Thursday, August 12, 2010

How not to use the OGL.

Die Cast Games released a module under the OGL with a cover featuring the art of Jeff Easley and designed to use with AD&D 1st edition. All good except for one rather big problem. They have Advanced Dungeons & Dragons plastered on the cover in a large font.

When Wizards released the d20 SRD under the OGL there were several lines drawn that you don't cross. First not everything D&D is under the OGL which why you use the d20 SRD, any rules you derived also had to be open, and finally you don't use the D&D trademark or any other trademark unless you adhere to a second license.

Sure things like defining what open and what product identity, along with correctly setting up your section 15 (where you list all the OGL product you used in your product including your own) can leave your head scratching. But help is often just a post or email away to clarify this stuff.

The big problem is section 7 of the OGL.
7. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.

Nostalgia marketing is fine ... to a point. And Die Cat's module is way over that point. Which is a real shame because the cover art is nice, the production values are good, and from all reports the module is a solid adventure. Now we wait with baited breath for Wizard's reaction or lack of it. Grognardia post articulates my fears quite well. I don't relish having to explain why what I write is not a rip off of Wizard's IP.

We see how this plays out.


Paul said...

This goes beyond an OGL violation. Using "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" on the cover (and without TM indicator), numbering the product "TSR1", and the familiar trade dress will run them afoul of the likelihood of confusion standard. Wizards has to go after this guy to protect the AD&D mark, unless he has a license.

Jerry said...

Right. The OGL issues could have been resolved by simply not using the OGL (that Product Identity definition is a real killer—it’s basically everything the old TSR wanted to get out of trademark law but couldn’t).

But man, when I first saw that cover photo, my thought wasn’t “what a cool retro module”, it was “did someone find an unpublished TSR module in their attic?”

I would have at least recommended changing “TSR1” to “OSR1” and using the small text that TSR used to put on their covers as a disclaimer instead. Even then, though, there’s a difference between making it look like it was published in 1986, and making it look like it was published by TSR in 1986.

Marcelo Paschoalin said...

There may be a dozen reasons why they did that (some may be even legal in nature), but I think the OGL was clear enough not allowing that.

The question is if this will affect the whole OSR movement or it'll be considered a different issue altogether.

Todd the Viking King said...

All right chums, I'm (back)! Let's do this! LEEROOOOOOOY JEEENKIIIIIINSSS!!!