WotC Backs Down: Original OGL To Be Left Untouched; Whole 5E Rules Released as Creative Commons

Hundreds of game publishers sigh in relief as, after extensive pressure exerted by the entire open gaming community, WotC has agreed to leave the original Open Gaming License untouched and put the whole of the 5E rules into Creative Commons.

So, what's happened?
  • The Open Gaming Licence v1.0a which most of the D&D third party industry relies on, will be left untouched for now.
  • The whole of the D&D 5E SRD (ie the rules of the game less the fluff text) has been released under a Creative Commons license.

WotC has a history of 'disappearing' inconvenient FAQs and stuff, such as those where they themselves state that the OGL is irrevocable, so I'll copy this here for posterity.

When you give us playtest feedback, we take it seriously.

Already more than 15,000 of you have filled out the survey. Here's what you said:
  • 88% do not want to publish TTRPG content under OGL 1.2.
  • 90% would have to change some aspect of their business to accommodate OGL 1.2.
  • 89% are dissatisfied with deauthorizing OGL 1.0a.
  • 86% are dissatisfied with the draft VTT policy.
  • 62% are satisfied with including Systems Reference Document (SRD) content in Creative Commons, and the majority of those who were dissatisfied asked for more SRD content in Creative Commons.
These live survey results are clear. You want OGL 1.0a. You want irrevocability. You like Creative Commons.
The feedback is in such high volume and its direction is so plain that we're acting now.
  1. We are leaving OGL 1.0a in place, as is. Untouched.
  2. We are also making the entire SRD 5.1 available under a Creative Commons license.
  3. You choose which you prefer to use.
This Creative Commons license makes the content freely available for any use. We don't control that license and cannot alter or revoke it. It's open and irrevocable in a way that doesn't require you to take our word for it. And its openness means there's no need for a VTT policy. Placing the SRD under a Creative Commons license is a one-way door. There's no going back.

Our goal here is to deliver on what you wanted.

So, what about the goals that drove us when we started this process?

We wanted to protect the D&D play experience into the future. We still want to do that with your help. We're grateful that this community is passionate and active because we'll need your help protecting the game's inclusive and welcoming nature.

We wanted to limit the OGL to TTRPGs. With this new approach, we are setting that aside and counting on your choices to define the future of play.
Here's a PDF of SRD 5.1 with the Creative Commons license. By simply publishing it, we place it under an irrevocable Creative Commons license. We'll get it hosted in a more convenient place next week. It was important that we take this step now, so there's no question.
We'll be closing the OGL 1.2 survey now.

We'll keep talking with you about how we can better support our players and creators. Thanks as always for continuing to share your thoughts.

Kyle Brink
Executive Producer, Dungeons & Dragons


What does this mean?

The original OGL sounds safe for now, but WotC has not admitted that they cannot revoke it. That's less of an issue now the 5E System Reference Document is now released to Creative Commons (although those using the 3E SRD or any third party SRDs still have issues as WotC still hasn't revoked the incorrect claim that they can revoke access to those at-will).

At this point, if WotC wants anybody to use whatever their new OGL v1.x turns out to be, there needs to be one heck of a carrot. What that might be remains to be seen.

Pathfinder publlsher Paizo has also commented on the latest developments.

We welcome today’s news from Wizards of the Coast regarding their intention not to de-authorize OGL 1.0a. We still believe there is a powerful need for an irrevocable, perpetual independent system-neutral open license that will serve the tabletop community via nonprofit stewardship. Work on the ORC license will continue, with an expected first draft to release for comment to participating publishers in February.


 

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Xyxox

Hero
Sure if stuff is new, and based on proprietary stuff and not 1.0a material, it should work fine.

Problem people seem to be grappling with is what to do with all the existing 1.0a material they want to use.
Although Pathfinder 2E is released under OGL 1.0a, they basically removed nearly everything they had originally pulled from SRD 3.5, so it's really a task of going through it with a fine tooth comb to make sure no more WotCisms remain, editing anything that may need to be edited, and releasing it under ORC.

OSR stuff is where I see the main problem. If WotC were to release the 3.0 and 3.5 SRDs under the CC license, all would be good for everybody with editing. Material from companies that no longer exist or do not want to change the license will be all that is left out, but that is entirely up to WotC. It would be a smart move for WotC from a PR point as OSR makes up a miniscule part of the TTRPG scene but has some of the loudest voices in the community.

EDITED TO ADD: Also, the Modern SRD would be a nice thing to release under the Creative Commons.
 

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prosfilaes

Adventurer
Second, I think the analogies between what WotC is doing with its SRD, and what is happening in the area of software, are very weak.
The CC licenses are closely analogous to the BSD and GPL licenses. An argument that WotC can pull back a CC license from the SRD is going to be basically the same as an argument that someone can pull back a BSD or GPL license. It's the same thing; you're offering a license on a copyrighted text to all and sundry. That means there are hundreds of people and dozens of companies that can wave a hand and force every Android device in existence to rewrite parts of the kernel before they can go on shipping it. There are slightly fewer people, but still quite a few random people, who could tell Apple to stop shipping Macs until they change the operating system. It may not change the court's mind, but Alphabet, Apple and Samsung are three of the largest companies in the world, and they have a vested interest in not letting random people put a halt to them shipping product at will. Not to mention Amazon, who roll out new copies of the Linux kernel every second of the day on AWS, and use Alphabet's Android code in Kindles. Everyone assumes these licenses aren't revocable.
 
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see

Pedantic Grognard
Although Pathfinder 2E is released under OGL 1.0a, they basically removed nearly everything they had originally pulled from SRD 3.5
People keep saying that. I'm not sure why. It's pretty easy to go on to the Archives of Nethys and find lots of stuff that's blatantly obviously pulled from the 3.5 SRD that is not common to other fantasy games (whether tabletop or computer).

It might be because of a game of Telephone from a Paizo statement I saw that said they considered purging such elements, and could do so reasonably easily in a revision (which, yes, they definitely could).

It might be be because of naive understandings of copyright law, where people think simple paraphrases (which would have been sufficient back 150 years ago) are enough to avoid modern findings of infringement under the copyright law of derivative works.

But whatever the reason, it's a mistake. If the PF2E versions of the Core Rulebook, Bestiary, and Gamemastery Guide had been printed in 2019/2019/2020 as-is except for omitting the OGL, Hasbro would have had a remarkably easy time with an infringement lawsuit. Far too many spells, magic items, and monsters to fill the bullet points in a brief ("And now having detailed the eleven points of similarity on the drow monster, we come to the six points of similarity on the dwarven thrower magic item . . .").

Purging those elements for an ORC version of PF2E would have been relatively easy - but they weren't already removed from PF2E as published.

(Now it's even easier, since so much of the stuff is now CC BY 4.0.)
 

pemerton

Legend
The CC licenses are closely analogous to the BSD and GPL licenses. An argument that WotC can pull back a CC license from the SRD is going to be basically the same as an argument that someone can pull back a BSD or GPL license.
Why? Are the contractual relationships the same? Are any estoppels the same? This is close to an assertion that facts don't matter, when they obviously do.

It's the same thing; you're offering a license on a copyrighted text to all and sundry. That means there are hundreds of people and dozens of companies that can wave a hand and force every Android device in existence to rewrite parts of the kernel before they can go on shipping it. There are slightly fewer people, but still quite a few random people, who could tell Apple to stop shipping Macs until they change the operating system.
Are there? What legal rights are you saying these parties have? What powers are you saying they're exercising?

I've actually explained the WotC situation, with reference to the facts that pertain to its situation. What are the facts in the software case? I don't know, but I've got no reason to think they resemble the WotC case at all.

Everyone assumes these licenses aren't revocable.
No one has said the licence is revocable. It obviously is not. I am talking about the offer. If you don't know the difference between an offer to contract and a contract, then why are you expressing confident opinions about contract law?
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
Why? Are the contractual relationships the same? Are any estoppels the same? This is close to an assertion that facts don't matter, when they obviously do.
If the facts matter, then the GPL or BSD are revocable under certain circumstances.

One way the law invites despise is when (a) facts matter, especially facts the average person may not know and in ways the average person may not understand and (b) the only way to know is to have enough money to hire an attorney, meaning the facts only matter when they help the rich.
Are there? What legal rights are you saying these parties have? What powers are you saying they're exercising?
These parties own copyrights for code included in the Linux kernel and the BSD operating system, part of Android and Mac OS X, respectively. If WotC can revoke the license to the SRD, why can't Google revoke its license to its code in Android, or Oracle to the OpenJDK, which would have been useful for its recent case against Google that went to the Supreme Court?

I've actually explained the WotC situation, with reference to the facts that pertain to its situation. What are the facts in the software case? I don't know, but I've got no reason to think they resemble the WotC case at all.
The Debian operating system has 59,000 software packages, some dating back 40 years. The changes to the last version of the Linux kernel were by 2000 different developers, and at least 500 different copyright holders; over the last 30 years, I'm guessing that code has at least 5,000 copyright holders. None of those resemble the WotC case at all?

No one has said the licence is revocable. It obviously is not. I am talking about the offer. If you don't know the difference between an offer to contract and a contract, then why are you expressing confident opinions about contract law?
If you don't know about open source licensing, why are you expressing confident opinions about it? I know IBM went to a programmer who licensed his code under a license that included a "do no evil" clause and requested an exception for their customers, so I can't imagine they'd be blaise about using licenses like the CC licenses if they were worried about them or their customers getting cut off. I've been in lots of arguments about open source licenses over the last 25 years, including the CC licenses, and you're the only one I've ever heard suggesting the offer was revocable, that a company like Google was dumping billions of dollars into a system that 5,000 copyright holders, including some hated enemies, could prevent them from using the kernel (which includes letting licensees use the code.)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If the facts matter, then the GPL or BSD are revocable under certain circumstances.

One way the law invites despise is when (a) facts matter, especially facts the average person may not know and in ways the average person may not understand and (b) the only way to know is to have enough money to hire an attorney, meaning the facts only matter when they help the rich.

These parties own copyrights for code included in the Linux kernel and the BSD operating system, part of Android and Mac OS X, respectively. If WotC can revoke the license to the SRD, why can't Google revoke its license to its code in Android, or Oracle to the OpenJDK, which would have been useful for its recent case against Google that went to the Supreme Court?
You still haven't shown that the statutes and rules that govern the tech licensing you deal with to be absolutely identical to those that deal with RPGs. Until you can prove equivalency on all fronts, claims of equivalency by you are going to continue to be questioned.
 
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prosfilaes

Adventurer
You still haven't shown that the statutes and rules that govern the tech licensing you deal with to be absolutely identical to those that deal with RPGs. Until you can prove equivalency on all fronts, claims of equivalency by you are going to continue to be questioned.

That's an impossible standard. But the law is Title 17, which says they're both literary works, and in some cases, the works in question (usually just the graphics or documentation) are licensed under the CC-BY 4.0. It's clear that the Creative Commons licenses were based off the existing open source licenses, and if you're talking about the existing open source licenses, there's no technical reason to talk about them seperately. Talking about RPGs is obfuscating the matter; as far as I know, nowhere in the law of copyright or licenses does it talk about RPGs.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
That's an impossible standard. But the law is Title 17, which says they're both literary works, and in some cases, the works in question (usually just the graphics or documentation) are licensed under the CC-BY 4.0. It's clear that the Creative Commons licenses were based off the existing open source licenses, and if you're talking about the existing open source licenses, there's no technical reason to talk about them seperately. Talking about RPGs is obfuscating the matter; as far as I know, nowhere in the law of copyright or licenses does it talk about RPGs.
I see. So Title 17 is the only statute(federal or state) that governs both tech and RPGs? Is that what you are saying?
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I see. So Title 17 is the only statute(federal or state) that governs both tech and RPGs? Is that what you are saying?
The CC-BY is a copyright license, so copyright law is the natural place to look. I know of no law--nor think there should be any--that governs "tech", and likewise, I know of no law about "RPGs"; those are the wrong boxes to work with. Perhaps you should explain why WotC releasing the SRD under the CC-BY differs from MIT releasing the X Window System under the very similar MIT license.
 

Xyxox

Hero
People keep saying that. I'm not sure why. It's pretty easy to go on to the Archives of Nethys and find lots of stuff that's blatantly obviously pulled from the 3.5 SRD that is not common to other fantasy games (whether tabletop or computer).
People say all you need to do is reword things because it is TRUE with game rules according to every court precedent regarding copyright and game rules. Original material about a setting or a novel etc., not so much.
 

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