So today Wizards of the Coast officially released the new Game System License and System Reference Document for Dungeons & Dragons 4e. I have two words: not impressed. I should state that I am not a lawyer, though I did take Intellectual Property (courtesy of IU School of Law) while I was an undergraduate. My interpretations may be flawed, but I almost guarantee the GSL put the licensee in a position to be screwed. I’ll go over the sections that turn my stomach:
2. Updates or Revisions to License. …Licensee is responsible for checking the License regularly for changes, and waives any right to receive specific notice of changes…
Yeah, I am not going to bind myself to a license whose terms can change without notification.
3. Licensed Products. The license granted in Section 4 is for use solely in connection with
Licensee’s publication, distribution, and sale of roleplaying games and roleplaying game supplements that contain the Licensed Materials and are published in a hardcover or soft-cover printed book format or in a single-download electronic book format (such as .pdf), and accessory products to the foregoing roleplaying games and roleplaying game supplements that are not otherwise listed as excluded in Section 5.5 (“Licensed Products”).
5.5 Licensed Products. … For the avoidance of doubt, and by way of example only, no Licensed Product will (a) include web sites, interactive products, miniatures, or character creators; (b) describe a process for creating a character or applying the effects of experience to a character; (c) use the terms “Core Rules” or “Core Rulebook” or variations thereof on its cover or title, in self-reference or in advertising or marketing thereof; (d) refer to any artwork, imagery or other depiction contained in a Core Rulebook; (e) reprint any material contained in a Core Rulebook except as explicitly provided in Section 4; or (f) be incorporated into another product that is itself not a Licensed Product (such as, by way of example only, a magazine or book compilation).
I put this section and subsection together, since that is how it makes sense to me. This means you can only publish books. Period. No magazines/periodicals, websites, software, or anything that is not a book.
5.4 First On-Sale Date. Licensee will ensure that no Licensed Product is first on sale to consumers prior to October 1, 2008.
Why do we care? This date has come and gone and no longer applies. If they can change the terms whenever they like, as per Section 2, why waste my time?
6. Quality and Content Standards. The nature and quality of all Licensed Products will conform to the quality standards set by Wizards, as may be provided from time to time. At a minimum, the Licensed Products will conform to community standards of decency and appropriateness as determined by Wizards in its discretion. Without limiting the foregoing, no Licensed Products will depict in any text, graphical or other manner:
(a) excessively graphic violence or gore; (b) sexual situations, sexual abuse, pornography, gratuitous nudity of human or humanoid forms, genitalia, or sexual activity; or (c) existing real-world minorities, nationalities, social castes, religious groups or practices, political preferences, genders, lifestyle references, or people with disabilities, as a group inferior to any D&D 4E Game System License ©2008, 2009 Wizards of the Coast page 4 of 7 other group or in a way that promotes disrespect for those groups or practices, or that endorses those groups or practices over another.
Without limiting the foregoing, Licensed Products will not contain any content that is unlawful, defamatory, harassing, threatening, abusive, inflammatory, fraudulent or otherwise objectionable or that would infringe upon or violate the rights of any third party or constitute, encourage, or provide instructions for a criminal offense.
No Book of Erotic Fantasy or Purge the Christian Infidel game! I totally get rankled at anything that censors any creative (or non-creative) expression of any kind. Piss off Wizards!
9.3 Protection of Wizards’ Rights. Licensee will assist Wizards to the extent necessary or as requested by Wizards to protect any of Wizards’ rights in and to Wizards Intellectual Property. Wizards will reimburse Licensee for any reasonable out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of providing such assistance, provided that Wizards has approved such costs in advance. Licensee will not institute any suit or take any action on account of any such infringements or imitations, or otherwise institute any suit or take any action relating to Wizards Intellectual Property. Licensee will take no action that will harm, misuse or bring into disrepute the activities, properties or products of Wizards or Wizards Intellectual Property.
9.4 Remedies. Licensee recognizes and acknowledges that its breach of any of the covenants, agreements or undertakings hereunder with respect to use of the Licensed Materials, including without limitation trademark use requirements or quality standards, will cause Wizards irreparable damage which cannot be readily remedied in damages in an action at law, and may additionally constitute an infringement of Wizards’ rights in Wizards Intellectual Property, thereby entitling Wizards to equitable remedies, costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
If you have an issue with anything Wizards of the Coast is doing, no matter if it is relating to this license (least that is how I read it), you cannot take any action (legal or otherwise). And if they take you to court, you have to pay for their attorneys’ fees and costs. This is the you’re screwed if you agree to this clause.
10.2 Survival. Sections 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 (together with all other provisions that reasonably may be interpreted as surviving termination of this License) will survive the termination of this License.
Oh and the you’re screwed if you agree to this clause will continue to apply even if the license is terminated! Major bullshit!
I didn’t bother reading much of the remainder of the license, as this was enough to convince me it still sucks. Wizards basically removed the clause that was causing dispute about having product lines published under the GSL as well as its predecessor, the OGL. They also added a six month window to sell off any stock after YOU terminate the license. No fan site, periodical, or software policies either. Not a big improvement.
I’d go over the SRD, but there isn’t much to talk about, literally. Epic Fail in my book. My verdict is that you have access to more material and have less risk if you just fair use the elements that are not protected.