D&D 5E Question about OGL and 5e third party

yojimbouk

Explorer
I have a couple of questions about some 3rd party products I've seen.

On publisher makes reference to Dungeons & Dragons in their 3pp. They also provide no OGL declaration. Similarly, another publisher has no OGL in their product. I have also seen products that only state the license with no list of products from which theirs is derived. As someone who has to reference academic works I know this would be a no-no in academia but I'm not sure that the OGL works exactly like that.

So on to my questions:

1) How can a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher refer to D&D and the three core books without violating the OGL? In the days of the d20 STL you were allowed to refer to the core books by the three acronyms: PHB, DMG, MM. However, d20 STL is now rescinded.

2) Does a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher have to include the OGL in their product? My guess is yes because they are using terms like STR, CON, etc. that are only in the public domain as a result of the D20 SRD.

3) How does one reference under the OGL? Should one contain a reference for every work that has been referenced (as in academia)?
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
I have a couple of questions about some 3rd party products I've seen.

On publisher makes reference to Dungeons & Dragons in their 3pp. They also provide no OGL declaration. Similarly, another publisher has no OGL in their product. I have also seen products that only state the license with no list of products from which theirs is derived. As someone who has to reference academic works I know this would be a no-no in academia but I'm not sure that the OGL works exactly like that.

So on to my questions:

1) How can a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher refer to D&D and the three core books without violating the OGL? In the days of the d20 STL you were allowed to refer to the core books by the three acronyms: PHB, DMG, MM. However, d20 STL is now rescinded.

2) Does a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher have to include the OGL in their product? My guess is yes because they are using terms like STR, CON, etc. that are only in the public domain as a result of the D20 SRD.

3) How does one reference under the OGL? Should one contain a reference for every work that has been referenced (as in academia)?


You don't have to use the OGL. If you do, then you can't use terms like 'compatible with D&D". If you don't, then you can use phrases like that. But you still have to adhere to normal copyright laws. The OGL grants a bit more freedom to use anything that's in the SRD, for instance. Things like "STR, CON," etc are available to use in any product and aren't owned by WotC or Hasbro, so you don't need the OGL or anything like it to use things like that.
 

Gnarl45

First Post
1) How can a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher refer to D&D and the three core books without violating the OGL? In the days of the d20 STL you were allowed to refer to the core books by the three acronyms: PHB, DMG, MM. However, d20 STL is now rescinded.

The OGL only says you can't use PHB, DMG, and MM. You can still use "Monster Book", "Player's Book", and "Game Master's Book". Everybody will understand what you're referring to. To keep it safe, I only reference the SRD.

2) Does a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher have to include the OGL in their product? My guess is yes because they are using terms like STR, CON, etc. that are only in the public domain as a result of the D20 SRD.

In theory you don't need to use the OGL. You can even say "This adventure is compatible with Dungeons and Dragons". That's the theory anyways.

US copyright laws are pathetic and favor corporate bullying. It's private law so Hasbro can sue you any time they want and you don't get a free attorney to represent you. Basically, you'll need to pay thousands of dollars on a greedy thief that will shamelessly let you go the moment you run out of money. David and Goliath only happens in the Bible :).

3) How does one reference under the OGL? Should one contain a reference for every work that has been referenced (as in academia)?

You noticed that the OGL makes a distinction between "Product Identity" and "OGL Content"? If I'm not mistaken, unless the 3rd party mentioned it's "OGL Content", you can't use it.


By the way, I'm not a lawyer. I should be telling you "check with your attorney" like WoTC does :).
 

indemnity

First Post
I am an actual patent attorney with a science PhD who has also worked on copyright issues and even some ip disputes for games. However, I am not your attorney.

A lot of your questions are too vague and the answers are product specific. Happy for you to PM me if you have longer questions.

1) How can a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher refer to D&D and the three core books without violating the OGL?
You can refer to whatever you want. Copyrighted works are not academic and preferably not referenced in any way. "Quoting" in a commercial work is copyright violation regardless of attribution (excluding works of review or commentaries).

Titles are not covered by copyright. In any text you create, you can refer to any title, e.g. Harry Potter Book 1, pXX. A non-DM's guild publisher can write somethings such as "using the Sailor background as describe in the D&D Players' Handbook, page XX."

You cannot attempt to pass off your work as being supported by WoTC. You cannot include any text/trademarks owned by WoTC.

2) Does a non-DM's Guild 5e publisher have to include the OGL in their product? My guess is yes because they are using terms like STR, CON, etc. that are only in the public domain as a result of the D20 SRD.

Yes and no. Depends on the product, the audience and if it is sold for money.

Yes, if you want to create a D&D product. The OGL is about protecting the D&D brand. It allows the community to create products using the resources it allows.

No, if you want to create material for another role playing game (that looks similar to D&D but is instead called medieval fantasy role playing game). Other rulesets exist, such as GURPS, Storyteller, et al. Game rules are practically unenforceable due to The Doctrine of Merger. Basically, if a rule (such as characters with stats and numerical abilities) exists and can only be applied in a limited set, it applies to all such sets. There are so many copyright-free games that rules/mechanics are open to all. As an example, look at any digital RPG - none include the OGL despite using similar mechanics.

Finally, if you are not widely distributing the product, or making tons of cash, you probably won't get found. Each infrigement notice costs WoTC money and relationships so they usually don't bother the small stuff.

3) How does one reference under the OGL? Should one contain a reference for every work that has been referenced (as in academia)?

Again, you cannot include another persons work, then get away by putting a reference at the end. In a printed work you could put all OGL content in a shaded break-out box with the source name at the bottom. Or you can just stick a byline in the document identifier and not mention it anywhere else.

In general, don't include any references to copywritten works if not required. You might think it feels unfair, however, it may allow others to partially claim your work as derivative. You must pretend you created the work in a vacuum. It may also get you found by automated content searching bots and wrongly issued an infringement.

If you must mention products/names, look at how the PHB includes a "books we love" section.

It is very unlike academia. See this webpage for an example of OGL inclusion
http://www.5esrd.com/legal-information

The OGL includes specific text on how it is to be included. I suggest you look at how a similar product incorporates it.

A printed work may have a small attribution in very small text. It can be as short as a by line on the inside info page (along with LoC, ISBN, your copyright notice, etc)

A digital product such as a game or app may include the notice on a developer webpage, a product disclosure statement or a teeny tiny link a dozen links deep.
 

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