FLATLINED GAMES ONLINE POLICY
Covering Fan Pages, Fan Fiction, and Free Game Aids
Updated Nov. 3 2011
I. Some Vocabulary
COPYRIGHT: Copyrights are the way that authors protect their
creative efforts from being duplicated by others without permission. A
copyright is indicated by the © mark. They can be bought, sold,
rented, or abandoned. All Flatlined Games releases are protected by the
copyright laws of Belgium and most foreign countries. For more information, see Brad Templeton's 10 Big Myths of
Copyright Explained .
TRADEMARK: Trademarks are names or symbols that identify a
particular product or maker. They are designed in part to protect consumers
from imitations. Most unique game-related terms (and all game names) used
by Flatlined Games are trademarked (and some are registered
trademarks). Trademarks are indicated by the ™ symbol. The name Flatlined Games, for example, is a trademark. When we use it to identify one
of our products, it means not only that the game was produced by us, but
that it is of the quality that you have come to expect from Flatlined Games . . . whatever that is. It is polite to place any trademark in bold
or italic type.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK: These are special cases: trademarks which have
been specifically registered with the EU Trademark Office.
They are always accompanied by the ® symbol. Several of Flatlined Games' marks may be registered, including the flat ECG logo.
Registered trademarks are protected by a special set of laws, here in Europe as well as many foreign countries. Among other things, these laws
allow a trademark holder to lose his exclusive rights if he fails to
PATENT: Patents are for novel and unobvious inventions and are
designed to protect the inventor and reward him for his work by preventing
other people from using the invention without permission. Patents are
unusual in the game hobby. We have none so far.
TRADE SECRET: A Trade Secret is any information which a company has
which gives it a competitive advantage over its rivals. Some examples could
be lists of suppliers, information about customers, or a special
manufacturing process. Flatlined Games may or may not own any Trade
Secrets . . . we're not telling.
TRADE DRESS: The overall appearance of a product or product line. It
can be very general (e.g., a court has ruled that the color pink, by
itself, is protected trade dress for a manufacturer of insulation) or very
LOGO: Short for "logotype," a word which nobody uses any more. A
logo is a company or product name (which may itself be a trademark) in a
distinctive typeface. A symbol may also be a logo. Flatlined Games' flat ECG mark (at the top of this page) is a registered trademark and a company logo, and the words
"Flatlined Games" in nasalization or a clone font, are its "text logo."
Intellectual Property: Intellectual Property is the "catch-all" term
for certain types of non-tangible property, including (but not limited to)
Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents, Trade Secrets, Trade Dress and Logos.
II. Some General Principles
Flatlined Games will allow fans and others to use its trademarks and
game logos, if and only if certain conditions are met:
- They must be used in connection with discussions of the products they
- They must be used in a manner that will enhance (that is, not damage)
the reputation of the mark;
- They must be properly designated as trademarks or registered
trademarks (™ or ® respectively) of Flatlined Games.
- Finally, the first use of a product logo on any webpage or PDF'd game aid (and,
preferably, all uses) must link back to our official page for that product,
and any use of our company logo must link back to our home page.
Copyrighted text (like game rules and vignette text) may not be used
without special permission of Flatlined Games. To get this permission,
write to the Director of
You may use a reasonable amount of our art (no more than 10 pieces) on your
web pages, convention program books, and similar "fan" applications,
provided that the art is used in connection with the game that it is drawn
from, and its use is appropriate, credits the artist, is legal, and
otherwise complies with this policy. Please copy any graphics you
wish to display on your site to your server and link to the HTML
page for the associated product (or our home page). We may update
or move graphics from time to time, so linking directly to graphics
may leave you with a broken link or page.
In general, if you use any of our intellectual property online, you must
mark it appropriately, and link back to either our home page or the web
page of the game that the material is drawn from.
It is not necessary to mark each use of a trademark with the ®, or
™ symbol. If you're planning on using a trademark more than once,
simply mark the first occurrence and put the appropriate line in your
credits box. However, we do ask that you emphasize each trademark with
bold, italic or colored type every time you use it . . . you should do this
with any trademark, not just ours!
This permission does NOT extend to copying our trade dress. In
general, if you make your material look like a Flatlined Games product,
it's over the line. Nobody who sees your page,
downloads your PDFs, etc., should ever be confused into thinking that it is
an official Flatlined Games release.
This policy, the permissions it gives, and any similar permissions given
under other circumstances, are subject to change or withdrawal at any time
III. Fair Use
There is a principle of law called "fair use." It protects the press by
expressly allowing writers to use a short amount of copyrighted material or
a trademark in the course of review or commentary about the product. The
copyright or trademark holder may not block this use, as long as the use is
otherwise legal (that is, not libelous, for example).
IV. Notices and Disclaimers
Many people think that they can "borrow" any material they want, if they
post some kind of a "disclaimer" saying, for instance, "No challenge to the
rights of so-and-so is intended." However, that has no legal effect. Try
publishing your own Star Wars novel, with a note in the front that
you really love George Lucas' universe and no challenge to his rights is
intended, and see how far you get.
Nevertheless, notices and disclaimers do have a purpose, and you should
include appropriate ones on your site OR game aid.
The purpose of a disclaimer is to notify readers that your work is
not "official" or produced under license (unless it is). An appropriate
disclaimer for a fan page is:
"The material presented here is my original creation, intended for use
with <A HREF="http://www.flatlinedgames.com/games/rumble_in_the_house">Rumble in the House</A> from <A HREF="http://www.flatlinedgames.com">Flatlined Games</A>. This
material is not official and is not endorsed by Flatlined Games."
(Of course, you would change the Rumble in the House name to whatever
was appropriate.) Note also that both the game name and "Flatlined Games" should contain embedded links to our site. Please copy these links into
The purpose of a notice is to tell your readers who the trademarks,
copyrights, etc., belong to. An appropriate notice for a fan site is:
"<A HREF="http://www.flatlinedgames.com/games/rumble_in_the_house">Rumble in the House</A> is a registered
trademark of Flatlined Games, and the art here is copyrighted by Flatlined Games. All rights are reserved by FlatlinedGames. This material is used
here in accordance with the Flatlined Games <A
Note again that the game name contains a link to our site, and the mention
of the online policy links to this page  . . . so your readers can
easily see the policy for themselves. Please copy these links into your
disclaimer! If you do not use any of our art you don't need the art clause.
However, remember that game logos do count as art.
For game aids, we have specific text we need to have included.
[GAME NAME] is a trademark of Flatlined Games, and its rules and
art are copyrighted by Flatlined Games . All rights are reserved by Flatlined Games. This game aid is the original creation of [YOUR
NAME] and is released for free distribution, and not for resale, under
the permissions granted in the <a
href="http://www.flatlinedgames.com/flatlined_games_online_policy">Flatlined Games Online Policy</a>.
Please replace [GAME NAME] with the name of the product for which the game aid was developed, and [YOUR NAME] with your legal name. Again, copy the entire text, including the links.
V. So, does that mean that I can . . .
Put some of your art on my home page or other web page?
Yes, as long as its use complies with the terms of this policy (that is,
links back to us, is used tastefully, and so on).
Use Flatlined Games art to make avatars?
Fans are welcome to use graphic images from Flatlined Games releases as avatars
for online communities, with one limitation: Please do not use any trademarked
images. Our flat ECG logo, in its various forms is a registered trademark. (Our staff and official
volunteers can use these images as avatars, since they represent the
company, but we ask that others not do so.)
Use the logos and art in ads or websites for my retail store or
Yes, as long as you are a bona fide retailer or
distributor and you are actually selling the products in question.
Reprint some of your products that are out of print?
NO. Absolutely not. These games might be out of print, but they
still belong to us, and we have to protect our rights and the rights of the
creators. And it's quite likely that they might come back into print some
day, in some form.
If you find one of our games online, in any format (PDF, HTML, text, or
anything else), please notify our
enforcement team  and we'll deal with it. We have never had to actually
sue anybody to protect our rights online . . . dozens of people have
infringed us, most have stopped when notified, and a small remainder
(mostly people who didn't post contact info) have had their free web pages
taken down by the provider. A lawsuit would be the last resort, but yes,
we'd do it if we had to. Hopefully, we'll never have to.
Post (or make available for download) forms, charts, tables and text
from one of your games?
No; that is a violation of copyright. We understand that it is convenient
to gamers if some forms and charts are online, and we have already posted
many of them ourselves. You should look at our page for the game you are
interested in, to see if perhaps we have already posted the material you
want. But we can't give permission to put more and more of each game on the
web . . . eventually the whole text would be online, for free, and we
couldn't sell any books . . .
We post online rulesbooks to our games, but we want to remain the authoritative source as they get updated, and we want the people who download a copy to visit our site, to assess the actual interest there is in our games.
Create a fan page about your games?
Yes. We love it! Just follow the policies outlined here.
Write my own fan fiction using your characters and backgrounds?
As long as you're not selling it in any way, and as long as it's clear
to anyone who sees it that it's your original creation, we permit this
use. Follow all the guidelines in this policy . . . and have fun. As a
courtesy to others, if the fiction you are writing is not worksafe,
indicate that in a way that will protect the casual browser!
Write my own adventure or scenario using your rules or background?
Maybe. It has to do with whether or not the material is an extension to
the game line (OK), or a restatement of the copyrighted rules (not OK).
Character stats, and original background and scenario material using our
rules terminology, are a permitted use, as long as you're not selling
it in any way. Again, follow all the guidelines in this policy.
Post modified games rules, transposing the setting for a book, movie or TV show?
Be careful here. Even if what you do is completely within these guidelines
and does not infringe Flatlined Games, you're probably infringing the
copyright of the creator of the book/movie/TV show. They have the right to
decide what use gets made of their intellectual property, too. The better
known the property, the more likely you are to get a letter from a lawyer.
But even with something obscure, courtesy dictates that you get the
permission of the creator first. Then, if you have any doubts about your
use of OUR material, ask us.
Create a web-based, mobile, tablet, computer, console or other digital platform version of your games?
No, you do need a license for that. It doesn't matter if it's free to play or not. We want to control the quality of the products, and be the sole decision-makers on which games may or may not be made available in a digital version. This does include Vassal and other generic toolboxes. If you have a suggestion for a product, or if
you would like to become a Flatlined Games licensee, contact the Director of Licensing .
Create my own MUD, MUSH or online game based on a Flatlined Games property?
In general, no. These conflict with our licensing program. It doesn't matter if it's free to play or not. If you are a
professional game developer and want to talk about licenses, write to the Director of Licensing .
Create a character generator or other game aid?
Yes, as long as you include the appropriate notices. 
We want to ENCOURAGE our fans to create these programs, share them with
the community, and have fun doing it. If you want to charge money for a
game aid based on our work, however, the Online Policy does NOT apply . . . you
must either get a license from us, or sell us the game aid for
distribution as a regular product, and either way we'll hold you to
professional standards. Email the director of licensing  with a formal
We do, however, have some advice for creators of game aid programs.
First, provide documentation. Some simple instructions on how to use the
most basic features will be a big help to users. Second, support your
Put a logo or art on a t-shirt or hat?
Nope. This, too, conflicts with our licensing program. We have been known to give permission
to game conventions and gaming clubs to use our logos on limited runs of
certain items (t-shirts, hats, folders, etc.). If you're interested in this
program, contact the Marketing
Director . Everybody else should wait for our licensees to do the
products they're looking for. If you have a suggestion for a product, or if
you would like to become a Flatlined Games licensee, contact the director of licensing .
Use some of your art as wallpaper or icons on my desktop?
Sure. Just don't distribute it without permission. If you feel that you've
come up with a great set of wallpaper and icons (like a complete Ubuntu
Desktop Theme), send it to us. Some of us around the office would like
those, and other fans might like to use them.
Have you look over my website and tell me everything's all right?
No. We do
not have time to individually check everybody's site. That's why we
posted this policy! Please read the rules here, and if you're not sure
that what you want to do is all right . . . just don't do it. Stay
within the clear letter of the permissions here and we'll all be fine.
VI. The Most Common Misconception
You may have noticed that none of these provisions discuss money. That
at the heart of the biggest misconception about copyright and trademark.
Many people believe that if no money changes hands it's legal to
intellectual property rights. This is, at best, wrong. At worst, it's a
Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are not about money. They are about the
creators' right to control their creations. Federal law give us not only
the right, but also the obligation, to prevent people from misusing our
intellectual property, whether or not we're being paid. Don't violate our
rights and we can all stay friends.
VII. The Final Words
Use your head. If you don't think we'd allow it, we probably won't.
If it's not clearly permitted by this policy, please just don't do it!
Policy based on and adapted from the Online Policy of Steve
Jackson Games Incorporated . Used by permission. Thanks, guys!