Friday, April 17, 2009

Wizards shuts down

Wizards of the Coast has sent a cease and desist notice to which held online Apprentice and Magic Workstation tournaments. I’m a little disappointed but not surprised. The main issue in the letter is this:

"Magic-League" name and "" domain name further evidences your bad faith intent to capitalize on the good will associated with Wizards’ MAGIC: THE GATHERING® trademark.

Below is taken from this much longer post.

Hello to all of you,

This news message is to inform all of you about impending changes that are forced upon us by the legal representatives of wizards of the coast.
Last friday we received an e-mail from wizards of the coast (wich I will paste after this news message) demanding we stop using wizard's trademarks and copyrights on this site. Also it is demanded from us to stop promoting and linking to apprentice and mws.

To us this means that we cannot continue magic-league in it's current form and name. Therefor, as of friday the judges panel will be deactivated, so it will not be possible to run tournaments of any form for the moment. The rated single matches will stay since you can play that in any form, and we don't have any influence over that.

The clipping of the league will be temporary and as we speak we are discussing different solutions on how to continue our on-line activities in a form that doesnot infringe on any of the copyrights as mentioned in the C&D mail.

Following is the mail as we received it friday (minus the adresses, since hatemail is not appreciated)

Re: Infringement of Wizards of the Coast LLC’s
MAGIC: THE GATHERING® Copyrights and Trademarks

Dear Mr. Moerman:
We are counsel for Wizards of the Coast LLC (“Wizards”), the owner of the copyrights and trademarks for the MAGIC: THE GATHERING® trading card game, including the MAGIC: THE GATHERING ONLINE® version of the game. It recently came to our attention that your group has created a website,, that touts itself as the place for “free online Magic: The Gathering” tournament and casual play, using two unauthorized computer programs: Apprenctice and Magic Workstation. These software programs use text and, in some cases, artwork, from Wizards’ MAGIC: THE GATHERING® cards. Your site also makes available free MAGIC: THE GATHERING® cards. Your use of the “Magic-League” name and “” domain name further evidences your bad faith intent to capitalize on the good will associated with Wizards’ MAGIC: THE GATHERING® trademark, and pass your site off as authorized or associated with Wizards’ MAGIC: THE GATHERING® game.



Slyphidine said...

I was going to ask you about this. Are you concerned that you may be getting a similar letter sometime soon? After all, wizards is producing an xbox game that is essentially magic vs. an AI.

And while I rarely post, I want to reiterate how much I enjoy using your program. I truly hope you can continue.

Vecc said...

That's been a concern I've had when I read those news, too. I hope it doesn't happen, and if it does that the workarounds are simple enough.

I can't see them stopping M-L in a definitive character, but this is certainly going to take some bothersome changes to get around. We'll have to wait and see... hopefully M-L users with that judiciary know-how will be able to give advice.

Forge said...

The main problem is just the name, Wizards thinks they own everything with the name "Magic" in it. I'm not too worried because I've already got a cease and desist letter, you can read about it here. Originally my project was on and it was called "MTG Forge", seemingly the biggest problem was not the function of my program but just the stupid name. I was a little depressed for awhile and took MTG Forge down but then I posted it on and I can post it anywhere since MTG Forge is so small.

The Magic-League can live on under another name like "Mage-League" or something else.

DennisBergkamp said...

So basically it seems like the main issue is the word "Magic" in the title of the program, and potentially the copyrighted art work of the cards that comes with the program?

Then the only problem with MTGForge would be its title, which can always be changed. Cards are downloaded separately, after all.

Gando the Wandering Fool said...

The wording of the letter is clear but not precise imho. They Know they can't trade mark "Magic" but since they have the largest recognizability for the word they can try to prove conspiracy to steal/weaken the trademarks they own and or infringe on the patent. I question whether it is legally feasible to even try cases like this since the concepts are so ubiquitous nowadays. But that doesn't stop lawyers with no bigger fish to fry.

The main points in our favor are there is such a thing as fair use, and also there is no profit being made at all.

I am a little concerned about the use of images. Is it stealing IP for individuals to download images from their site which is open to the public and which requires no membership at all? No. But can they claim it is stealing to use such images in a public website for the purpose of selling magic cards? I dont think so but its a grey area. ON the other hand if they press that issue too hard they will have to deal with the stores that sell singles and booster boxes online using those very images. Tis a hairy question indeed.

I, for one want to avoid a publically available image package for this very reason.

Im a bit curious what the lawyer meant by use of terms in the unauthorized games. As far as I can tell you can not trademark or copyright game concepts. That is the purpose of the patent. To protect the owner from profiteering off their ideas. There is no protection from those ideas being disseminated and used to build other ideas. (Though profits from such would still be owed.)

If any of the above doesn't make sense or seems wrong please say so. I'm just going with my own experience and common sense here.

WilLoW :--) said...

Game "concepts" can only be patented in the US, it is illegal to patent those in Europe. (Although WotC tried).

Most of the shops that use card pictures to sell cards have an agreement with WotC...Those that don't...well, the money still goes into WotC's pocket in the end, so no big deal for them I guess.

Regarding the download of images, it is against their website rule to automatically download the images with a process such as the one forge uses.
I guess it doesn't prevent lots of people to do it, and AFAIK it is not the responsibility of the software creator, but individual responsibility of the people who use the software, which would make difficult to sue every user who do that :p

Lawyers are clever. They send those C&D with no real "case", in the hope that it will stop the activity. It costs them 10 minutes of their time, no need to even check that the website is actually doing something wrong or not. The last thing WotC want is to go to trial for things such as forge that will only cost them money and time.

The best thing users can do in that case is to spread the word. If this lowers WotC's reputation enough, they will stop threatening people. They have to remember that the people threatened by their lawyers are usually their best customers, that is, the people who allow them (and their lawyers) to eat.

Anonymous said...

Here's a hint - a C&D is a legal document, not an english document, which means that most words have a precise legal definition (which is not always the same as the english definition). Also, while you can't copyright a game, you can copyright the text of the game (which includes the rules and images in the game). But i'm not a lawyer - only a lawyer would understand precisely where magic-league stands in terms of its legality.
Also were Wizards to sue any of the small time developers/sites, the suit would likely result in a painful settlement, since most people wouldn't have the resources todefend against Hasbro (Wizard's parent company).

Gando the Wandering Fool said...

Dear Mr Annie Mouse. It sure is nice to hear from you again. We have missed your acerbic sarcasm and generally pithy comments. Thank you for clarifying what was clear to some of us. :)

The hints are quite well recieved at least on my end and I intend to use them in the next NY Times crossword puzzle if they fit. :p

Re: suits vs smalltime sites/developers I doubt there will be any money involved. If there is any legal action it will be to stop whatever activities the courts deem are violations of WoTC's patents/trademarks and copyrights.

TSR did try to copyright the content of AD&D many years ago and that failed to stand up in court when they attempted to stop certain other games from using stats like STR and CHA etc. On the other hand they did succeed in bullying their way past quite a few disputes and bought out many of their competitors so your point is not without merit. :)

Anonymous said...

I wasn't trying to insult you, just clear up some misconceptions. For example, distribution images of magic cards is definitely not stealing, but it is copyright infringement, which has a totally different set of penalties. Also, not making profit doesn't matter. Look at all the music industry lawsuits against people who freely shared their music. Also, you are assuming a lawsuit would ever make it to court in the first pace. If any developers ignored a C&D and were then sued, I doubt they would have the resources to actually go to court. You forget that the justice is stacked against people with small pockets (and I doubt the ACLU would take this kind of case).

willow said...

Agreed with anonymous above, although I still feel that threatening their best fans is not a correct behavior for a company.

Especially, WotC's lawyers are sharks and I was definitely not pleased by the overall content of the email they sent to me a while ago. It's one thing to ask to C&D, it's another to threaten people. They demanded that I provided them with exact numbers of the "money" I made with my game (which is freeware so, to bad for them).

To whoever receives a C&D for some reason, remember: the best you can do is remove all copyright infringing material asap, but do not reply anything else than "done, sorry.". Because anything you reply to those guys can be used against you afterward.

At my company, whenever we get free advertising from a customer, we send them a "thank you" letter, not a C&D, but hey, apparently that's how WotC work these days.

Gando the Wandering Fool said...

Anon, No insult taken :)

But the concept that copyright infringement isnt stealing blows my mind. Of course it is stealing. But to prove infringement you have an uphill battle. For one thing in civil suits the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. Also there has to be an insurmountable evidence of this. For another there is some question whether using images freely accessible on WotC's site is infringement. It isn't like those images are being used to sell anything or to even purvey a product. Plus there is the fact that so many minor/personal sites have these images in use somewhere and they haven't all been told to stop using them. So a C&D against one site sounds a little discriminatory.

I agree that most small companies and individuals will fold rather than fight any dispute with WotC because Hasbro is just a huge corporation and who wants them as an enemy? lol. On the other hand why would the Goliath that is Hasbro/WotC want to sully their image by stooping to crush the Davids over petty nonsense?

@Willow I agree that is a reasonable point of view but corps are generally not reasonable the way we define the term.

Forge said...

As far as I can tell Wizards has only had one court case which was against card counterfeiters. (I used the site which you have to pay for.) Wizards has never sued anyone else.

The DCMA Digital Millenium Copyright Act makes the people who own the server which hosts illegal content liable, so all any company has to do is to send a cease and desist letter to the hosting company. Whether the cease and desist letter is true or not doesn't matter since no one wants to be liable for anything. It is just easier for the hosting company to take down the website and avoid all potential troubles.