OGL 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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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This may all be true. But it supports my rhetorical question: what does it matter if its enforceable?

This is why I think all the posting and concern about "irrevocable" licences is mostly irrelevant: because whatever the licence text, and whatever the legal arguments, when a large commercial player starts throwing its weight around the response will likely be the same.
I doubt this will ever happen, but if WotC made 1.2 nearly identical to 1.0a, but with true language of irrevocability and put it into the third party hands that they said they were going to, that would probably do it. I say nearly identical, because they're going to want to keep video games, VTT and movies/shows in their hands.
 

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pemerton

Legend
if no one continues using 1.0a, then it is effectively revoked, no matter what a court would have decided
This is why I think the legal aspects - the wording of an agreement, and what that does or doesn't imply about revocability and enforceability - are not very relevant. Because people don't seem to be responding to those things. They're responding to what WotC says its powers are, and what it implies its attitude is.
 


gban007

Explorer
I doubt this will ever happen, but if WotC made 1.2 nearly identical to 1.0a, but with true language of irrevocability and put it into the third party hands that they said they were going to, that would probably do it. I say nearly identical, because they're going to want to keep video games, VTT and movies/shows in their hands.
My understanding of Permeton's point though is that even if WOTC does do that - if a few years down the track they still look to withdraw their offer / pull their content from the license and say no one can use their content anymore - we hit the same situation, and if no one is willing to spend money to contest this in court, then what does it matter what the license says, as we can still get same result as now.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
My understanding of Permeton's point though is that even if WOTC does do that - if a few years down the track they still look to withdraw their offer / pull their content from the license and say no one can use their content anymore - we hit the same situation, and if no one is willing to spend money to contest this in court, then what does it matter what the license says, as we can still get same result as now.
It won't be exactly the same situation, though. If there is super strong language supporting irrevocability, as well as stating it is irrevocable, then people will have more confidence in fighting it out, even if they have to pool resources to do it. The current situation is too up in the air to give anyone that sort of confidence, though.
 


mamba

Hero
It won't be exactly the same situation, though. If there is super strong language supporting irrevocability, as well as stating it is irrevocable, then people will have more confidence in fighting it out, even if they have to pool resources to do it. The current situation is too up in the air to give anyone that sort of confidence, though.
except that it does not contain that language in the 1.2 draft, and the 1.0a is not as up in the air as you make it out to be. The 1.0a has a stronger defense than the 1.2 will, so if that is your concern, you take the stance now. 1.2 very clearly says WotC can revoke it (just not with those words)
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
except that it does not contain that language in the 1.2 draft
Not yet, no. It could be coming, though.
and the 1.0a is not as up in the air as you make it out to be.
There is too much uncertainty right now for the smaller companies to be willing to fight.
The 1.0a has a stronger defense than the 1.2 will
Stronger than 1.2? Sure. Not nearly enough for anyone less than a Paizo to be willing to fight WotC over, though.
1.2 very clearly says WotC can revoke it (just not with those words)
I've seen attorneys state that there is some of that language in 1.0a as well. Enough to create the uncertainty we are seeing.
 

There is too much uncertainty right now for the smaller companies to be willing to fight.
I'm not so sure about that. From the Gizmodo article:

"Another third-party publisher who asked not to be identified told Gizmodo their company “has already collaborated with other third-party publishers” to mount a legal defense of the original, circa 2000, OGL 1.0(a)."

There's also this thing:

 

pemerton

Legend
It won't be exactly the same situation, though. If there is super strong language supporting irrevocability, as well as stating it is irrevocable, then people will have more confidence in fighting it out, even if they have to pool resources to do it.
I think people's confidence in what they can do legally would be better based on sound legal advice rather than on amateur intuitions about the meaning of individual words in the licence text.
 


Valetudo

Explorer
One reason we have contracts and licensing is to ensure participants can work together without total trust. A solid agreement protects the interests of both sides. The issue here is that Hasbro's interests are changing because D&D is on the verge of releasing a Hollywood blockbuster. This changes everything.
You mean Hollywood flop right?
 

rgard

Adventurer
One reason we have contracts and licensing is to ensure participants can work together without total trust. A solid agreement protects the interests of both sides. The issue here is that Hasbro's interests are changing because D&D is on the verge of releasing a Hollywood blockbuster. This changes everything.

Funny thing is that if they hadn't tried to pull this crap with the OGL, I would have gone to the theater to see the movie. Not now.
 

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