June 19, 2009

Dungeons & Dragons Files Suits For Illegal Posting Of Handbooks

Eight defendants are facing charges from the makers of the cult-classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons alleging they illegally posted the game's newest handbook online.

Lawyers from the Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast LLC say the company is seeking unspecified damages in three separate copyright infringement lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging that over 2,600 copies of "Player's Handbook 2" were downloaded from the website Scribd.com while another 4,200 copiers were viewed online without authorization.  With a retail value of about $40 a pop, the defendants could potentially be looking at hefty fines if the suits end up going before a court.

According to an official court filing made public on Tuesday, both parties in one of the cases, involving defendants Thomas Patrick Nolan of Florida and Stefan Osmena of the Philippines, have agreed to try to reach a settlement outside of the courtroom via mediation.

In a May 20th letter to the court, Nolan claims that he had lost his wallet containing his Web site access information on a trip in February and insists that he had no role in uploading the manual for public access.

"Any person who looked at my Scribd page could tell that I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and could use the page to post the file," he added.

The second case involves Krysztof Radzikowski of Poland and three others whose identities have thus far been withheld.  Radzikowski is accused of illegally posting copies of three other Wizards books online, "Manual of the Planes," "Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead" and "Dungeon Delve," each of which sells for about $30.  Attorneys for the case have not indicated how many illicit downloads were made from the website.

Wizards spokeswoman Tolena Thorburn declined to offer any personal information for either Osmena or Radzikowski.

The third case involves defendants Mike Becker of Bartlesville, Okla., and Arthur Le of San Jose, California.  Investigations have pointed to Becker as being the creator of another Scribd website on which the handbook was illegally made available to hundreds of people.  Thanks to a micro-watermark on the original copy of the manual however, Le "” a 19-year-old student at Mission College in Santa Clara "” was identified as the actual owner of the book.

Le says that he bought an original copy of the handbook over the internet but maintains that he has no association with Becker.

"I have made no profit off of this venture," he said. "I, however, deeply apologize for my actions and realize that I am in the wrong."

All three lawsuits were filed simultaneously on April 6. 

The company noted that the 242-page version of the handbook sold online carries electronic watermarks that explicitly restrict the use of the manual to the original purchaser.

As of 2006, Dungeons & Dragons remains the best-known and best-selling role-playing game of all time, with an estimated 20 million people having played the game and more than $1 billion in the sales of book and equipment.


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