Alleged Trademark Infringement is Magic: Where Things Stand

Thank you to everyone who wrote and commented about yesterday’s post. This was supposed to be a post about how I was printing cards and bringing them to Dragon*Con and hoping to get people together to play it, but I guess instead I’m here to explain what I can about the Cease and Desist order. Again, I don’t feel it would be a smart move to reprint the legal letter but I will try to go over some things and answer a few of the common questions I’ve been asked, to let you know where this project now stands.

1. I have responded to Hasbro’s lawyers’ email becuase, quite honestly, I have no idea what they are upset about. By that I mean, I truly didn’t understand if there were specific parts of the project that they felt were infringing or if they want the entire project taken off the internet. I am hoping it is not the latter, nor would I agree that’s infringement.

2. Hasbro will win any argument about parody or fair use. I accept that already. They have lawyers and rights to both properties; I’m a Magic dork who likes Ponies. That said I remain adamant in my belief that Shards of Equestria is a work of fan art that constitutes a parody of Magic: The Gathering. I have asked Hasbro’s representatives for clarification about what parts of this site they feel surpass that limitation. I have also offered to provide any additional disclaimer or verbiage on the site about this that would satisfy them.

3. I am not a lawyer, and there is a high chance neither are you. I mean that not to be rude, only to say that offering any random or opinionated statement about my “rights” is irrelevant. Like I said, this is about Hasbro’s lawyers not liking something. If they continue to not like it, they will simply order my site host to take it down, and they will, and I’ll be sad, and that’s it. Sigh.

4. Since many asked, yes, while they cited specifics about both My Little Pony and Magic the Gathering, it certainly seems like the MTG side of the project is what they are more upset about. Specifically the matter that many cards are existing cards from real sets (Giant Growth, Shock, all the Land cards, etc.) as well as the use of (I kid you not) the same verbiage as on real Magic cards (in other words, they-gasp!-look like actual Magic cards) and they seem to think that’s theft. I wrote a detailed explanation of the game mechanics and clarification of this to the lawyer which I imagine will be promptly directed to a brick wall outside. I tried.

5. Hasbro has neither threatened or attempted recrimination against me. The tone of their letter was cordial and stated their case succinctly. I have responded to the lawyers and am awaiting a response. In the long run they will likely get whatever they demand so my sliver of hope here is trying to convince them to take a more nuanced view of what’s going on here.

6. Some people have asked “well who else can I talk to about this?” God, I wish I knew. If I could call up anyone at Hasbro and ask for permission to keep doing this I would. If I could get people who make the show to rally behind it like they did for Fighting is Magic, I’d do that too. But I can’t. I don’t really know what to say or do beyond asking Hasbro’s lawyers to please reconsider their decision.

7. If you will allow me one moment of whining, I feel I have the right to say, just once, out loud, yes, I think this is really f***ing unfair. No, in the grand scheme of the problems in our world this is meaningless, and yes, I knew from the get-go there was always a chance tampering with two global trademarked properties could lead to this. But now that I’m facing it, I find myself incredibly frustrated. In the “real world” beyond this project I am an owner of my own IP and I understand the need to protect it. I have never, from day one, felt I was infringing on or violating Hasbro’s copyrights. I have never attempted to make money or earn any financial profit from this and have even turned down monetary offers. Shards of Equestria has been an eight-month investment of a lot of my own time and money. The profit I have earned has been laughter from my friends, praise from total strangers and a deeper connection to a fan community that does nothing but promote the financial and cultural success of a quality product. A group of people can make an entire video game based off of MLP, and that’s awesome. A group of people can write and publish an entire novel series based on MLP and a licensed video game property, and that seemed okay. And yet here I am, slapping Applejack on a Magic card and I’m being told I’m a thief. It hurts. It hurts a lot, only more so in that I know I can’t do anything about it. Okay I’m done now.

8. The big one: what do I do now? Well, as of this very instant… nothing. I am waiting for the lawyers to respond to my inquiry detailing what they expect of me. If they want certain parts of the site taken down, I guess I have to take them down. If they want the entire site removed, well, I guess I have to deal with that too. This could happen in a week, it could happen tomorrow, I could get an email from them as I complete this post. I don’t know. It’s up to them. Until then, I thank all of you for your comments, your feedback and most of all, enjoying Shards of Equestria for what I have always believed, and continue to believe it is and nothing more: a work of fan art that I want as many people as possible to enjoy as much as possible, as harmlessly as possible.

Update: I would prefer the comments on this site and particularly this post to not be a troll/flame war about whether or not you like the cards to begin with. Play nice.

Update #2, 8/29/12: I have responded to the legal representative for Hasbro, who has now responded and indicated they they are forwarding my responses to their client.  I expect to hear something sometime next week. Until then I will likely have no new updates. Thanks for your patience with this, everyone.

Update #3, 8/30/12: while I appreciate and am touched by everyone’s positive and supportive feedback, I want to be clear about one thing: nothing- NOTHING- will be accomplished by saying or doing anything that alienates or harasses either Hasbro or Wizards of the Coast. Please do not start or even suggest illegal activity, protest actions, spam or email campaigns, bothering employees, etc. etc. It is not that I don’t appreciate you trying to help me. It’s that I don’t think that will benefit me… if anything it might make trying to rationally discuss my options with Hasbro that much harder.

20 thoughts on “Alleged Trademark Infringement is Magic: Where Things Stand

  1. I wish you all the best. Those cards look really polished and professionally done.
    I suppose, at the very least, you could keep the cards you made for your and your friends personal enjoyment.

  2. I downloaded all of your cards. Even if you can not continue on with the project in the current form I am fairly certain it will stay alive in some form or another that lawyers can not shut down.

    Fandoms are interesting things. If they want something to stay they will keep it alive.

  3. I love your you are being very friendly about all, even though it hurts.

    hopefully the lawyers will watch a few episodes and have a change of heart, eh? One can dream…

    All the same, I wish you all the best.

  4. i cant blame them. they need to protect their cash cows. maybe you will get very lucky and they will buy the sets from you and release them as official cards. not much chance of that but once can dream.

  5. unless you are selling something or providing download for MLP episodes they can’t do anything.
    you didn’t break any laws.
    explain them that you do not want to sell the cards/print the cards and sell them/sell the download link/gain money in any way from this.
    also explain them that you are not going to organize an *official* MTGMLP tournament ( you can still print and give out card and organize a tournament if you are not taking money for that).
    explain to them that you are not counterfeing anything.
    if they still complain try this: add the download for the regular MTG cards back’s picture and add a little “this is not an official MTG card, no trademark infrangement intended” in a corner.
    yours is not the first custom MTG card set, nothing ever happened, this is just a misunterstandment

    • You have absolutely, positively, no earthly idea what you are even remotely talking about. This is a fact. Please stop pretending that you know a single thing about copyright law, or that you have even a basic understanding of the law in general.

      Because your knee-jerking, reactionary, and horribly misinformed rant makes it crystal clear beyond any shadow of a doubt that you absolutely do NOT.

      • “unless you are selling something or providing download for MLP episodes they can’t do anything.”

        If I had a year to lecture you with the sheer multitude of things that are completely and utterly wrong and outright false with that statement of yours, I wouldn’t have nearly enough time to fully explain, in the proper amount of detail, just how irrefutably wrong you are.

        I will say, for the sake of brevity, and in the interest of not resorting to a fifteen paragraph essay, that you have roughly about the same grasp on the details of how copyright law actually works, that a 1st grader does, and leave it at that.

  6. What to do? What about redesigning the cards? I didn’t knew of this project ’till I saw this problem in EquestriaDaily, so I checked up the cards and my opinion is that, they are magic cards with pony images -which I deduce is basically what you wish-, but also in my opinion, you could redesign the cards, if that’s not enough drop the use of ponies from the series with OC ponies, the community is huge and I really doubt that there is no other “Magic dork” that would lend you a hand…

    Again… My opinion…

    • Actually: PLEASE can people NOT spam or harass anyone at Wizards or Hasbro about this.

      Seriously, guys- I’m in contact with the lawyers, which is already more than I thought I could accomplish. I don’t want to anger or annoy anyone here. Thanks.

  7. Pingback: Dragon*Con | Friendship is Magic: The Gathering – Shards of Equestria

  8. Dude: This got out of hand way fast. :( I dislike that they did this to you for one sole reason: Yu-Gi-Oh!’s fanbase has created what is known as ORICAs. And basically, all these cards have alternative artwork for the Original Cards that have been produced. They keep everything from the card same, and just add on different art pieces. And guess what? People sell them from $10 up to $50USD. What you’re doing here is doing just that ORICAs. ORICA stands for Original Card. I think it should be renamed because the only thing Original on the cards are the artwork.

    Anyway, I want this site to stay up. :( I was learning how to play Magic so I could play this version. I also wanted to host a Panel about it at a con and hopefully, if it gets enough popularity, I wanted to use them in an MTG Tournament at my local cons. My current boyfriend hosts YGO Tournaments, so, I figured I could host this.

    Like I said: I want this to stay up. Good luck, mate and please keep us posted.

  9. It is unfortunate to have a lot of hard work be put in jeopardy like this. I do feel sorry for you to have put in all this effort and possibly have to scrap the whole project.

    One comment in your post though irks me, and I can’t let it pass. You say “A group of people can write and publish (for profit) an entire novel series based on MLP and a licensed video game property, and that seemed okay.” I assume here you are talking about the group printing Fallout Equestria. And I have to say, NO, no no no no no no no no no no. No one from that group is going to see a single cent for their efforts in helping get Fallout Equestria printed. It was discussed at length in the group the legality of the printing. Writing fan fiction is not illegal, the novel is available freely online, and anyone can take this text and have it printed for their own personal use. What this group is doing, is printing a fanfic for personal use on a larger scale, in order to get a bulk discount from a printer. There is an important difference between printing and publishing, this group has done no publishing. The money goes to the printing company to pay for materials and labour, the content of the text for the printer is irrelevant. A place like Lulu however, is a publisher, and as such, Lulu does not allow fanfic to be used in their services.

    Just wanted to clear that up, I think the admins of the group would be very hurt at people saying they are doing this for a profit. Like you, they have sacrificed countless hours purely for the benefit of other people that share the same interests.

    I hope you receive a quick reply from Hasbro, and your situation can be resolved with both sides being happy.

    • I’m pretty sure they meant Past Sins. That is a fic that is being published and isn’t exactly ‘free’. Not the books anyways far as I know.

      I could be wrong. Still, he isn’t pointing names so can’t quite assume anything, FO:E isn’t the only ‘popular’ fanfic out there.

    • Thanks :D. I understand it’s only a small point in a post about a much bigger subject, but I didn’t like what would happen if it spread around. Anyway, good luck with your situation!

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