Originally Posted by RPGNet
D&D 4th Edition News
I've decided to write my own little GSL FAQ. Please remember, this is not legal advice - I'm not a lawyer! - and the items below didn't come from WotC, merely my own reading of the GSL and, to an extent, my own experience in publishing. However, there are some histrionics and rather bizarre claims out there regarding the new license, and I have seen all those below more than a few times; I apologise to those of you who think that the below items are obvious: you're right, they are. I also apologise if I've gotten anything wrong! But here goes:
WotC is trying to copyright X! They can't do that! They can't claim they own the word "demon" or whatever!
You're right. They can't copyright the word "demon". Fortunately for you, you can feel vindicated in the fact that they have neither done so nor attempted to do so. In fact, run a quick search for the word "copyright" on the GSL; you'll find four instances, not one of which is a copyright claim.
So that means I can use their "Defined Terms" however I like, right? Because WotC doesn't own them!
Again, you are right in that WotC does not "own" those words. Nowhere does it say they do. All they've said is "if you want to use our logo and stuff, you need to agree to use those words as defined in the core rules and not change that meaning".
The OGL is dead!
No, it's not. It never will be; it can't be. The OGL can not be rescinded; anything released under the OGL will remain Open Gaming Content forever.
What? I can't release software under the GSL?
Not under the GSL you can't, no. You couldn't under the old d20 STL, either. If you want to write software, you do it the same way as the rest of the world without a convenient GSL does: you use normal copyright law, and you don't use WotC's logo on it. And you definitely use a lawyer! In short: you don't release software under this license.
Yes, I know there was lots of software for 3E. Truthfully, much of it bore branding which was not legally allowed, but either flew under WotC's radar or they turned a blind eye to it. Very little of it bore the d20 logo, anyway, so wasn't governed by the d20 STL. Will WotC turn a blind eye still? Who knows!
The "no character generation" part of the license means I can't write a new class or race!
The "no character generation" part of the license is the same as the old d20 STL. It refers to (a) telling people how to generate ability scores; (b) telling people how to apply experience points and gain levels. It does not mean you can't create new classes, races, powers, feats, monsters or anything else. In fact, the official FAQ says that. Basically, it's there to stop you writing a competing game; you can write supporting supplements for 4E but you can't compete with 4E and still use this license. That's fair, right? WotC are saying "Hey, you can use this nifty logo free of charge, but don't use our own logo to compete with us - use it to work with us"
Aha! I have an ingenious idea! I'll just make two companies and circumvent the GSL/OGL exclusivity clause!
Ingenious or not, it's not new - people have been suggesting it since the GSL was first hinted at. It's not a great idea, though - first off, yes, you might get away with it; WotC might not notice, and if they did, they might not care. But they can rescind or change this license for any reason without notice; so if you try to weasel your way around clauses in the agreement, you might just annoy them enough to say: "Hey, we don't want to play with you any more. Stop using our license."
They're infringing on my "rights"!
Most often heard in the context of "they're trying to take away my right to use the OGL!" OK, first off: a license is not an Act of Parliament, a Sovereign Proclamation, a statute, a declaration of law, or a Bill of Congress; it does not remove rights. It's a contract - a mere agreement. They're not infringing on your rights; they're saying "Hey, do you like this nifty logo and stuff? If you think it will net you more sales, we'll let you use it! But in exchange for it, we ask you to voluntarily agree to not do certain things. As long as our agreement stands, you can continue to slap this lovely D&D logo on your books!"
A voluntary agreement does not restrict your rights; agreeing not to do something does not restrict your rights; agreeing to do something does not restrict your rights. If I offered to give you $5 to walk to the shop and buy me a sandwich, am I restricting your rights to stand in the corner and mope? No; you are agreeing to do something of your own free will.
Now I can't have a website under the GSL!
Well, no. But why would you want a website licensed under the GSL? You don't need the GSL to have a website - people have been managing that for years! Again, the point is not "WotC has made D&D websites illegal!", it's "You can't use this book publishing license with a website - it's a license for books." Just like the software restriction, above. Your website isn't part of your product.
Incidentally, remember that WotC will be issuing a "fan site policy" at some point, in which they'll specifically say what they're comfortable with people doing on the web; but, again, remember it's not a declaration of law, just a policy. The policy may have a logo and license, etc., attached, but that's unlikely; it's more likely to be a statement of intent from WotC and, just like every other of the 20 million fansites for every other game, movie, TV show, novel series, sport, etc., on the web, is governed by standard copyright laws.
So you're saying I don't need the GSL; I just need to obey copyright laws?
No, you don't need the GSL. But using it makes things a hell of a lot easier for you. Instead of muddling through copyright and intellectual property laws and risking screwing up and getting nasty letters from WotC, they've given you an easy-to-understand license whereby they give you permission to do a bunch of things with no risk of legal action. Think of it as a convenient shortcut of IP issues, coupled with a cool logo; it's a "safe harbour" where you know you're protected.
You can't copyright rules mechanics!
This is the one I hear most often; and yes it's true; and no, it's not relevant. I hear it about the GSL, I heard it about the OGL. I think it gets posted because someone snoops around on a copyright-related website, finds this little gem and then gleefully posts it. Unfortunately, it has nothing at all to do with the GSL, or the OGL, or the d20 STL or any other license. Y'see, as I mentioned above, the license is not a statement of copyright; it is a contract. An agreement between two parties; it doesn't steer anywhere near copyright issues: in fact, that's the whole point of it! If the person you're discussing the GSL (or the OGL or the d20 STL) starts twittering on about copyrights, feel free to exit the conversation, because it's a totally different one to the one you're having and not related to the licenses at all - and, to boot, is a sign that they likely haven't read the licenses they're complaining about.
WotC can revoke the license at any time!
Yes. Yes, they can. That is, unfortunately, a risk you have to take if you use the GSL: unlike the OGL, it is revocable, much like the d20 STL was.
WotC's own products violate the license!
Ah, one of the more silly things I've heard people say. Granted, not that many people say it, but I have heard it. WotC doesn't need a license to use its own property; it can do whatever it wants with its own stuff. And can attach any conditions it likes when it lends its stuff to someone else. It's not in violation of the license because it doesn't use the license.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Game System License
This is the GSL.
1. You have to send us a letter saying you accepted this license. After you send us your acceptance letter, if we don't get back to you within 14 days, you're good to go. Tell us if any information changes or you might have to send us another one. You can't sell anything before October 1, though.
2. We can update the license whenever we want. It's up to you to make sure you're in compliance.
3. You can only use this license to make hardback or softback books, or electronic books. You can also make anything else to support those books unless we say you can't in Section 5.5.
4. You can use our stuff for free, but you have to follow our rules.
4.1. You can refer to everything we list in the SRD, but you can't redefine any terms in said SRD. You can add more stuff relating to those terms, though. We can update the SRD whenever we want. It's up to you to make sure you're in compliance.
4.2. You have to use our logo on your books. You can use it for other stuff too.
5. Requirements and limitations.
5.1. You can't use our trademarked stuff except in referring to the game and the core books.
5.2. Cut and paste this text block in your book's front somewhere. It has to be readable.
5.3. Cut and paste this text block in your ads. It's okay if some people can't read it unless they wear glasses.
5.4. You can't sell any books until October 1. If you do, you don't get to play. You can tell people you have books coming though.
5.5. You can't sell any web sites, computer-y things, miniatures or character creators that use our stuff. You also can't talk about character creation or leveling, claim to be part of the core books, point to our art, or reprint our core rules text. You also can't use our stuff in something that doesn't play by these rules.
5.6. You can't sell the contents of the SRD or definitions of what's in it.
5.7. You can't use our art.
6. OGL stuff.
6.1. You can convert your stuff to GSL, but you can't sell your old OGL stuff, except for your back stock. You can't convert back ever.
6.2. You can't weasel out of 6.1 either.
6.3. If you try, you don't get to play anymore.
7. Your stuff has to be relatively tame. That means no gore, no sex, and no social injustice, unless we're talking elves hating dwarves. Don't harass anyone or explain how to do something illegal.
8. Don't do anything illegal, either.
9. We get free copies of your stuff if we ask!
10. Ownership stuff.
10.1. We still own all the stuff we own. You can't use any of the stuff we own unless we let you. FYI: This includes the core rules and the SRD.
10.2. If you use someone else's stuff, we're not responsible.
10.3. You have to help us protect all the stuff we own, but we'll pay you. You can't legally argue that we don't own what we own. Don't break what we own either.
10.4. If you break the rules, you have to pay us.
11. Breaking things off.
11.1 We'll send you a note if we're breaking up. If we change our minds about everything we'll tell everyone.
11.2. Everything that seems like it can be permanencied, is.
11.3. If we say you can't play anymore, you have to get rid of everything yourself. You can't pretend like we didn't break up with you, either. If you ask us, we might let you keep some of the stuff you made, though.
11.4. If you break the rules, we might have to go to court. You have to pay us for that too.
12.a. You have to tell people that you own all your own stuff, unless it's somebody else's.
12.b. You can't agree to all this stuff for someone else who's not you.
12.c. You can't agree to this if it means you'd have to break some other agreement.
12.d. You can't violate anyone else's copyright.
12.e. You can't violate anyone's privacy or say anything bad about them.
12.f. You have to do what the government says if they're helping us.
13. We don't guarantee anything.
14. If someone else blames us for your stuff, you have to say it's your fault.
15. You can play, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're friends unless we talk first.
16. You can't tell someone else that they're allowed to use this license.
17. If you break the rules and we ignore you, that doesn't necessarily mean we're going to ignore you next time.
18. You can make your stuff and we can make our stuff, but you can't blame us if our stuff competes with your stuff. We can also ask other people to use their stuff that you might already be using, and you can't complain.
19. If we have to go to court, we're gonna do it in our backyard. No jury, though.
20. If the judge says part of this license is illegal, you still have to play by the rest of it.
21. That's it. We'll call you if anything changes.