Forgive the video guys, I was actually pretty nervous
We’ll start with the Short Story…
Over the past two and a bit years, Beasts of War have received a number of missives from Games Workshop’s legal team (Even one including a request to remove every video containing a GW product).
The difficulty with legal letters, is they cost us a lot of money every time we get one, you could easily pay five hundred to a thousand pounds just to get an appropriate solicitor to read it and give you some advice on how to respond! So they really do take their toll on a small business.
In June of this year, GW published a new set of trade terms that their trade customers must adhere too, in these terms was a clause that effectively meant that, Wayland Games would have been punished for any advance reporting of any GW release by Beasts of War Ltd (Article 9.4) despite Wayland Games not providing any such information to Beasts of War, and despite both companies being separate.
When we asked GW about how this would affect fair use, it was pointed out to us that ‘Fair Use’ did not apply, as this was a contractual matter, and not a copyright matter. This unfortunately means that potentially any demand could be placed upon us by Games Workshop and be considered a contractual matter, and based on the previous demands we have received, we feel that the risks are too great.
As a result we feel there is no option but to abide by terms set out by GW.
From today (Friday 4th October 2013) Beasts of War and Wayland Games are ending the partnership we have worked very hard to create. This is disappointing for us all and we would like to thank the hard working team at Wayland Games for their support, the access to studio space and building the amazing Tabletop Nation venue where we have participated in some memorable events, many of which have been the highlight of our time spent in Essex. And we look forward to attending others in the future!
Myself (Warren), Lloyd and Justin will now be working exclusively for Beasts of War alongside Ben and Sam, as an entirely independent media organisation.
We do this as we feel that Beasts of War and it’s amazing community deserve to have the best opportunity to not only exist, but to thrive.
Despite continued growth even while not being in a position to report on GW products it seems completely alien to us to run Beasts of War and not be able to report on the most dominant game and company in the industry.
We respect Games Workshop, and are using this opportunity to once again reach out to them and say… We do Beasts of War, because we love this hobby and this industry, including your part in it, and at all times we try to treat others fairly and we hope you will do the same.
We will be moving studios over the next few days, we will also be opening a permanent studio space in Nottingham and have quite a long list of cool new things in the pipeline to discuss (and deliver!) with you guys over the coming weeks including of course a new range of content and shows dedicated to 40K etc.
We are excited about this, we want to see the project and community grow and grow, but we’ll be honest with you guys, we are worried and a little afraid for what the future will hold for us all, and so more now than ever, we could be doing with your support!
For those who are interested, here is the Long Story…
Beasts of War was created by myself (Warren) and my brother Lloyd and our hope for the project was always to create an independent and vibrant portal where we and other content creators could report on the thriving Tabletop Gaming Industry. Over these last 5 years BoW has grown from very small beginnings, to provide rolling news and content seven days a week, viewed by hundreds of thousands of gamers every month.
Following in the footsteps of fantastic outlets such as IGN, Gamespot, Kotaku and Engadget we felt that gamers deserved a Tabletop Gaming site that gave them an independent view on the coolest goings on in the industry.
In our early days we had attempted to reach out to Games Workshop on a number of occasions, to try and establish some form of working relationship or even just an understanding with them, as that would allow us time to work on things like our themed weeks where we broadcast content for an entire week picking through a major release for Warhammer 40K or Fantasy Battles.
On 1st September 2011 it looks like we got our answer… (Take everything down!)
We received a communication from Games Workshop, including these requests:
1) To remove all of their images from Beasts of War reviews and articles
2) Remove all of their logos
3) Remove every video containing a Games Workshop product within it.
We were given 28 Days to comply. We wrote back asking for clarification on the points they raised and never recieved a reply…
On 14th October 2011… (New Necrons Have Landed!)
Blurry images of possible new Necrons landed with us. What we were looking at looked awesome and we took the decision to publish them and add our thoughts on what we were seeing. Three days later (17th October 2011), we received a letter from Games Workshop which stated that by publishing these images we had:
Breached our rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988. Specifically, you are in breach of Sections 16 and 20 of the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988 which give Games Workshop Limited, as the owner of the copyright in these images, the exclusive right to communicate the images to the public.
Along with the following demands:
1) Remove from your website all images which infringe Games Workshop Limited’s intellectual property rights;
2) Confirm where you obtained these images from including the name of any individual concerned;
On 3rd May 2012… (Is a Sketch really a Crime?)
This time we found ourselves with some sketches of possible new flyers, we went on to show and discuss the sketches during one of our Turn 8 Live Shows! (and a great show it was too!) And then we got a letter (Dated 17th May 2012) which contained the following:
As the copyright owner, we are entitled to seek damages and other relief from you. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 also lists a number of CRIMINAL offences, in particular in relation to communication of works to the public, in the course of a business in the knowledge that you are infringing copyright in those works.
It went on to say…
As this is the second such infringement of our copyright we are minded to pursue further legal action against you (both civil and criminal). Unless you remove all the infringing material from your website, and confirm to us the identity of the person who gave you this information within 7 days of today’s date, then we will pursue these actions.
On June 11th 2012… (Two Sticks are better than One!)
We were also contacted by Quad/Winkowski Ltd (from Poland) who are a subsidiary of Quad Graphics Inc. (a publicly traded US Company) and they had this to say…
According to GW, illegally obtained images of not-yet-published property belonging to GW, was subsequently published by Beasts of War. We are currently working with the proper authorities to investigate whether said unauthorized images were obtained and subsequently released by one or more Q/W employees. Irrespective of the outcome of said investigation, we’d like to join GW in requesting Beasts of War to cease and desist in the future from publishing similar images, photos, sketches, drawings and the like being the property of GW. Failure to do so may subject Beasts of War and its respective directors and officers to both civil and criminal actions.
Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions in regards to the matter above.
We did decide to contact them and asked…
Thank you for this email, could you confirm for me just exactly what ‘crime’ (as in criminal activity) you (and Games Workshop PLC) are accusing Beasts of War of?
And we got the following response…
In response I cannot speak for GW. I am not employed by GW, nor was I privy to their conversations with your firm (if one or more took place), and or the content of correspondence between GW and Beasts of War
They went on to say…
Writing on behalf of Q/W, in support of our customer GW, no where in the mail below did I accuse BoW of a crime or criminal activity.
It then continued…
However, I’ll reiterate that going forward BoW has been put on official notice that the future publication of unauthorized, and or illegally obtained images, photos, sketches, drawings and the like, being the copyrighted intellectual property of GW, could subject your firm, and or one or more BoW directors or employees involved in future decisions to publish said illegally obtained images, photos, sketches, drawings and the like to civil, and or criminal proceedings.
So no pics and no sketches, that’s disappointing because we want to talk about the products as we feel that new products from THE dominant company within our industry are definitely newsworthy…
On 26th June 2012 … (All our YouTube are belong to us!!!)
On this day Games Workshop contacted us to state…
I have had yet another report of your site posting Games Workshop images, text and video, at this page:
We haven’t given you permission to post our images, text or video. Please remove them from your site.
We had embedded a YouTube video on Beasts of War from Games Workshops own channel on YouTube, we believe in accordance with section 8 of the YouTube terms of service…
That doesn’t leave much to talk about does it?
So no pictures, no sketches and (we hope they are mistaken) we can’t even embed their own promotional videos from YouTube.
Well, at least we can write articles about cool new releases that are coming up…
And we did…
August 8th 2012 (9:12 am – Yes the time is important here)
We published a piece discussing what we believed would be the new and highly anticipated 40K starter set Dark Vengeance.
No images, no sketches, not even a video! But a great story about what was looking like a great product…
August 8th 2012 (14:30pm – 5 Hours Later)
We saw via the forums that retailers had received a warning from Games Workshop stating:
If Games Workshop has evidence that a retailer:
• disseminated information pertaining to new release products prior to the Advance Order date
• made new release products available to order prior to the Advance Order date
• sold new release products to an end user customer prior to the Global Release date
Games Workshop would then, for a period of 6 months, not ship the infringing account new release product until 30 days have passed from the Global Release date.
And if a Trade Account breaches these rules on more than one occasion their account will be permanently closed.
Independant Stores are not Involved
Now’s a good time to say that we have never acted upon any upcoming product information or rumors from any retailer… ever… not for Games Workshop or for any other company for that matter.
To be fair there is little point as release information is always spread across the blogs and forums, long before any retailer gets their hands on it.
You might wonder though why this statement from Games Workshop would have any effect.
Wayland Games and Beasts of War partner up!
Well… you may remember that in December of 2011 we announced that we would be partnering much more closely with Wayland Games, with a view that Beasts of War would become an independent subsidiary of Tabletop Nation. Our hope was together we could create some really cool stuff for the hobby.
In June it’s feasibility ended…
June 2013 Games Workshop released their new trade terms which contain this:
9.4 If any Affiliates of the Trade Account disseminate or otherwise make available to the public any information in respect of new release Products prior to any Advance Order Date in respect of such Products, then, for a period of 6 months, GW shall not despatch new release Products to that Trade Account until 30 days following the Global Release Date for such Products.
When we asked for clarification we were instructed that Affiliate covered:
Companies belonging to the same group of companies, and any individuals affiliated by way of shared ownership, control, management or key employees.
Unfortunately that basically described any possible relationship Beasts of War Ltd could have with Wayland Games Ltd.
We did go on to ask Games Workshop about the principles of Fair Use and they told us:
that the principle of Fair Use, did not apply as this was a contractual matter, rather than a matter of copyright law.
And that as they say… is that!
We have had to assume this applies to our coverage, any speculation we might make, and the thoughts and posts of our community in their comments and forum posts. And because of past notifications from Games Workshop on other aspects of reporting on their products, it was very hard for us to risk reporting on anything (Including Themed Weeks etc) as it was no longer about what the law said was ok, it was about, how Games Workshop would choose to interpret their own trade terms.
If we continue as we are, it places both companies and the jobs they provide at too great a risk. Because with each new set of Trade Terms, more and more conditions could be added, to increase this pressure.
Where to now?
Myself and the small team here at Beasts of War care very much about this community, this project and this industry. And collectively we have all sacrificed quite a lot to see it through to this point.
Independance is something many of us talk about, and I’m not sure if anybody fully understands what shape independance takes.
But we cannot operate in an environment, where the dominant company in the industry deliberately engineers legal and contractual scenarios, specifically designed to impinge on independent coverage of their products and practices.
The easy option would have been to walk away…
But I suppose Beasts of War has never been about the easy option.
So today we are announcing that Beasts of War Ltd and Wayland Games Ltd are ending their partnership, and Beasts of War will operate entirely independently. This is disappointing for us all and we would like to thank the hard working team at Wayland Games for their support, the access to studio space and building the amazing Tabletop Nation venue where we have participated in some memorable events, many of which have been the highlight of our time spent in Essex. And we look forward to attending others in the future!
We believe that this is our only option to fulfil the potential of this project and its community.
Again, we respect Games Workshop, and this statement is a difficult one to make, as it is not our intention to antagonise them, but we really have been left with no choice but to take this action, and state as clearly and as honestly as we can to the community why we are. We would hope that Games Workshop will see this for what it is, our attempt to abide by the rules they are setting out, but clearly we would hope to have some dialogue with them over the coming weeks, to reach a more clear understanding of how independent media can operate within our industry without fear of needless or unfounded legal threats.
We have the full support of our presenting team and amazing article writers and look forward to continuing creating great content with them and some other new faces joining us.
We have had amazing gestures of support from many companies within our industry and thank them deeply for their ongoing commitment!
Myself, Lloyd, and Justin, will be dedicating ourselves full time to Beasts of War and are excited by the possibilities that extra time and resource allows us to pursue.
And now we hope we can secure your support, our valued community, as we make this difficult but necessary transition.
And of course I have to mention that we are the luckiest men alive, to have the support of the good ladies and kids that love us, and put up with so much to let us pursue this fool’s errand!
Good things coming (Nottingham Studio!)
Over the coming days and weeks we will be announcing a number of exciting developments and ramping up the speed of development. (One big bonus of all this is myself and Lloyd will be able to join Justin and dedicate ourselves full time to this project, and there is a long list of things we’d like to do).
A fantastic announcement we can make right away is thanks to our partners in the industry we have secured a permanent studio space in Nottingham taking us even deeper into the heart of the action. Our intention is to split filming between Nottingham, Ireland (we’re going home to our families!) and other ‘on location’ places including possibly the US.
How you can help
It kind of goes without saying that this is going to be another huge challenge for us, and more than at any time in our existence we will be relying on the support of our community and industry partners.
If you would like to help, please consider one of the following avenues:
1) Just join the site and be a great community member, because we and the rest of the community really appreciate that!
2) Join the growing team of amazing article writers who are adding so much cool content to our lives!
3) Buy a monthly or one of our new annual Backstage Passes for yourself (You need to be logged in to do this!)
4) Donate one or more annual Backstage Passes (Just a single one off fee, not recurring) that we can distribute to those who can’t afford one today (we get emails from time to time from kids and adults who just don’t have the money to spare, so this is a way for you to help us and someone else in a sticky patch too).
If you are finding it tough out there these days and would like into Backstage, write to us at email@example.com
5) If you are a legal eagle and would be willing to help protect us going forward please get in touch by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org