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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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.
too early to tell. At a minimum ORC will allow anyone to publish something independent from D&D under an open license other than the OGL (or CC, which has no specific provisions for retaining IP)

A new game can also be 5e-like I guess, but by no means does it need to be.

In any case, making the SRD CC and not revoking the OGL makes the ORC less important as a license.

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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.
Yes. I had taken this to be self-evident.


Pedantic Grognard
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
This is getting well wide of the topic of this thread or even this entire website, but . . .

There are two situations here.

The first situation is one like the Linux kernel, where there have been no systematic copyright assignments. In this case, the trick is that pretty much every contribution to the kernel is a derivative work of a previous version of the kernel, and that work could only be legally produced by accepting the GPL 2. If, say, Linus Torvalds got hit by a bus and his heirs wanted to yank back his offer of license, pretty much everything he's done since the earliest versions has been in part derivative of other people's contributions, and thus would be a license agreement violation if withdrawn. Even if there's some surviving before-all-contributions Torvalds code still in the Linux kernel, that'd probably (not certainly, but probably) be little enough, of marginal-enough uniqueness, to fall under fair use (at least in the US). This makes an effective withdrawal of offer on the Linux kernel somewhere between impossible and very complicated for our theoretical Torvalds' heirs, and harder for any other contributor. (If I understand correctly, the model train software case that got to the Circuit Court of Appeals level in the US falls under this situation. This situation does not reflect WotC's relationship to the SRD.)

The second case is where the copyright of the work as released under the license agreement is held by one entity. For example, the Free Software Foundation requires contributions to GNU projects have their copyrights be assigned to the FSF. Under pemerton's understanding, there is accordingly at least an argument that the FSF could withdraw its offer to license that code under a given license agreement. In that case, the only guarantee new parties can use the work under the license agreement in the future is the assumption that the FSF will continue offering the software under it going forward. (This is very much WotC's relation to the SRD.)

So, in the second case, what are big companies doing assuming that the license agreement offer for the software is non-revocable?

Well, in part, if they take advantage of the offer of the current license agreement today, what's most relevant is that the software is offered under the license agreement today. The theory here that pemerton is dealing with isn't that the license agreement can be cancelled regarding actual parties to the agreement, but that the offer to new parties to enter into the agreement can be withdrawn. Once Google has taken advantage of Oracle's offer of a license agreement regarding some software, it's too late for Oracle to withdraw that offer to Google, but they might be able to withdraw the offer today so it isn't available to FoundedIn2024 Corporation.

In other part, the big companies might just be overconfident in beliefs that the courts might not uphold. I mean, we have recent evidence of that. If the recent views of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Google v. Oracle, on the copyrightability of APIs, had been generally held back in 1978, AT&T might well have stopped Unix clones starting with Coherent, Digital Research might well have stopped the CP/M clones including QDOS (later known as MS-DOS), and Microsoft could have gone after Sun for WABI and later the WINE project for WINE. None of them did that because it was assumed for decades that a reimplimenting an API was legal -- and then, after decades of practice by major players assuming the law was one way, Oracle managed to get a ruling that the API itself was copyrightable.

That the US Supreme Court subsequently decided that Google's use was fair use, and did not decide on API copyrightability at all, doesn't particularly change my point. A Federal Circuit opinion that comes within two SC votes of being upheld is not a fringe interpretation. That hundreds of billions of dollars of business over decades have been undertaken on a specific belief of what the law is doesn't provide all that much assurance that the courts will agree that it is the law.

So in the current situation, unless and until an unmixed copyright holder withdrawing an offer to enter a license agreement actually results in case law, we don't know for sure what the courts will decide.

(I am not a lawyer, and I am not advising anyone on the specifics of their legal situation; I'm an amateur discussing his understanding of the situation.)
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Don't worry, this wasn't for your benefit. There were comments earlier to the effect of "Creative Commons wouldn't let WotC do X, Y or Z with their license."
Another manifestation of this continuing tendency to treat these commercial licences as if they were statutory regimes (with the author of the licence text as lawmaker) rather than private law arrangements.



You know the software stuff better than I do. But the things you point to in your first example, about intertwined reliance on licenses to produce derivative work, is the sort of thing I have in mind which (as you say) is quite different from WotC and the SRD.


Pedantic Grognard
You know the software stuff better than I do. But the things you point to in your first example, about intertwined reliance on licenses to produce derivative work, is the sort of thing I have in mind which (as you say) is quite different from WotC and the SRD.
One thing I've really appreciated about your posts, that I have not reliably seen out of other lawyers' commenting on the situation over the last month, is that you show a reluctance to speculate on how the law applies to facts you don't really know.

I realize that frustrates other people, but the most out-there claims I've seen over the last month come when a lawyer who isn't thoroughly grounded in the specifics makes a statement about the law as it applies to the partial fact pattern that was presented to him, and then people who are ignorant of how law works in general go and make posts based on their incomplete understanding of the lawyer's statement.

Darren L

Agents Of Shield Yes GIF by ABC Network
not really, please try and run a game using just the srd 5.1 (only one sub class per class, no Feats apart for Grapple, Spells missing, Monsters descriptive text missing (just a stat block)
I agree it is a start but if Wizards lock 5e down thats all we have. Hopefully they have learnt their lesson and that does not happen as I believe that would the of end of DnD

not really, please try and run a game using just the srd 5.1 (only one sub class per class, no Feats apart for Grapple, Spells missing, Monsters descriptive text missing (just a stat block)
I agree it is a start but if Wizards lock 5e down thats all we have. Hopefully they have learnt their lesson and that does not happen as I believe that would the of end of DnD
You misunderstand the purpose and usefulness of the SRD. The SRD is not there to run a game from (that is what the free basic rules are for), but to allow others to make 5e content. With the SRD you can make a fully functional 5e clone. it has in fact already been done and is available for purchase DTRPG (I have it)

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