Mongoose Publishing, one of the recent publishers of the venerable Traveller universe, has released their “Developer’s Pack” that describes licensing terms for others to put out Traveller material. And it’s groundbreakingly liberal! But somewhat complicated, so let me break it down. (Direct download link)
1. First of all, the new Mongoose Traveller rules are released under the Open Gaming License (OGL), and a complete System Resource Document (SRD) is included. So as far as open licensing allows – go nuts! But wait, there’s more.
2. There is a Fair Use Policy document – actually provided by Far Future Enterprises, who owns Traveller and licenses it out – that allows you to do stuff based on all previous (non-Mongoose) Traveller versions and publish noncommercially on a Web site or whatnot. Make copies, write programs/spreadsheets to automate stuff, whatever. They ask you don’t directly reproduce more than a page or two of rules straight out of previous rulebooks and that you post a FFA copyright notice somewhere. There’s some unavoidable complication here – they note that they didn’t have all the rights to some art/maps from previous editions and so technically you need that artist’s permissions for those – sad, but unavoidable.
They don’t explicitly mention the ticky things that White Wolf did in their site policy, like not being able to take advertising.
3. There is a Traveller logo license (TLL). You get to use the logo but you have to agree to a bunch of lame restrictions – send a form in, can’t use “Traveller” in the title, avoid naughty content (sex/violence), they can ask you to destroy your stock, the whole litany of unpleasant restrictions in most licenses (though they do note that “It should be noted that Mongoose Publishing is committed to a strong relationship with third parties using the Traveller logo and that this instruction will only be given under extreme circumstances that threaten to bring the Traveller trademark into disrepute. If in doubt, third parties may always discuss potential projects with Mongoose Publishing first.” I’m not sure it’s worth it.
4. There is a “Foreven Free Sector” license. This is an interesting one. The other licenses are basically about rules. This one lets you use the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) intellectual property (IP)! I wish this wasn’t so groundbreaking but it is – you can publish stuff set in the OTU – Aslan, K’kree, the Empire, and all of it, in any time period. You have to “keep it in the Foreven sector” – you can reference all the rightness of the OTU but can only develop/change this one “sandbox” sector. This license has a similar set of restrictions to the TLL, but in this case it might be worth it; it’s like WotC letting anyone write a Forgotten Realms book as long as it’s set in Sembia.
All in all this is a pretty cool set of licenses. I think things like the content clauses are 1970s leftover crap, but in general a) the rules are open and b) you can use the OTU even commercially under restriction and c) you can do whatever a normal fan would do under Fair Use. Props to Mongoose and Fast Forward for this approach! Any company that thinks it’s not in their best interest to be open like this is either delusional or WotC.