Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Fan Studies and W40K/GW Related: More Thoughts on Canon

The more I think about it, the more I think that what I'm terming 'The Gaming System' is the GW/40K equivalent of the canon within fan studies discussions. As per the last post, I'm including in this three inter-related elements, all of which are copyrighted under Games Workshop's IP Policy (Rules, Background/fluff, and miniatures), and which provide a standard frame of reference and resources for fan creativity.

This allows comparison between GW fandom and other forms of fandom, such as for example the ways in which fans appropriate images, sound and footage to produce their own fanvids/films. It also provides a useful starting point for examining the various tensions may occur between what fans want to do and what rights holders would prefer them not to do.

To give some examples, taken from the clearly titled What you can and can't do with Games Workshop's intellectual property page from GW's site. Fans are asked:

1. Not to "Create, distribute, or use any material that is not consistent with the functionality, atmosphere, and parameters of the Warhammer universe as created and owned by Games Workshop". This is similar to the situation in the early-1980s where Lucasfilm began to take a very dim view of various erotic stories that were circulating among fans. One of the key themes in fan studies is the ways in which fans can appropriate content and (rightly or wrongly) take it in directions completely away from where te rightsholders would prefer it to be (i.e. re-reading Star Trek as homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock)

2. "Please don't use one of our registered trademarks as part of your web domain name. This right is reserved for GW companies and formal licensees only."

3. "While we are likely to be happy for you to create your own desktop themes based upon our IP, please do not use our trademarks in those themes. In other words, do not use our logos and symbols, but please do draw your own version of a Wood Elf or Tyranid."

4. "We encourage fellow hobbyists to show off their painting skills by taking photos of their miniatures and putting the on the site. Please remember to correctly credit the IP - "miniature © Games Workshop 2003. All rights reserved. Used without permission - model painted by xxxxxxx""

5. Fan Fiction: "Please remember to use the correct trademark disclaimer somewhere on your site, zip file and/or document. We would also ask that at the top of the material you state something equivalent to the following: "Death Ravine" an unofficial story by K. Roundtree derived, without permission, upon the Warhammer intellectual property owned by Games Workshop Ltd.". This cannot be sold, though: "We cannot allow users to make and or sell derivatives of our copyright protected material or our trademarks on the café press or any similar websites."

6. Fan-created Rules Supplements etc: "There is no need to stick precisely to the published rules. However, if you are thinking about making your own Codex for your Space Marine chapter (in addition to following the other guidelines in this policy), please avoid making it look official as this may confuse gamers and amount to a challenge to our trademarks. Also, do not copy our official publications or documents."

7. Conversions: "Please do not combine our intellectual properties with IP owned by any third parties.". See the discussion over on Santa Cruz Warhammer's blog on this

8. A blanket ban on all fanfilms: ".... due to the nuances of the law in some territories, we cannot allow any unlicensed movies to be created which are based upon our intellectual property."

9. web comics: "We would probably not take issue with anyone creating a web comic based upon our intellectual property - but as with forums, keep in mind that the hobby is for people of all ages. Please be careful of the language used and the topics discussed. We would strongly recommend that you avoid any topics concerning illegal behavior, obscenity, or libel."

10. fonts: "Unfortunately, GW cannot allow third parties to use our trademarks without properly crediting our ownership, lest they be damaged. With fonts, it is difficult, if not impossible, to use the marks and credit Games Workshop as rightful owners. Accordingly, do not use our IP in relation to fonts."

11. screensavers "As is the case with fonts, GW cannot allow third parties to use our trademarks without properly crediting our ownership, lest they be damaged. You may only create screen savers if it properly credits our IP. We would also remind you that you cannot alter or change our trademarks in any way."

12.animations: "We would probably not have a problem with anyone creating animations based upon our intellectual property - as long as there is no commercial connection to that creation. Again, please be careful of the language used and the topics discussed."

13. fanzines: "...if you are thinking about starting a fanzine, please do not use our trademarks... Importantly, if you are creating a solely GW-focused fanzine, do not sell your fanzine and do not obtain any sponsorship."

14. avatars: "If you want to use avatars and similar monikers, create them yourself and credit the origins of the IP in your message sign off."

15: Tattoos: "we cannot allow tattoos as an acceptable use of our IP as a third party necessarily has to perform the 'service'"


  1. interesting post, especially given TSOALR shutting down. GW's terms seem clear and pretty reasonable to me.

  2. Really? GW's film policy is stricter than Lucasfilm's, for example. Also, you could argue that the no-mixed-conversion policy (although difficult to enforce) puts a break on fan creativity.