I go away to Vegas for a week and suddenly Wizards decides to get right with God by talking about their GSL/OGL plans! Here’s the links.
The summary is that they’ve decided not to make their GSL license terms prohibit a company from publishing *any* open games under the OGL, only any open product in the same product line as any 4e D&D product, falling firmly between the previous “by individual product” and “by entire company” theories. As an example, Paizo Publishing has an OGL line of GameMastery adventures. So theoretically, Paizo could publish 4e adventures, but under a different product line (e.g. “NewFangledAdventurez”.) This is very good news! Not great news, but good news.
The remaining issues:
- They’re not releasing the actual GSL until June 6, so there’s a lot of “take our word for it” going on.
- The “non-fantasy” GSL that is supposed to cover other genres (modern, supers, scifi, etc.) won’t be coming out even then, it’s slated for an indefinite “later” time. Many of the threatened games weren’t fantasy – Mutants & Masterminds, Spirit of the Century, et cetera. And the definition of “fantasy” vs “other” is going to be a difficult point.
- How “product line” is defined is hazy. When looking at Wizards vs. Paizo, it’s hard to believe they will really allow them to publish any 4e material while still publishing Pathfinder. Will they say that “your fantasy products” is the definition of a product line? Does “product line” have a legal definition? “What RPG publishers generally consider it o be” and what a judge would think are two entirely different things.
- It’s still of questionable legality, of course. All legal precedent indicates that someone is legally able to produce D&D supplements and say “For use with Dungeons & Dragons” on them without entering into any agreement with WotC at all (cf. Hasbro vs. RADGames re: Monopoly); and entering into this agreement (though it gets you the ability to use their D&D compatibility logo) gives up those rights and gets you “on the hook” with them. Remember, back in the day when TSR sued Mayfair for putting out D&D supplements, they didnt’ get them on any IP points – they got them on violation of a specific license they had signed with WotC.
- It’s a huge step back from open licensing. WotC’s up front about this at least, this license and the ones to come are all proprietary change/revoke at will licenses. If they decide they don’t like you or want to change the terms, then you’re screwed. People truly looking at open gaming should move to Creative Commons or other open licenses. But at least they are only killing open gaming for themselves and not trying to kill it for everyone else, which is “within their rights”… Sad and stupid, but that’s big business for you.