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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pemerton

Legend
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?
No one has said or suggested that WotC has a power of revocation under the CC-BY licence. So I'm not sure why you keep posting as if there are people who think they do.

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?
You've just described some of the ways in which, to me, it seems extremely different.
 

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pemerton

Legend
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.
Which cases are you referring to?
 

pemerton

Legend
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.
The most important law in this context is not copyright law. I don't think anyone is intending to challenge any copyrights. The relevant law is contract law, the law of licensing agreements, and related areas of private law.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
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.
Patent laws cover tech.
 

see

Pedantic Grognard
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.
Granting that distinction, how have you reached the conclusion that it is remotely certain that a court is going to treat everything in the 3.5 SRD as "game rules" rather than "material about a setting" for purposes of copyright law?

Seriously. When I said eleven points of similarity on the drow, I was not being hyperbolic. Both the 3.5 SRD and PF2's Bestiary use 1) the Shetland dialect word "drow" for 2) chaotic 3) evil 4) light-sensitive 5) elves with 6) red eyes, the specific ability to cause 7) magical moving lights 8) magical darkness, and 9) a magic glow around a target, and who 10) use knockout poison and 11) hand crossbows.

Those are all narrative/setting similarities. Sure, those similarities often reference game mechanics that implement them, but they're narrative/setting similarities.

And the same sort of thing runs down over dozens of individual items. A localized English dialect word "duergar" is attached to evil dwarves with the ability to change size and become invisible. The name "Deck of Many Things" is attached boxed deck of 22 vellum cards which have 21 identical names and 1 synonymous name, with differing implementations but identical narrative effects down all 22 cards. Black dragons are acid-breathing swamp dwellers collected with four similarly-matching other types of "chromatic" dragon, set against a group of five specifically-matching "metallic" dragons. And so on, and on, and on.

It would have been entirely possible to publish a Pathfinder 2e that limited its narrative/setting similarity to D&D to the same level as, say, Steve Jackson Games' Dungeon Fantasy RPG. But they did not do that.
 

pemerton

Legend
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).

<snip>

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 . . .").
When I said eleven points of similarity on the drow, I was not being hyperbolic. Both the 3.5 SRD and PF2's Bestiary use 1) the Shetland dialect word "drow" for 2) chaotic 3) evil 4) light-sensitive 5) elves with 6) red eyes, the specific ability to cause 7) magical moving lights 8) magical darkness, and 9) a magic glow around a target, and who 10) use knockout poison and 11) hand crossbows.

Those are all narrative/setting similarities. Sure, those similarities often reference game mechanics that implement them, but they're narrative/setting similarities.

And the same sort of thing runs down over dozens of individual items. A localized English dialect word "duergar" is attached to evil dwarves with the ability to change size and become invisible. The name "Deck of Many Things" is attached boxed deck of 22 vellum cards which have 21 identical names and 1 synonymous name, with differing implementations but identical narrative effects down all 22 cards. Black dragons are acid-breathing swamp dwellers collected with four similarly-matching other types of "chromatic" dragon, set against a group of five specifically-matching "metallic" dragons. And so on, and on, and on.

It would have been entirely possible to publish a Pathfinder 2e that limited its narrative/setting similarity to D&D to the same level as, say, Steve Jackson Games' Dungeon Fantasy RPG. But they did not do that.
Besides the technical precision of your posts, the other thing that I like about them is that they highlight, through a legal lens, what the real issues is here (in my view, at least): there are commercial publishers other than WotC who want to publish works that are derivative of WotC's material, and hence who need a licence.

In this situation, WotC will almost always have the upper hand.

And those other publishers could, as you say, go off and create their own RPG material, settings, etc. But they don't want to, because they want access to the market for WotC's works.
 

SoonRaccoon

Explorer
I'm only just now catching up on several pages of this thread, but I'd like to point out some relevant information that was glossed over with regard to what role the Creative Commons organization might take in a hypothetical dispute between WotC and "Bob", who licensed the 5e SRD under CC-BY.

This is from the Creative Commons web page where they host the full text of the CC-BY license.

Creative Commons is not a party to its public licenses. Notwithstanding, Creative Commons may elect to apply one of its public licenses to material it publishes and in those instances will be considered the “Licensor.” The text of the Creative Commons public licenses is dedicated to the public domain under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication. Except for the limited purpose of indicating that material is shared under a Creative Commons public license or as otherwise permitted by the Creative Commons policies published at creativecommons.org/policies, Creative Commons does not authorize the use of the trademark “Creative Commons” or any other trademark or logo of Creative Commons without its prior written consent including, without limitation, in connection with any unauthorized modifications to any of its public licenses or any other arrangements, understandings, or agreements concerning use of licensed material. For the avoidance of doubt, this paragraph does not form part of the public licenses.

The text of the CC-BY license is effectively in the public domain. At least, it's the clear intent of the Creative Commons organizations that they wish to release that text into the public domain, to whatever extent they can. I can't see any situation where the Creative Commons organization would object to people copying the text of their license.

Also, if a law suit arose between WotC and Bob, the Creative Commons organization would not be party to that suit. I'm sure they'd take great interest in the case, and may express opinions or submit statements, but the case would be squarely between WotC and Bob.

If the WotC v. Bob case were to shoot some sort of hole in the CC-BY 4.0, I expect Creative Commons would respond by releasing a 4.1 or 5.0 in an attempt to patch that hole.

So, any arguments that Creative Commons would or could prevent people from misusing their licenses seem fairly weak to me.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Granting that distinction, how have you reached the conclusion that it is remotely certain that a court is going to treat everything in the 3.5 SRD as "game rules" rather than "material about a setting" for purposes of copyright law?

Seriously. When I said eleven points of similarity on the drow, I was not being hyperbolic. Both the 3.5 SRD and PF2's Bestiary use 1) the Shetland dialect word "drow" for 2) chaotic 3) evil 4) light-sensitive 5) elves with 6) red eyes, the specific ability to cause 7) magical moving lights 8) magical darkness, and 9) a magic glow around a target, and who 10) use knockout poison and 11) hand crossbows.

Those are all narrative/setting similarities. Sure, those similarities often reference game mechanics that implement them, but they're narrative/setting similarities.

And the same sort of thing runs down over dozens of individual items. A localized English dialect word "duergar" is attached to evil dwarves with the ability to change size and become invisible. The name "Deck of Many Things" is attached boxed deck of 22 vellum cards which have 21 identical names and 1 synonymous name, with differing implementations but identical narrative effects down all 22 cards. Black dragons are acid-breathing swamp dwellers collected with four similarly-matching other types of "chromatic" dragon, set against a group of five specifically-matching "metallic" dragons. And so on, and on, and on.

It would have been entirely possible to publish a Pathfinder 2e that limited its narrative/setting similarity to D&D to the same level as, say, Steve Jackson Games' Dungeon Fantasy RPG. But they did not do that.
It's funny. When the CC srd was lacking, I stated that it would be a good place to make new RPGs that used 5e's core mechanics but not their narrative structure. A place new races, classes, monsters and spells (or even alternative systems like psionics) could thrive. In limitation, creativity. I was shouted down on how WotC doesn't own the words "elf" or "wizard" or "black dragon" or "magic" and "missile" and they can't hold back that from the CC for the OGL.

But like you, I was pointing out that the specific expressions of such concepts in D&D might be. At least, I wouldn't want to be the one defending that our drow are not derivative of WotC's in a court of law. The concept of dark elves and drow aren't wizards IP, but that specific expression might.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
You've just described some of the ways in which, to me, it seems extremely different.
Except that Debian ships, or will ship, the 5.1 SRD in one of those 50,000 packages, literally or as a derivative work, likely in either a character creator or game. How will WotC be extremely different from the copyright holders of the other 50,000 packages then?
 

again I might be misconstruing what the Orc license was going to do. I was thinking it was 1500 game companies making new games since they thought they couldn’t use the OGL under a license. So now kobold press black flag game is now a 5e based game according to their site. So not a new game system, using 5e since it’s popular system and most player base. Respectfully…what am I missing? What if they couldn’t use the ogl, would it have been a “new” game? The OGL issue and related junk coming from it has been a pain in the rear for me. Glad it’s over for now.
 

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