Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro subsidiary that publishes Dungeons & Dragons, revealed details of its new Open Game License on Friday and attempted to answer questions about the future of the D&D community that were raised after io9 broke the news about the contents of a draft of the document last week.
A leaked copy of an updated “OGL 1.1,” received and reported on by io9 last week, outlined restrictions on third-party publishers including a 25 percent royalty payout for revenues over $750,000, and a copyright clause that appeared to cede ownership of content over to Wizards of the Coast (WotC). All of these concerns were taken up online, as D&D fans, content creators, and third-party publishers responded to the report with concern. Several prominent game publishers announced plans to stop creating new licensed content to focus on their own systems.
The update from Wizards of the Coast says; “the next OGL will contain the provisions… [so that it] covers only content for TTRPGs. That means that other expressions, such as educational and charitable campaigns, livestreams, cosplay, VTT-uses, etc., will remain unaffected by any OGL update. Content already released under 1.0a will also remain unaffected.”
This seems to imply that the Fan Content License, which was previously mentioned in the OGL 1.1 draft as continuing under the new licensing agreement, will be used to protect Wizards from fan content like Actual Play podcasts and videos. The fact that they are also saying that VTTs will be unaffected is a significant change, as earlier editions stated that “non-static” media would be disallowed under the new OGL 1.1. This is likely a massive relief to numerous companies that are working on creating and innovating in the VTT space, but without the fully updated OGL, there are no rock-solid assurances yet.
Another announcement is the fact that any updated OGL “will not contain is any royalty structure.” This is a huge change from the previous iterations, which had a tiered royalty structure that required all commercial projects to report to Wizards of the Coast. One of the reasons for this change seems to be the response that people had to the language about copyright and ownership in the OGL 1.1. The update says, “any language we put down will be crystal clear and unequivocal on that point. The license back language was intended to protect us and our partners from creators who incorrectly allege that we steal their work simply because of coincidental similarities.”
The announcement goes on to include the expansive IP projects that Wizards is taking on—a movie, a television series, and digital games. It’s clear that Wizards of the Coast cares much more about protecting the cultural currency of Dungeons & Dragons before they think about anything else—including fans, content creators, and third-party publishers.
While the updated OGL 2.0 isn’t going to be released today, it will be coming. There will be no backing down entirely for Wizards of the Coast. They’ve committed too much time, money, and effort into their IP to allow it to be written off totally under the OGL 1.0(a) and the suits in Hasbro will not allow everyone to make off with their name and numbers.
Additionally, the final thing to note about this update is that Wizards of the Coast is doing some incredible spin doctoring in order to lay the groundwork to try to salvage the situation that they find themselves in. The company would love for you to think that this is all part of the plan, but none of this was part of any plan.
The drafts that io9 received were not a thought experiment. They were intended to gauge a reaction, but from individual publishers that Wizards could silence with an NDA, not from the public at large. For all intents and purposes, the OGL 1.1 that was leaked to the press was supposed to go forward. Wizards has realized that they made a mistake and they are walking back numerous parts of the leaked OGL 1.1, saying that, “any change this major could only have been done well if we were willing to take that feedback, no matter how it was provided–so we are.”
However Wizards wants to spin it, the fact is that if hundreds of thousands of fans hadn’t said something on Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit, the current capitulation would have most likely happened after the OGL 1.1 was released. “Finally,” Wizards of the Coast ends their statement, “we’d appreciate the chance to make this right… We won’t let you down.” It may be too late for that.
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