While talking with one of my Hidden City Games R&D associates yesterday I mentioned a "new ability" thread on our Forum, and how interesting some of the ideas were. He quickly responded "My lawyer informed me I shouldn't read those. I don't want to get sued by somebody who says I stole thier idea."
The very notion that we must be afraid of lawsuits from our fans...our customers...to the point where we must ignore them on certain topics is frightening. What if a fan said we should have bigger boxes? What if they request a 1-800 customer service number? Do we risk legal action if we listen to those ideas?
Has any game company *ever* been sued by a fan for taking a suggestion and publishing it?
In the last decade, the open-source model on the internet has set up a healthy precedent of idea sharing for the mutal benefit of all. I suspect any non-protected concepts we 'lift' from our message boards would be safe, provided we don't claim exclusive rights to them.
Where's a lawyer when you need one?