So WHY Didn't The OGL Contain The Word 'Irrevocable'?

Whether or not the Open Game License v1.0a is revocable is one of the main things being argued about during this whole OGL-gate crisis, with lawyers firmly stating opinions on both sides of the issue. We all know that Ryan Dancey, the OGL's 'architect' (along with IP lawyer Brian Lewis, who was WotC's in-house counsel at the time) firmly believes that the license is irrevocable--in his words...

Whether or not the Open Game License v1.0a is revocable is one of the main things being argued about during this whole OGL-gate crisis, with lawyers firmly stating opinions on both sides of the issue. We all know that Ryan Dancey, the OGL's 'architect' (along with IP lawyer Brian Lewis, who was WotC's in-house counsel at the time) firmly believes that the license is irrevocable--in his words, "If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license."

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But why didn't it just say so? On the face of it, including that simple word might have prevented this whole crisis. Dancey commented on Facebook:

because in Y2K that term was not used in state of the art copyleft licenses like the LGPL or the Apache or BSD licenses. There's no "magic word" in US contract law that lets you walk away from your obligations.

The OGL was based on existing software open source licenses; it even predates Creative Commons by a couple of years.

Just on this site there are lawyers on both sides of the 'revocabiity' debate, and on social media and elsewhere there are many more. In this thread no less than SIX lawyers weigh in over an 86-page debate, and they don't all agree. WotC clearly currently believes it to be revocable (but didn't believe so before), and Paizo believes the opposite.

The license does indeed contain the term ‘perpetual’, but many lawyers have argued that the precise legal meaning of that term is not the same as the common English meaning, and that it does not render a license irrevocable. On the other hand, legal minds have pointed out that the license contains no verbiage regarding 'de-authorization', or any mechanism for doing so. That said, if all lawyers agreed, we wouldn't need courts.

It's clear that Dancey's, Lewis', and indeed WotC's intent at the time was to make it impossible to revoke the OGL, and that that was the proposition offered to third party publishers at the time. D&D historian Ben Riggs (author of Slaying the Dragon: A Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons) comments:

This is a radical change of the original intention of the OGL. The point of the OGL was to get companies to stop making their own games and start making products for D&D. WoTC execs spent a ton of time convincing companies like White Wolf to make OGL products. To act like the existence of Paizo or Kobold is a perversion of the OGL may be gaslighting, it may be ignorance, but it is certainly nonsense.

Everybody believed the OGL was irrevocable at the time. Dancey and Lewis did. WotC did. The entire industry did. Everybody. Whether or not the license can be de-authorized, it is certain that a breach of trust has taken place.

Dancey has posted a blog where he talks more about his current attempts to save the Open Gaming License.

Unfortunately, the leadership team at Wizards of the Coast has decided to unlawfully and in bad faith attempt to deauthorize v1.0a of the OGL. In mid-December 2022 they met with various parties who use the OGL and attempted to strong-arm them into signing onto a new OGL that repudiates the philosophy of Open Gaming that is embodied in v1.0a. The draft license that they attempted to force onto the community included onerous provisions that shifted control of the content created out of the commons shared by all participants equally and into a legal space controlled solely by Wizards of the Coast. Their new license was not, in any sense, an “open gaming license”.

The leverage that the company believed it had was their perception that they had the right to deauthorize and revoke the v1.0a version of the license. They do not. Attempting to do so will result in difficult litigation which ultimately poses a risk to Wizards of the Coast’s fundamental conception of what it can copyright and protect with US intellectual property rights laws.

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The problem is, the people in charge of WOTC now, are not the ones that were in charge when 3E, D20 System, and the OGL came out. I seriously doubt any of them are even gamers. They're probably 'educated' individuals that think they can get away with anything they want due to money/influence/lawyers.


I'd personally like to see 'more in sink with their client base' at WOTC. Hasbros other brands are better managed. Hell, Hasbro owns the Transformers, and they do not go lawsuit happy or royalty happy on content creaters (i.e 3d printing files), or 3rd party manufacturers (qv knock offs that are clearly tributes/meant to be the character). And the Transformers are far better protected under copyright law then game mechanics or elements. (They still go after people that are making outright knockoffs of their molds or making counterfiet figures).


To clarify -
Cults3d and Thingiverse - lots of transformer stuff to print and download, including complete figures
(a 24 inch tall transforming Metroplex is on my list to print). No legal action by Hasbro

There are numerous third party manufacturers that make close representations of Transformers figures, but don't use there names.
i.e I have a number of third party figures that Hasbro has yet to update (or in one case, the updated versions look like my dogs came back to life just to chew on them)
Just go to a place like BBTS and start looking around.

However, a few companies that were doing oversized knock-offs, or that put out 'Tranformeres' (notice the difference) get hit by Hasbro and law-enforcement.

That's pretty much the approach WOTC was taking with the OGL until recently.


If WOTC hated the OGL in 2007, it wouldn't have kept releasing updated SRDs through 2016 and continued to offer the current one for download. Hasbro didn't start asking "who will rid me of this turbulent license?" until last month.

In 2008, Hasbro had a problem with the d20 System Trademark License, not the OGL. It abandoned the d20 STL and replaced it with the Game System License.
The 'SRD' in 2008 was for 4e and licensed under the GSL, not the OGL. The SRD was extremely light (basically contained the names of things you were allowed to refer to by name, and nothing else: no rules, no actual content that was usable) and the GSL had terms that were... oh, let's call them 'similarly unfavorable' to what we are discussing now.

I'm pretty sure the later SRD, for 5e, was only released under OGL because WotC needed to try to draw publishers back... and even that was years after 5e went live, and contains a smaller subset of the 5e core books than the SRD/RSRD did of the 3e/3.5 core books (and the latter contains material from non-core books such as the divine rules from Deities & Demigods, epic rules, and psionics rules.

In 2007/2008 though, WotC did make a deliberate effort to get away from using the OGL for their new edition.


My wife saw a rumor going around on Twitter that all this is because someone as Hasbro found out that D&D was their most profitable revenue stream, and wants to squeeze it even more like subscription video games. Apparently the plan included things like charging $1 on their virtual table top for each type monster you want to use.

If true, that's disgusting beyond belief.


Let them charge $10, you don't have to use it. Take Roll20 and Pathfinder or something else. None of that matters, only OGL 1.0a matters.

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