Paizo’s New Pathfinder License and Fansite Policy Examined

In the midst of the latest barrage of D&D 4e GSL news, Paizo Publishing, creator of the Pathfinder roleplaying game, has released their license and fansite policy.  Pathfinder is widely considered to be a “fork” of Dungeons & Dragons, made possible by the Open Gaming License that D&D 3rd and 3.5th editions used. Let’s take a look!

This license, the PCL, is really the “secondary” license, as the Pathfinder rules are open for use already under the Open Gaming License.  It is similar in concept to the old d20 STL from D&D 3e – the point of it is to be able to put a special Pathfinder logo on your product to indicate compatibility.

The short form is that the PCL covers printed books, electronic publications, and free web sites.  You aren’t supposed to use it for standalone games (although  you can certainly use the OGL Pathfinder rules for such a game).  The restrictions are pretty minimal, and are things like “don’t pretend you’re Paizo,” “don’t do anything illegal,” and “don’t totally copy our trade dress.”  Fair enough.  Also, you have to send them a copy of your product.

If Paizo says you’re in breach of the license, you have 30 days to remedy it, or else you have to stop and destroy inventory.  This is reasonably generous.  It doesn’t seem to explicitly cover the “what about when the license ends,” like the d20 STL was eventually totally cancelled by Wizards and everyone had till the end of 2008 to sell off their inventory.  IMO they should add something about that.

And that’s about it.  They don’t bother with the draconian (and unenforceable) crap the GSL had in it about “don’t ever sue us or contest us legally about anything or we say YOU LOSE” – they just say you have to use King County, WA as your venue.

And if you want to do something not allowed by the OGL or this license – use Golarion IP, have a paysite, etc – you can email licensing@paizo.com to see if they’ll let you.

But Do You Need It?

In fact, my only concern comes in with some of the things the FAQ says.  This license is used to be able to put a “Pathfinder Compatible” logo on your book.  the FAQ claims that “So while the OGL allows you to make compatible products, it forbids you from indicating compatibility using the terms “Pathfinder,” “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game,” or “Paizo,” since those are our trademarks.”

I’m not sure that’s true.  Legal advice is welcome, but Hasbro lost that suit to RADGames over their Monopoly add-ons – the court found that RADGames could happily make Monopoly add-ons and say “for use with Monopoly.”  Similarly, Mayfair only lost their old Role Aids “D&D Compatible” suit because they had signed a license that prohibited them, not because the law prohibited them.

Of course you could just use the OGL and say “3.75 Compatible!” or similar evasion, but my point is you may be legally able to indicate Pathfinder compatibility without this license.  Of course you’d have to be way more careful about everything else.  And since the license is very non-restrictive, it’s probably pretty safe to sign it.

In summary – very good!  200% less restrictive than the GSL, better than the d20 STL, etc. Kudos to them for delivering it before the actual game.

And they follow it up with…

In other words, the fansite policy.  Like the one Wizards hasn’t gotten around to yet…  They strike the right note and set out the problem perfectly at the beginning:

The Paizo Publishing community is an intelligent, creative, dedicated, and enthusiastic group of people, and we at Paizo appreciate and value the contributions of our community members. This Community Use Policy is designed to encourage you to spread your enthusiasm and creativity while respecting ownership of our copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual properties.

While copyright and trademark laws protect our property, they also prevent you from using our intellectual properties in most circumstances. That means that you are generally prohibited from using any of our logos, images, or other trademarks or copyrighted content without our consent. This policy grants you the consent to use some of our intellectual property under certain circumstances.

This policy is limited to non-commercial use, where commercial is defined as “charging for it.”  This is more generous than the White Wolf Dark Pack fansite policy, which started screwing with anyone having ads on their site, etc.

You have to put a short disclaimer on your site somewhere.  Again, you can’t pretend to be Paizo or an agent thereof, and not use their trade dress.

Then we get to the one problematic stanza.

• You agree to use your best efforts to preserve the high standard of our intellectual property. You agree to present Paizo, our products, and the Paizo Material in a generally positive light. You agree to not use this permission for material that the general public would classify as “adult content,” offensive, or inappropriate for minors, and you agree that such use would irreparably harm Paizo. You agree not do anything illegal in or with products or websites produced under this Policy.

Illegal, fair enough.  But the “positive light” thing seems a little bit like “don’t criticize us” and the adult content/inappropriate for minors thing sucks like the WotC GSL morals clause.   There are already some “adult” pictures, popular on the Paizo forums, of some of the Rise of the Runelords characters.   Paizo claims the morals clause is one of the reasons they don’t want to sign the GSL, so this is a bit two-faced.  I think this could easily be changed to say that people doing “adult” stuff should follow general laws/Internet best practices in labelling it adult content to keep the kiddies out.

Anyway, if you do this you can use some pics and stuff they have, but most importantly you can descriptively use trademarks from their products.  So you can rattle on about Paizo IP like Golarion, Kharzoug the Runelord, etc.

So, all great except for the “adult content” clause.  Let’s see if we can get that improved by when the game comes out!

So how close are we to perfection here?

1.  Uses the OGL – check.  Perfect.  Oh, actually, not quite perfect – I see the answer now to my compatibility/RADGames/Mayfair question, which is that the OGL cockblocks it!  The OGL is the one that says “You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark.”  So you could probably do that if not for the OGL.  DANCEY!!!!!

2.  Pathfinder Compatibility License – needs a little better work on the termination clause, mainly the “when it all ends” part.  Ideally it would say “sell it on into infinity” but  a long selloff would be fair.  About 90% perfect.

3.   Paizo Community Use Policy – very good except for the morals and critique clauses.  About 75% perfect.

What else could you ask for?

Well, glad you asked.  It would be nice if third parties could set stuff in Golarion.  Unthinkable,  you say?  You must be too used to D&D and Wizards/TSR setting the tone of RPG licensing.

Check out the Traveller licenses that Mongoose Traveller is using.  It’s OGL, they have a Fair Use Policy (fansite, like the PCUP), a Traveller Logo License (like the PCL)…  And one last one.  This, the “Foreven Free Sector” license, lets people publish in the Imperium setting!  Basically it gives them a sandbox in one sector of space they can use and reference external PI, they just can’t change anything outside the sandbox.

Paizo could easily do this with some section of Golarion.  And why not?  In my opinion, similar to the benefit of the OGL, having people write stuff for their game world would only benefit them.  But you keep them in a sandbox to mitigate problems from quality issues or whatnot.

Come on guys, whaddya say?  Want to be TOTALLY perfect and open?  You can do it!!!

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13 responses to “Paizo’s New Pathfinder License and Fansite Policy Examined

  1. Pingback: Stargazer’s World » Some thoughts on Paizo’s new licenses

  2. You say ‘the FAQ claims that “So while the OGL allows you to make compatible products, it forbids you from indicating compatibility using the terms “Pathfinder,” “Pathfinder Roleplaying Game,” or “Paizo,” since those are our trademarks.’

    They can enforce that because you are presumably also using the OGL, and thus you are bound by what they designate as Product Identity, which includes “all trademarks, registered trademarks, [...]” (Pathfinder 18, page 2).

    If you want to use their trademarks, you will not be using the OGL. It’s a trade-off.

  3. The Traveller Universe has always been unique in that by it sheer size it cleanly allows for that. GDW started that concept a long time ago. Each licensee, if they wanted would be assigned a sector and since nothing really was written about that sector they had no restrictions on what they could.

    While it would be cool for Paizo to do something like that, I think they have an small idea about what they want in each area of Golarion. So it might be a little hard to do what you suggest. Still it would be an interesting thing to for some company in the future to consider doing.

  4. I’ve had the night to look it over, and I’m pretty happy with it. It’s nice to have a community use policy and fan site kit!

  5. It is interesting to that Paizo played their hand right after the the new GSL was released… very calculated.

    I am not impressed with the inclusion of the morals clause for the community policy.

  6. @Alex – yeah, I realized that down hear the end (see point 1 under “How close are we to perfection…”)

    @Bonemaster – yeah, understandable – although there’s other ways to cut it. And also, so what, there’ll still be a distinction between “official” Golarion and what someone else puts out. I’ve never understood why people historically have been so protective. “Don’t set an adventure in Greyhawk! Or FR! That would hurt us somehow…”

    Green Ronin let some other folks set adventures in Freeport, and the net result is “yay, more Freeport adventures.” Makes me want to buy their sourcebooks even more.

  7. Looks like my one concern about the PCL is handled, I just missed it. The license says “If we terminate the License for any reason other than breach, you may no longer make any new products using the Compatibility Logo, but you may continue to sell existing physical products that were compliant under this License as long as you have inventory. If you sell out of a compliant product, you must remove the Compatibility Logo from future print runs. In the case of products that do not have physical inventory, such as PDFs, you must stop selling them within 30 days of termination, but if you remove the Compatibility Logo from them, you may start selling them again. ”

    So if they “cancel the license” you have an infinite sell-off! Hugs.

  8. If anyone else has comments on these licenses, or ideally wants to sweat them a bit on making that morals clause better, the Paizo forums thread is here. I am fighting the good fight already.

  9. The company that released a scenario about inbred hillbilly ogres literally raping and murdering their way around the mountains has an “adult content” clause? Okay…

  10. Hrm, I’ve been trying but they don’t seem open to any input on their “adult content” clause. I too think it’s a little two-faced. And unnecessary… The White Wolf folks don’t have anything like that and of all the companies who would be worried about vampire murder porn blowback they’re top of the list.

    Well, we’ll have to wait a while to get someone who really does it 100% right. For the time being, they’ll do.

  11. Ooo sweet, a long list of companies are signing on for Pathfinder! Check out Zachary’s article on it. That’s like 16 in a day. Suck it GSL!

  12. Yep. Still adding to it as well. Good to see.

  13. Pingback: Canon Puncture 62: A Corpse of Course : Canon Puncture

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