April 8, 2009
Dear DriveThruRPG.com customers,
We wanted to respond to some of the fears and concerns expressed to us and on various online forums regarding the recent announcement that Wizards of the Coast is suspending all sales and downloads of the digital versions of their products. So I am writing this to address those concerns.
First, there are no "contract negotiations" with Wizards that led to the current situation. We have been doing business with Wizards on downloads for over six years now and always enjoyed a positive and co-operative license relationship. Some have hypothesized that the situation might be a result of a negotiation issue is a reasonable hypothesis, but that is incorrect.
Wizards gave us legal notice to remove their titles. Due to what I'll characterize as a miscommunication on intent, we complied immediately and removed all public access to Wizards' products from DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. In turns out this was not a situation that either we or Wizards desired. I am in discussions with Wizards legal and it looks highly probable that we will be able to offer customers time to come back and re-download prior purchases for their personal archives. We will email and post information on sites once we have final confirmation on this.
I regret that some customers have inferred that our download counts are any guarantee of availability to re-download titles. We really do not like iTunes' approach of "one download, you lose it, pay again" so we do our best to offer perpetual downloads of purchased titles. Our agreements with publishers though do not let us guarantee this - as this situation makes clear. We have learned a lesson here by reading that some customers inferred otherwise, and we will make some changes soon to clarify this on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.
We are offering full refunds to anyone who purchased a Wizards title from us but never downloaded it. These are extremely rare cases, as most everyone downloaded the goodies as soon as they were originally purchased.
I am otherwise as confused as anyone else here on the rationale behind Wizards' decision. I know there are some smart people at Wizards who get it, so I can only speculate that there are others who are not as informed and who are making the call on this.
As many folks on forums have stated, I also believe that piracy for the foreseeable future is unavoidable for books. So long as printed copies and scanners and torrents exist, RPG books have been and will be pirated. It's sad and fatalistic, but it's true.
Given that RPG books will always be on file-sharing sites, it means that anyone who purchases a legal PDF is doing so because they prefer to make that choice over pirating the file. Thankfully, the number of RPG fans who make that decision are legion and it lets us send payments every month to hundreds of RPG publishers and creators. By making this choice to legally support their hobby, fans are keeping RPGs alive. I say that without one bit of exaggeration or melodrama. Around seven new RPG titles go live every day at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow. The hobby could not be nearly that prolific if not due to fans choosing to support their hobby.
This makes DRM an extremely poor choice for any publisher. DRM inevitably restricts ease of purchase and ease of use, and anything that tips customer choice from legal purchase toward pirating is a bad business decision. DRM does nothing to prevent pirated files from being available, since the files will already be available anyway from scanned copy.
We already learned lessons on DRM the hard way in the past, so I know the issue intimately. For many years now, we have embraced watermarking as the preferable solution.
The posts by D&D fans across all gaming forums, while angry at times, are ultimately posted out of concern for Wizards and the desire to see Wizards make the best choices. Whether I ever do business with Wizards again or not, Wizards is a big part of the hobby that I love and for that reason alone, I hope that they reconsider. Especially given the ongoing fan feedback on this, I am optimistic that they will.