Using Our Art, Text, or Other Intellectual Property in Your Projects
We receive frequent messages from gamers asking whether and how they can use or build upon our artwork, text, game rules, or other intellectual property in web sites or communities they develop. This policy spells out the basics of what Monte Cook Games does and does not allow.
Generally speaking, we’re thrilled when gamers want to share and show off their interest in our games and properties. We appreciate that this helps grow the community for our games, and we don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s enthusiasm. On the other hand, we don’t want anyone to give away the content that pays our bills, and we have an obligation to protect our intellectual property or, legally, we can lose our ownership rights. This policy is our attempt to walk that fine line, letting you, the fan, build web sites and communities that you want to have and to share, while protecting our interests so that our game lines have a future.
“About” versus “For”
This policy relates to things that are for our games, not about our games. What’s the difference? A review, an unboxing video, an actual play or podcast, a video about the lore of our settings—these are all about our games. If that’s the sort of thing you’re making, this policy isn’t for you (though if you use our art or similar assets, see What You Can Reproduce, below). Stick within the bounds of legal fair use, and we’ll all be happy.
Adventures, settings, characters, generators, assets for virtual tabletops, and other things gamers might use while playing or running our games: those are examples of things that are for our games. That’s where this policy comes into effect. If this is the sort of thing you’re making, keep reading. It all applies to you.
Products versus Communities
As we all know, games are a social activity, and they thrive on community—so we’re all about supporting gaming communities, especially for our games. But this policy isn’t about producing products (even free products).
Here’s a quick rule of thumb: If what you’re doing is a web site or similar setup, where people can visit, view information, and best of all contribute information or interact with one another, this is the policy for you! But if you want to make things that people download or take away, possibly to use offline, this policy isn’t about that—even if you’re giving away these things for free. You should check out the Cypher System Open License or the Cypher System Creator program.
(Here’s an exception: You can post a downloadable item of one or two standard-sized pages if it’s something, like a character sheet, that is primarily useful only when downloaded and printed.)
Again, if you’re posting a PDF or a Google Doc or anything in the form factor of a product—even if it’s free—this policy and its permissions don’t apply. Consider instead either taking the same stuff and posting it as web content, or publishing under the Cypher System Open License or Cypher System Creator program. You’ll do more to help build the gaming community, and we’ll all be happy!
Trademark and Copyright
To understand what we explain below, it’s helpful to understand what trademarks and copyright are.
- Our text and images are protected by copyright. This is the legal protection that covers the content of our products, and basically says that we get to decide how that content is duplicated, copied, or otherwise reproduced. (Some people think that copyright only matters when money is being charged, but that’s not true. Copyright applies regardless of whether someone charges money or gives stuff away for free.)
- Our names, logos, and some distinct elements of content (such as the names and likenesses of characters) are trademarks. Trademarks are elements we use to uniquely identify our business—other people or companies can’t use these terms or images. For trademarks in particular, the law requires us to police violations of their use, or we lose the right to claim them. (That’s why you sometimes hear stories about companies sending ridiculous cease-and-desist letters to hapless fans—the companies sometimes have to do that, even if they don’t want to, or they risk losing control of their valuable trademarks.)
All of our products are protected by copyright. Copyright is not intended to prevent you from enjoying games you have purchased, or even from copying them—if it’s for your own personal use. Copying or reproducing our text or images for distribution, however—even if you’re distributing it for free (like putting it on a web site) or to just a few people (like members of your gaming group) is a different matter.
What You Can Reproduce
We want you to be able to build web sites and some game aids in support of Monte Cook Games, and to feel comfortable that you’re not going to get into trouble for it. Here’s what we allow without any additional approval (but there are some conditions, which we outline below, so make sure you read those too):
- Images and artwork, so long as you don’t alter or combine them, and display the following text in a legible manner immediately adjacent to the image: TM and © 2024 Cook Games, LLC. You can find a number of pre-approved images and logos, with the legal line already in place, here. When you use these images, the notice must be visible and legible, so if you crop or reduce the size of the image, you may need to add the legal line again.
- When using our images, we encourage you to identify the artist when possible, to recognize the artist’s contributions and talents. (When using our files, you can often find the artist’s name as part of the filename.)
- You may use game terms. Generally speaking, if it’s a term that appears in a header in the text (including inline headers) or in the game’s glossary, or if it’s a game term that’s capitalized in the text, you are welcome to use it.
- You may use numerical values or game computations, so long as you are not explicit about how these values are derived. For example, a table of task difficulties that basically recreates a table in the rulebook is not allowed, but creating a character sheet that autofills numbers based on how you fill in other fields is OK.
What You Can’t Reproduce
Here’s what you may not copy, duplicate, or reproduce. Obviously, we’re talking about Monte Cook Games content here—you may of course copy your own text, even if it’s related to our games (so long as it complies with the guidelines in this document).
- Images or artwork, unless they are accompanied by the legal line TM and © 2024 Monte Cook Games, LLC.
- Images or artwork that have been combined or altered, other than resizing or cropping. Again, if you crop or resize an image, you need to make sure the legal line is visible and legible.
- Our logos. You can certainly indicate that your site supports our games, in big letters across the top (or however you want to do it), but you can’t use our actual logos.
- Game text beyond the terms described above, even if you rewrite it in your own words. The occasional quote from the text is OK, up to half a page at a time, so long as such quotes do not provide full, playable context.
- Any complete tables, charts, creature listings, or other boxed elements from our published material.
- Any content that has not already been released by Monte Cook Games, except with explicit permission.
- Our trade dress—the layout and “look and feel” of our products, including the font, background art, style and formats. (This goes along with the condition that you don’t claim or imply that your materials are “official”—if they look “official,” people will often assume that they are. See Our Conditions, below.)
What You Can Make Up on Your Own
Many gamers like to make their own content—adventures, equipment, characters, and so on. That’s fine. More than fine, in fact: We love it. So long as you don’t charge for the content you create and adhere to what we’ve outlined here, you’re good.
Here’s what you can distribute (and by “distribute,” we mean make available to others, such as on a web site):
- Campaign information
- Character sheets (including character sheets that autofill or calculate numerical values, but do not include descriptive text)
- Web-based character generators (including character sheets that autofill or calculate numerical values, but do not include descriptive text)
- Equipment (including cyphers, artifacts, and so on)
- Foci and descriptors
- Fan fiction
- Original artwork based on our settings
- Original maps based on our settings
- Probably many other things we haven’t thought of, but you’ll need our explicit permission if it isn’t on this list. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s what you may not distribute:
- Software or apps (this includes any item that you would download, install, and/or run)
- Artwork that directly copies our artwork, even if you made it yourself
- Our artwork that you have altered
- Anything that contains more than half a page of content from our products
- Anything in a downloadable format, unless it’s something that people need to print out (like a character sheet) and isn’t longer than two standard-sized pages
- Anything in a product-like form factor (for example, a PDF or downloadable document), even if it’s free
- Probably a few other things we haven’t thought of. When in doubt, contact us at email@example.com
We don’t object to you making money from content you produce or distribute under this policy. You may not charge the user of your content directly. But indirect methods of monetizing your content, such as advertisements on your site, or Patreon support (as long as the content is available to the public, and not restricted to supporters), are fine with us. That said, funding and monetization of internet content is undergoing rapid change, and none of us can foresee options that may arise in the future—or the full consequences of some options available today. So if you have questions about a particular method of monetization, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please note that this aspect of the policy (like all other aspects) is subject change at our sole discretion.
As mentioned above, we have a few conditions. We don’t impose these because we want to make life tough on anyone, but because they’re necessary for us to properly protect the intellectual property that pays our bills and gives our games a future. The permissions outlined in this document are only granted if you comply with these conditions:
- You let us know you’ve built a web site or otherwise distributed the materials you’ve created. Send a note to email@example.com letting us know you’ve done so, and the web address where we can find it.
- Never claim or imply that your site or materials are “official” or produced or sanctioned by Monte Cook Games.
- Do not violate the intellectual property of others. That means not using images to which you don’t have rights, copying other people’s text, or using the trademarks of others without their express permission.
- Do not charge for access to your materials or site.
- Do not distribute your content through retail channels (including online channels such as DriveThruRPG), even if you distribute it for free.
- Make sure that copyright or trademark notices (such as those on our artwork) are not cropped off or otherwise rendered illegible.
- Include the disclaimers just below. The abbreviated statement must appear on the landing page of your site and on any page that includes materials related to our games, and it must include a link to the full disclaimer. (The abbreviated statement doesn’t have to be super-prominent, so long as it’s legible.) The full disclaimer must appear at least once, somewhere on your site. (It doesn’t have to be everywhere, or on the front page, but the abbreviated statement must point to it.)
Here’s the abbreviated statement:
Numenera, the Cypher System, No Thank You, Evil!, Invisible Sun, and their respective logos are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC.
And here’s the full disclaimer:
The Monte Cook Games logo, Numenera, the Cypher System, No Thank You, Evil!, Invisible Sun, and their respective logos are are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC in the U.S.A. and other countries. All Monte Cook Games characters and character names, and the distinctive likenesses thereof, are trademarks of Monte Cook Games, LLC. Content on this site or associated files derived from Monte Cook Games publications is © 2013-2022 Monte Cook Games, LLC. Monte Cook Games permits web sites and similar fan-created publications for their games, subject to the policy given at https://www.montecookgames.com/fan-use-policy/. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Monte Cook Games is not responsible for this site or any of the content, that did not originate directly from Monte Cook Games, on or in it. Use of Monte Cook Games’s trademarks and copyrighted materials anywhere on this site and its associated files should not be construed as a challenge to those trademarks or copyrights. Materials on this site may not be reproduced or distributed except with the permission of the site owner and in compliance with Monte Cook Games policy given at https://www.montecookgames.com/fan-use-policy/.
Here’s something really important: If you violate this policy, even parts of this policy that might be stricter than legal fair use, we revoke all of these permissions. We’re super-happy to have you creating and sharing stuff for our games, but if you won’t play by our (pretty fan-friendly) rules, we can’t have you in our sandbox.
We reserve the right to change or revoke this policy, or to require you to take down any material related to our games, at any time and for reasons of our sole choosing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between this and the Cypher System Open License?
The Fan Use Policy is a set of guidelines for what we consider acceptable use of our intellectual property when you make community content for our games. It’s focused on websites, community hubs, and other ways fans publicly share things they’ve made—noncommercial, non-product activity. The Cypher System Open License is a binding legal agreement with Monte Cook Games that allows a publisher (a fan or a professional) to produce products (for sale or for free) using specific Cypher System content, and market those products as compatible with the Cypher System.
I’ve built a web-based character generator. Can’t it include the descriptions of the characters’ abilities and powers?
In a word, no. The names of the abilities and powers, and the numerical values associated with them—those are fine. But please leave the descriptive text out of it. Or check out the Cypher System Open License, which may allow you to publish you item with the content you wish to include.
What about my very cool GM screen, which brings together all sorts of useful tables and text from the corebook?
Again, no (or check out the Cypher System Open License). You are of course welcome to create something like that for your own use (and we highly recommend the Hammerdog vinyl GM screens, into which you can insert your own text and tables), but do not distribute it.
Can I copy several pages of text out of an MCG book to paste into the adventure I’ve written for my game tonight?
Absolutely, so long as it’s just for your use and you don’t distribute it. The same is true for a map or illustration or whatever. But if you want to share it on a website or otherwise distribute it, the answer is no.
That adventure I just mentioned, with the several pages of copied text, was a big hit with my gaming group, and now I want to post it to my web site. Is that OK?
No. Well, yes, but only if you remove the content that you copied out of our books, leaving no more than half a page of our content in your adventure.
Can I distribute an app that generates characters (or creatures, or whatever)?
No. We have specific licensing agreements for software in place, and it would be unfair to those licensees, who have paid for the right to make software, to have to compete with software that’s out on the net for free.
What if my [GM screen, app, character sheet, description of a particular rule, or whatever] is OBVIOUSLY SO MUCH BETTER than the official version?
Sorry, but the same rules apply. If you’re completely convinced that your version is distinctly superior, though, by all means shoot us a copy. Maybe we can talk about an official license!
I’ve written up a bunch of cyphers (or NPCs, or descriptors, or whatever) for my game, all in a nifty PDF. Can I just post that to the web?
No. You’re more than welcome to use that PDF yourself, but you can’t distribute those items in that format. Instead, take that content and put it on a web page, and you’re good! (Or maybe look into the Cypher System Creator or the Cypher System Open License.)
I saw another site that breaks a bunch of these rules. That means it’s OK, and I can do it too, right?
Definitely not. There are a lot of reasons why another site or project might seem to be violating this policy. Maybe they’ve asked for some special permission that we’ve granted. Maybe we simply haven’t noticed what they’re doing. Maybe we have, and we’re still in the process of resolving it with them. Regardless, just because you see that someone has violated this policy, it doesn’t mean that we’re “OK with it.” When in doubt, stick to the policy here, or contact us with questions.
What if I have a special case that isn’t covered here?
Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear what you have in mind!
I have a really cool idea for a game I want to make and sell. Who do I talk to?
The Cypher System Open License is perfect for publishing your own material! Monte Cook Games, however, does not accept unsolicited ideas, manuscripts, or prototypes of new games. You might consider Googling the Game Manufacturer’s Association. If you’re a freelance writer, editor, illustrator, or cartographer who would like to work on our products, feel free to reach us through the Contact Us link at the top of this page.