WotC Walks Back Some OGL Changes, But Not All

Wizards of the Coast has finally made a statement regarding the OGL. The statement says that the leaked version was a draft designed to solicit feedback and that they are walking back some problematic elements, but don't address others--most notably that the current OGL v1.0a is still being deauthorized.
  • Non-TTRPG mediums such as "educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses" are unaffected by the new license.
  • The 'we can use your content for any reason' provision is going away
  • The royalties aspect is also being removed
  • Content previously released under OGL v1.0a can still be sold, but the statement on that is very short and seems to imply that new content must still use OGL v1.1. This is still a 'de-authorization' of the current OGL.
  • They don't mention the 'reporting revenue' aspect, or the 'we can change this in any way at 30 days notice' provision; of course nobody can sign a contract which can be unilaterally changed by one party.
  • There's still no mention of the 'share-a-like' aspect which defines an 'open' license.
The statement can be read below. While it does roll back some elements, the fact remains that the OGL v1.0a is still being de-authorized.

D&D historian Benn Riggs (author of Slaying the Dragon) made some comments on WotC's declared intentions -- "This is a radical change of the original intention of the OGL. The point of the OGL was to get companies to stop making their own games and start making products for D&D. WoTC execs spent a ton of time convincing companies like White Wolf to make OGL products."

Linda Codega on Gizmodo said "For all intents and purposes, the OGL 1.1 that was leaked to the press was supposed to go forward. Wizards has realized that they made a mistake and they are walking back numerous parts of the leaked OGL 1.1..."

Ryan Dancey, architect of the original OGL commented "They made an announcement today that they're altering their trajectory based on pressure from the community. This is still not what we want. We want Hasbro to agree not to ever attempt to deauthorize v1.0a of the #OGL. Your voices are being heard, and they matter. We're providing visible encouragement and support to everyone inside Wizards of the Coast fighting for v1.0a. It matters. Knowing we're here for them matters. Keep fighting!"


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When we initially conceived of revising the OGL, it was with three major goals in mind. First, we wanted the ability to prevent the use of D&D content from being included in hateful and discriminatory products. Second, we wanted to address those attempting to use D&D in web3, blockchain games, and NFTs by making clear that OGL content is limited to tabletop roleplaying content like campaigns, modules, and supplements. And third, we wanted to ensure that the OGL is for the content creator, the homebrewer, the aspiring designer, our players, and the community—not major corporations to use for their own commercial and promotional purpose.

Driving these goals were two simple principles: (1) Our job is to be good stewards of the game, and (2) the OGL exists for the benefit of the fans. Nothing about those principles has wavered for a second.

That was why our early drafts of the new OGL included the provisions they did. That draft language was provided to content creators and publishers so their feedback could be considered before anything was finalized. In addition to language allowing us to address discriminatory and hateful conduct and clarifying what types of products the OGL covers, our drafts included royalty language designed to apply to large corporations attempting to use OGL content. It was never our intent to impact the vast majority of the community.

However, it’s clear from the reaction that we rolled a 1. It has become clear that it is no longer possible to fully achieve all three goals while still staying true to our principles. So, here is what we are doing.

The next OGL will contain the provisions that allow us to protect and cultivate the inclusive environment we are trying to build and specify that it covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.

What it will not contain is any royalty structure. It also will not include the license back provision that some people were afraid was a means for us to steal work. That thought never crossed our minds. Under any new OGL, you will own the content you create. We won’t. Any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities . As we continue to invest in the game that we love and move forward with partnerships in film, television, and digital games, that risk is simply too great to ignore. The new OGL will contain provisions to address that risk, but we will do it without a license back and without suggesting we have rights to the content you create. Your ideas and imagination are what makes this game special, and that belongs to you.

A couple of last thoughts. First, we won’t be able to release the new OGL today, because we need to make sure we get it right, but it is coming. Second, you’re going to hear people say that they won, and we lost because making your voices heard forced us to change our plans. Those people will only be half right. They won—and so did we.

Our plan was always to solicit the input of our community before any update to the OGL; the drafts you’ve seen were attempting to do just that. We want to always delight fans and create experiences together that everyone loves. We realize we did not do that this time and we are sorry for that. Our goal was to get exactly the type of feedback on which provisions worked and which did not–which we ultimately got from you. Any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are. Thank you for caring enough to let us know what works and what doesn’t, what you need and what scares you. Without knowing that, we can’t do our part to make the new OGL match our principles. Finally, we’d appreciate the chance to make this right. We love D&D’s devoted players and the creators who take them on so many incredible adventures. We won’t let you down.
 
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kjdavies

Adventurer
They said "Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected."
Does this mean the SRD 5.1 -- previously released under v1.0a -- is unaffected? What about SRD (2000, 3e), RSD (2003, 3.5), MSRD (2002, Modern)?

If these SRDs licensing under OGL v1.0a is unaffected, does that mean the clause allowing sublicensing is unaffected?

Does this really mean what we might hope it to mean? Or do they just want us to think that so we stop complaining and it really means that only our stuff that's been distributed already is unaffected?
 

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kjdavies

Adventurer
As far as I know there was only the one back in 3E... the Book of Sexi-sexiness or whatever the heck it was. But your point is completely valid.

Although I honestly think this SHOULD be figured out in court once and for all just so everyone can know exactly where the lines are and everyone can move on.
Valar Project's Book of Erotic Fantasy. Denied use of the d20 logo (via d20 STL) but still was released under OGL.
 

Remathilis

Legend
They have always been able to issue an updated OGL but the license states that users can choose to use the earlier version instead, which makes it pointless to issue a more-restrictive version.
Which effectively means that you get one chance to foresee every possible scenario, loophole and problem because once it's out there, you can never go back. There is no putting the smoke back in the bottle.

I hope they take their time with ORC, because they got one chance to clamp down on abuse. They can always open more up, but they can never close things down..
 

kjdavies

Adventurer
This does not follow. Insofar as I'm aware, whether or not something can be deliberately "dedicated" to the public domain (as opposed to when copyright protection expires as per the law) remains an unanswered legal question.
A copyright holder can put something in the public domain.

However, if it's in the public domain then everyone has free license to do whatever they want with it.

This means it can be reused freely (yay!) but they could not place other guidelines in place (identifying other sources of content that were used -- Section 15 -- and not using product identity).

That is, if the SRD (2000, 3e) had been put into the public domain then I could have taken it, made my own content, and stamped "D&D Compatible" on it.

IOW, making the SRD public domain would not have done what they were trying to do at the time.
 

Which effectively means that you get one chance to foresee every possible scenario, loophole and problem because once it's out there, you can never go back. There is no putting the smoke back in the bottle.

I hope they take their time with ORC, because they got one chance to clamp down on abuse. They can always open more up, but they can never close things down..
It's not that hard. Just accept that open means open, and leave it to the market to sort out abuse. If you want to truly open your content then you'll have live with people doing some things you don't like with it.
 

kjdavies

Adventurer
If WotC are so worried about entirely fictional attacks on their good character by Evil Books (lol) and so on, WotC shouldn't be offering an OGL, eh?

They could incredibly easily shut the whole thing down by just making a clearly-worded GSL, and stop trying to destroy the OGL. As soon as they go to 1D&D, they're safe.
That's what then did with 4e, and I didn't hear a murmur at all that it was unfair or wrong to do that.

I did hear "GSL is a terrible license and I'm refuse to accept, guess I'm not publishing for 4e" and "I guess they want to hamstring their market, not a great idea, bet it won't work", but I didn't hear a whisper at all that they couldn't do it.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
That's what then did with 4e, and I didn't hear a murmur at all that it was unfair or wrong to do that.

I did hear "GSL is a terrible license and I'm refuse to accept, guess I'm not publishing for 4e" and "I guess they want to hamstring their market, not a great idea, bet it won't work", but I didn't hear a whisper at all that they couldn't do it.
I bet that this is why they're going with a "new OGL" instead of a new license like the GSL. People ignored the GSL and just did their own thing. WotC saw that and doesn't want to repeat history, so now they're going to do what they can to force everyone to accept the new license.

Like by de-authorizing the OGL and saying "Do you feel lucky enough to challenge Hasbro in court?"
 

kjdavies

Adventurer
What content control? If someone pushes a "5E" book under the 1.0a OGL that has the same type of objectionable content as nuTSR, can WOTC do anything about it?
Do they need to? nuTSR's Star Frontiers was already a subject of derision, even in the (unfairly maligned, IMO) OSR crowd.

nuTSR wasn't going to get very far with it once people saw what it was. I saw a lot of people that might have been expected to be 'on their side' choke on the race descriptions, for example.
 

rcade

Hero
Which effectively means that you get one chance to foresee every possible scenario, loophole and problem because once it's out there, you can never go back. There is no putting the smoke back in the bottle.

I hope they take their time with ORC, because they got one chance to clamp down on abuse. They can always open more up, but they can never close things down..
I agree that care should be taken in drafting the ORC.

But I don't see how a license can be open and allow an entity to revoke permission for content-based reasons. That control makes it a closed license. Open gaming has grown for 23 years without that kind of control. If people want a central authority they should look for closed licenses like what WOTC used to offer with the d20 System Trademark License. I'd prefer licenses as open as what we have in open source software.
 

kjdavies

Adventurer
What content control? If someone pushes a "5E" book under the 1.0a OGL that has the same type of objectionable content as nuTSR, can WOTC do anything about it?
Also, I'm pretty sure '5e' cannot be a trademark at this point, even if it is taken to be largely synonymous with "D&D 5e".

Who claims it? Who has been defending it? At this point it's the Kleenex of RPG publishing.

If anything, I'd say '5e' means not D&D. But stands a good chance of being compatible.

Unless it's Hero System. Or Ars Magica. Or one of several other games.
 

kjdavies

Adventurer
Another bit about the "steal your content". WotC could always reuse your content that you published under the OGL - that's the point, anyone can. They are skirting around the rest of it, where they can revoke your content. And since they are playing the "protect diversity and inclusion" it sounds like that is still very much on the table.
Indeed they could use third-party open content, and they did... a couple times. Having to comply with OGL v1.0a put a bit of a crimp in their style in doing so, though, so they didn't do it very much at all. I agree that having the ability to deny the creator use of it is a bad, bad addition.
 

WoTC whacked one company for copyright violation that was using the OGL in the early days. I remember because Jim Ward was involved and one of the copyright violations was for Drawmij. Which is his character via his name spelt backwards ….

That company had to destroy the books still in stock.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
By far my biggest issue at this point is this:

- The attempt to make a unilateral alteration of the terms of a perpetual agreement, when said agreement contains no mechanism for them to do so.
If you and I make an agreement and say "these are the terms, forever", that's it IMO. Any change requires either we both agree to them, or we stay with the current agreement. I do not care what the terms are or what the argument is, we both agreed to them at the time. If you didn't think to put in a 5-year expiry at which time a new agreement will need to be made, that's on you. If you didn't think to put in things to stop me competing with a certain part of your business, that's on you. If you simply do not like what I am doing while staying within the terms of that agreement that is on you.​
If you wish to offer me a new agreement, or to sit and negotiate terms with me, that's fine. If you're someone else offering me an agreement, you are free to require any terms you wish, and I am free to accept or reject that agreement. If we had an agreement already, then quite frankly, you are stuck in it with me, just as I'm stuck in it with you, with the only "out" being something we defined at the time of making that agreement, or by both of us coming to an agreement to terminate it.​
I may, quite happily, enter into agreements with others with far worse terms and more restrictions on me, but that does not have any bearing to our existing agreement.​
Any argument why the change may or may not be a good thing has no actual bearing on this. If that agreement also allows other third parties to do things I personally feel are despicable, as much as I may enjoy the idea of shutting them down, it cannot be done under the terms of this agreement. Other ways will have to be found, and I will happily co-operate with finding and using those ways. But we had an agreement, it was perpetual, had no means of being revoked, included an option for me to use any previous version you had ever authorized, and therefore stands until the day both of us agree to terminate it. If you do not like that, then your sole recourse is to make an offer to buy me out of it. Oh, and the fact you don't actually have any record of who does and does not have that same agreement with you is not my problem in any way.​

Now, in this particular case the actions of the other party in indicating they would prefer they were not locked in this agreement with me, a glimpse into some things that reveal something of their thought process, along with the sheer size of said party, make me extremely reluctant to do anything under that agreement ever again. I mean, do you really want to work as a business partner with someone that wants you gone? I certainly don't need that kind of stress. But, that does not change my stance that in this particular case, the other party simply has no way to change the terms of their agreement with me without my agreement.
 
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Matt Thomason

Adventurer
WoTC whacked one company for copyright violation that was using the OGL in the early days. I remember because Jim Ward was involved and one of the copyright violations was for Drawmij. Which is his character via his name spelt backwards ….

That company had to destroy the books still in stock.

Without looking it up, it feels like because Drawmij was used as a character in Forgotten Realms, as well as in at least two spell names, thereby fairly clearly making it Wizards' IP. It'd be like trying to put Elminster in your game. The fact it was created by using a definable process on Jim's real name likely has no legal weight, I'm guessing.
 

rcade

Hero
WoTC whacked one company for copyright violation that was using the OGL in the early days. I remember because Jim Ward was involved and one of the copyright violations was for Drawmij. Which is his character via his name spelt backwards ….

That company had to destroy the books still in stock.
I don't think Fast Forward Entertainment was forced to pulp the four books that used WOTC IP without permission. The company offered to do that to resolve the issue. Jim Ward (FFE founder and president) sounded at the time like he wasn't enjoying being a d20 publisher.
 

rcade

Hero
Without looking it up, it feels like because Drawmij was used as a character in Forgotten Realms, as well as in at least two spell names, thereby fairly clearly making it Wizards' IP. It'd be like trying to put Elminster in your game. The fact it was created by using a definable process on Jim's real name likely has no legal weight, I'm guessing.
Drawmij might have been more than an homage to Ward. He could have created and named the character while playing in Gary Gygax's campaign. If so, he would've had to sign away the rights to TSR way back when for it to be unquestionably the company's IP.

Ward didn't fight WOTC on the issue of whether he could use Drawmij in 2003.
 

Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Also, I'm pretty sure '5e' cannot be a trademark at this point, even if it is taken to be largely synonymous with "D&D 5e".

Who claims it? Who has been defending it? At this point it's the Kleenex of RPG publishing.

If anything, I'd say '5e' means not D&D. But stands a good chance of being compatible.

Unless it's Hero System. Or Ars Magica. Or one of several other games.
Yeah, there's pretty much no way such a simple, non-unique term could be claimed.

It fails both tests for a trademark - it is neither used in commerce (they do not use it for their own products, it does not appear on the covers of books, in titles, or in any real form whatsoever. In fact, WotC appear extremely reluctant to indicate what edition a D&D book is even for except the occasional mention in comments within. ), nor is it distinctive (5e of what? There's lots of 5es, as you say.)
 


Matt Thomason

Adventurer
Drawmij might have been more than an homage to Ward. He could have created and named the character while playing in Gary Gygax's campaign. If so, he would've had to sign away the rights to TSR way back when for it to be unquestionably the company's IP.

Ward didn't fight WOTC on the issue of whether he could use Drawmij in 2003.

While it's not conclusive, he did co-write a FR novel "The Paladins" in which the name was used, which makes it a possibility he signed those rights over as part of the novel text. I'm not entirely sure what the legal position is with novel text (especially as we don't know whether he was on a royalty agreement or did it as a work-for-hire), but I'm thinking it's ambiguous enough that nobody would want to risk fighting WotC on it.
 

MarkB

Legend
That's what then did with 4e, and I didn't hear a murmur at all that it was unfair or wrong to do that.

I did hear "GSL is a terrible license and I'm refuse to accept, guess I'm not publishing for 4e" and "I guess they want to hamstring their market, not a great idea, bet it won't work", but I didn't hear a whisper at all that they couldn't do it.
That's because 4e was a significantly different game system, and most works issued under the OGL wouldn't be compatible with it. To shut down third parties from publishing 4e-compatible content under the OGL, all they had to do was not issue a 4e SRD under the OGL.

With One D&D on the other hand, they want to keep it compatible with existing products, which means that third-party 5e products will effectively be compatible with it. So issuing a different licence doesn't shut down those products - only rescinding the existing licence would do so.
 

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