Jan 19Liked by The Bottom Feeder

It's not just the OGL, it's any platform you rely on. As you point out, with the example of your business depending on Steam.

Even today, app developers relying on the Twitter API found themselves frozen out: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2023/01/twitter-says-third-party-apps-broke-long-standing-api-rules-wont-name-rules/ -- with little recourse. And now they have a broken business model. (Interestingly enough, this is another case of a company coming "under new management"...)

And don't rely on Google either. For things like Gmail and Drive accounts, or even having an Android phone: https://www.engadget.com/terraria-google-stadia-indie-what-happened-190001711.html -- and you'll never get a response from Google's infamous stone-wall support, unless you're the Terraria developer with 30 million users...

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The "hinted at leak" has been actually leaked. As in the text thereof. It has been fairly reliably claimed it was sent out to at least some people for their signature. It is extremely clear that WOTC consider people making things with D&D to be something they 100% deserve a significant share of at all times, and honestly basically own outright. Even Gygax at his most mercenary wasn't quite that greedy.

Equally, a lot of the claims they made in their public statement are nonsensical - they do not make sense when compared with the actual text of what was leaked.

Given the aforementioned, their trustworthiness on anything is nonexistent. I'd argue it might actually be negative.

The OGL was DEFINITELY a major reason 3e and its ancillary hanger-on products got so big. Note that 4e didn't have one (and had a correspondingly struggling/limited 3rd party market). 5e did again. While correlation is not causation, it sure as hell helps. And this also means WotC management has watched this happen TWICE and still not observed it.

It genuinely may be one of the stupidest things I have seen anyone do, and I defend drunk violent people for a living.

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Jan 18·edited Sep 2

Legal Eagle on YouTube has a good video on this - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZQJQYqhAgY

I'll summarize a few key points and then add some commentary of my own:

1. You cannot copyright rules themselves. You _can_ copyright the particular expression of the rules (the rulebook's exact contents), but you cannot stop someone from reproducing the rules in their own words.

a. My addition ... this is exactly how recipe copyright works. You cannot copyright a recipe's list of ingredients and the mechanical instructions, just the particular version you put in a cookbook, and specifically only the creative choices (layout, pictures, flavor text, etc.). In other words, while someone probably cannot photocopy the cookbook without violating copyright, they _can_ retype the ingredients and the instructions (without any color text about your Grandma) and reproduce them.

2. It's very unlikely that things like adventure modules, books of monsters, etc. needed the OGL at all. Simply making a product that is compatible with the D&D rules does not require a license. The license only applies to reproductions of the rules (see #1).

b. This means that making a new game world with the same rules _also_ doesn't need the OGL unless you wanted to include the actual text of the D&D rules in your product. You can either say "these rules are just like D&D, see the D&D reference" or you can rewrite the rules in your own words.

That said, nothing stops Hasbro from suing you if they want to, even if they're likely to lose. Hasbro has much bigger pockets than any tiny company or independent creator, so the OGL was helpful in reassuring people they wouldn't be sued.

You wrote: "Suppose this change happens. What happens to products released under the original license? Can they still be sold?"

IANAL but I'm 100% sure the answer is that nothing happens to these products. You cannot retroactively revoke a contract, and a license is a contract. If someone created a product under the OGL 1.0 and released it, you cannot simply force them to abide by a new license. The version of the product you released under the OGL 1.0 still exists under that license. All WotC can do is release _new_ products under the _new_ license.

I'm basing this on the situation with open source software license, on which the OGL was obviously based. It's widely agreed that you cannot relicense an existing released version of a software product retroactively. The OGL is essentially similar to an open source software license, so I can't imagine it would be any different. And in general this applies to all contracts. You cannot unilaterally change the terms of a contract after both parties agree to it.

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Reminds me of way back when Realmz had to rename everything (probably due to legal threats.) We'll just call Strength Brawn!

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Another series of D&D based rulebooks that I have supported in the past is making their own system as well that will have a perpetual license and be compatible enough that their own modules can be ported over. Their current name leaves something to be desired in terms of searchability. (It's called "Cool name goes here".) Who knows if it'll be good, or if it's too close that wotc will try to smite it.

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Geneforge was name-dropped in a list video on Youtube channel Outside Xbox (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-kAhYngvE) "7 Side quests you should never complete: commenter edition", right alongside the likes of Red Dead Redemption 2 and Elden Ring!

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The most amazing thing about this debacle is how it united everyone across the political spectrum on the issue. Left wing and right wing commentators alike were calling out Hasbro.

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WotC didn't walk back the license changes until a lot of people started to cancel their Beyond D&D subscriptions.

I expect there to be a concerted effort to abandon the OGL and all move onto the open license.

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If this situation had happened in videogames instead of table top, it would have fit perfectly in one of Zero Punctuation's "Lets all laugh at an industry" segments.

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