Monday, May 05, 2008

The D&D Poison Pill revisited

After a bit of a delay, WotC finally clarified some things about the GSL in a FAQ. The "poison pill" is now a lot less poisonous, with publishers allowed to publish OGL products as well as GSL products, but they won't be allowed to publish the same product under both OGL and GSL licenses at the same time. They will be allowed to update publications published under the OGL to 4.0 under the GSL, presumably if they cease publication of the older OGL product.

There is still a lot of questions and ambiguities, such as a reference at one point to "product lines" instead of products. It's unclear if this means that all products in a line must be either GSL or OGL, and what exactly determines a "product line" under the GSL.

Overall, it looks like they listened to the outcry and made some of the requested changes.

What amazes me is the reaction on ENWorld. There's lots of "see, no need to worry, the sky wasn't falling, etc., etc." I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a site dedicated to a single game would be filled with fanbois of that game and the company that makes it, but I no longer have the blind trust in any corporation that many there seem to have for Hasbro/WotC.

They remind me of the people that shoot down environmental concerns with arguments like "they used to say acid rain would doom us all, but you don't hear about it anymore, guess it wasn't such a big problem after all." What they either don't realize, or choose to ignore, is that the reason it isn't such a big problem any more is because people raised a big stink and the government eventually took massive steps to decrease the pollutants that were causing it.

Why does this remind me of the fanbois on ENWorld? Because, most of them seem to assume that this new FAQ reflects what the company planned all along, completely ignoring the probability that the FAQ is a direct response to the uproar that the earlier announcements produced, and reflects changes made as a result of the reactions in the community rather than what was originally planned by Hasbro. Especially given that the company has a history of contradicting what they have said on this issue in the past.

In any case, while it would still be nice to have an actual open, non-revocable, license for 4th edition, at least the GSL is no longer a huge threat to the existing OGL community.


BlackDiamond said...

It seems counter to the open source spirit to have this strange "open" license with so many strings attached. You can make products for us, as long as we continue to allow it, provided you do these other things in your business and hold to our various product requirements.

If I was a publisher, I'm not sure I would want to hitch my wagon to such a temperamental horse. It certainly seems a way to encourage anyone with creativity to think outside of the D&D box to move their business beyond it. What's left over aren't exactly the quality publishers, if you ask me.

Fulminata said...

I've seen some people already point out, and I agree, that the GSL really isn't an open license. It's a royalty free license, but that's not the same thing.

I'd argue that in the case of the GSL you get what you pay for, as most licenses that involve a monetary transfer from licensee to licensor have more restrictions as to when and how the licensor can change or withdrawal the license.

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