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Dungeons & Dragons slays its digital distribution

Loses saving throw against piracy, pulls PDF products

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Wizards of the Coast, publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, has pulled all digital editions of its products from online stores today in response to finding that its new D&D Player's Handbook is being illegally distributed over P2P and file-sharing websites.

The Washington-state-based gaming company also filed three lawsuits today against eight individuals in the US, Poland, and the Philippines for allegedly uploading the handbook, which they claim resulted in "a substantial number of lost sales and revenue."

A Wizards spokeswoman told El Reg online companies that were legally selling D&D handbooks in PDF format were given 24 hours yesterday to remove the content. She said those retailers aren't being accused of any wrongdoing, but it's Wizards' priority now to "take care of all the crazy action going out there" until it finds a safer way to distribute digital copies.

Wizards is now "exploring options for future digital distributions," which may include offering content in other formats or some form of DRM. The spokeswoman said it's too early in the process to be specific on solutions the company may come up with.

On Monday, Wizards filed a three lawsuits in US District Court for the Western District of Washington against eight individuals, alleging copyright infringement for distributing illegitimate copies of the recently-released Player's Handbook 2.

The lawsuit claims that one or more of the defendants purchased digital copies of the handbook and uploaded them to popular file-sharing websites.

"Violations of our copyrights and piracy of our products hurt not only Wizards of the Coast’s financial health but also the health of [the] whole gaming community including retailers and players," said Greg Leeds, President of Wizards of the Coast said in a statement. "We have brought these suits to stop the illegal activities of these defendants, and to deter future unauthorized and unlawful file-sharing."

While online piracy of music, movies, and games grab a lot of attention from the public these days, mass illegal distribution of printed materials has been a racket since the invention of the photocopier and continues to thrive today. ®

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