Dungeons and dragons (D&DProducer Wizards of the Coast (WotC)’s 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 that this proposed “delicensing” of OGL v1.0a will not affect any original content that has been published under that previous license since its debut in the early ’00s, and that such content will not need to be updated or relicensed to conforms to any new OGL language. But any published content after The proposed OGL v1.2 goes into effect would not be able to simply choose the previous license, 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 that this planned deauthorization is a “big concern” for the community. But he added that it is 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 defined by WotC.
“We cannot use the protection options in 1.2 if someone can choose to publish harmful, discriminatory, or illegal content under 1.0a,” Brink wrote. Ensuring an “inclusive gaming experience” in this way was a “profoundly important” goal that was not included in the original OGL, he added.
However, whether WotC actually has the legal power to completely revoke the previous version of the OGL is still an open question. This is because the original OGL contains a clause that clearly states that players 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.”
The original OGL does not contain any specific language that says it is irrevocable. But in an FAQ posted when the original OGL was published, WotC stated directly that “even though Wizards made a change [to the license] with which you do not agree, you may continue to use an earlier, acceptable version of your choice.” And in a recent interview with tabletop gaming site En World, original OGL architect and former WotC VP Ryan Dancey said the company “doesn’t have the power to deauthorize a version of OGL. If this was a power we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have listed it in the license.”
Coming to the Commons
In addition to deauthorizing OGL v1.0a, the new draft language cuts back on many of the most controversial parts of the original leaked update, including plans to require revenue reporting, collect royalties for top 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 eligible for future change.
D&DIts core mechanics could be licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), which WotC says “imposes no limitations whatsoever on how you use that content.” While this is not strictly true, that license provides “a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable, non-exclusive, irrevocable license” to the content of these rules, provided the licensor properly credits WotC for its creation.
For “quintessence D&D content” published by WotC (eg, classes, spells, monsters and other creative content made by the company), the new license would allow use, modification and distribution with some restrictions. In addition to limits on illegal and/or hateful content, as discussed above, the draft language prohibits anything that infringes on third-party IP or implies official approval from WotC.
A poll allowing members of the public to comment on this new OGL language draft will go public sometime Friday, WotC said, and will be available until February 3. Additional updates based on that feedback will be published by February 17, according to the company, and this kind of feedback iteration will “extend as long as necessary … until we get it right,” Brink wrote.