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Thread: Revised GSL TODAY!
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 01:54 AM #251
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
I think a lot of people are thinking of the new "copyleft" licenses like Creative Commons or software licenses like GPL, MIT, BSD, as examples, as well as the OGL.
The gratis licenses are very rare in the Entertainment world and I don't see we're going to see many big publishers license their own content in this manner, especially if the property is as valuable as D&D.
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 02:12 AM #252
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Yes, you'd have to prove they are the responsible party, but, they may be able to force proceedings to attempt to prove just that. It may be possible to force a lawsuit on the premise that WoTC licenses (in this case the OGL and STL) gives tacit permission for such a product, and therefore WoTC is liable. A lawsuit like that would probably never win, but the money spent defending themself, and the PR damage, could be considerable. That could even be just the crack in the armor that anti-D&D activists could use to bring the subject back into the limelight. For a real world example (not as a commentary on politics), lawsuits just like this have been brought against the gun industry. To date, I don't think any of the suits have won, but they've spent considerable amounts of money figthing this and lobbying for support.
But that's only about possible liability issues. Something doesn't have to be legally valid for your brand to take a Public Relations hit. Just look at the hits WoTC takes here on ENWorld for some seemingly inocuous actions (and some not so inocuous actions). Could you imagine what the damage to the D&D brand would be if anti-D&D groups started publicly declaring that D&D promotes pornography and lasciviousness, and used BoEF as exhibit number one? Whether right or wrong, to most parents it would appear to be a smoking gun, which is all that would matter to them. Game over. So, they protect themselves with a clause in their license before it becomes a problem. Sounds like a very smart decision to me.
As far as the porno example, one could make the argument that it's parody, and therefore protected by the first amendment (no matter how distasteful it may be to some people - even bad parody is still parody). Something of which the Trek franchise or Gene Rodenberry's estate would probably have had no ability to control even if they did seek legal action.
(edit: Sorry Umbran. I was probably typing yet when your post went up. It takes me a while to make sure I've spelled everything right - which even then I usually don't have everything spelled right.)
Last edited by El Mahdi; Thursday, 5th March, 2009 at 02:17 AM.
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 02:31 AM #253
Gallant (Lvl 3)
User banned for ignoring mod warning.
Last edited by Eridanis; Thursday, 5th March, 2009 at 02:57 AM. Reason: See above.
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 02:47 AM #254
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Right it is.
But so is the clause. Since its so vague it doesnt exactly give an idea what is or is NOT allowed.
Obviously another BoEF is out. But how about skinsaw murders? Ogre mountain there based in the AP? Or some of the other items from Paizo in that AP?
Unless its clearer, no its NOT good business sense. Understandable? Sure. But right now its pretty unclear.
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 02:54 AM #255
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 03:06 AM #256
Scout (Lvl 6)
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ø Block joethelawyer
On the flip-side, nothing gets the word out for your product like controversy. And nothing gets kids to buy something better than those in "authority" telling them its bad for them.
edit: though I can see where Hasbro wouldn't like the wingnuts calling for a boycott on My Little Pony. Yet another reason I wish WOTC was still in control of their own destiny. Hegemony is bad...
Last edited by joethelawyer; Thursday, 5th March, 2009 at 03:11 AM.
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 03:17 AM #257
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
I don't know if it would work a second time around though. At least back then there was no real evidence, it was all just anecdotal and twisted statistics. But if someone had hardcopy proof in the form of a publication, I don't know if the public would be very forgiving today. But you never know, even if parents didn't let there kids buy or play, I guess you can't be absolutely sure it would adversely affect sales. But, if you're a publicly traded company do you take the chance?
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 03:18 AM #258
Lama (Lvl 13)
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ø Block DaveMage
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 03:28 AM #259
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
Thursday, 5th March, 2009, 04:57 AM #260
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Virtually no game terms in the SRD are trademarkable and titles are generally not copyrightable. Game concepts cannot be copyrighted, only expressions. There are no patents in the SRD that are being licensed, and at this point, there is nothing left to patent. WotC did not invent elves nor regenerating trolls nor "halflings."
Effectively, the OGL served as a way of sidestepping what might or might not constitute "derivative content." It created a situation such that as long as you followed the rules, if you did create derivative content, you would not be sued and WotC would not have their IP rights weakened by a failure to do so.
I understand the OGL can be interpreted strictly as a business contract, but in a broader sense, it was a covernant. The purpose of the OGL was not to license some kind of original creation (like the Star Wars franchise or a a particular brand name like D&D) but instead to cover all asses. The few truly original variations on old themes (chromatic dragons, dark elves, clerics) long ago became assimilated into popular culture and there is no reclaiming them. I could go fire up Final Fantasy I right now and show you a fire-breathing red dragon, a frost-breathing white dragon, and a gas-breathing green dragon. That ship has sailed.
So in effect, it is WotC that has been spoiled. As originators of the OGL, they have grown used to the idea that they control the use of the SRD material. In fact, you need no license at all to create a wide variety of compatible products with little or no legal exposure. The only major obstacle is WotC's possible willingness to file unlikely suits in the hope of forcing the 3PP out of the game through bullying. Since WotC has retracted their offer as a safe habor, I can draw only two possible conclusions:
1. After years of debate, some folks in upper management still have not grasped the central issues at stake (the D&D trademark, versus the un-ownable right to create gaming products with may or may not be compatible).
2. WotC is prepared to sue 3PP publishers to dust and ashes, TSR style, in an attempt to maximize profits in the short-term by eliminating free market alternatives to their products, and is unashamed to take the role of a bully.
Whichever is the case, as both are dangerous possiblities, I would be leery of entering into any contract to WotC in which the licensee is not protected in some way from WotC's whims.
Keep in mind that WotC feels they are entitled, solely, to use the displacer beast... a creature which inspired by the coeurl, from Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle. They have forbidden others from referencing their unique, original interpretation of someone else's idea. While I do not think WotC is malicious or particularly greedy, it is clear to me that their IP policies reflect a continual tumult of business decisions, rather than a coherent philosophy based on artistic and business realities of the 20th and 21st centuries.
I could sell a vaccum cleaner bag and print right on the label, "Compatible with Hoover upright vacuum cleaners." Yet I am spoiled for thinking I can do the same for an adventure module? I can write books about elves and dwarves and such, drawing from the same sources as D&D... yet WotC presumes to tell me how tall an elf is and must be? The EU has told Microsoft, in plain terms, that they must allow others to write compatible software for their copyrighted OS and provide no impedence to them, yet WotC feels exempt from this basic pillar of efficient free markets.
What bothers me is not WotC's generosity, which has been reasonable in scope, but their presumption. It bothers me that they would make publishers jump through hoops who actually want to work with them and promote their brand, when less loyal 3PP can simply publish as they see fit, and as long as they practice reasonable caution, suffer no such restrictions. Whereas the OGL was a partnership of WotC, 3PP, and fandom, the GSL is imperial.
If the OGL was a bad business deal, then why was 3.5 so successful?
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