Learning Opportunities

Posted in News on January 13, 2016

By Elaine Chase

Elaine Chase is the senior director, global brand strategy and marketing for Wizards of the Coast.

Happy New Year, everyone! In the spirit of new beginnings, I'm here today to discuss an event that happened at the very end of 2015, what Wizards has learned from it, and how we plan to move forward in 2016.

First, the news: today, the Wizards investigative committee commuted the suspensions of ten Magic players involved in a private online group that had access to Kozilek, the Great Distortion and Wastes before they were officially revealed. The original suspensions issued by the committee were for three months, which was based on evidence of repeated unauthorized access to confidential information over multiple sets (which would normally warrant a suspension longer than three months), balanced by the positive impact these individuals have had in their communities.

Today's decision effectively reduced the suspensions to 23 days, and each of these players is fully reinstated in the DCI. Additionally, the suspensions will not be part of their "permanent record" and will therefore have no bearing on any future interactions with the DCI. We came to this decision based on information gained during the appeals process; anytime someone is suspended from the DCI, they have the ability to appeal and submit new information for consideration. Ten of the twelve players originally suspended for having repeated unauthorized access to confidential information submitted appeals, and each of them has had their penalty commuted. We have reached out to the remaining two players to offer them the opportunity to appeal as well.

As we considered each appeal, it became apparent that the situation wasn't as clear-cut as it initially seemed. This was due in part to how we at Wizards manage previews for new sets in the social media–connected world. While the content of previews obviously needs to remain secret until unveiled to the public, we feel we can do a better job of being clear about when the preview season starts and help players more easily identify what is an official preview versus an unauthorized leak.

To that end, we will begin to explicitly inform you of when you can expect official previews to begin rolling out. Generally speaking, the preview season will start with each set's kickoff event. For instance, the kickoff event for Battle for Zendikar was at PAX Prime 2015, and Oath of the Gatewatch was kicked off at the 2015 World Magic Cup. In the future, we will highlight upcoming kickoff events on the set's promotional page so you'll know the date to check back when previews begin. That promo page will also serve as a repository of official news and information throughout the preview season. Our intent is to make it as obvious as we can when that page goes live through links on the main Magic website, DailyMTG, and through our social media channels. If we're doing our job right, you won't be able to miss it.

So how can you tell if a card you're seeing is an official preview or an unauthorized leak of confidential information? In their appeals, the players involved with the Oath of the Gatewatch leak highlighted the fact that they couldn't be certain whether or not this was a planned leak by Wizards of the Coast. I want to state here unequivocally that we do not let cards leak out in any sort of sneaky way online. We don't drop them somewhere for a random fan to find and we don't orchestrate "leaks"; we officially and overtly give previews to partners or post them via our own channels, and that's it.

In response to the suspensions, many players in the community expressed concern that they would be suspended for just passively encountering a leak online. I want to make clear no one has been or will be suspended for looking at or sharing information that has leaked publically online. Note, though, that there is a huge difference between viewing or reposting already publically viewable and known information (which is okay!) and sharing information that you receive in a private venue, such as a private group, direct message, or email (which should set off warning bells). If you see something in a private venue that you can reasonably believe is real, especially if it's prior to preview season, you may be in possession of stolen property. And we obviously take that pretty seriously. Before you share that with the wider public, take a look and see if it is already available publically. If it is, go ahead and share and talk about it. But if you can't find it anywhere publically, or if you see something before the official preview season starts, know that you may be in possession of stolen information and it's time to think about contacting us.

While it of course isn't your job to help us with leaks, and you didn't sign a nondisclosure agreement with us, there are two reasons I hope will convince you it's the right thing to do. Firstly, leaks really do damage both the player experience of a set being unveiled and the resulting play participation and sales of that set. Let your fellow fans enjoy the preview season, and respect the work of the people both at Wizards and at the fan sites who strive to make a set's reveal as exciting as possible. Secondly, just as with stolen physical property, there are laws around stolen intellectual property. Don't open yourself up to being implicated later—be a part of the solution instead. And know that we of course handle the root of any leak extremely severely.

So, what if you are a person who finds him- or herself in the rare situation of being in possession of or having seen leaked material? You can email investigations@wizards.com with information about what you've found, where you found it, and so on. We have had many instances in the past of players proactively coming to us with unauthorized information they've stumbled across, and we've been fortunate to avoid a number of significant leaks because of their help. (Hero of Return to Ravnica, you know who you are!) While each leak is investigated as an individual incident, I want to emphasize that we've never suspended a player who has proactively come forward to us with confidential information before it's leaked publically when they had no part in acquiring it.

The final thing I want to say is that the initial suspension and the results of the appeals of those players came out of an ongoing legal investigation regarding a leak of proprietary and confidential information, not an Organized Play investigation. They are independent processes, and we don't want players seeing these two systems as interchangeable, as they serve very different purposes. Through these appeals, it became clear to us that there are improvements we can make, including how we communicate with players under investigation. We're taking this as an opportunity to reevaluate the process and will be making adjustments to be more transparent with those involved in the future.

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