A few weeks ago NetrunnerDB, a popular Android: Netrunner deckbuilding fansite, was shut down due to a cease and desist letter from Fantasy Flight Games. A more detailed look at this chain of events can be found in Parick’s ATGN article here.
A few hours ago, eagle eyed Netrunner fans noticed that NetrunnerDB has quietly been put back online. This was accompanied by a tweet from the owner of the site, Alsciende. It simply stated “Throwing caution to the wind. Nrdb is back baby!” He later tweetted “Tired of being the only fansite targeted by . Let’s hope they changed their mind and are waiting for the AUP as much as we do.”
I’ve reached out to Alsciende with questions and this was his response.
“Ten days ago, I wrote to Fantasy Flight Games inquiring about any changes in their acceptable use policy, to know specifically what they would and wouldn’t tolerate. They replied that I had to wait for them to publish a set of guidelines. I haven’t had any correspondence with them since then. I reopened the NetrunnderDB website Friday afternoon, so even if they want to react it won’t be before Monday.
I received the Cease & Desist on Sept, 11. It’s now Oct, 11. One month has gone by.
NetrunnerDB is the only deckbuilder/database who received a Cease &Desist. The other site that received a C&D, jinteki.net an online gaming platform, ignored it and it doesn’t look like FFG cared.
Whatever NetrunnerDB provided, it’s clear that other sites provide it as well. The images can be found on a number of websites, be it acoo.net, netrunner.meteor.com, onosendaicorp.com or cardgamedb.com. The data (what is commonly referred to as “the API”) can be found on the exact same “json format” on onosendaicorp.com
Still, Netrunnerdb is the only fansite that has been worried by FFG.
I feel like FFG have spat in my face! I dedicated countless hours to NetrunnerDB, really, an incredible amount of time. I feel like I was helping FFG build a great scene with my own abilities, and they grabbed my arm, insulted me, accused me of being a thief, and threw me away. While other people were doing the exact same thing and were ignored by FFG. And without a shred of explanation or even logic.
So, nothing changed externally. The trigger may have been when I helped David of NetrunnerDB.ca to update his clone with my last updates with the source code of NetrunnerDB, Thursday night. It felt really awkward to be forced to work on somebody else’s website instead of my own. If FFG ignored the clones of NetrunnerDB, why should I refrain myself from reopening NetrunnerDB?
I don’t have a legal strategy or legal advice. I had some discussions with a US-based attorney during the month of September. My position at that time was that I didn’t want to risk any lawsuit. I have a family and its safety and security is paramount. So the attorney advised me to close the site, remove the github repository, and refrain from any cloning or rebooting initiative. But now, I’m 100% certain that FFG won’t worry me. They will wait until the AUP is released, if they ever release it. Well, at least I hope so.”
When NetrunnerDB received a cease & desist letter, it came to light that jinteki.net was also sent one as well. Jinteki.net actually offered ‘play online’ options as opposed to the simple deck builder and database offered by NetrunnerDB. Some in the Netrunner community have voiced their opinion that perhaps jinteki.net’s online play options are what FFG actually wanted to shut down and NetrunnerDB was simply caught in the crossfire. Regardless, jinteki.net has remained active up to and including the time of this article. This is what Alsciende cites as one of his reasons for bringing NetrunnerDB back online.
Alsciende commented on FFG’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), a document written by some companies and businesses to outline the manner in which their copyrighted assets and intellectual properties may be referred to or used without incurring legal actions. It functions in a similar manner as terms and conditions for users but for individuals or organisations that wish to make fair use of the business’s properties. After NetrunnerDB got their cease & desist letter, those behind TeamworkCast reached out to FFG as to the legality of their Netrunner videos. An excerpt from their response on the September 24th stated that, “…we’ll be putting up an Acceptable Use Policy in the near future”. As of now, there are no words on the progress of an AUP by FFG.
In August of 2013 FFG obtained CardgameDB, a fansite that offered databases, deckbuilders and forums for most of FFG’s Living Card Games range including NetrunnerDB. When FFG sent these cease & desist letters in September, a lot of people were rightfully suspicious that it was a concerted move to position CardgameDB as the main fan community website by shutting down other fan-sites. Another theory was the fact that NetrunnerDB provided higher res images of cards, which led FFG to be fearful that the images can be used in counterfeiting their products. Alscinde’s own admittance that FFG was unreceptive to his offer of compromises such as lowering the image quality and putting FFG watermarks on artworks further seems counter to this. The following alleged excerpt from the cease and desist letter Jenteki.net received added fuel to the rumour that FFG aim to push CardgameDB more.
“Please use our website www.CardGameDB.com2 for your Android: Netrunner deckbuilding needs. This service provides several useful tools. If you feel that our website service is lacking in some way, please do not hesitate to let us know so that we can make improvements. You can contact email@example.com if this is the case.”
“We are already aware of the community desire for an online forum to play and have taken that into consideration. Because we already offer deckbuilding and card browsing services, we do not allow others to do the same.”
As of now, there have been no report of any other Netrunner or other Living Card Game fansites being served with a cease and desist letter.
The reaction from the Netrunner community seems to be overwhelmingly on the side of NetrunnerDB judging by the discourse on the Netrunner subreddit and other fan communities. The following petition has already obtained over 2000 signatures. Some selected few have even called for the boycott of Netrunner or FFG products. On this matter, this is what Alsciende had to say.
“To the fans of my site: Thank you for the support post-C&D. The testimonies in the petition really touched me. I have some very nice plans for the future of the site. For now, I hope you enjoy the card suggestions in the deckbuilder, I know I have a lot of fun with them.
To the Netrunner fans: Remember that the game designers at FFG have nothing to do with the actions of their legal department and don’t even necessarily agree with them.”
As a fan and avid player of most of FFG’s Living Card Games, especially Netrunner, my own personal opinion is against fan sites like NetrunnerDB going down. I can understand and support FFG’s desire to shut down sites that may offer an a way to play their products online as this could hurt sales. However, I am of the opinion that sites like NetrunnerDB could only help to grow the community which is of tantamount importance to the longevity of Living Card Games.
Please feel free to sounds off your opinion on this matter by commenting below.