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posted by hubie on Monday January 23, @02:34AM   Printer-friendly

Amid all the backlash, Wizards of the Coast is pursuing a radically different strategy for its future open licensing:

Dungeons & Dragons released a statement today saying that the future of its open gaming license will include its core rules being placed under the purview of the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons is "a nonprofit dedicated to sharing knowledge, and it developed a set of licenses to let creators do that," says the newest update from Kyle Brink, the executive producer at Dungeons & Dragons.

This decision is a direct response to a lot of the fears the community had after io9 reported on the initial OGL 1.1 draft on January 5. The CC license will cede Wizards of the Coast's control over the base rules and mechanics of D&D to the nonprofit that stewards the license, which means that Dungeons & Dragons and WOTC will be unable to touch it and will not be able to revoke it. Likewise, content that goes beyond the remit of using core rules will fall under a new OGL, dubbed 1.2, which will contain specific language denoting the license as "irrevocable"—a massive pressure point for creators who used the original OGL 1.0 and were worried about the implications of the 30-day termination clause in the OGL 1.1.

[...] Wizards of the Coast seems committed to having a firm stance on bigoted and hateful content—something that people praised in the leaked draft. "If you include harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content (or engage in that conduct publicly), we can terminate your OGL 1.2 license to our content," reads the statement. [...]

Additionally, Brink states that "what [Dungeons & Dragons] is going for here is giving good-faith creators the same level of freedom (or greater, for the ruleset in Creative Commons) to create TTRPG content that's been so great for everyone, while giving us the tools to ensure the game continues to become ever more inclusive and welcoming." [...]

Previously: Dungeons & Dragons' New License Tightens its Grip on Competition


Original Submission

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Dungeons & Dragons’ New License Tightens its Grip on Competition 30 comments

An exclusive look at Wizards of the Coast's new open gaming license shows efforts to curtail competitors and and tighten control on creators of all sizes:

The new Dungeons & Dragons Open Gaming License, a document which allows a vast group of independent publishers to use the basic game rules created by D&D owner Wizards of the Coast, significantly restricts the kind of content allowed and requires anyone making money under the license to report their products to Wizards of the Coast directly, according to an analysis of a leaked draft of the document, dated mid-December.

Despite reassurances from Wizards of the Coast last month, the original OGL will become an "unauthorized" agreement, and it appears no new content will be permitted to be created under the original license.

The original OGL is what many contemporary tabletop publishers use to create their products within the boundaries of D&D's reproducible content. Much of the original OGL is dedicated to the System Resource Document, and includes character species, classes, equipment, and, most importantly, general gameplay structures, including combat, spells, and creatures.

[...] One of the biggest changes to the document is that it updates the previously available OGL 1.0 to state it is "no longer an authorized license agreement." By ending the original OGL, many licensed publishers will have to completely overhaul their products and distribution in order to comply with the updated rules. Large publishers who focus almost exclusively on products based on the original OGL, including Paizo, Kobold Press, and Green Ronin, will be under pressure to update their business model incredibly fast.

Wizards of the Coast Changes Course, Gamers Win 28 comments

Wizards of the Coast changes course, gamers win:

Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast will abandon attempts to alter the Open Gaming License (OGL). The announcement, made Friday, comes after weeks of virulent anger from fans and third-party publishers caused the story to make international headlines — and on the eve of a high-profile movie starring Chris Pine.

The OGL was developed and refined in the lead-up to D&D's 3rd edition, and a version of it has been in place for more than 20 years. It provides a legal framework by which people have been able to build their own tabletop RPGs alongside the Hasbro-owned brand. It has also buoyed the entire role-playing game industry, giving rise to popular products from Paizo, Kobold Press, and many individual creators. But proposed changes to the OGL, leaked to and first reported on by io9 on Jan. 5, seemed like they would create an adversarial relationship between Wizards and its community. The story has since made headlines around the world — including a nearly 10-minute segment this week on NPR's All Things Considered and lengthy write-ups by organizations such as CNBC.

Previously:


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by MrGuy on Monday January 23, @02:53AM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Monday January 23, @02:53AM (#1288129)

    ...when they publish an actual draft agreement that actual IP lawyers can look at. Until then, it's all marketing spin control.

    I don't believe the previous draft was leaked "on purpose" to "gauge the community's response" like WoTC claimsm and I'm far from alone in that opinion.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Mykl on Monday January 23, @03:43AM (10 children)

    by Mykl (1112) on Monday January 23, @03:43AM (#1288134)

    Some exec at Hasbro really didn't understand the product that they were put in charge of and thought they could squeeze some extra bucks from the community to help with their quarterly bonus.

    Given the nature of the RPG community and their 'unusual' sensitivity on many and varied matters, it's probably no exaggeration to say that this could have been a death blow to D&D if not managed. Time will tell if they manage to navigate their way out of this mess of their own making, but there will be a few other systems who will no doubt benefit from this misstep. Probably the biggest winners have been the online platforms that compete with D&D Beyond - Roll20 and others.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday January 23, @04:28AM (9 children)

      by tangomargarine (667) on Monday January 23, @04:28AM (#1288137)

      Time will tell if they manage to navigate their way out of this mess of their own making

      I'm not familiar with this drama...did they try to relicense it, or what? (I'm familiar with WOTC making a mess of Magic The Gathering, but haven't heard about the D&D side of things.)

      Likewise, content that goes beyond the remit of using core rules will fall under a new OGL, dubbed 1.2, which will contain specific language denoting the license as "irrevocable"

      With a statement like this, I think back to the Middle Ages, and various kings whose word was only as good as whether you thought you could defeat them in a war to hold them to it. Is there any *law* holding them to this "irrevocable" statement, or just their promise?* In which case it functionally means nothing if you don't trust them to begin with.

      (I've been playing a lot of Diplomacy [wikipedia.org] online lately, which is a somewhat refreshing perspective. Trying to convince the other players to side with you against others, and knowing that they could be lying through their teeth at any given moment, since nothing in the game holds them to their promises. Cut out all the chance in a game, and you only win if you can smooth-talk your opponents.)

      --

      *Sun open-sourced Java too, and as soon as Oracle acquired them basically went "oops nobody called 'no backsies'" and promptly relicensed everything

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 5, Informative) by Opportunist on Monday January 23, @07:14AM (5 children)

        by Opportunist (5545) on Monday January 23, @07:14AM (#1288147)

        The tl;dr version of the whole OGL drama is that they tried to pull a Darth Vader ("I altered the deal, pray I don't alter it any further") on their former license, retroactively changing it in a way that allowed them to gather fees from people who created content for their IP (on anything already made or to be made in the future) and essentially claim ownership over it.

        (Yes, dear fanboys, it's way more complicated than that, I try to give a 2 line synopsis for someone who doesn't want to watch a 2 hours video about it or read a few dozen pages worth of drama)

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by tangomargarine on Monday January 23, @07:56AM (4 children)

          by tangomargarine (667) on Monday January 23, @07:56AM (#1288150)

          retroactively changing it in a way that allowed them to gather fees from people who created content for their IP (on anything already made or to be made in the future)

          IANAL but how is this legal? Retroactively changing a license?! My reflexive reaction is "STFU unless I publish something new"?

          it's way more complicated than that, I try to give a 2 line synopsis for someone who doesn't want to watch a 2 hours video about it or read a few dozen pages worth of drama

          It is appreciated. Considering how wacky this explanation has been already, I assume the answer is "lawyerese, they convinced somebody to change the rules, definitely not in exchange for money/favors".

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 4, Informative) by MrGuy on Monday January 23, @03:22PM (1 child)

            by MrGuy (1007) on Monday January 23, @03:22PM (#1288182)

            Whether it's legal or not is something for IP lawyers (IANAL) to debate, but the basic gist is that the original license allowed derivative content to be created on "any authorized version" of their license, and they decided their new version could "deauthorize" the previous license. Via Gizmodo [gizmodo.com]

            The original OGL granted “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive license” to the Open Game Content (commonly called the System Resource Document) and directed that licensees “may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.” But the updated OGL says that “this agreement is…an update to the previously available OGL 1.0(a), which is no longer an authorized license agreement.”

            • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday January 23, @08:27PM

              by tangomargarine (667) on Monday January 23, @08:27PM (#1288242)

              Kind of sounds like their previous license's "everything is forward-compatible and you can use whatever version you like" was a terrible idea to begin with.

              --
              "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 23, @05:58PM (1 child)

            by VLM (445) on Monday January 23, @05:58PM (#1288214)

            Retroactively changing a license?

            Theres two weird FUD things going on in parallel on the same topic, sorta.

            First one is the company has a history of making "superficial" changes then calling it a new version, and its time to "force" everyone to rebuy everything by releasing a 6th edition, which would have come with the awful license everyone hates. So sure, keep selling "5e" products or even older, it'll be legal, just nobody will buy it because for better or worse the entire market will be on "6e" with the new shit license.

            Second issue is, as much as I hate to say it, the "good guys" spreading FUD about 30 days. There's a termination clause in the OGL, line 13, where the company is being nice guys instead of instantly terminating your license if you F up, they give you 30 days to "cure such breach within 30 days of becoming aware of the breach". So under line 2, you're not allowed to put the WOTC corporate logo on your creations claiming its an officially approved WOTC product or similar, and under other licenses your license would instant terminate and you're F-d if you have a warehouse full of your own books, but now you have 30 days. For example if your sales website had an "Action photo" of gamers playing and in the background there's a WOTC product displaying the WOTC logo in your marketing photo, you got 30 days to put up a new marketing photo that doesn't contain their trademark, or all your books are unlicensed thus illegal. The company is actually being lenient but its being FUD'd as some "they can take away your license in 30 days if they want to" which is complete bullshit as anyone who actually bothers to read the license could see.

            • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday January 23, @06:05PM

              by VLM (445) on Monday January 23, @06:05PM (#1288217)

              Oh and as a followup, I forgot to mention, this termination clause can more or less be found elsewhere.

              Check out the termination clause #8 in the GPL version 3; IANAL but I read it as being the same deal, rephrased, you F up in following the license you got 30 days post-notification to un-F yourself before the license terminates.

              Note that the MIT license does not have a termination clause OR a severance clause OR a time limit, so as I read it, and IANAL and enforcement and interpretation depend on where you live, however, as I read it, if you totally F a MIT licensed piece of software, perhaps by claiming the author is liable or by intentional removal or defacement of the copyright notice, you instantly (permanently?) lose your MIT license and have to treat it as closed source copyrighted "stolen" software. Therefore my opinion is you're safer as a company with GPL licensed software than with MIT licensed software because at least you have a legal right to fix GPL violations in a month rather than insta-termination.

              I'm too lazy to look up other licenses.

      • (Score: 5, Touché) by PiMuNu on Monday January 23, @01:51PM (1 child)

        by PiMuNu (3823) on Monday January 23, @01:51PM (#1288173)

        > I think back to the Middle Ages, and various kings whose word was only as good as whether you thought you could defeat them in a war

        I don't think you have to look back so long as the Middle Ages.

        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Monday January 23, @08:29PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Monday January 23, @08:29PM (#1288243)

          Now they at least try to dress it up and make it not so obvious.

          And we don't really have absolute monarchies anymore, outside of the Middle East...

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
      • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Monday January 23, @03:53PM

        by MrGuy (1007) on Monday January 23, @03:53PM (#1288193)

        (I've been playing a lot of Diplomacy [wikipedia.org] online lately, which is a somewhat refreshing perspective. Trying to convince the other players to side with you against others, and knowing that they could be lying through their teeth at any given moment, since nothing in the game holds them to their promises. Cut out all the chance in a game, and you only win if you can smooth-talk your opponents.)

        Diplomacy is actually a somewhat interesting test case for this. I've been out of the hobby for awhile, but I played online in the early days, and notably when Avalon Hill was acquired by Hasbro.

        The basic terms that Hasbro offered was that they would not shut down online code that implemented their rules (things like The Judge engine that was state of the art for Play by Email at the time) were OK, provided that the rules themselves and the accompanying documentation wasn't published. So, you could play the game online if you knew how to play, and create rule variants and maps, but you couldn't publish the manual to teach someone new how to play (on the theory, presumably, that everyone playing online would have to buy the game once to get the rules).

        I'm sure the terms of this accord have changed wildly in the last 20 years (heck, wizards.com publishes the actual diplomacy manual online now), but there is a world where a large company can manage to pull this off without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Diplomacy again is a great example - like D&D, you can't possibly complete CLOSE to a real game in a single play session, and online/play by email was a huge boon to building the playerbase back in the 90's.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by darkfeline on Monday January 23, @04:26AM (5 children)

    by darkfeline (1030) on Monday January 23, @04:26AM (#1288136) Homepage

    They can terminate your license if you do anything they don't like. How is that irrevocable?

    --
    Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, @06:38AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, @06:38AM (#1288144)

      What is meant by "irrevocable" is that they are not supposed to be able to say: "I am altering the deal. Pray I do not alter it further." Once the terms of the license have been set, then that is that. No retroactive relicensing or other shenanigans like that. You are allowed to use the licensed content only under the terms of the license though: if you violate the terms of the license yourself by doing something that they said they didn't like that's written in the text of the license, then obviously your right to use the licensed stuff is revoked, exactly according to the terms of the license itself. That is not a revocation of the license, but its upholding!

      • (Score: 1) by GloomMower on Monday January 23, @03:24PM (1 child)

        by GloomMower (17961) on Monday January 23, @03:24PM (#1288183)

        > If you include harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content (or engage in that conduct publicly), we can terminate your OGL 1.2 license to our content

        Everyone has their own idea of what is harmful (especially in regard to "mental wellbing"), and it can change over time. Just ask 80s parents who thought D&D in the first place was harmful.

        • (Score: 2) by Mykl on Monday January 23, @10:12PM

          by Mykl (1112) on Monday January 23, @10:12PM (#1288251)

          I have a huge problem with that statement too - it's so broad in its interpretation these days as to include basically anything.

          All Orcs are evil? Discriminatory - feel the wrath of my ban-hammer!

          One of the enemies is a slaver? Triggering for those whose ancestors suffered under this inhuman practice - no license for you!

          None of the deities in the setting are Trans? Exclusionist - to the salt mines with you!

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by MrGuy on Monday January 23, @03:43PM (1 child)

        by MrGuy (1007) on Monday January 23, @03:43PM (#1288190)

        if you violate the terms of the license yourself by doing something that they said they didn't like that's written in the text of the license, then obviously your right to use the licensed stuff is revoked

        I don't see how you specify exactly what "harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content" is in the text of the license. What's "harmful?" "Harmful" to who? Where is the line between parody and poor taste? Will they specify if having Dwarves speak with a Scottish accent is considered "discriminatory" in the text of the license? It'll get awfully long (and get dated super quick) if they try to lock down these definitions in the text of a license document.

        Most likely this means the license will need to refer to some ancillary document (some sort of code of conduct or similar) that WoTC has the power to change at will, or some reference to some policy to have some sort of subjective review process (owned by WoTC) to make a determination on any content that is questionable), or, most likely, both. There's no practical way to "keep up" with the speed at which hateful content is created on the internet without the ability to have the definition be changeable by WoTC unilaterally at their discretion. If you want to keep the fig leaf of objectivity, make it an independent board (though I guarantee WoTC will reserve the right to replace members of that board if they start approving content WoTC doesn't like).

        I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing - cutting down clearly harmful content is a good thing. It just is a goal that can't reasonably be accomplished objectively within the 4 walls of the license text. You have to introduce some subjective process, controlled by WoTC, and that process will almost by definition have the power to retroactively revoke the license to distribute certain content.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by VLM on Monday January 23, @06:16PM

          by VLM (445) on Monday January 23, @06:16PM (#1288218)

          cutting down clearly harmful content is a good thing

          Not, its not.

          Notice they VERY carefully don't explain WHO is the protected class.

          How about the stockholders of WoTC or Hasbro as a protected class?

          "We find products manufactured by Pathfinder are harmful to our shareholders thus your license is terminated. Please go out of business in a calm and orderly fashion."

          Similar problem with "hateful" content. Anyone who ever publishes anything thats not total hugbox can be taken down in an instant. Legendarily, elves and dwarves don't get along, paladins and demonborn don't get along, there's tons of hate content in D+D. Or just going out there as a story line and lynching "innocent" goblins or similar mobs/NPCs who never done nothing wrong.

          Technically D+D would have to remove all violence and stick to consensual furry sex to make sure there's no license violation, and even that may be a hate crime if the alphabet people get wound up enough ("what do you mean the male werewolf had secks with the female werewolf, are you some kind of biologist or just a TERF nazi?"

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