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- d20 license changes
d20 license changes
If a publisher wants to put the d20 logo on their book and the phrase “requires the use of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook, Third Edition, published by Wizards of the Coast” then they must agree to the special d20 license.
The d20 license restricts what a publisher can do. It’s the reason why you rarely find books other than the core D&D d20 books which explain the character creation process. It seems to have worked so far; Wizards of the Coast have a whole armada of independent publishers writing games you need the three D&D books for and these publishers get to use the popular d20 logo.
Recently, there have been changes made to the d20 license and they’ve caused a bit of a fuss. Specifically, Wizards of the Coast want to decide how much blood and violence is acceptable when less too much nudity.
There is no proof but these changes to the license seem to have been made in response to an ex-Wizards of the Coast employee starting the erotic book of fantasy. Other companies, like Mongoose Publishing have printed illustrations of heroines in less than skimpy clothing. Wizards of the Coast, themselves, have the ‘mature content’ cautioned Book of Vile Darkness.
Ryan Dancey, the founder of the Open Gaming Foundation, was largely responsible for the original d20 license. He’s published a letter about the changes to the d20 system.
I’m pretty unhappy with the decision to alter the d20 System Trademark License to include post-publication content limitations.
In my opinion, the current version of the d20 STL is not a license I would be comfortable using in a commercial work unless I was able to secure a release from Wizards prior to publication exempting me from the content clauses. The potential for abuse (accidential or intentional) of the new clauses renders the “safe harbor” established by the D20 System Trademark License moot.
By altering the risk equation that must be considered by each party to the D20 System Trademark License in such a manner, in my opinion, it may now be more risky for a publisher to publish with the D20STL than without it. Thus the changes severely undermine the value proposition of the license as a whole.
Prior to these changes Wizards of the Coast was insulated from the contents of 3rd party d20 products through its inability to assert a review or approval right over such contents. By insisting on such a right, Wizards of the Coast has just made themselves liable for defamation, slander, trade secret, copyright, patent, and trademark litigation which would otherwise have been limited to the original publisher.
In addition, they’ve put themselves into a terrible PR position. Prior to these changes, Wizards of the Coast could refuse public comment on the contents of any product using the D20STL, claiming no prior knowledge nor approval responsibility for distasteful work. Now they will be forced to explain either a) why they support a work containing distasteful content, or b) when they’ll be forcing the publisher to institute a recall of that work.
The net result of this change will be more work for Wizards of the Coast (with no related revenue), more danger of a public communications nightmare, less D20-logoed product, and an increase in the effort devoted to creating (and the value of) a publisher-sponsored D20 trademark replacement not controlled by Wizards of the Coast .
All those problems have been incurred to gain the ability to stop one product from commercial distribution to a limited audience. And in the end, Wizards of the Coast probably won’t stop the release of that product. All they’ll stop is the publisher’s use of the words “Dungeons & Dragons” and a logo the size of a postage stamp.
Essentially, Wizards gets nothing for this change but heartache.
This is what happens when emotion gets in front of rational business management. And, in my opinion, it is an extremely unfortunate choice.
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