’s interpretation of that critter…fine, protect it all you want.  But granting blanket protections as WotC has tried…nope.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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StratDragon - 26 September 2012 11:23 AM

the word “Minotaur” descended from the word “Taurus”, which is the Greek word for a bull, but “tauran” I didn’t happen to see anywhere except in the game Warcraft and the model is very much detailed after the Tauran race from that game. I may be wrong, I’m limited to Google and Euripides.

First, WoW uses TaurEn, not TaurAn. Second, I did not say it was a LEGITIMATE word, I said it was a derivative. And i’m pretty certain I’ve seen either Tauren or Tauran well before the first Warcraft ever came out.

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Posted: 26 September 2012 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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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.

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