OGL So, who can 'authorize' and 'de-authorize' the OGL?


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Matt Thomason

Adventurer
:)
I had admittedly been wondering about this (specifically, whether all participants in the OGL 1.0a have the same rights as its creator), but then, the bit of the OGL where you can use it to license non-d20-SRD-based systems has always evaded my understanding. Would it be possible to maybe get an article on how that works, and why prevailing wisdom is that Wizards' say-so is still binding on such products?

I understand that it does, and is; I would just like it explained to me like I'm 8 years old.

Here's my educated guess at what Wizards would say (Note: I agree with Morrus on this, and disagree with this take, but here it is anyway)

The OGL itself it copyrighted by Wizards. They also have the primary entry in section 15 in all authorized usages, which chains down to everyone else's usage. They never intended the OGL to be used for anything other than the specific works it comes with, and anyone reusing it to license other games is doing so without their authorization.

Their authorization is therefore for the base license with it's single S15 entry. While they cannot specifically de-authorize OGL 1.0 for anyone else's content, they can do so for their own, and as everyone's legitimate use of the OGL includes and depends upon their content (bearing in mind they will say any use that does not include their content is illigitimate), it therefore applies to all subsequent sublicenses of that content.


While I actually agree with some of this (the thinking on how the authorization carries down the chain, and how the only versions they've ever authorized include the S15 reference for their own SRDs) - but their argument hinges on whether they can de-authorize once authorized. Such a power is neither directly enumerated nor implied within the license text, nor is the mechanism to do so (because simply shoving it on a page on the internet that licencees are under no obligation to visit, unlike in 1.1, does not feel like it would be a legally recognized mechanism) and would likely be defined if it were intended at time of writing (and we have it on record that it was not)
 

dave2008

Legend
Yep. Someone is gonna have to step up to the plate and really challenge WotC on their ability to de-authorize 1.0a.
I'm thinking about it. I have nothing to loose and it would cost me only court fees (I think). I have a 5e Immortals supplement I'm working on that will probably not be ready until next year. I may just publish it under the 1.0(a) OGL and see what happens.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Here's my educated guess at what Wizards would say (Note: I agree with Morrus on this, and disagree with this take, but here it is anyway)

The OGL itself it copyrighted by Wizards. They also have the primary entry in section 15 in all authorized usages, which chains down to everyone else's usage. They never intended the OGL to be used for anything other than the specific works it comes with, and anyone reusing it to license other games is doing so without their authorization.

Their authorization is therefore for the base license with it's single S15 entry. While they cannot specifically de-authorize OGL 1.0 for anyone else's content, they can do so for their own, and as everyone's legitimate use of the OGL includes and depends upon their content (bearing in mind they will say any use that does not include their content is illigitimate), it therefore applies to all subsequent sublicenses of that content.


While I actually agree with some of this (the thinking on how the authorization carries down the chain, and how the only versions they've ever authorized include the S15 reference for their own SRDs) - but their argument hinges on whether they can de-authorize once authorized. Such a power is neither directly enumerated nor implied within the license text, nor is the mechanism to do so (because simply shoving it on a page on the internet that licencees are under no obligation to visit, unlike in 1.1, does not feel like it would be a legally recognized mechanism) and would likely be defined if it were intended at time of writing (and we have it on record that it was not)
Thank you for putting this together.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
I'm thinking about it. I have nothing to loose and it would cost me only court fees (I think). I have a 5e Immortals supplement I'm working on that will probably not be ready until next year. I may just publish it under the 1.0(a) OGL and see what happens.
Just a note that you could potentially be liable for damages in addition to those fees.

As you're not actually distributing working PHBs, there's possibly an argument to be made there that your impact is, in fact, beneficial, in that it helps sell more 5e PHBs because the audience see it is better supported, and competes with no actual 5e product currently available from WotC. They may well argue in response that "A D&D supplement competes with every other D&D supplement because most players only have a limited budget and have to choose between those available."

But I also feel obligated to urge you to get legal advice first, just to see what the possible outcomes are and to be prepared.
 



Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I wondered about that. But you can't get blood from a stone and I can't pay damages with money I don't have ;)

I'm pretty sure I would win. If I do, can I get damages from them!

Uh. Look, speak to an attorney before doing anything stupid (or not stupid).

But consider that they might not be suing you for violating the terms of a license. They'd be suing you for violating their IP (copyright and/or protected trade mark, design, etc.).

Also, while you can't get blood from a stone, when there is a judgment against you ... that thing lasts. And people aren't as judgment proof as they think. Don't even ask about writs of garnishment, and the unending he** of what happens if and when it gets turned over to law firm that specializes in collections.
 

dave2008

Legend
Uh. Look, speak to an attorney before doing anything stupid (or not stupid).
No, the whole point is to avoid attorneys. ;)
But consider that they might not be suing you for violating the terms of a license. They'd be suing you for violating their IP (copyright and/or protected trade mark, design, etc.).
Interesting.
Also, while you can't get blood from a stone, when there is a judgment against you ... that thing lasts. And people aren't as judgment proof as they think. Don't even ask about writs of garnishment, and the unending he** of what happens if and when it gets turned over to law firm that specializes in collections.
I can shake them. I have my ways and I can live on the barter system. Garnish that WotC!
 

Zardnaar

Legend
While a fun game ultimately I think if it can be done it's WotC.

That's also IF idk if they can.

New license from Paozo or whoever can do whatever but there's a lot of what can you actually use from from older material and if you can win in court.

Hypothetically PF 2 and level up are not safe
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
No, the whole point is to avoid attorneys. ;)

Interesting.

I can shake them. I have my ways and I can live on the barter system. Garnish that WotC!

Look, all I'm going to say is this. I've known a lot of people that think that they are judgment proof. But they don't really understand what that means.

Anyway don't do anything foolish. Although avoiding attorneys is always sound advice!
 

Tazawa

Adventurer
Here's my educated guess at what Wizards would say (Note: I agree with Morrus on this, and disagree with this take, but here it is anyway)

The OGL itself it copyrighted by Wizards. They also have the primary entry in section 15 in all authorized usages, which chains down to everyone else's usage. They never intended the OGL to be used for anything other than the specific works it comes with, and anyone reusing it to license other games is doing so without their authorization.

Look at the FAQ directly below the first appearance of the license. Open Game License v0.1 Simplified

They definitely did intend for the license to be used for non-WotC content. It was meant to be used by anyone

"You can use this license to provide a strong copyleft to any material, including an entirely new project."

Their authorization is therefore for the base license with it's single S15 entry. While they cannot specifically de-authorize OGL 1.0 for anyone else's content, they can do so for their own, and as everyone's legitimate use of the OGL includes and depends upon their content (bearing in mind they will say any use that does not include their content is illigitimate), it therefore applies to all subsequent sublicenses of that content.


While I actually agree with some of this (the thinking on how the authorization carries down the chain, and how the only versions they've ever authorized include the S15 reference for their own SRDs) - but their argument hinges on whether they can de-authorize once authorized. Such a power is neither directly enumerated nor implied within the license text, nor is the mechanism to do so (because simply shoving it on a page on the internet that licencees are under no obligation to visit, unlike in 1.1, does not feel like it would be a legally recognized mechanism) and would likely be defined if it were intended at time of writing (and we have it on record that it was not)

The license was issued well before they published their SRD. The original license does not include any reference to open game content released under the license. In fact, WotC never released any content under OGL 1.0. It is still a valid license.

I agree with you that the power to de-authorize a version is not contained in the license.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Look at the FAQ directly below the first appearance of the license. Open Game License v0.1 Simplified

They definitely did intend for the license to be used for non-WotC content. It was meant to be used by anyone

"You can use this license to provide a strong copyleft to any material, including an entirely new project."



The license was issued well before they published their SRD. The original license does not include any reference to open game content released under the license. In fact, WotC never released any content under OGL 1.0. It is still a valid license.

I agree with you that the power to de-authorize a version is not contained in the license.

Thanks, I was actually looking for the original 1.0 (not 1.0a) anyway for completely different reason, so you've saved me a job :D
That pretty much settles it then. 1.0 allows for use of future versions (at the licensees option), therefore allowing the use of 1.0a by other games.
 

Tazawa

Adventurer
Thanks, I was actually looking for the original 1.0 (not 1.0a) anyway for completely different reason, so you've saved me a job :D
That pretty much settles it then. 1.0 allows for use of future versions (at the licensees option), therefore allowing the use of 1.0a by other games.

To save you a little more time:
  • The difference between OGL 1.0 and OGL 1.0a is that "Trademark" has been changed to "Trademark or Registered Trademark" in 7. Use of Product Identity.
  • When Wizards is saying that 1.0(a) "is no longer an authorized license agreement", they are using 1.0(a) to refer to both 1.0 and 1.0a. The use of parentheses shows that the a is optional. Don't think that 1.0 has any different status than 1.0a. In my opinion, they are equally valid.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Look, all I'm going to say is this. I've known a lot of people that think that they are judgment proof. But they don't really understand what that means.

Anyway don't do anything foolish. Although avoiding attorneys is always sound advice!
You need a good attorney. The bad ones will just give unsound advice. The problem is the good ones and the bad ones all look the same ;)
 

MarkB

Legend
So, one would presume that a licence can either be authorised or unauthorised, right? It's a binary state.

Is it possible for the same licence to be authorised for some users, but unauthorised for others?

Because WotC's currently-stated position is that "Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected." So, the licence remains authorised for that content. Can they maintain that the licence is both authorised and unauthorised at the same time?
 

mamba

Hero
So, one would presume that a licence can either be authorised or unauthorised, right? It's a binary state.

Is it possible for the same licence to be authorised for some users, but unauthorised for others?
no, the license is either authorized or not, for all users

Because WotC's currently-stated position is that "Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected." So, the licence remains authorised for that content. Can they maintain that the licence is both authorised and unauthorised at the same time?
the license was authorized when the material was being released, it is still protected by it (due to the license being perpetual) after the license is no longer authorized.

Because the license is no longer authorized, no new material can be released under it - at least according to WotC, my understanding is 1) WotC can authorize a (new) license, 2) no one can de-authorize an authorized license
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
So, one would presume that a licence can either be authorised or unauthorised, right? It's a binary state.

Is it possible for the same licence to be authorised for some users, but unauthorised for others?

Because WotC's currently-stated position is that "Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected." So, the licence remains authorised for that content. Can they maintain that the licence is both authorised and unauthorised at the same time?

Given that "authorized" doesn't appear to have any legal meaning other than what is within the license itself (it does get a mention in the early OGL FAQs, but they may or may not have any legal weight), the only answer is "maybe" - it all comes down to what a Judge decides they actually have the power to do under that license.

Right now, pretty much the entire hypothetical case over the OGL hinges on what "authorized" means, whether "deauthorized" is even possible, and what the mechanisms would be for doing so. As that's not defined either within the law or within the OGL itself, we would have to have a test case to find out.
We don't even know ourselves for sure what WotC believe "authorized" means. We know they believe they can take an authorized license and make it "no longer authorized", but not what mechanism they intend to do this by, or whether they believe they have a way to do this to individuals rather than globally. It's unlikely we will ever know unless they stand up in court and tell a Judge what they believe they can do.

Many of us believe the lack of a defined "de-authorization" mechanism means they simply cant do it, other than by having you agree to it being de-authorized, such as by accepting a new license from them in which you agree it is.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Many of us believe the lack of a defined "de-authorization" mechanism means they simply cant do it, other than by having you agree to it being de-authorized, such as by accepting a new license from them in which you agree it is.
I'd just add that's part of the argument against it, not the whole argument against it.
 

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