- The Washington Times - Friday, June 19, 2009

SEATTLE | Dungeons & Dragons & lawyers, oh my - eight people face accusations they illegally posted the pioneering role-playing game’s newest handbook for download on the Internet.

Wizards of the Coast LLC, a subsidiary of Hasbro Inc., is seeking unspecified damages in three copyright infringement lawsuits naming a total of eight defendants in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

More than 2,600 copies of “Player’s Handbook 2,” released March 17 with a suggested retail price of $39.95 a copy, were downloaded from Scribd.com, and more than 4,200 copies were viewed online before the material was pulled from the document-sharing site at Wizards’ request, according to two of the lawsuits.

One of those cases, which names as defendants Thomas Patrick Nolan of Milton, Fla., and Stefan Osmena of the Philippines, is headed for mediation, according to a court filing Tuesday.

Another case is against Mike Becker of Bartlesville, Okla., and Arthur Le of San Jose, Calif.

The third, filed against Krysztof Radzikowski of Poland and three people whose identities remain unknown, did not cite any numbers but asserted that unauthorized copies of that handbook and “Manual of the Planes,” “Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead” and “Dungeon Delve,” each retailing for $29.95, also were found on document-sharing Web sites.

Tolena Thorburn, a Wizards spokeswoman, would not give the home towns or other personal or contact information for Mr. Osmena or Mr. Radzikowski.

Dungeons & Dragons, created in 1974 and described in the lawsuit as “the first role-playing game,” involves the use of pen, paper and dice to create imaginary characters of varying attributes and randomly determined levels of skill as players search for treasure and battle monsters in magical lands.

According to the lawsuits, all filed on April 6, about 20 million people worldwide are thought to have played the game, including 6 million at present.

The handbook, which includes 242 pages of rules, and manuals sold online bear electronic watermarks that restrict use of copyright material to a specific buyer or user.

Mr. Nolan, denying that he uploaded the handbook for public access or committed other wrongdoing, wrote personally to the court on May 20 that he lost his wallet with material showing his Web site usernames and passwords on a trip to Michigan in February.

“Any person who looked at my Scribd page could tell that I was an avid Dungeons & Dragons player and could use the page to post the file,” he added.

Mr. Nolan, representing himself in the case, and Wizards have agreed to submit their dispute to mediation and to allow Mr. Osmena to be included in the mediation effort if he is formally served with the lawsuit by Dec. 4, according to the most recent filing.

According to the lawsuit against Mr. Becker, he was identified through investigation as “Humble Apostle,” owner of another Scribd Web page from which the handbook was viewed and downloaded by hundreds of people. There was no telephone listing for Mr. Becker in Bartlesville.

A micro-watermark indicated that the copy on the “Humble Apostle” site belonged to Mr. Le, who described himself in a letter to the court on May 11 as a 19-year-old unemployed student at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif., whose parents recently were laid off.

Mr. Le acknowledged that he bought a copy of the handbook online but denied any association with Mr. Becker.

“I have made no profit off of this venture,” he added. “I, however, deeply apologize for my actions and realize that I am in the wrong.”

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