The heated conversations and concerns around Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro’s plans for the next evolution of D&D, One D&D, has taken a new twist as the Electronic Frontier Foundation joining the debate.
The group, which defends civil liberties in the digital world, warns,
For most users, accepting this license almost certainly means you have fewer rights to use elements of Dungeons and Dragons than you would otherwise.
The article from EFF’s Kit Walsh, a senior staff attorney working on copyright, is insightful. Kit begins by defining what an OGL is and then into the helpful write-up of what is actually copyrightable about an RPG.
It’s in this legal area that the OGL becomes essential. Normally, copyrights protect creative expression and not game mechanics. WotC’s current OGL includes game mechanics. Here’s the key paragraph;
… the game mechanic and includes the methods, procedures, processes and routines to the extent such content does not embody the Product Identity and is an enhancement over the prior art and any additional content clearly identified as Open Game Content by the Contributor.”
Interestingly, Kit reminds us that WotC can’t both revoke and hold users to the OGL’s restrictions.
In summary, the lawyer nudges publishers towards alternatives Licenses like Creative Commons and the GNU Public License.
Kit finishes in with a kicker;
Beware corporate policies about the acceptable use of their copyrighted materials that wind up being restrictions on your fair use rights rather than the grant of meaningful permission.
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