Wednesday, June 18, 2008

4e: GSL

So, Wizards released the GSL.

I'm not sure I see why anyone would use it.

I haven't read through it in detail, but it doesn't seem to actually grant any worthwhile rights. The OGL was arguably worthwhile. You agreed to abide by WotC's restrictions. In return, you got to use a whole lot of content more-or-less as you wish.

The GSL? You agree to abide by WotC's restrictions (which are more restrictive than before). In return, you get to refer to WotC's content (but you can't quote it or alter it).

I'm not sure that the GSL actually gives you any rights that you don't already have.

8 comments:

David Dorward said...

Well, I'm not a lawyer, and I haven't read the license yet but from what I've read in commentaries it doesn't grant you anything that fair use provisions in copyright law don't already grant.

Trademark law is a slightly different beast, so it might allow you to do things that it would otherwise prevent though.

It will be interesting to see what happens once a few people with either more knowledge of the law then me (or with enough vested interest to pay a lawyer) start to look into it..

Jer said...

If you follow their license, then it allows you to use the "Dungeons & Dragons" trademark on your product and claim compatibility. That's the part that they've decided is important - without the license you can't use the logo. The trademark portion is arguably better than the d20 system trademark license, since you get to put a little D&D logo on your product instead of the more generic "d20" logo that never seemed to take off the way that Dancey and others thought it would.

The license seems clearly intended to allow companies to make "D&D compatible" products but not do anything else with the game engine itself. Which means that Wizards/Hasbro's lawyers and execs actually think that products like "Mutants and Masterminds" and "True 20" are competition that they don't want to encourage. Too bad - the retrograde attitude towards copyright and open gaming is the worst thing I've seen with regards to the 4e roll-out, and I think they're sorely over-estimating just how much "damage" a fork like True20 or M&M or Pathfinder actually causes to their marketshare.

Infamous Jum said...

So far it looks like a pretty unfriendly license. I guess either WotC thinks that they don't need 3rd party support or they think that their IP is hot enough to make people jump through flaming, razor-lined hoops to get it.

szilard said...

It seems like what the license gives you is:

1) Permission to use the D&D logo/trademark

2) Permission to reference things in the D&D book.

In general, you don't need WotC's permission to do (2).

I'm curious to see if there will be 3rd party products for 4e that don't use the GSL (or the D&D logo).

Jer said...

I'm curious to see if there will be 3rd party products for 4e that don't use the GSL (or the D&D logo).

I'm not sure why anyone would do that. Or, I guess, I can only see one reason why anyone would want to attempt it. The license doesn't block any fair use references, and it grants you a bit more than fair use if you follow it (because you can use their "look & feel" for statblocks, you can use the D&D logo for advertising, etc.) As far as "royalty-free trademark licenses" go, it's not that onerous and gives you a moderate benefit at no cost. (Compared to the OGL it's a restrictive beast, but the OGL essentially gave you a whole game to play with - not just a royalty-free trademark license).

The one situation I could see where you might want to make a "4e compatible product" and not make use of this license is if you want to support an OGL game and 4e simultaneously with the same product line. That's explicitly disallowed by the license. But then you can't use the logo (the part that they seem to find most important) and you would probably want to consult a lawyer before making use of the "look and feel" issues for the game (design & color schema on the stat blocks and power blocks, for example).

I could be missing something, but I can't think of any other reasons why anyone would want to sell products to support 4e, but not use the license. Suggestions?

szilard said...

The inability to define, redefine, or alter 'references' for example, may be particularly onerous to some.

The limits on content standards will, no doubt, irk some publishers who might want to deal with some more graphic material.

I could also see someone wanting to put material out before October 1 (say, for Gen Con).

Jer said...

Ah, I thought of another one. The "Quality and Content Standards" portion meant to prevent another "Book of Erotic Fantasy". Those are similar to what was in the d20 STL, but publishers could get around it by just not using the d20 logo on the book. Now, if they're afraid of the content police they might not want to avail themselves of the license.

Meh - it still sounds too risky to me. But IANAL, so maybe it would be worth trying. I just wonder how profitable it would be if you can't really advertise compatibility very clearly.

szilard said...

Jer,

It isn't clear to me that you can't advertise compatibility easily.

You can easily say, "Compatible with Fourth Edition" or even "Compatible with the Fourth Edition of the world's most popular roleplaying game."

"Dungeons & Dragons" is a trademark, but you can get around it pretty easily.

The other thing that the GSL doesn't allow, of course, is character creation rules. This wasn't permitted under the 3e D&D license, but it was permitted under the OGL. Along with not permitting the definition/redefinition of terms, we won't be seeing any 4e-based alternative games under the GSL.

The question is whether we will be seeing them at all, really...

I'll point out that before the OGL, there were a ton of D&D-compatible accessories and books that were published by 3rd parties.