OGL 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.

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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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
All this talk of D&D and the SRD being used to make movies just reminds me how distant from any existing property all the "D&D" movies have been so far.

So what makes something a "D&D" movie anyway? Literally only the "D&D" brand on it, the rest is all just generic fantasy 101. "D&D" really doesn't mean anything outside of the concept of six attributes and saving throws.

Now, if you want to talk a Forgotten Realms movie, that's actually an IP you could identify with.
 

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Jer

Legend
Supporter
So what makes something a "D&D" movie anyway? Literally only the "D&D" brand on it, the rest is all just generic fantasy 101. "D&D" really doesn't mean anything outside of the concept of six attributes and saving throws.
I was actually thinking about this. If you look at the D&D movie from 2000 they could have released it under the name "Dragons of Izmer" and changed nothing else if they'd lost the D&D film rights while making it.
 


pemerton

Legend
I thought in other threads that you were arguing that the OGL 1.0a might constitute a contract since there is an offer, acceptance and consideration flowed both ways. I haven't been following all threads closely(there are just too many at this point), so I haven't seen what was said to change your stance there and I'm curious to hear it.
The relationship between licensor and licensee is a contract. The relationship between WotC and potential future licensees is offeror to possible acceptor.

I haven't changed my mind, and have been making this point for about 10 years on this board.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Man it would be super hilarious if WotC took some small time publisher to court and in the end lost their copyright claims to any D&D mechanics claims because they have failed to defend them in the video game space for, oh, 40 years or so.
Copyright doesn't work like that.

You can potentially lose trademarks or registered trademarks for failure to defend them, but not copyright.
 


Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Copyright doesn't work like that.

You can potentially lose trademarks or registered trademarks for failure to defend them, but not copyright.
Yeah. Still, while they couldn't lose the mechanics for failure to protect, they could still end up with the terror of a ruling making it clear to the world that they don't actually own anything other than the specific text expression.
 

MrGrenadine

Explorer
I'm saying that individually you are correct with those items. Too many of those items together leaves that realm and enters into D&D copyrighted territory.
Just wondering — what are basing this assertion on? Is there a legal precedent? Because it doesn’t make sense to me that it’s legal to use one thing from the OGL but if you use many things, it stops being legal.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
You forget the part where a badly CGId Beholder floated by in the background for 5 seconds.
I do forget that part. I mostly remember Dr. Who as king of the elves and Marlon Wayans being in the movie for reasons that are inexplicable.

And because one of my friends brings it up every time we talk about the movie - the fact that the dwarf character just randomly disappears and reappears from the narrative as if he's run by a player who can't make it to every session (or as if the screenwriter forgot about the character when writing the script).
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
BeyondLurker: Listen, guys, ...
Mod Note:
Taking potshots at people might make you feel good, but it is unconstructive and unbecoming.

Moreover, it tends to make discussions acrimonious - and so it gets you the hairy eyeball from moderators. So, how about going forward, you refer to what people say, rather than the people themselves, hey what? Thanks.
 

pemerton

Legend
Just wondering — what are basing this assertion on? Is there a legal precedent? Because it doesn’t make sense to me that it’s legal to use one thing from the OGL but if you use many things, it stops being legal.
If I publish a story about an evil ring that, among other magical properties, turns its wearer invisible, I am probably not infringing any JRRTesque copyright.

If I publish a work that word-for-word replicates LotR, I am infringing some JRRTesque copyright.

Somewhere in between those two possibilities is the relevant boundary of what is or is not infringing.
 

Reynard

Legend
If I publish a story about an evil ring that, among other magical properties, turns its wearer invisible, I am probably not infringing any JRRTesque copyright.

If I publish a work that word-for-word replicates LotR, I am infringing some JRRTesque copyright.

Somewhere in between those two possibilities is the relevant boundary of what is or is not infringing.
Plus there is also parody in there to consider (see: Bored of the Rings).
 

Emrico

Adventurer
If I publish a story about an evil ring that, among other magical properties, turns its wearer invisible, I am probably not infringing any JRRTesque copyright.

If I publish a work that word-for-word replicates LotR, I am infringing some JRRTesque copyright.

Somewhere in between those two possibilities is the relevant boundary of what is or is not infringing.

If you want to see just how close someone can get with a VERY derivative story and still not get sued, check out The Iron Tower Trilogy by Dennis L. McKiernan. It is pretty much LOTR with the serial numbers filed off. I still can't believe he didn't get sued for it.

Plus, it's just freaking awful (which may actually be why he didn't get sued).
 

Voadam

Legend
So even if it made Gary Gygax really mad that other people were using TSR ideas without paying for them, there wasn't a whole lot they could do unless they started crossing that line into either trademark or copyright violations. (Which is why putting any kind of compatibility notice with D&D on your product was a big no-no that TSR actively sued over, and why Wizards created the d20 System Trademark to advertise compatibility, and why every 5e-compatible OGL product today puts something about "Compatible with the fifth edition of the world's biggest fantasy roleplaying game" on their cover instead of actually saying the name of it).
Trademark is to make sure that the mark protected thing is ID'd as the thing and things that are not it are not labelled as the TM, so others can't use the name as part of the name of their own products. You can make things that are for use with a TM'd thing though, or that are compatible with TM'd thing, or that are similar things to the TM'd thing and market them as such and not violate Trademark law protections. Check out generic medicine saying compare with Benadryl or such.

The OGL prevents such indications of compatibility with Dungeons & Dragons as a specific name because one of the OGL terms is not indicating compatibility with a TM without a separate license from the TM holder.

TSR and WotC wanted to prevent such TM compatibility claims on products and the OGL was an effective way to keep D&D the brand off the covers even if they could still say "for the 5th edition of the world most popular fantasy RPG" and such.

Without the OGL WotC can potentially face a lot more products that are labelled on their cover "Compatible with OneD&D Dungeons & Dragons TM" or "For use with OneD&D Dungeons & Dragons TM"

There are separate blurry issues with copyright and derivative works, but the trademark stuff is fairly limited and straightforward.
 



doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Okay, so the conversation you came into was someone asking what sort of compromise between 1.0a and 2.0 could be achieved that might be acceptable to folks. I suggested that since WotC wants control over movies, computer games and VTT, that the new OGL be written as irrevocable and grant people the ability to use written works, PDFs and social media platforms as they did under 1.0a, but reserve movies and video games to WotC. I'm unsure about VTT. I personally don't want WotC to be the only VTT out there, but it seems likely that they won't budge on that.

You then replied to me that the OGL(without specifying which one) allows that. So I responded with the clarification that 1.1 wouldn't allow it, though they've since walked back the social media portion.
Yes, and so I’m at a loss as to the point of such a reply since…they’ve walked that back.

Obviously I’m not unaware of that, so it’s irrational to read the post and reply as if I am.
 

MrGrenadine

Explorer
If I publish a story about an evil ring that, among other magical properties, turns its wearer invisible, I am probably not infringing any JRRTesque copyright.

If I publish a work that word-for-word replicates LotR, I am infringing some JRRTesque copyright.

Somewhere in between those two possibilities is the relevant boundary of what is or is not infringing.
But nothing in the OGL is WotC’s IP! It‘s not a novel.

Even if I published a word for word copy of the OGL and sold it—none of that text is WotC’s, and it’s perfectly legal.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
But nothing in the OGL is WotC’s IP! It‘s not a novel.

Even if I published a word for word copy of the OGL and sold it—none of that text is WotC’s, and it’s perfectly legal.
I'm assuming you mean the SRD here.

The specific text of the SRD is, in fact, WotC's copyrighted intellectual property. It is IP they have licensed to us under the OGL, that we can reuse, mix, and republish under that license, but it is still technically theirs. If you were to use it without a license, you could be sued for copyright infringement.

(The specific text of the OGL is also WotC's copyrighted intellectual property, for what that matters, but again is licensed under... itself, actually, in a somewhat scary recursive manner that causes my mind to bend in upon itself when I think about it too hard.)
 

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