WOTC Sending Cease & Desist Letters To Proxy WebsitesDiscussion Wotc
Genoslugcs · March 18, 2023 · 4 min
We've seen Wizards of the Coast crack down on proxy sites in the past and it appears they're back at it. If you're not familiar with the practice, there are many sites available on the internet that will size and format whatever cards you input, so that they can easily be printed to the size of real cards. Furthermore, many of the sites also have options to simply buy premade proxies from them or third-party sellers.
This latter option seems to be what landed one such site, "MTG Print" (mtgprint.cardtrader.com) in hot water recently. After receiving a Cease & Desist letter from Wizards, the website was down for a few days and if you visited the site during the three day down period you saw a message that more or less read "Wizards of the Coast shut us down/made us stop and we will not be coming back", on a solid black screen.
That said, the site is now back up and running but they appear to have changed one key feature. So, let's take a look at how these sites seem to bounce back, why WOTC can't keep them down for long, and look for some insight as to why the company feels it is worth it to go after these sites.
At What Point Does WOTC Care About Proxy Sites
Let's start off here - What are/aren't you allowed to do as far as the company is concerned? Well, it seems that they only have a few simple rules. It's said that, basically, they ask that you acknowledge whatever artwork you're using is owned by them and that you don't make money off of it.
Thanks to the owner of Card Conjurer (another proxy site that recently received an S&D) sharing the contents of their letter we can get a more accurate idea of what that actually means. He said the attorney stated the following things as issues:
- The verbatim copying of card text and card art
- Messing with their legal notice by placing cardconjurer.com under their (Wizards) copyright
- And the fact that the site “reproduces, displays and allows the copying and distribution of many of the Magic: The Gathering trademarks and logos”
It seems that the "Verbatim copying of card text and card art" refers to the use of direct art/text imports from places like Scryfall.com. While the “reproduces, displays and allows the copying and distribution of many of the Magic: The Gathering trademarks and logos” refers to things like mana and "tap" symbols. Here's a look at more of the original post:
This gives us a very unique opportunity to see exactly what the company considers to be problematic. What's interesting is that Card Conjurer is back at it as of now. How did they get back up and running?
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How Do Sites Circumvent S&D Letters And Stay Up And Running?
Well, the site basically removed all the things that WOTC mentioned - So, no more copyrighted material; No official artwork, no mana symbols, etc. What this left was a basic template for players to create their own cards. It currently looks like this:
However, you can more or less still add actual MTG art, watermarks, and set symbols. But with this set up the website itself isn't breaking any rules/laws. It's simply offering a platform and a set of tools for people to use and if they choose to upload copyrighted art/symbols that is on the individual user.
In the case of MTG Print mentioned in the introduction, it seems they simply removed the option to buy proxies. You can still add in whatever cards you wish (by their actual name) and it will produce a grid of cards to be conveniently printed off and for now, that seems to have sufficed. If WOTC takes further action, of course, remains to be seen.
Why The Recent Crackdowns?
I'm sure Wizards has always taken the issue seriously to some extent but there seems to be an increased number of these shutdown letters recently and there are some common schools of thought as to why. The general idea is that WOTC has started to release cards that break their traditional card design standards. For example, the gold-backed 30th Anniversary Edition cards are essentially proxies themselves.
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First, having non-tournament legal (but very playable) "official" cards sends a pretty clear message to the player base that using proxies for unofficial play is ok. It really boils down to the fact that WOTC wants to sell you their proxies and if other people are doing it (and for much cheaper or even free) they're going to have an issue with that. And they are within their rights to do so.
Some people are all for proxies and others are vehemently against them. Regardless of where you stand or how many of these sites go under completely, there will always be others that come along and take their places. Just like illegal streaming websites and things, if there is a demand for something there will always be people there to fill it and MTG card printing is no different.
I personally don't use proxies. I do my testing with Cockatrice, which is a free program to build decks and play them against other people online. However, I am a very "do what thou wilt" person, and if others what to use proxies that is completely fine with me. Are you for them, against them, or somewhere in the middle? Comment down below and let me hear your thoughts on the matter. And yes, I did use art from the card "Pirated Copy" for the article image!