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Sunday, January 29, 2023

From ICv2

Wizards of the Coast will put the core D&D mechanics in a Creative Commons license, and make other moves to try to restore trust, in a new draft of its Open Gaming License, which allows independent creators to publish game material using Dungeons & Dragons game mechanics, released today.  The move came after a furious response to WotC’s first attempt at revision (see “’D&D” OGL 1.1 Furor”), and a subsequent reversal of many of its plans and a promise to solicit feedback on this new draft. Here are some key revisions:

  • The core D&D mechanics are being made available through a Creative Commons license.
  • Other “quintessentially D&D content from the SRD such as owlbears and magic missile” will be made available through OGL 1.2. 
  • OGL 1.2 is perpetual and irrevocable.  The notice and attribution provisions are the only elements that can be changed in the future. 
  • Content produced under the OGL remains the property of the creator and cannot be used without permission.
  • Content created under the original OGL 1.0a will always be licensed under that license, but the license will be “deauthorized” for content produced in the future.
  • Under a separate Virtual Tabletop Policy, OGL content can be used in Virtual Tabletop environments.

Other key changes from the original OGL include:

  • OGL content may not be “harmful, illegal, obscene, or harassing,” and OGL creators may not engage in conduct that is “harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing.” WotC reserves the sole right to make those determinations, and licensees agree not to contest such determinations. The OGL can then immediately be terminated for that use.  This provision was cited as a reason why WotC wants to de-authorize the original OGL, with the Creative Commons license one way to resolve the resulting questions. 
  • WotC is asking creators to give up some rights related to disputes over potentially infringing uses of OGL content by WotC or its licensees.  Claims can only be brought as a lawsuit for breach of contract, and only for money damages.  OGL licensees agree not to seek injunctive release, which can be a bigger threat to something like a film production than monetary damages. And OGL licensees would have to show intentional copying of their works; they agree that access and similarity will not be enough to prove infringement.

Under the process WotC announced for this draft, a comment period of at least two weeks, during which surveys will be collected, will now commence (see “OGL Revision Process”). WotC will then “compile, analyze, react to, and present back” the results.

With these latest changes, WotC’s remaining key concerns (now that it’s given up on making licensing revenue from OGL publishers, a big part of the abandoned draft) are very visible.  One is to limit its exposure to risk from litigation for infringement of content created under the OGL, especially for large-scale media exploitations.  The proposed changes are a major step back from the original proposal (which allowed WotC to use OGL content without permission or payment), but still ask OGL creators to agree to some limitations on how potential claims are brought.

And another is to limit reputational damage created by offensive content licensed under the OGL. Like the proposed handling of the infringement issue, the new draft, which de-authorizes the original OGL but puts the core mechanics in a Creative Commons license, is a clever middle ground that tries to achieve WotC’s goals without going over the line where OGL creators walk way.  We’ll find out in the coming weeks if it works.

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