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.

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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
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).
This makes me wonder whether it was so awful that everyone just assumed it was a parody, and covered under Fair Use.
 

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Matt Thomason

Adventurer
I read like one and a half of the trilogy. It was genuinely awful.
I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt something was so utterly terrible that I couldn't even finish it, so that is conjuring up some real images of horror for me. (Why are the number of spaces after each period variable from page to page? No its ROGUE ffs. Oh my god, they're using apostrophes in plurals!)
 

Nellisir

Adventurer
I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt something was so utterly terrible that I couldn't even finish it, so that is conjuring up some real images of horror for me. (Why are the number of spaces after each period variable from page to page? No its ROGUE ffs. Oh my god, they're using apostrophes in plurals!)
It was decades ago. I feel like I WANTED to like it so badly, and I read a LOT, so...yeah. It says something that I couldn't finish it. The covers were fantastic, but the words inside just...wooden. I remember wondering who the f was buying these books.
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Someone really needs to explain to me what the OGL 1.0a has to do with making a movie. They put a lot of Attack Rolls and Skill Checks in movies these days? Are SRDs full of game rules suddenly relevant to the plot structure of feature films? Even WotC and TSR didn't bat an eye when they wanted their fictional characters to do stuff that was explicitly against the rules of the game, why would it be relevant in even the smallest possible way to a filmmaker who wanted to make a D&D inspired movie?
The OGL makes a lot of D&D stuff fair game that wouldn’t unambiguously be otherwise, especially when presented together.

So, owlbears and magic Missile, paladins, and “sorcerers as naturally magic as opposed to wizardly magic you have to learn”, in the same movie, talking about the spell charm person is immoral or amoral, etc. Even if these aren’t copyrightable to trademarkable individually, without the OGL a reasonable case can be made that in combination they are blatantly ripping off D&D in a way that infringes on wotc’s IP.

I’d Wheel of Time was the next Game of Thrones, Amazon (with the Rigby estates permission) could just publish a game using the SRD as a shortcut and familiarity hack, to make a game that becomes competition for D&D , even just for a time. Or they could use all those elements i mentioned above to make a show and cash in on the rise of D&D ‘s popularity without having to pay wotc a dime because they don’t actually name it D&D, but there is a libertine half-elf Bard, a halfling thief rogue, a dwarven Paladin, an elven wizard, an orc ranger, a human fighter, and a Dragonborn Barbarian, and like…it could easily be awesome and make millions while wotc gets nothing from it.

Which is fine, IMO, because I don’t even believe that D&D should still be copyrightable almost 50 years after first publication, but obv wotc doesn’t like it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
well, most of these are just generic (bard, druid, demon-like). And if having a feathered bear in it makes it D&D in the eyes of WotC, then they are even crazier than I thought
Since you seem to be deliberately "misunderstanding" what I'm saying as evidenced by all of your responses, I guess we're done discussing this.
 


pemerton

Legend
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.
Do you mean the OGL or the SRD? WotC claims copyright in both, as texts. Novels are not the only sort of text that can enjoy copyright protection.

If you were to publish all the bits of the SRD word-for-word under the terms of the OGL v 1.0a then (subject to WotC's revocation of its offer to license on those terms) you would not violate any of WotC's rights as you would have the benefit of a licence from them.

If you publish the SRD word-for-word without the benefit of a licence from WotC then you infringe their copyright.

If you publish the OGL word-for-word without some form of permission from WotC then you may infringe their copyright, but I think that one is more complicated because the whole reason that WotC wrote and published the OGL was so that other parties would take it up and use it for their own licensing agreements, and one of its terms requires those parties to reproduce it word-for-word.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
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.
What makes Lord of the Rings Tolkien's work that others can't use? Elves? Elves are generic. Dwarves? The same. Maiar? Those are angels. Eru? That's God. Rangers? Those exist outside of Tolkien. And so on. Put all of the things Tolkien uses in the way he uses them and you have something unique that needs to be licensed to you if you want to use it.

The more things, even general ones that you use in a specific combination, the more unique it becomes until it's something unique to you and defendable. D&D uses many, many things that would be generic individually or even in small amounts, but when put together make the game uniquely D&D. Without the OGL allowing use of the D&D spells, races, etc., at some point if you use too many of those things that in combination make D&D, D&D, you will cross the line from okay to not okay.

This only matters if WotC decides to sue you or if a vendor decides not to carry your product because they're afraid it's too close. Where that line is isn't clear, though, so you could potentially cross it without meaning to and be at WotC's mercy.
 

pemerton

Legend
Someone really needs to explain to me what the OGL 1.0a has to do with making a movie. They put a lot of Attack Rolls and Skill Checks in movies these days? Are SRDs full of game rules suddenly relevant to the plot structure of feature films? Even WotC and TSR didn't bat an eye when they wanted their fictional characters to do stuff that was explicitly against the rules of the game, why would it be relevant in even the smallest possible way to a filmmaker who wanted to make a D&D inspired movie?
Looking at this from a slightly different angle - I could be wrong, but I really doubt that any studio would make a movie on a multi-million dollar budget relying on a free-to-all-the-world licence like the OGL. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but to me that seems an absurd risk to take for such an expensive venture.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Looking at this from a slightly different angle - I could be wrong, but I really doubt that any studio would make a movie on a multi-million dollar budget relying on a free-to-all-the-world licence like the OGL. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned, but to me that seems an absurd risk to take for such an expensive venture.
The only thing that possibly makes sense would be if the OGL parts were only a small part of the movie, with the rest being their "Product Identity". They would also, of course, have to deal with the more practical problem of how to provide the Open Game Content they are reusing in a human-readable form... and I suddenly have images of the OGL license text and OGC definitions scrolling up in the end credits for a duration almost as long as the movie itself.
 

pemerton

Legend
The only thing that possibly makes sense would be if the OGL parts were only a small part of the movie, with the rest being their "Product Identity".
Agreed with the rest of your post. Just picking up on this - if the licence falls over for whatever reason, and then WotC seek an injunction against the distribution of your infringing movie . . .

For a publisher you get to earn your returns under the OGL piece-by-piece. For a movie studio you're putting all your eggs in one pretty expensive basket . . . .
 




ngenius

Explorer
The Foundry Virtual Tabletop folks are not pleased with 1.2. Is that the target for Wizard's monetization drive? I would have thought it was the many million Dollar Kickstarters who did not pay royalties to Wizards. But royalties have been removed from OGL 1.2 now. Honestly, I thought we would have more positive energy in preparation for the 50th Anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons.

Below is from the Foundry website highlighting what that business does not like in OGL 1.2

1674300545946.png
 

demoss

Explorer
let’s face it, most people wanting to provide feedback have one, minus the 50k or so who quit over it, and at 13M accounts, that makes no difference to the count
I think 20-30% active users out of total users is the rule of thumb.

So it could be upto 2% of active users - and I'm guessing they look at people spending money vs free accounts as well, which could plausibly push that up by x 10.

We obviously don't know, but they had a very strong reaction to cancelled subs and deleted accounts, so thinking "50k out of 13M is nothing" is clearly not the way they saw it.
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
GSL also had a poison pill clause.

d20 Trademark Licence did not, and was apparently quite popular: D20 System Trademark License
As a minor point of digression, the term "poison pill" was often used (when referring to the original GSL) to refer to the provision about how product lines that were released under the license (i.e. the original GSL) had to, if they were also released under the OGL, immediately cease being put out under the latter license, and could not be continued under the OGL even if WotC later terminated your right to keep using the GSL. This provision was wildly unpopular, and was eventually removed from the revised GSL.

Which is to say, I was slightly confused by the use of that term here, since I think you're referring to a morality clause which allows WotC to conduct oversight and terminate the license in the event that they don't like what they see.

In that case, it's worth noting that the d20 STL was meant to act as a complementary license to the OGL. As I recall, all you got in exchange for adhering to the d20 STL's terms was the right to use the red-and-white d20 compatibility logo. If you were hit with violating any of the license's terms, you could dump it altogether and all you had to do was remove said logo. (Which today is most of the PDFs of Green Ronin's old books now have a "3rd Era" notice where the d20 logo used to be.) So it was hardly any sort of make-or-break clause the way it was for the GSL or the proposed OGL v1.2.

As it so happens, I seem to recall that the d20 STL's "quality standards" clause was only added to the license in late 2003, when WotC got wind that the Book of Erotic Fantasy was about to be released. They added those, to which in response the publishers of the BoEF changed the book's cover to remove the d20 logo (which is still on the cover of the BoEF preview booklet, for those who have it).
 

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