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No more Netrunner


Vampire: The Eternal Struggle is another and pretty similar example. It was killed and brought back twice.

The key there was that there was one core group that took on responsibility for rules/errata, OP, maintaining the restricted list and publishing an FAQ. In the case of VTES it was the players org which existed outside the publisher and was doing all that stuff anyway, but it was important that there was one central source that everybody agreed on.

Later on there were expansions published with new cards, and that worked well because there was one canonical source, who were also the people who could approve the new cards for OP, and the cards were rigorously playtested and looked & felt like ‘real’ VTES cards. Having new expansions helped a lot but that’s a hard thing to do right.

One big advantage that Netrunner has that VTES didn’t is Jinteki.net. Getting Jinteki aligned with the things the Board wants to do (initially, restricted lists and errata as required, eventually maybe new card sets) will be a good way to ‘officialize’ and popularize them. Plus, it’s a great tool to maintain interest on its own.

The current resurrection of VTES is a fan-driven operation. They’re licensing the background and adjusting the mechanics to keep WotC happy (removing ‘tap’ and ‘untap’, etc). Netrunner doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of mechanics cross-over with MTG, though, so probably the biggest issue is just the name. But once there’s some distance and Cyberpunk goes back to being quiet, it’s entirely possible we could assume WotC has lost interest, cut a deal with FFG and arrange for a Hack The Planet LCG to come back.

For my part, as a new player, this timing sucks, but at least there’s a big card pool that I don’t have yet, so I’ll have a lot of stuff to explore for a while.


I just wanted to chime in for those thinking about somehow kickstarting for the license or something… remember that it’s not just one, but two IPs here: Netrunner and Android. That said, Conquest seems to have shown that having the licenses is not a pre-requisite for continuing on as fans with content creation, though I do wonder how much of that is GW just letting it be (as opposed to either FFG or WotC having something in mind and not allowing that to continue).


I’m super not a US lawyer, but there is some limited protection for unregistered trademarks, which is one way people sometimes defend trademarks they’ve abandoned but continued to use. I expect there’s some copyrighted material at stake too, which was part of Wizards’ aforementioned Hex suit. Terminology, card text, visual design, plot, setting…FFG would have a hard time convincing anyone that their new cards, fully compatible with their previous licensed game about a hacker player using icebreakers to pass ice protecting the corporation player’s HQ and R&D and steal agenda points, are not a derivative work.

NB: I might not have any idea what I’m talking about, but I really don’t think this is the legal slam dunk for FFG that anyone is making it out to be.


Regardless of the merits of an infringement claim, Asmodee definitely does not want to get into legal action with Hasbro. All downside regardless of whether they win or not. What’s worse, their Star Wars license is their bread and butter. They aren’t going to give the mouse any reasons to question their intent to adhere to the terms of a licensing agreement. Losing Netrunner is not fun for FFG but losing Star Wars would kill them.


I’ve heard people mention that Hasbro may have pulled the license since netrunner was cutting into Magic’s market share. I personally think that is unlikely. But it did remind me that I’ve heard some MTG players talking on a podcast about how some of them have been getting into Destiny. Could netrunner’s demise just be Hasbro’s warning shots to FFG about using the star wars license in a way they don’t like? No idea. But it would definitely be on theme.


I’m not a US lawyer either, I did a GDL in th UK but I never practiced, so from the sounds of things you’re more qualified than I am. Wouldn’t trademark apply only to the relevant logo, not the name or the mechanics? Because as far as I’m aware the “Android: Netrunner” logo is FFG’s. But wouldn’t the name “Netrunner” be copyrighted by WOTC? The cards do say “© Wizards of the Coast LLC” on them.

I do agree with you that it’s a commercial decision though. There’s very few legal obstacles that can’t be overcome with enough money, after all, so obviously what Wizards were asking was more than FFG could pay. I was just referring to any legal obstacles FFG might have if they theoretically decided to launch a Netrunner clone that had similar mechanics but left out anything that might be considered Wizards’s IP.


IANAL, but I have followed IP law issues on Techdirt.com for more than the past decade, and it’s relevant to my job as a computer programmer. (Especially with the question of whether an API is copyrightable, Oracle vs Google…)

Almost all of my experience is with US law. Trademark applies to the name and logo, as long as you’re using it in the same realm of business. (Theoretically you can have a Coca-Cola-trademarked chain of hair salons, it’s just doesn’t make much sense to. (And I dunno, maybe they’ve actually put a trademark on that potential use… Large companies are weird sometimes.)) Patents would apply to the game mechanics, as you said, and Copyright refers specifically to the creative works of the cards themselves.

I think Damon’s probably the best answer here, that it isn’t specifically using IP law, but instead is just an agreement from Wizards to not sue FFG over Netrunner, and that’s expiring. ‘Licensed’ is the term used, but it’s not legally the correct word here. Because the specific legalities get murky quickly if you try to copyright mechanics or enforce a copyright on new card design, especially because the Android world is much more copyrightable… I could believe FFG would have more success suing Wizards if they mention any part of Android lore in a Netrunner game than Wizards would have success suing FFG for a runner vs corp card game in the Android universe.

That said, Copyright law is frequently stretched and rulings are made that don’t line up (there’s one appeals court (CAFC: Court of Apeals for the Federal Circuit) that specifically deals with patent law, and routinely screws up any other aspect of IP law, the Supreme Court has had to overrule them twice in the same case. And may do so a third time. It’s nuts.) So trying to predict the results of a Copyright lawsuit are very difficult for anyone except experts in IP law with knowledge of the details of the case. … Because of that, most companies stay far away from even coming close to an IP lawsuit. Which is why the ‘license’ existed in the first place, and why neither company is likely to make a game like ANR in the future without a new ‘license’ in place.


I’m almost 100% certain what’s actually going on here.


Well, you had one like ?


Not sure this is true. The German cards are still releasing (always at the same time as the English ones), so it was probably just a decision by the French company.


I just said this over in another thread, but we have a player organisation (with some big names in who have done tons for the community in the past!) already forming over in Stimslack.
They plan to make an announcement soon.

They are exactly the kind of people I would trust to actually set something up, so seeing this has made me a lot more optimistic.


The logo and the name could be trade marked. Neither are (rather, neither actively are; at least the name was a registered US trademark but it’s been expired for years).

A name wouldn’t normally qualify for copyright protection because it doesn’t meet the threshold of being an original literary work. Trademarks are the relevant right, and WotC have chosen not to keep up the registration.

(in the UK and possibly other common law jurisdictions various laws of unfair competition/passing off might come into play but that’s all jurisdiction specific).

The copyright notice is really interesting to me, because the card art and frames aren’t carried over from ONR, so it seems like part of the license involved an agreement that WotC has copyright in… card text? That they’re not the author of? Or they’re overreaching and claiming copyright in individual game terms knowing that FFG aren’t going to challenge it in the courts? I have no idea.

But we’re circling around the same point: it’s not really about what is legally correct, it’s about what each party is willing to do to preserve their intangible/imaginary rights in a commercial context. FFG clearly don’t want to push it.


I mean, look at Closed Accounts, Fetal AI, Scorched Earth, Red Herrings

(edit: granted, none of those cards would be in our hypothetical Bootleg cycle, and some of them are already out of print, but making the game as they did, they were definitely right to sign the contract that, importantly, we don’t know anything about.)

That said, of course you’re right: both companies are doing a dance in order to get in the best position with regard to a fake idea that either of them might not be found to have any actual claim to. But saying that FFG just doesn’t want to push it trivializes the fact that pushing it is probably an extremely bad idea.


Ah, sounds you’re like me then, I’ve always been a bit of a nerd in following IP litigation, though my interest was more in creative works (music/movies/books), fair use, and internet rights (piracy - I’m a bit of a hard copyleft guy). But yeah, you’re right, the name Netrunner would be trademarked, not copyrighted, same in most jurisdictions. Some of the cards in ANR are pretty much carbon copies of ONR cards, so those could be copyrighted, but it’s notable that WOTC’s copyright appears on every single ANR card. This is presumably simply because it was part of the licensing agreement. You’re totally right about what a morass IP litigation can be, sometimes I read about some decision on EFF’s website and I want to bang my head on the keyboard. I was pretty impressed with that judge who learned to code to try the Oracle v Google case! And it’s pretty much a given that the cost of litigation makes any risk of being sued a lose-lose situation even if you actually won the case (which is far from guaranteed)!


It’s probably FFG themselves agreeing to it rather than WOTC overreaching. They were a small company at the time, probably didn’t have a battalion of lawyers to look over that contract like WOTC did. :slight_smile: I supposed they thought it was reasonable that WOTC’s name appear SOMEWHERE on the cards, even if none of the words on them are copyrighted.


Aside: Judge Alsup is a boss. He didn’t teach himself to code for Oracle v. Google, he taught himself a bit of Java. He’d been coding for a long time before that, including writing a calculator for shortwave radio propagation, written in BASIC.


In general, most of what Techdirt says about IP issues matches with my views. I do differ from them in one respect: While I do believe that we shouldn’t abolish Copyright, I do believe that abolishing Copyright would lead to a better result than our current system. (I think term limits should realistically be somewhere between 5 and 10 years. Economists way smarter and in tune with things than I am have weighed in on precise term limits, I’d listen to them.)

ANYWAY, that diverges from the topic slightly. The main takeaway is that FFG in no way shape or form wants to even take a chance of WotC lawyers coming after them, so they’d rather Not Print ANR than print it and hope WotC isn’t sure of a winning lawsuit. From my armchair+amateur perspective, FFG has a better chance of winning a case against WotC printing a Netrunner set that mentions any of the corp factions by name, than WotC has of winning a case against FFG printing an asymmetric game about runners vs corporations. But that doesn’t mean that FFG would still try that, because of aforementioned chance of WotC lawyers. It’s just not worth it.

The main concern I have going forward is whether fan efforts will survive litigation. I remember one of the sites (I think NRDB?) got threatened with a C&D over Netrunner at one point and the main outcome was that images couldn’t be hosted on their servers, and had to have watermarks on them. (I think. I’m not clear on the results of that one…) Sure, FFG might’ve been willing to ignore jinteki.net, but will WotC? Probably… I mean they have nothing to gain from suing mtgred, and goodwill to lose… But maybe they want to, anyway? Especially if they’re thinking of launching their own Netrunner: Rebooted or somesuch.


I am skeptical that litigation would ever be a real issue. It’s good to be aware of but properties that litigate their fanbase don’t have fanbases for long. There also seems to be very little money in it for them if they were to win litigatio.

Fan sponsored initiatives only increase the value of given properties, since they expand the player base and keep it relevant. So even if they were going to relaunch a new version (probably unlikely) going to the trouble of hiring lawyers to attack people working from a place of passion and possibly alienate their base would just be a bad move, not to mention a hassle.

I’m hard pressed to think of a game that litigated against fan-lead community efforts implemented for pure passion. I always think of Lars Ulrich going after Mettallica fans and the fall out he caught for that.

Again, it’s worth noting but it’s a dead game they are abandoning. They really just have more important things to worry about.


Shut Up Sit Down covered the death of netrunner in their latest news post if anyones interested


Didn’t know that, he does sound like a boss!

@CrushU we agree, even though FFG would have a better than even chance of winning a lawsuit over a Netrunner-clone, they wouldn’t do it because Hasbro would make the process so exsanguinatingly expensive that it wouldn’t be worth it.

I’m also worried about Jnet. I don’t thnk they would go after NRDB, but if they ever launched their own Netrunner Jnet would be in their crosshairs :frowning: I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about it.


I have a buddy at Wizards that i have been talking to about this. He says their licensing number didn’t change and that everyone over there was surprised to hear the announcement too.

Doesn’t change anything of course but maybe interesting info for the “inside baseball” crowd.