A Bad Age For Dwarves

So I had a game idea, but it involves borrowing a design-concept from someone else (Zoë Quinn, specifically the unselectable options from Depression Quest) and considering appropriate respect and credit led me to think of the recent lawsuit against the Prelude to Axanar producers by CBS and Paramount for infringing content and now I’m ticked and sad.

According to the complaint by the CBS / Paramount legal team, the following uses are infringing on copyrights in place (not a comprehensive list):

Klingon language phonetics. CBS owns the copyright on the official dictionary and other canonical descriptions of the language and they’re willing to fight regarding usage of the constructed language.
Warp Drive. I’m not sure if they’re going after the name or any space-bending means to travel long distances quickly. I didn’t call it warp drive, but I was certainly using the current cosmologic notion of cosmic inflation (and conceptualized it before Miguel Alcubierre Moya did the math).
Stardate system of time- / date-stamping logs
Starfleet (I just call it The Fleet as in Fleet has reinstated regular psychological screening tests after the Gibraltar incident.)
Federation Really. Not just United Federation of Planets but any Federation, including the Trade Federation (but Disney / Lucas has more money, I guess). I called it The Federation or Fed, as in Fed scientist Dr. Keeler was last seen on Pithos IV.
Mood and theme: Science Fiction Action Adventure. So wow. They’d sue over any Age of sail In Space!, if not any space opera.
Uniforms with gold shirts. I kept the colors the same, except helm, navigation and other astrometrics stations which are green. My station emblems, I designed based on NASA look and feel.

The ones dotted in red, above are ones I used in my Fleet & Federation card game. Which essentially means if I made any kind of money off the game Paramount and CBS would have totally sued me back into poverty. (Not that tabletop games — with a few exceptions — make very much money anyway.)

Mostly, my interest was to make a card game that allowed players to play the crew of the Enterprise. And to allow a bunch of role-players to play for an evening when no-one really wants to referee. Such a game continues to not exist in any official stance (and no I don’t want to make an official Star-Trek game because I don’t want to have to adhere to Paramount’s canon continuity. My game is also rife with social commentary that can’t be made in a canon game.)

(I didn’t only borrow from paramount, but used game mechanics from a couple of Steve Jackson games I had been playing and modding at the time. But they don’t hold patents on their game design ideas, and I’d be happy to just attribute them for their ideas.)

I remember a day that a friend of mine (who coincidentally worked on the ST:TOS set) observed that the Terwilliger-henchman uniforms in The 5000 fingers of Dr. T had some uncanny similarities to original-series Klingon uniforms. (Watch Dr T with caution: It’s a live-action Dr. Seuss movie and really disturbing.) We all progress by standing on the shoulders of giants. New stuff is inspired by and built on old stuff, and the more that we err on the side of accepting (and not challenging) similar content, the more new stuff, and good stuff, we’ll have. Those who attack those artists they inspire not only hobble the progress of artistic endeavor, they also curtail the longevity of their own contributions.

For now, I’m discouraged. It’s a sucky age for anyone who wants to build or make things and a good age to lie low and look inconsequential. And don’t you dare get inspired by something that someone else did, lest it is the property of a big company who will totally eat you if it can.

Maybe our society is just that desperate that we cannot think past personal gain to consider the good of the community. Culture is yet another commons doomed to end tragically.

Postscript: I’m probably not actually going to make my game idea (which is about as crazy-grandiose as Grandpa’s War) but I’ll probably talk about it in the next few days, so someone else can be inspired by Ms. Quinn and I.

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