D&D maker still wants to revoke earlier versions of “open” gaming license

D&D maker still wants to revoke earlier versions of “open” gaming license
Written by Techbot

Calling take-backsies —

Core rules would go under Creative Commons, “hateful” content would be barred.

Artist's conception of <em>D&D</em>-maker Wizards of the Coast trying to destroy its original Open Gaming License with fire.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of D&D-maker Wizards of the Coast trying to destroy its original Open Gaming License with fire.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)-maker Wizards of the Coast’s (WotC) latest attempt to update its decades-old Open Gaming License (OGL) still includes the controversial statement that “the Open Game License 1.0a is no longer an authorized license.” The news comes after the company’s first attempt to draft an OGL update with similar language (and other controversial changes) was met with widespread fan outrage and alienation from the creator community.

WotC says this proposed “deauthorization” of OGL v1.0a won’t affect any original content that was published under that earlier license since its debut in the early ’00s and that such content won’t need to be updated or relicensed to comply with any new OGL language. But any content published after the proposed OGL v1.2 goes into effect would not be able to simply choose the earlier license instead, according to the update as drafted.

In an explanatory post on the D&D Beyond blog, WotC Executive Producer Kyle Brink said that WotC realizes this planned deauthorization is a “big concern” for the community. But he added that it’s a necessary move to enforce the new OGL’s restrictions on illegal and/or hateful content, including “conduct that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing,” as determined by WotC.

“We can’t use the protective options in 1.2 if someone can just choose to publish harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content under 1.0a,” Brink wrote. Ensuring an “inclusive play experience” in this way was a “deeply important” goal that was not included in the original OGL, he added.

Whether WotC actually has the legal power to fully revoke the earlier OGL version is still an open question, though. That’s because the original OGL contains a clause clearly saying that players can “use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify, and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.”

The original OGL doesn’t contain any specific language saying it’s irrevocable. But in an FAQ posted when the original OGL was published, WotC directly stated that “even if Wizards made a change [to the license] you disagreed with, you could continue to use an earlier, acceptable version at your option.” And in a recent interview with tabletop gaming site En World, original OGL architect and former WotC VP Ryan Dancey said the company “does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license.”

Coming to the Commons

Aside from the OGL v1.0a deauthorization, the new draft language scales back many of the most controversial portions of the original leaked update, including plans to require revenue reporting, collect royalties for the biggest content creators, and force a license-back to WotC for original content. The new draft language also explicitly notes that the new license is “perpetual, non-exclusive, and irrevocable,” with only a few technical sections being eligible for modification in the future.

Artist's conception of the coming discussion between Wizards of the Coast and the <em>D&D</em> community over proposed OGL updates.

Enlarge / Artist’s conception of the coming discussion between Wizards of the Coast and the D&D community over proposed OGL updates.

D&D‘s core mechanics would be licensable under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), which WotC says “is not placing any limitations at all on how you use that content.” While that’s not strictly true, that license does give “a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable, non-exclusive, irrevocable license” to that rules content on the condition that the licensor appropriately credits WotC for its creation.

For “quintessentially D&D content” published by WotC (e.g., classes, spells, monsters, and other creative content made by the company), the new license would allow use, modification, and distribution with a few restrictions. In addition to limits on illegal and/or hateful content, as discussed above, the draft language bars anything that infringes on third-party IP or implies an official endorsement from WotC.

A survey allowing members of the public to comment on this new draft OGL language will go public sometime Friday, WotC said, and will be available until February 3. Further updates based on that feedback will be published on or before February 17, according to the company, and that kind of iteration on feedback “will extend as long as it needs to… until we get it right,” Brink wrote.

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