Kreistor wrote:Illithid is one place Rob probably would never go. Unlike the vast majority of monsters that D&D publishes, illithid and beholders are an in-house creation and not released to the public domain. They weren't in the 3.0 or 3.5 SRD's. I may be wrong, but they may be trademarked. If so, using them is very dangerous. Since Rob does some contract work for WotC, he wouldn't risk brushing up against copyright or trademark infractions, so he won't.
I spoke about this with a comic artist that did use a beholder, and he stated that he had intentionally written the behoiolder in as a satirical role (the beholder cried like a baby), which allowed him to use the beholder without permission.
There's even a thread
about copyright vs secondary characters referencing other people's intellectual property.
About beholders, a brief note: there's a kind of unit in the Heroes of Might and Magic games that is eerily similar. But they're called "Evil Eyes" so they're totally not Beholders
About fair use, satirical roles, and sue-happy intellectual property owners: my pet example is the Imaginationland episode of Southpark, in which, among others, Storm Troopers and Jack Skellington appear in the background. Freddy Krueger delivers one line of dialog. Luke Skywalker is a rather important character. And while Southpark and parody go hand in poop smeared hand, I wouldn't call the roles of the characters previously mentioned satirical*. It's certainly not obvious that they are, and a case could be made either way. The humour of that episode does not derive from some portrayal of those characters; they are mostly there to provide a plausible population for the episode's concept, the titular Imaginationland.
*: again, in the Imaginationland
episodes. Not the ones in which a Storm Trooper gets raped by Lucas and Spielberg, thereby having an auxiliary role in a "Lucas raped my childhood" joke, nor the one where Freddy Krueger is a master dream-within-a-dream infiltrator, an obvious parodic reference to FK's films as well as Inception.
So my uninformed guess is that one could get away with referencing various property, on account of the owners not willing to go through the legal hassle to prove that fair use would not apply to a casual reference. However, if one is liable to get frowned upon at the office for liberally using the property of the employer, one would think twice about such things.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.