Monday, 27 August 2012

Why you should think carefully before buying the Westeros Map app

A good while ago, an interesting app appeared on iTunes. The app was an interactive map of Westeros, the setting for the Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones TV show. Users could search for obscure locations from the books and scroll around the map. As a free app, it was pretty good, although it was very heavily based on the same art style as the official map created by HBO for the TV show. The guy who created it, one Sergey Rekuz, posted on the Westeros.org forum and, given its usability, handiness and noted non-profit-making stance, he was allowed to advertise his product.

Tear's famous map of Westeros, still the definitive online map of the setting (and not at all affiliated with the iTunes app).

However, a few months ago something more dubious happened. The app was expanded with several modules that had to be paid for. The first such module was a map of Essos, the continent to the east of Westeros. This was then expanded by a 'cities map' and a 'coat of arms' pack, both of which also had to be paid for. When we asked Mr. Rekuz if he had gained permission from George R.R. Martin, his publishers or HBO to charge for such products, he blithely responded that since the maps were 'original' (i.e. created by his artist) he did not need to ask for any such permission. He became fairly irritable - and irritating, it has to be said - in this discussion and his product was subsequently banned from being advertised on the board until the legal situation had been clarified.

As of right now we are still waiting for legal clarification of the situation. Since the Essos map incorporates a reproduction of the copyrighted map of Slaver's Bay published in A Storm of Swords and A Dance with Dragons, I cannot see how it is legal to sell that image online, even a fresh reproduction of it. The same goes with the the city map pack, which includes a reproduction of the King's Landing map from A Clash of Kings, and the coat of arms pack, which includes reproductions of the secondary and minor house sigils from the books, some of which have also been copyrighted by GRRM.

The legal situation will be addressed by Bantam Books and HBO in due time, of course. What is more concerning is the fact that the creators of the app are essentially demanding payment for fanfiction. Their map of Essos has been supersceded by the substantially more authoritative map released by HBO in April 2012, so is now completely inaccurate (and we know now that the canon-for-the-books map of Essos in the forthcoming Lands of Ice and Fire book has been changed even further from this). It is also rather pointless to pay for the non-canon map when you can simply visit the HBO website map and see a much more accurate map of Essos completely free of charge.

The same is true for the cities map. The maps of Pentos and Braavos are simply fan intepretations of those cities and are not canon in any way, shape or form. A canon map of Braavos will also appear in The Lands of Ice and Fire, whilst to my knowledge there are no plans for a canon map of Pentos at this time. As for the map of King's Landing, a simple Google search will reveal, for free, the original map from A Clash of Kings, the more ornate one from the limited edition of the novel and even the full-colour, highly-detailed map from Green Ronin's Peril at King's Landing adventure book. Paying for this product is, aside from any legal considerations, therefore completely pointless.

To anyone planning to purchase this product, I advise caution based on the above facts.

Update:
A comment on this issue by George R.R. Martin's other half, Parris:
"thanks Adam for getting the word out about this person who is using the creative work of GRRM and multiple people and companies involved in making legit and 'canon' maps and histories of Westeros without permission to make money for himself.

There are dozens of people who are working on making the forthcoming books focusing on the maps of Westeros and the history of Westeros with GRRM's approval and collaboration. Some of those people are going to get not only a fee for their work, but royalties based upon sales.

This person is ripping off the intellectual property of GRRM and other people to make a profit for himself.

We have contacted the proper people at both Bantam and HBO, and hope that the outcome will be that this person takes down his counterfeit apps and that will be the end of it.

There are other outcomes that could take longer, but would be much more difficult for him, and much more costly.

I've heard that he's claiming 'fair use' allows him to take so much material for GRRM's stories to profit himself.

I do not think he knows what that phrase means when it comes to intellectual property.

For those who have accounts at the app stores where he is peddling his apps, it would be a good thing if you all could comment on his apps that these are not approved by GRRM and in some instances are very inaccurate and misleading."

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks Adam for getting the word out about this person who is using the creative work of GRRM and multiple people and companies involved in making legit and 'canon' maps and histories of Westeros without permission to make money for himself.

There are dozens of people who are working on making the forthcoming books focusing on the maps of Westeros and the history of Westeros with GRRM's approval and collaboration. Some of those people are going to get not only a fee for their work, but royalties based upon sales.

This person is ripping off the intellectual property of GRRM and other people to make a profit for himself.

We have contacted the proper people at both Bantam and HBO, and hope that the outcome will be that this person takes down his counterfeit apps and that will be the end of it.

There are other outcomes that could take longer, but would be much more difficult for him, and much more costly.

I've heard that he's claiming 'fair use' allows him to take so much material for GRRM's stories to profit himself.

I do not think he knows what that phrase means when it comes to intellectual property.

For those who have accounts at the app stores where he is peddling his apps, it would be a good thing if you all could comment on his apps that these are not approved by GRRM and in some instances are very inaccurate and misleading.

thanks for the information, Adam, really appreciate it.

PArris

Dan (Targh) said...

I've added a 1-star (can't do 0!) review to the app, mentioning that it's been reported to Bantam/HBO and is without permission and recommending that people don't make purchases. Hopefully it gets taken down soon.

Longasc said...

I know several people selling all kinds of ASoIaF heraldry on cups, badges etc. on Zazzle, Amazon, etc..

But this is the first time I heard of an App of this kind, thoug not the first time this kind of abuse happens.

The creators of such apps (in general) make cash till they are forced to take down the app. They really count on that, they only lose if they get charged which apparently doesn't happen often enough for this practice to stop.

Longasc said...

The creators of such apps make cash till they are forced to take it down. They really count on that no further charges against them are made.

P.S. I am no robot but I could use one for the Captcha, it's really hard! :(

Ash said...

I've also added a 1-star review on my local iTunes store. I couldn't review without downloading the app but deleted it right away.

Anonymous said...

Hey Adam,

I'm using this Westeros Map app from the very first version and honestly do not understand why you blame it. The app is quite good, comparing to several other in AppStore related to ASoIAF, so why you are against this single application only? Yes, guy uses GRRM's setting, but his map is only inspired by the book maps, it is not a copy.

Adam Whitehead said...

There would be no problem with the app (from me, anyway) if it was not for the fact that accessing the app's add-ons involve paying money. Leaving aside the legal issues - which are in the hands of Bantam and HBO - I object to people paying money for a product which is fan-created and non-canon when this is not made clear anywhere on the iTunes entry or on the app's home website. Free, canon maps of the setting are easily available online, so paying out for this app seems pointless.

Anonymous said...

Adam,

It is up to users to decide if they would like to pay for the application or not, I think. This particular Westeros Map app is initially free so people like me were able to look at Mr. Rekuz's map before buying anything, and that's great. Why do you blame this single app without saying anything about 10-20 other ASoIaF apps in AppStore that just sourced texts and maps from wiki?

I honestly think Mr. Rekuz provides us with good application and if HBO and Bantam don't like it - they just need to create their own map companion. There are many applications in Apple AppStore that rely on external IP like Angry Birds, Skyrim, Fallout etc. without getting license from initial IP owners so I doubt Mr. Rekuz violated some Apple's rule with his Westeros Map.

Adam Whitehead said...

"It is up to users to decide if they would like to pay for the application or not, I think."

Absolutely. And by this post, I was informing people that 1) the application is in no way official, nor is it canon, nor is there anything in it that is not available elsewhere, online, for free; and 2) that it does not enjoy the official approval of GRRM or any parties related to him (something that the creator's Twitter messages have seemed to imply).

With that information to hand, people can still choose to purchase the paid part of the app for as long as it is available, if they so wish. That's why I called the article, "Why you should think carefully..." rather than, "Don't buy this app!"

Anonymous said...

Adam,

Please answer, why do you blame this Westeros Map application only and do not say anything about another apps in AppStore that rely on ASoIaF setting and ask money for the information available in Westeros.org Wiki: Game of Thrones Companion, Game of Thrones Wiki etc. I tried all of them and can say that Westeros Map is the best ASoIaF utility in AppStore so far, others are much worse. To be objective, it would be better to update your post with information about all these apps, not Westeros Map only, otherwise it looks like you have something personal against Mr. Rekuz and his app.

Also, creator, Mr. Rekuz, doesn't say that maps are canon or app was blessed with GRRM in description. And he mentions GRRM and HBO as owners of ASoIaF and GoT IP as well as the artist who created Westeros Map content.

Adam Whitehead said...

Thanks for mentioning the other dubious apps available on the store. This will bear closer investigation, as to my knowledge several of the apps you mentioned were previously shut down. If they have reappeared, this is of concern.

However, just because other people are doing dubious things out there, that does not excuse others from doing the same.

There also seems to be a highly dubious claim going around that the Westeros Map uses 'original' artwork. It does not. It uses the original artwork from the books and from the HBO map. Just because they got someone to trace over the top of it or recreate it in a new image, that does not excuse anything. The original image itself is copyrighted. You cannot reproduce it in a new format and charge money for it. That is a violation of the creator's IP rights and copyright law.

Anonymous said...

Adam,

Applications I mentioned never were shut down, they are live in AppStore for years. And Apple doesn't approve apps that were excluded from AppStore earlier.

Westeros Map color style is similar to the one of HBO's map, but they are very different in details: coastal lines, mountains, forests, rivers, city locations etc. I have not doubts it is original map and not a copy. And it also provides alternate 'old paper' map style which is definitely unique!

You may think that Mr. Rekuz violated something, but I'll be happy to see Westeros Map live in AppStore and constantly updated as it is doing now.

Adam Whitehead said...

Again, it is irrelevant that the map is a recreation of the one in the books. It is still based on it, and that map is copyrighted. It is exactly the same legal situation as taking chapters of A GAME OF THRONES, the novel, copying the words out in crayon, and trying to sell the copy online.

The fact it is a copy, or a fan version, has no bearing on the situation. It is still a recreation of copyrighted material without the copyright-holder's permission, which is illegal.

Anonymous said...

How can we be sure that anonymous was posted by Parris?

Adam Whitehead said...

Parris sent me the same message by email to confirm.

Other-in-Law said...

If this is a good place to give a heads up about aSoIaF copyright violations, someone has been printing up and selling my illustrated maps of Westereos illegally:


http://www.etsy.com/listing/104383254/game-of-thrones-map-of-westeros-a-song

and

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Game-Thrones-Map-4-5-foot-tall-Map-Westeros-Poster-Song-Ice-and-Fire-/300777195381?_trksid=p2045573.m2042&_trkparms=aid%3D111000%26algo%3DREC.CURRENT%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D27%26meid%3D2102351863692384820%26pid%3D100033%26prg%3D1011%26rk%3D1%26

Hopefully the powers that be can put a stop to it, but I can definitively state that they never got permission from to sell them.

Adam Whitehead said...

OiL: I would immediately contact both eBay and etsy about this. Etsy took down a bunch of T-shirts when it was reported they were infringing copyright, so they're usually pretty good about this sort of thing. eBay also usually have a zero-tolerance on this kind of infringement.

I've passed on details of this issue as well.

Other-in-Law said...

I just reported it on on Etsy under the heading of "The item may be prohibited on Etsy." However it looks like the more specific charge is a lot more complicated to file:



"Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy

Etsy, Inc. ("Etsy") has adopted the following general policy toward copyright and intellectual property infringement in accordance with general U.S. intellectual property laws and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/legislation/dmca.pdf). Etsy will respond to notices of this form from jurisdictions other than the U.S. as well. The address of Etsy's Designated Agent to Receive Notification of Claimed Infringement ("Designated Agent") is listed at the end of this policy.

Etsy may act expeditiously to respond to a proper notice by (1) removing or disabling access to material claimed to be subject of infringing activity; and (2) removing and discontinuing service to repeat offenders. If Etsy removes or disables access in response to such a notice, Etsy will make a good-faith attempt to contact the allegedly infringing party ("Member") so that they may make a counter notification.
A. Procedure for Reporting Copyright or Intellectual Property Infringements:

If you materially misrepresent that a product or activity is infringing your intellectual property, you may be liable for damages (including costs and attorneys' fees). Therefore, if you are not sure whether the material infringes upon your intellectual property, please contact an attorney before contacting Etsy.


The full instructions exceed the 4,096 character limit; the rest is here:

http://www.etsy.com/help/article/482


Navigating all of that legalese is a bit above my pay grade...which, of course is nothing for aSoIaF. I hope that people more familiar with dealing with these matters can address it.

Adam Whitehead said...

That's a bit of a minefield to navigate, it has to be said.

If it's helpful and you need to 'prove' you are the original creator of the maps (although we know that from Westeros), io9 handily ran two stories about the maps which can help confirm that:

http://io9.com/5819555/massive-easter-egg+filled-map-of-game-of-thrones-seven-kingdoms

http://io9.com/je-fullerton/

Adam Whitehead said...

Other in Law, probably best you send me your email address and we can discuss this more thoroughly. You can do it here (I won't publish it, obviously!) or via Westeros PM or Twitter if you are on there.

Other-in-Law said...

Hi, it looks like the listings have gone down from both eBay and Etsy. I got a response from the eBay seller claiming theytbought them as a lot auctioned by a printer, after the customer who ordered them didn't pay or something. Not sure if that's true since I asked for the names of those other parties and got no response...but the main thing is the listings came down.

Humorously enough, I found another infringing merchant; this time selling cloth printed with my illustration of the Seven pantheon repeated. Can't imagine anyone wanting to buy it!