Thursday, January 19, 2023

The new OGL 1.2, What is Victory?


I thank you for taking the time to read this post. This hobby is supposed to be a fun pastime even when it is part of one's livelihood. The past two weeks have been anything but fun. So I appreciate the time you spent reading this post amid the many outraged voices making themselves heard.

The OGL 1.2

Today Wizards finally laid some of their cards on the table and offered a proposed OGL 1.2. 

Starting the OGL "Playtest"

As an OSR publisher, several things stand out to me.

DnD and Creative Commons License

The core D&D mechanics, which are located at pages 56-104, 254-260, and 358-359 of this System Reference Document 5.1 (but not the examples used on those pages), are licensed to you under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0). This means that Wizards is not placing any limitations at all on how you use that content.

I edited the D&D 5.1 SRD into three sections corresponding to the page numbers above. You can browse through  at this link. 

Proposed Creative Common DnD mechanics

What they didn't release is most of the "lists" that comprise DnD 5e. Only the Equipment List is part of the CC-BY content they plan to release. Classes, Spells, Monsters, and Magic Items are not.

Overall this is a positive step. If nothing else is gained and they follow through on this, then moving away from the OGL becomes that much easier for the OSR. It would make what I need to do with the Majestic Fantasy RPG a lot more straightforward.


They also planning to add a notice deauthorizing the OGL 1.0a

NOTICE OF DEAUTHORIZATION OF OGL 1.0a. The Open Game License 1.0a is no longer an authorized license. This means that you may not use that version of the OGL, or any prior version, to publish SRD content after (effective date). It does not mean that any content previously published under that version needs to update to this license. Any previously published content remains licensed under whichever version of the OGL was in effect when you published that content.

Note the after (effective date), the intent here is to allow folks to continue selling or offering what has been previously released under the OGL 1.0a. Unfortunately, it cuts us off from building on or continuing the work we have been doing for the past 23 years.

Current authors and publishers can change the license on their original content, but for those who moved on to other pursuits or are no longer with us, this is not an option. Their work will remain unavailable to use until they enter the public domain decades from now. 

I consider this unacceptable. 

The D20 SRD

The D20 SRD is gone as a result of this section.  Wizards wants to change the license for the 5.1 SRD and remove access to the d20 SRD THIS YEAR. This is not a "wait until OneDnD is released" proposal. Although they might build in a grace period. This section is from the actual license.

(a) Content Covered

(i) Our Licensed Content. This license covers any content in the SRD 5.1 (or any subsequent version of the SRD we release under this license) that is not licensed to you under Creative Commons. You may use that content in your own works on the terms of this license.

(ii) Our Unlicensed Content. Only Our Licensed Content is licensed under this license. Any other content we release or have released is not licensed to you under this license.

(iii) Your Content. This is your creative contribution to your works that are not Our Licensed Content or Our Unlicensed Content. This license permits you to combine Your Content with Our Licensed Content and distribute the resulting works as authorized by this license.

Likewise I consider this unacceptable for anything other than future Wizard's content.

Rob's Note: While the OSR relied on a stripped-down version of the D20 SRD, the same "hack" applies to the CC-BY content they plan to release although some spell names and monster names will have to change. 

Other considerations

I did not touch on other areas as they don't impact my work as a OSR publisher.  I do not plan ever to use the OGL 1.2 for my creative works. I recommend looking to others for more details on those clauses. However, one clause needs to be addressed. 

The Morality Clause

The proposed OGL 1.2 license contains the following provision  

 No Hateful Content or Conduct. You will not include content in Your Licensed Works that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing, or engage in conduct that is harmful, discriminatory, illegal, obscene, or harassing. We have the sole right to decide what conduct or content is hateful, and you covenant that you will not contest any such determination via any suit or other legal action.

This to me is unacceptable. I want to be clear about where I am coming from. A few years back I had to deal with racism, anti-Semitism, and hate speech from an individual I licensed IP from.  I paid the price for my principles as well. Seeing my income from RPG material dropping from hundreds of dollars per month to tens of dollars per month. 

Surrendering freedom, creative or otherwise, to an oligarchy like Wizards of the Coast will not solve the problems of racism and hate. Instead, their bias and their prejudices are substituted for your own moral compass. By agreeing to the OGL 1.2, you surrender your moral authority to them. 

More importantly, you surrender it to their successors. Unknown individuals who may not share your ideals, and your belief in what is right, just, and fair. 

Each of you reading this will have to decide for yourself what is the right course of action. For myself, I will not surrender my right to act in the manner I see fit, in the form I see fit. I have done so in the past, and I will do it again as circumstances dictate. I am not special in this, each of you reading this has the power to do the same.

For more a detailed essay on the problems of morality clauses and conduct codes, I recommend this guest essay by James Raggi on the Tenkar's Tavern blog. Also look up the details on the following: The Hays Code, and the Comic Code Authority. Each was born of a generation's belief in what was right, just, and decent. 

Then ask yourself as James Raggi said, were the marginalized served by these codes? Will the marginalized be served by the code as set forth by Chris Cocks CEO of Hasbro, Cynthia Williams CEO of WoTC, and their successors? Or are you the better judge of these matters? 

What is Victory?

We won a battle but not the war for our creative legacy. In the words of Churchill, 
Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
I realize for some of you these are not the words you want to hear. You want the hobby to be fun again. Publishers are grasping for any type of certainty for their livelihood. You want this to end sooner than later. 

So how does this end for me?
  • Wizards acknowledge OGL 1.0a as an authorized irrevocable license.
  • That all past open content remains open content under the OGL 1.0a and free to be used as they have been for the past 23 years. Works like the D20 3.0 and 3.5 SRD. The 5e 5.1 SRD as well remains under the OGL 1a.
  • In turn, I will acknowledge they have the right to license OneDnD any way they like. However, I reserve the right to make critical comments about their creative and legal choices.
  • The plan to release various sections under the CC-BY 4.0 license be followed through.
  • That Chris Cocks, CEO of Hasbro, and Cynthia William, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, each write and sign individual formal apologies to all the publishers impacted by their overreach and inept handling of the situation such as Paizo, Kobold Press, Troll Lord Games, Green Ronin, Gaming Ballistic, Frog God Games, and many others. 
Fight On!

Robert Conley
Bat in the Attic Games


Chris said...

I think CC By 4.0 is a mistaken path as if someone does create any content they do not like based on any mechanics and don't include the attribution they can sue on the basis that work was copied without attribution, and if they do include the attribution in any offensive material WOTC will be almost forced to sue as their name is attached to what they consider "BADD" (sic) content. Better would be release stripped down mechanics, lists of terms (spells, monsters), spell and monster lists and 1e and 2e chart examples under CC0 to avoid their brand being tainted.

Matthew said...

You address a lot of points and concerns I have, better than I could. Thank you.

Robert Conley said...

@Matthew Appreciate the compliment.

@Chris, mmm good point, I will look into that. CC may have handled that issue but it is an excellent question to investigate.

shanepatrickward said...

As far as previous things being left alone. If I have a module I need to update for whatever reason (let's say a typo). The module was released in 2014. If I update it I need to use the new ogl. Which blows goats.

Akrasia said...

Thanks for being on top of this whole fiasco from the very beginning and for your analysis of every twist and turn. Much appreciated!

Robert Conley said...

@Akrasia thanks and appreciate the compliment.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

IDK, my friend, feels like to me that the amount of available content that Hasbro/WotC wants you to *think that you are restricted to* has decreased (as compared to the OGL), where really, you have access to a whole lot more via fair use/copyright has always remained constant.

To me, it feels like we've just been fooled. And now, again.

It's like me being able (previously and currently) to go pick an apple off a tree and eat it (fair use/copyright allowances) versus me going to you who has a basket, and you saying "Yes, via a CC, you can go pick only the red apples that are 6cm in diameter and only those apples, and I'll never stop you from doing that."

The CC thing feels like a smokescreen. It's couched as a "win" but it still, masterfully, hides the truth that WotC doesn't want us to know.

I get it - some people want all this to feel safe. In a way, an entire generation or two of DIY publishers have been raised/taught that the OGL is The Way.

It's masterful deception.

I was one of those people who (me, being lazy) assumed the OGL was needed, but this whole fracas has (for me) pulled the blindfold off.

My Quick Start is going to be sans OGL, with me identifying my protected content and putting that under CCBYSA. The rest... free/fair use.

(this is kinda a copy/paste of a similar discussion I'm having with Paolo over on Mastodon, but I seem to be saying the same thing alot...)

Robert Conley said...

@Michael S/Chgowiz, good points, and true. The problem in my mind is the logistics involved when trying to exercise the rights you mentioned. The CC grant will make it that much easier without a lawsuit. But as I said, the war isn't one, hence the full list of victory conditions I outline.

And while I didn't really put this point into the point. One big concern I have are orphaned works and being able to use and remix them. For that I need an intact OGL 1.0a with the d20 SRD and the 5e 5.1 SRD continuing to be available under the OGL 1.0a.

While we may not give a crap about what Wizard's wants. There are 23 years of open content only available for use and remixing under the OGL 1.0a.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

From the way I look at it (and I'm hearing a lot more IP lawyers say similar things...) the CC only gives you the illusion of making things easier, by enumerating a very limited subset of what you would have rights to anyway. I get it, it's easier, but it's also - in my opinion, being handed scraps by WotC off a table that we have the right to eat from anyway.

It sounds like, from how I'm reading it, that what WotC is going to allow is that things created under 1.0a can remain as-is, but anything new is under the new license. Because the 1.0a is "deauthorized".

IANAIPL, but I'm seeing rumblings to where this means remixes of content produced under 1.0a wouldn't be allowed. As 1.0a is "dead" for future use.

It's a mess. Combined with the fact that we're talking about the "legal use" of something that really WotC didn't have the right to license to begin with, but fooled us into think they did.

Logistics-wise, I can send you a copy of what I'm going to be doing going forward with the Quick Start. I stripped out the OGL1.0a. Removed my ties to S&W and basically cast this as a fantasy role-playing game. Indicated compatibility with a bunch of games and listed their trademarks. Listed explicitly what I saw as my copyrightable/licensable elements and granted a CC-BY-SA-NC license to them. Done.

(It also gave me an opportunity to tweak some of the writing and bring it up to 2023 standards).

Robert Conley said...

@Chgowiz Thanks I would appreciate a copy.

There is going to be a lot of testing "Game Mechanics can't be copyrighted" and "what in the public domain" and Wizards will rue opening up that can of worms regardless of how this plays out.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Cool, be happy to send it your way - I'll PM you on ODD to get your email address, if that's OK?

I think you're very right. There's a generation or two of publishers that have lived with the OGL illusion. Steps and attempts are going to be in fits and starts, but i t will happen.

Zachary Houghton said...

@Rob I have appreciated your thoughts on this fiasco. I do think the CC muddies what cannot be copyrighted (mechanics), and I think you are right that we will see that tested. How much and how soon is anyone’s guess.

paleologos said...

The OGL cannot legally be "de-authorized". The pressure needs to be maintained until they reverse their position on that.

Xathos said...

I've been playing and running Pathfinder 1 and 2 since 2016. I think PF2 is one of the better games out there and as a result, I have no intention whatsoever of buying another WotC product. I think the solution for me is simple. Long Live the ORC!

JB said...

While I am (generally) of the same mind as Chgowiz concerning the OGL, I just want to echo the appreciation of others for taking the time. For those interested in following this saga, your posts and links are very helpful.

ALSO: I think your point about "morality clauses" is spot on.

Robert Conley said...

Thanks @JB and appreciate the compliment.