PDF License

Because we’re now selling pdf games, I thought that it might be decent to put up a small license declaration for all you electronic copyright enthusiasts out there. This is also a fine opportunity for me to practise my skills in writing about legal issues with plain language.

General license information

When we sell you a pdf file, we’re actually selling you an use license. This is both good and bad from your viewpoint: it’s bad in that we’re not selling you a carte blanche to do whatever you want with the data we send you. But it’s good in that you’re actually not buying just data, but a product relationship.

What the first part of that means is, we’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t copy that pdf file you’re buying into any system where you’re not controlling it anymore. It’s not that I want to prevent you from showing something to your friends or whatever, but if you copy it for your friend and he copies it for his, then the file is pretty quickly in somebody’s hands who doesn’t care a whit about the original creator, being that he didn’t pay for it and isn’t even that interested in it, probably. The next step after that is that it’ll be easier and more convenient for people to get the pdf file from the peer-to-peer networks your friend’s friend exposed it to, and that would annoy me. Of course it’s going to happen if the pdf in question is popular at all, but at least I’m not giving a permission for you to do it.

The second part in that first paragraph, the thing about a product relationship, on the other hand means that you can expect some modicum of support for your purchase from us. Specifically, if you manage to lose the file and we have you in our licensee database, we’ll try to get you another copy if we’re still selling that particular product then. And if we publish some update to the pdf product in question, and it’s not an entirely new product, we’ll send you the new version as well. Likewise, if we decide to create a new version of the product and give you a discount or what not when you upgrade, the licensee database is what we’re going to look in to figure out who is eligible for the new deal. What this amounts to is that you’re not buying the pdf file so much as you’re buying the right to gain access to this product we’re selling in pdf form.

Different licenses

At this moment we seem to have two sorts of licenses, single-user licenses and group licenses. The first one is simple: when you buy a pdf product with the single-user license, you’re paying for yourself to get access to the pdf file. Feel free to copy it to different computers, print stuff out or do other computer tricks with it, as long as you don’t let it out of your own hands. You’re responsible in this contract for making sure my pdf doesn’t end up in the peer-to-peer networks.

The group license is a bit more relaxed, being how I invented it with roleplayers in mind. With the group license you can copy the pdf file for everybody you’re going to play that game with. For most people this is likely to be a half dozen other people, but if you happen to have several gaming groups and end up playing the game with them all, feel free to give the pdf file to everybody concerned. I’m just fine with it as long as you’re spreading the pdf with the intent to play, not just for the giggles. The group license doesn’t extend to your friends, though: the file they get is licensed for them only, and again shouldn’t be recopied for others. What they get is pretty much like the single-user license, except they shouldn’t come complain to me if the lose the file or some such; they’re not in licensee relationship with me, but with you.

Enforcing the license

It should be pretty obvious that I’m not going to come to your house with the gaming police if you do wacky things with my game pdf. For one, I won’t know about it unless you brag about it in public. For two, it wouldn’t be worth my time in this minuscule pond that is independent rpg publishing. For three, it’s not a big deal and we’re living a transitional era in copyright anyway – probably we’re all going to laugh at the impossibility of the whole concept in 20 years from now. Right now I’d like to have some money to pay for all the time I spend writing roleplaying games, but in the grand scene it’s not worth fighting over if you feel that information should be free and it’s not your fault if nobody wants to pay me for what they can get for free.

Changing and revoking this license

I’m writing this stuff in the middle of the night, as seems to be a pattern of late in my website improvements. If I find later on that I’d rather sell you pdf material with some different sort of terms, I’ll write a new license that’ll be binding for any further sales from then on. A customer may then choose to hold me onto what I’ve promised in the license that was in force when he bought the pdf from me, or he may opt for the new license.

If we have some unexpected trouble with all this (which I find sort of unlikely, “this” being just bits and bytes and not anything real), I also reserve the right to simply refund you your money and revoke the license with no further obligation for either of us. The licensing fee you pay for the pdf is also the upper limit of what I’m going to pay out in damages if my words give you cancer. Unless a judge tells me to pay more, anyway.