Friday, January 13, 2023

Fair Use Friday

Anyone looking to stream a terrific interview should check out the Roll For Combat guys' YouTube video with Ryan Dancey. Yes, it's two hours and twenty minutes long...time you could spend watching a film or something. I listened to the thing while doing household chores and waiting in my car at (a very rainy) soccer practice. It's fascinating, not only discussing the legal ramifications of the original OGL, but also the history, purpose, and intention of it, why it came about, how it affected the gaming industry, possible consequences of WotC/Hasbro's attempt to "revoke it," and reasons why they would torpedo themselves (and upset their fan base) taking the actions they are.

If you're a person interested in the nuts-and-bolts of the industry behind the hobby, it's very good stuff.  Certainly more informative and interesting than anything I could write about the subject myself.


  1. I agree, it's well worth a listen. Some pretty big bombshells in there.

  2. A few brief things.

    While yes, the RPG community was disparate in the '90s, that problem was going to be solved by the INTERNET anyway, whether or not the OGL ever existed. It's pretty gauche to assume that the OGL "solved" the problem of network externality in an age when every externality was solved by something MUCH bigger.

    At the time the OGL was being written, Napster had demonstrated that companies by and large did not possess the legal capacity to curtail millions of people openly breaking copyright law. By the time napster was rapped on the knuckles, content piracy had permeated the system ... and to my knowledge, there's never been a meaningful legal pushback that any company has been able to make. While the OGL rendered meaningless the need for piracy, one has to wonder if it would have made any difference, really. If there had been the creation of multiple RPG products that DID NOT refer to D&D by name, would any serious widespread legal consequence ever have occurred? Or would it have been established that D&D is a game, and like a game, it's legal to speak about it and legally film it taking place.

    Finally, if I publish game rule content without referring directly to D&D, or saying that something I've done is compatible with D&D, and therefore not using "D&D" as a selling tool, I'm utterly free of the OGL so long as I don't actively copy language word-for-word from a D&D source. Therefore, there's no real reason to buy into the OGL unless I believe a product cannot sell without a D&D stamp (which is garbage logic, as I've proved). In essence, then the OGL is a way to sell D&D products, which is not my goal. I'm interested in selling my own products, which ARE compatible with D&D, which I can do freely, so long as I don't say so.

    1. Yes, that has always been my understanding and stance. One of the (several) reasons I have never included the OGL in any of my books.

    2. In the video linked in the post above, Ryan Dancey said that you could claim compatibility with D&D if you didn't use the OGL. It was only if you used the OGL, that you couldn't.

    3. That’s correct. Abiding by the terms of the OGL means NOT mentioning the term “D&D” (even to indicate compatibility).

    4. This makes no sense to me. I'm under NO obligations to abide by a contract I did not sign, and in which I was not a negotiating party. At the same time, I'm legally allowed to "mention" D&D any time I wish, in any context, provided I'm NOT publishing D&D game content. Therefore,

      If I publish a book, and the players around the table are playing D&D, and I describe what's happening while providing NO RULES for game play to explain why it's happening, I'm NOT breaking a copyright law. If I say in the book, "Jerry, roll to hit," and then Jerry rolls, and he says, "I hit! I cause 7 damage!" ... this is NOT a game rule description and it does not use copywritten D&D content.

      It does not matter what the OGL says in this instance, it matters what the law says.

    5. Ah, so that's why I'm seeing "5e" and "compatible either the fifth edition of the world's largest RPG" in product summaries.
      (I'm more often looking for "for the original 2d6 SFRPG")

    6. @ Alexis:

      Indeed. It matters what the law says. I would say (in a saner world) that it matters a bit what the intention of the law was least in the USA...that's an "iffy-er" subject these days.

      I may have one more post in me on this subject that addresses your specific thoughts.

    7. Over the years, having associated with hundreds of artists in music, theatre and journalism, I've known several persons who were approached with harassment suits regarding intellectual property. The correct answer is "Do your worst." None of these suits have ever materialised.

      The Napster lesson holds. It isn't in their capacity to spend endless money hunting down every tiny user everywhere on the planet. So they better have an iron-clad case if they want to win. They might call the Napster verdict a victory, but Napster birthed thousands of groups who were more clever and more difficult to catch.

    8. @Alexis - You wouldn't ise the OGL for a novel or short story anyway, so your point is moot.

      Dancey was saying that if you put out game material with the OGL, you can't claim compatibility or mention D&D (unless you also include and abide by the more limited d20 license). If you put out game content without the OGL, you can claim compatibility.

  3. I listened to a good portion of it and also found the discussion fascinating.