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WotC Talks OGL... Again! Draft Coming Jan 20th With Feedback Survey; v1 De-Auth Still On

Following last week's partial walk-back on the upcoming Open Game Licence terms, WotC has posted another update about the way forward. The new update begins with another apology and a promise to be more transparent. To that end, WotC proposes to release the draft of the new OGL this week, with a two-week survey feedback period following it...

Following last week's partial walk-back on the upcoming Open Game Licence terms, WotC has posted another update about the way forward.

Screen Shot 2023-01-09 at 10.45.12 AM.png

The new update begins with another apology and a promise to be more transparent. To that end, WotC proposes to release the draft of the new OGL this week, with a two-week survey feedback period following it.

They also list a number of points of clarity --
  • Videos, accessories, VTT content, DMs Guild will not be affected by the new license, none of which is related to the OGL
  • The royalties and ownership rights clauses are, as previously noted, going away
OGL v1 Still Being 'De-Authorized'
However, OGL v1.0a still looks like it's being de-authorized. As with the previous announcement, that specific term is carefully avoided, and like that announcement it states that previously published OGL v1 content will continue to be valid; however it notably doesn't mention that the OGL v1 can be used for content going forward, which is a de-authorization.

The phrase used is "Nothing will impact any content you have published under OGL 1.0a. That will always be licensed under OGL 1.0a." -- as noted, this does not make any mention of future content. If you can't publish future content under OGL 1.0a, then it has been de-authorized. The architect of the OGL, Ryan Dancey, along with WotC itself at the time, clearly indicated that the license could not be revoked or de-authorized.

While the royalty and ownership clauses were, indeed, important to OGL content creators and publishers such as myself and many others, it is also very important not to let that overshadow the main goal: the OGL v1.0a.

Per Ryan Dancey in response this announcement: "They must not. They can only stop the bleeding by making a clear and simple statement that they cannot and will not deauthorize or revoke v1.0a".

Amend At-Will
Also not mentioned is the leaked draft's ability to be amended at-will by WotC. An agreement which can be unilaterally changed in any way by one party is not an agreement, it's a blank cheque. They could simply add the royalties or ownership clauses back in at any time, or add even more onerous clauses.

All-in-all this is mainly just a rephrasing of last week's announcement addressing some of the tonal criticisms widely made about it. However, it will be interesting to see the new draft later this week. I would encourage people to take the feedback survey and clearly indicate that the OGL v1.0a must be left intact.

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One thing to remember with this whole de-authorization of the OGL 1.0a business--

The original leak and FAQ around it suggested that the Wizards leadership of today doesn't understand the OGL. They seem to see it as a license that lets other people use their content, with no implications beyond that. While, yes, back in ca. 1990, that's how it got started-- WotC introduced it so that other people could remix D&D 3.0e -- it was explicitly written to be broader than that, and has been used much more broadly than that. It's a license that allows for sharing of material, and it is in no way (other than historically) tied specifically to D&D, or any other SRD. It's been used by games completely detached from any D&D SRD (e.g. Fudge), and it's been used by games that evolved out of 3.0 but have gone beyond to be something different (e.g. Pathfinder), and then by people who remix that later content.

That's what the OGL is, but what came out in the original leak and surrounding FAQ suggests that WotC was viewing it as "the license that lets people use D&D stuff". If they're looking at it that way, then when they say "things already released under the OGL 1.0a will still be available under that", probably what they mean is that they think it's entirely up to them to be able to say "OK, you can keep distributing this" -- not even considering the fact that they don't own the copyright to Fudge, nor even the derivative works created based on the D&D SRDs. They seem to implicitly think that the OGL is just a somewhat different version of the fan policy.

Whether they really think this, or whether this is the position they're performing so that they can get what they want (which is either total annihilation, nobody allowed to distribute any more stuff that was ever released under the OGL 1.0a, or just current control, nobody is allowed to release any more stuff under the OGL 1.0a), they're coming at it not as if the OGL were a general license, but as if it were just the terms for using Wizards' content.

In that light, saying stuff previously published under the OGL 1.0a stays that way almost certainly means that, yes, you don't have to pull all of your PDFs from DTRPG and pulp all your books, and maybe you can even reprint them, but from now nobody is allowed to (for example) publish any more Pathfinder 1e compatible stuff. Legally, this is completely dubious -- as many have said, either the license is authorized or it's not. And, as more have said, they probably don't have the legal authority to deauthorized the license (but may have the bully-pulpit authority to do so). But, I strongly suspect this is what they mean, because they are viewing OGL through the lens of "the thing that's just for using our stuff, like the fan policy but for publishers."
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1.0a still not allowed to be used going forward means they continue to get nothing from me along with bad press as I will keep reminding others to not get into D&D anymore.

Can't wait to bomb the hell out of their survey.

Here's to hoping they run this game into the ground, the shareholders want it sold to avoid deadweight, and Paizo buys it.

How about instead of bombing their survey you give them honest ratings and feedback. If that means you give them a 1, so be it but at least read the questions.

Wait what? What makes you suspect this? Their intent is to make a truly open license for RPG creators to use, and hand it over to a neutral (and iirc, a non-profit) custodian.

They want to stay in the game to make money and pay their bills? And they probably decided that at that point ORC will give them a lot of goodwill right now
And since they used OGL before anyway they don't give up a lot.


You can't conceive of the idea that you might be wrong, or at least that people who disagree with you genuinely believe something different from you, and aren't just acting out of charity or slavish devotion to Hasbro?

I didn't say slavish devotion.

I absolutely feel any reading of Wizards statements that leads to trusting them at all, is charitable. Feel free to disagree.

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