OGL Ryan Dancey -- Hasbro Cannot Deauthorize OGL

I reached out to the architect of the original Open Gaming License, former VP of Wizard of the Coast, Ryan Dancey, and asked his opinion about the current plan by WotC to 'deauthorize' the current OGL in favour of a new one.

He responded as follows:

Yeah my public opinion is that Hasbro does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license. I am on record numerous places in email and blogs and interviews saying that the license could never be revoked.

Ryan also maintains the Open Gaming Foundation.

As has been noted previously, even WotC in its own OGL FAQ did not believe at the time that the licence could be revoked.


7. Can't Wizards of the Coast change the License in a way that I wouldn't like?

Yes, it could. However, the License already defines what will happen to content that has been previously distributed using an earlier version, in Section 9. As a result, even if Wizards made a change you disagreed with, you could continue to use an earlier, acceptable version at your option. In other words, there's no reason for Wizards to ever make a change that the community of people using the Open Gaming License would object to, because the community would just ignore the change anyway.


wotc.jpg

 
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Russ Morrissey

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Yeah, but that at the very least would be pretty good ammo for even a very limited lawyer team (like, say, a lawyer) to argue to get the whole thing tossed out. As it is, open licenses are a muddy enough part of law that they will probably at least have to be looked at by a judge (though I'm dubious they're going ignore the information about apparent original intent presented by representatives of WOTC at the time).

I haven't seen the case, but people are saying there have been some pretty favorable rulings around the GPL 2.0 in court, which is another open source license that doesn't have the word "irrevocable", but courts have found it to be that way.

Yeah, there's a lot of strong stuff on the side of someone defending the OGL. . .the bad part is that Hasbro's legal dept. would make it so even a fairly straightforward suit would be expensive and time consuming. They seem to be using an implied threat of litigation and a shaky legal argument to silence the 3PP community.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Yeah, there's a lot of strong stuff on the side of someone defending the OGL. . .the bad part is that Hasbro's legal dept. would make it so even a fairly straightforward suit would be expensive and time consuming. They seem to be using an implied threat of litigation and a shaky legal argument to silence the 3PP community.

People say this frequently, but I think they're overestimating the legal team a company the size of Hasbro can employ, and the quality. Doing that sort of "drown people in legal costs" thing is not as trivial as people put on (which doesn't mean it can't be done, just that it requires a much greater degree of investment than people realize), and its usually in favor of the people defending against a suit, not bringing it (and Hasbro would be the ones, in practice, "bringing it" here; all someone like Paizo would have to be doing is asking a judge to stop enforcement on restraint of trade grounds or other interrelated questions, and it'd be on Hasbro to get them not to, and that's usually the much harder and more expensive end of the fight).
 

trancejeremy

Adventurer
People say this frequently, but I think they're overestimating the legal team a company the size of Hasbro can employ, and the quality. Doing that sort of "drown people in legal costs" thing is not as trivial as people put on (which doesn't mean it can't be done, just that it requires a much greater degree of investment than people realize), and its usually in favor of the people defending against a suit, not bringing it (and Hasbro would be the ones, in practice, "bringing it" here; all someone like Paizo would have to be doing is asking a judge to stop enforcement on restraint of trade grounds or other interrelated questions, and it'd be on Hasbro to get them not to, and that's usually the much harder and more expensive end of the fight).

TSR employed this strategy successfully in the 1990s, essentially squishing Mayfair's Role-Aids and Gary Gygax's Mythus from GDW (and before that a module EGG wanted to publish from his own company, New Infinities).

It wasn't the expense of the fight, but that it tied up resources at the companies which kept them from producing other content, finally making them capitulate.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
TSR employed this strategy successfully in the 1990s, essentially squishing Mayfair's Role-Aids and Gary Gygax's Mythus from GDW (and before that a module EGG wanted to publish from his own company, New Infinities).

It wasn't the expense of the fight, but that it tied up resources at the companies which kept them from producing other content, finally making them capitulate.

Both of them almost certainly thought it wasn't worth the fight; they weren't key elements of their business. That's not true with, say, Paizo and Pathfinder 2e and Starfinder.
 

It wasn't the expense of the fight, but that it tied up resources at the companies which kept them from producing other content, finally making them capitulate.
But in the end, the reason that not producing other content was a problem was its financial impact on the company's income. So it came down to money in the end, just a bit further removed. In 2023, and the current climate, I expect any 3pp who WotC brought suit against over the matter would start a crowdfunding campaign that would quickly raise a fairly formidable amount of money, regardless of the merits or otherwise of their specific case.

In fact, I'm betting there's grifters out there right now trying to work out how to do just that without all the inconvenience of the actual lawsuit.
 

ECMO3

Hero
TSR employed this strategy successfully in the 1990s, essentially squishing Mayfair's Role-Aids and Gary Gygax's Mythus from GDW (and before that a module EGG wanted to publish from his own company, New Infinities).

Considering TSR's collapse I would not necessarily call this successful. Successful at repressing content - yes. Successful as a business practice - absolutely not.

Add to this TSR had a much more favorable starting point legally with no previous OGL in existence at the time.
 

Rainynights

Villager
Perpetual does.
unfortunately, usage of those two words in legal documents have two very different meanings; a perpetual license is simply a license which cannot expire, meaning that it will be valid forever, as long as it isn't revoked by the party that issued it, another party that the license states has the right to revoke it, or a court deems it otherwise invalid. Perpetual licenses are not irrevocable unless the license also explicitly states it is irrevocable
 

Rainynights

Villager
ultimately unless Ryan still has legal rights to make a new version of the OGL and want's to sneak a quick update or amendment to it in that says it is irrevocable in the actual language of the license itself before wotcs new version drops, hasbro can and will deauthorize old versions of the license for use with their products, other developers using it won't suddenly loose the ability to use it, however they would no longer be able to use the current D&D SRD as part of their products in any way not permitted by the new one assuming that they accept it if it goes through
 


Matt Thomason

Adventurer
unfortunately, usage of those two words in legal documents have two very different meanings; a perpetual license is simply a license which cannot expire, meaning that it will be valid forever, as long as it isn't revoked by the party that issued it, another party that the license states has the right to revoke it, or a court deems it otherwise invalid. Perpetual licenses are not irrevocable unless the license also explicitly states it is irrevocable

Only with a unilateral contract ("you can use my stuff"). If there was consideration (which tends to be read as obligation rather than paying an actual fee) on the part of both parties ("you can use my stuff but you will have to do this in return"), it requires both to agree to terminate.
 

~ender

Villager
so we now all get to learn the definition of "potate".

Unfortunately I lost my personal copies of the ogf-l and ogf-d20-l mailing list archives.

I'm pretty sure that's "portation."

Yeah, apparently most of us didn't learn the meaning of "potate".

Most hits are for slang, 'be like a potato', which for a second I thought Ryan meant (ie: chill out and wait).

Google says: "Did you mean: define "potato""

Wordnik quotes The Century Dictionary: 'in alchemy, liqefied, as a metal potable.'

Wiktionary goes Italian, to feminine potato, and Latin. Latin doesn't have a definition, but goes to pōtus, to be drunk.

'No, potate is not in the scrabble dictionary'.

https://www.dictionary.com/misspelling?term=potate : 'No results found for potate'

OED isn't online.

Search | Law Insider : 'We don't have any results for your search.'

PORTATION:

Portation Definition | Law Insider :

'Portation means the immediate possession or physical possession of one or more firearms, loaded or unloaded, on the person of the bearer or his immediate reach. Immediate reach will be understood at your fingertips and their transportation.'

Never bring a definition to a gunfight.

----

I, too, hope someone was archiving ogf-l and ogf-d20-l. If you're a data horder, please check your tape backups. TYIA :)
 



~ender

Villager
There's a copy at ogf-l - unfortunately only messages since 2004 :(

I probably have ancient Outlook .pst files with the really old stuff buried in an attic on a burned CD that'll take the next five years to dig out...
Thanks, I saw that. Should've referenced that.

I'm specifically hoping for something like your burned CD in an attic; ie: not already online.

FYI: heat degrades the dye used in burned CDs, so maybe pull those out and put on a RAID?
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Silly me, why didn't I think of archive.org?
Here we go, from the very beginning with Ryan's test posts.


EDIT: Not quite the very beginning, looks like there was a list issue and it restarted at that time. For older stuff see

But that was a restart from the former Majordomo version circa 2000, which does appear to be utterly lost in online sources :(

I will take a look for that CD (or more likely, a number of CDs), but it may take some time (five years was an exaggeration, but not by much :D)
 
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~ender

Villager
Silly me, why didn't I think of archive.org?
Here we go, from the very beginning with Ryan's test posts.

Sadly, that's only an archive of the index. Specific messages are missing.


On the plus side (besides the lurkers) there's a list of participants that could maybe be tracked down and asked if they kept copies.

edit (for your edit):
The opengamingfoundation link, also has some problems, the 'full raw archive (8 MB)' opens a text page that saves as 11k (oops). Does have some messages in it, as well as email addresses (vs. just names).
 
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Matt Thomason

Adventurer

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
And now I shall be reading for the next few hours after already noticing such gems as:

I picked up a copy of Crucible of Freya today. Right below the
licensing text we discussed all week, the module contains a
production directive that accidentally made it to print:

"[PRODUCER: Please make this stuff as small as possible so that this
whole appendix fits on one page -- they can make us put it in but
they can't make us use a large font!]"
 

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