The OGL 1.1 Controversy

Okay, I said I would respond to all of this, and the storm surrounding it happened so quickly, that it took me some time to get everything together to say something meaningful.

But here it goes. *big inhale*

Wizards of the Coast (WotC), had released a document that was leaked back on 9 January. This document was sent to creators with a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement), with the expectation that the content creators sign or be no longer able to use D&D things currently found in the current Open Game License version 1.0a. The OGL, as it’s known, enables the SRD, or System Reference Document, and enables third parties content creators to make products compatible with D&D.

When this document was made, the wording said that the use of the SRD materials in the OGL 1.0a were perpetual. Of course, this language, in legalese, doesn’t mean it’s permanent, thus we were able to get from 3rd/3.5 edition to 5e content in an SRD, but WotC made a commitment that they are attempting to renig on, and agreement that content creators everywhere have relied on for over 23 years.

In this document, content creators would have to report any revenue to WotC, regardless of how much money you even think you make, and that creators over a specific threshold to pay royalties. This agreement was also to be made with Kickstarter, so that anything made on that platform would also have royalties automatically taken (20%), and if you use anything other than Kickstarter, you get hit with a 25% royalty fee, regardless of how much you make with the crowd-funding campaign. This wouldn’t be an issue, until further into the document, WotC was attempting to force creators to agree to also enable their content to be taken by WotC, royalty free, and be used and published by WotC. The section reads: “You own the new and original content you create. You agree to give us a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, sublicenseable, royalty-free license to use that content for any purpose.” This went for, not just published materials, but livestreams, YouTube videos, and anything else even referring to the brand.

If all of this wasn’t bad enough, the document was to be released on January 4th, with a deadline to agree to it on January 13th. Exactly one week to sign this deal. And if you did not agree to it, you would be forced to cease producing/distributing/selling any product that you had that contained SRD materials, and could not create any other content unless they agreed to the new OGL. For some content creators, this affected their very livelihoods.

Lastly, the new OGL states that they can change the terms of the new OGL at any time, only having to give creators 30 days notice of the change.

Next, WotC can cancel your use of the license at any time for any reason. If you do anything that they don’t approve of, they can cancel your use of the license. A license that was supposed to be perpetual to begin with. The section actually reads thusly: “To be clear, we have the sole right to decide what conduct violates section VIII.G or section VIII.H and you covenant and agree that you will not contest any such determination via any suit or other legal action. To the extent necessary and allowed by law. You waive any duty of good faith and fair dealing we would otherwise have in making any such determination.” So, if they determine in any way that your content is “offensive,” they can revoke your use of the license. And they get to make this determination subjectively. And creators cannot do anything to fight back or contest their use of the license being revoked. Nothing.

To boil it all down, WotC can do what they want, when they want, and creators can do literally nothing about it, as agreeing to this new OGL, you waive your right to sue them.

The one of the original creators of the original OGL, Ryan Dancey, former VP of WotC, said the following: “Yeah, my public opinion is that Hasbro does not have the power to deauthorize a version of the OGL. If that had been a power that we wanted to reserve for Hasbro, we would have enumerated it in the license. I am on record numerous places in email and blogs and interviews saying that the license could never be revoked.”

WotC made a promise and they are going back on their word. Make no mistake, this is about greed. WotC made more than 1 BILLION dollars in revenue last year alone. 1 BILLION dollars.

Then there was the backlash. Content creator Ginny D made a suggestion to cancel your DnDBeyond account to protest against this. And the reaction was…big. It literally blew up the internet.

Dndbeyond.com saw 10s of thousands of subscribers cancelling their subscription. After a week of silence on the leaked documents (the OGL 1.1), WotC finally posted a response, now calling it OGL 2.0.

The problem with this response is that they misrepresented their documentation, trying to spin it in a way that makes them look good. They say that OGL 1.0a is no longer authorized even though OGL 1.0a states equivocally, that if a new OGL comes out that you don’t like, you can go back to a previous one that works for you. Seriously, that’s what the original OGL said.

But it gets worse. They backpedaled a bit and included a six-month grace period that gives creators the “same benefits for those products as a license under the OGL 1.0a if their product meets certain criteria.” Here’s the problem. You have to sign the new OGL to get the grace period. If you did not sign within that 1 week they gave, you got nothing. Once they signed, they got you.

Another lie: they state that you own the new and original content and WotC can’t copy or use it without the creator’s permission. EXCEPT: the part about WotC’s ability to the nonexclusive, perpetual, yada yada yada, is still in the contract. Therefore, by signing the contract, you are giving permission to do this.

This part is about censorship and greed.

And despite it all, all of the backlash, WotC then goes about making a response where they double down on their lies and their motivations, calling it “an honest mistake.”

Here’s what they said: they want the ability to censor people’s products. I get the “hateful and discriminatory products” bit, but what it boils down to is: if we don’t like it, you don’t get to have it. The old OGL actually already covered that. They could do more than to have revoked the OGL generally. They can do it specifically, and say one’s license under the OGL is revoked. Under the old OGL, they didn’t even have to give notice, they can just issue a DMCA, or Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Under this, content is removed or ceased at the request of the owner of the content, which was WotC.

They also state that these documents were drafts, when content creators had been given these documents to sign with only one week to do so. These were finished documents sent out with contracts. You don’t send out drafts with contracts.

Additionally, they are trying to eliminate any competition. They don’t want people to make cool stuff that they themselves didn’t come up with, that they cannot then take for themselves.

They have backpedaled further, but the problem is that they have already broken public trust, including any content creators, like myself and others.

They are saying that they are going to remove all of the provisions in the new OGL that people are angry about, which is good, but I’m going to wait until they release the new OGL before I make any decisions. But know this: I have a plan going forward.

Leakers of the WotC company itself have come out and said that this is nothing more than corporate greed, and that current senior leadership of WotC doesn’t care about their customers, just their money.

I really hope that they realize that we, the fans and customers and content creators, are the bedrock of the D&D community, and that they are simply stewards of the D&D IP, and that they rely on the goodwill of us to be able to continue to do business.

Until next time, Dear Readers…

Edit: Here’s a link to a contract lawyer on this topic that goes into it more detail:

Published by The Daily DM

I'm just a DM telling the stories of my tables.

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