The OGL 1.1 is not an Open License

Today Wizards of the Coast on DnD Beyond released an article called OGLs, SRDs, & One D&D. It talks about Wizards plans for a new version of the OGL.

The recap the OGL stands for the Open Game License. According to Creative Commons, an open license means the content is free to use how you want it. In practice, this has meant that content was shared to let people use the content in any way, including commercially, the main requirements being that there is proper attribution of the original content used, and that any modifications are released under the same license. With the author listed as the creator of the modification.

The current two versions of the OGL v1.0 (3.X) and v1.0a meet the above criteria except for specific elements.

  • You are allowed to designate part of the work as product identity which basically saying I am not releasing this part of my book as open content. This is often used for licensed IP like Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. It is sometimes used when the author doesn't want to share their setting but wants to use and modify a popular system.
  • You also explicitly agree to give up your right to cite compatibility to a trademarked product. This is something that you normally have the right to do when releasing a work when it is your content. I could have done this with Blackmarsh as I mostly used common monster names rather than anything specific out of the DnD editions.
The Changes
So what are the proposed changes?
First, we’re making sure that OGL 1.1 is clear about what it covers and what it doesn’t.
What OGL 1.1 will cover are electronic files like PDF, and printed books this right off mean that OGL 1.1 is no longer an open license as it restricts how you can use the open content. As the definition of open content means you can use it in the manner you see fit.

The next change
Second, we’re updating the OGL to offer different terms to creators who choose to make free, share-alike content and creators who want to sell their products.
They list a number of requirements that amount to you having to report any sales of any products licensed under the OGL 1.1 as well as a description of what it is you are selling. And if you make over a threshold ($750,000) then you will be expected to pay royalties by 2024.

Wrapping it up

This will further bifurcate the third party publisher market. OGL 1.0 and OGL 1.0a content can't be used with OGL 1.1 content as a result of Section 12 of the current OGL.
12. Inability to Comply: If it is impossible for You to comply with any of the terms of this License with respect to some or all of the Open Game Content due to statute, judicial order, or governmental regulation then You may not Use any Open Game Material so affected.
Right now the world of 3PP is divided into those who use open content like Pathfinder, Cepheus, OSRIC, Old School Essentials, and those who publish in community content programs like the DM's Guild. In fact, I predict there will be three major 3PP communities for Dungeons and Dragons, the ones that continue to use the OGL 1.0a license, those who use the OGL 1.1 license, and those who use community content programs.

I realize there is a lot of speculation and criticism out there that are made because OneDnD is the news of the days. I limited myself to what the article said. At various times in the history of open source and creative commons, unscrupulous companies and individuals tried to put out their own licenses including ones with terms very much like the above. Each and every time this has not ended well for the bad actors and their licenses. Either they reverted back to a traditional commercial license and ceased their use of the open content. Or they came into compliance.

If you value your freedom to produce and more commonly share the content you create for Dungeons and Dragons then let Wizards know that you find these proposed terms unacceptable. Let them know that the community has the tools right now to fix the issue on their own and will do so as shown by what happen with DnD 4e, the GSL, and Pathfinder.

This is your hobby and your game now. Don't let Hasbro try to take that away from you.

Fight On!

Some Practical Effects of Open Content.

Finally some practical effects of making Blackmarsh open content. I would not have had the time or skills to do any of these projects but now folks who read Spanish, French, Italian and Hungarian can enjoy Blackmarsh in their languages as well as fans of Heroes and Other Worlds.

And because these were solely the work of their respective author who put the work into making a version of Blackmarsh, they get to reap 100% of the financial rewards. Something I am fine with when I shared Blackmarsh as open content.

Blackmarsh in Spanish!

Périlleuses contrées: Fangenoire (Blackmarsh in French)

Italian version of Blackmarsh

Blackmarsh in Hungarian!

Blackmarsh for Heroes & Other Worlds

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The EN World kitten
This will further bifurcate the third party publisher market. OGL 1.0 and OGL 1.0a content can't be used with OGL 1.1 content as a result of Section 12 of the current OGL.
I'm somewhat confused by this. How does not being able to comply with the OGL with respect to Open Game Content specifically because of a statute, judicial order, or government regulation mean that you can't use Open Game Content from versions 1.0 and 1.0a with version 1.1 of the license?

To put it another way, what statute, judicial order, or government regulation prevents you from using v1.0 and v1.0a Open Game Content under the OGL v1.1?


The Lion King Reaction GIF

Reading the announcement, I don't see the issue.

I find it hard to argue against that the major earners should pay some kind of royalty to WotC. That's a pretty high threshold. I can't think of anything that isn't pdfs and books that I have acquired. I think maps wouldn't be covered since it is not rules content. Outside the scope, really, as long as you're not making a copy of the Forgotten Realms.

This type of hyperbole doesn't help the conversation, especially since it's riddled with errors.

Estar isn't much of a 'the sky is falling' kind of guy, so I am inclined to pay attention if he is concerned. Obviously with any new announcement like this, it may take time to understand fully all the implications and where concern should or should not be. I remember it taking a while before I fully understand the original OGL's full meaning

The thing that gives me pause here is the requirement to report revenue (I just have a feeling a lot of companies might not be comfortable sharing that kind of information with WOTC, but I could be wrong), and the royalties for 750k companies. I have zero knowledge of what it is like to be a 750K OGL companies, but I do know profit margins in the hobby are pretty tight in general, so I would imagine that is at least going to be a serious thing for them to consider.

I myself am still puzzling through what this means, and I am probably less invested in the OGL and WOTC discussion than many others, but I also think it is fair for people to weigh in if they think the new terms signal a problem (I do have to admit it gives me late T$R vibes, but I don't know how grounded that is in anything, and probably won't know until this plays out further).

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