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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Wherein I Rant about the OGL, Compatibility Logo and Fair Use - If you Don't Understand Them, Don't Use Them



There's been a bit of a kerfuffle over at the White Star G+ Community. I won't bore you with needless details - you can get that and more at the original source.

Here's the meat and potatoes:

- 1 page adventure contest

- one submission omits the OGL, includes the White Star compatibility graphic and uses 2 pieces of art without permission and with the statement / question "I think this counts as fair use, right?"

- submission is pointed out for it's issues

- internet drama blossoms. adventure creator locks down all relevant G+ threads he started after getting his last words in and states "to put an end to the drama I started and kept poking..." (which tells me he enjoyed the drama)

Now, on to the rant...

The OGL - love it or hate it, I really dont give a shit. Use copyright law for all I care. But if you are deriving your work from an OGL product, use the fucking OGL. Mocking the OGL while displaying a compatibility logo isn't just poor taste - it's asinine.

Compatibility logos and licenses. You get to use someone's trademark on your product. It's awesome until you fuck with it. Why are you fucking with it? Sure, this is the internet and we are all to some extent attention whores, but why piss on someone else's work that you are making a claim to appreciate?

Fair use. I wouldn't touch it with a 10' pole. If you're not sure it's fair use, assume it isn't. That sir, is a ground ball.

Oh, and blocking comments on all your threads after getting your final words in? That's just lame.

33 comments:

  1. I just want somewhere I can go to help me make sure documents I make are proper in terms of OGL, etc.

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    1. The problem is, not even a lawyer can really give you a categorical answer to questions involving copyright and fair use. As far as taking advice from Some Random Internet Idiot... forget about it.

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    2. Kelly, James and I are planning on helping people creating content for White Star with this. I'm writing something up right now.

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  2. Not sure how you could have a One Page Adventure that all entries are to be under the OGL. Bullet point 10 states...
    10 Copy of this License: You MUST include a copy of this License with every copy of the Open Game Content You Distribute.
    So would you tack that on to the back side of the One Page Adventure?
    Also, what if you decided that your One Page Adventure is completely "Product Identity" and can't be used by others. Seems kind of silly to write out that the whole adventure is OGL but nobody is going to be able to use any of it.
    Just a few examples of the shortcomings of the OGL.

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    1. back side? sure

      with my 4 page - one sheet releases it will be page 5 of the pdf and a half page insert in the 4 page - one sheet

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    2. Also, might make for an ugly compendium. 50 one page adventure entries, with 50 different copies of the OGL attached since each might have different sources they referenced and each might claim product identity on small pieces of their entry (or the whole entry).

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    3. As I told the person who got pissy on the thread and left the community, you can post it on the back of the sheet of paper, because even virtual sheets of paper have two sides to them. You just don't print the second side if you don't want to.

      If you decide your OPD is fully Product Identity, then people can't re-use the content. That's entirely up to you as the creator of the content, and something that is a feature not a bug of the OGL. The OGL states you have to detail what is open content, and most people declare what it both open content and what is PI to make sure that there's no confusion so that people don't get things mixed up. PI is there to allow you to protect some things while opening others. It's actually a good middle-of-the-road approach.

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    4. @Random you only need to include one OGL at the back that way, and you can include separate a single section 15 as well as detail all open content and PI as blocks.

      Trust me, I'm putting a magazine together that does both open and closed content. It can be done.

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    5. Ah. I haven't seen the original thread. My apologies for re-treading the same points.

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    6. No worries. As is there was no discussion on the original thread about a compendium. The chap running the competition was doing it as fun. But someone wanted to use a map by Dyson Logos for an entry and Dyson jumped in to ask what the deal was regarding rights and that led to the exploration and discussion of the OGL and James saying that entries should be OGL. That got someone's knickers in the twist, and led to what we have going on now. When White Star was released it was stated publicly that it was an OGL product, and that it was being opened up so people could use the OGL to extend it and build on it. The compatibility logo was made so that people could do that without having to ask and go through the complex licensing other games go through.

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    7. A little late to the party here but one thing that Adventure a Week did for there one page pdf adventures was to provide a hyperlink to the OGL at the bottom of the adventure.

      http://www.rpgnow.com/product/143886/MiniDungeon-001-Buried-Council-Chambers?src=hottest_filtered

      This is what I was planning to do when I was thinking of releasing my pre-existing one-page white star stuff ... I've since completely nixed that idea as well as other things.

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    8. I do kind of wish there was some sort of "out" for small formats. I did something that was two pages of content (1/2 letter each, mind you) and two pages of OGL! I really wish there was a truncated version that was applicable if you had under a certain amount of content. Meh..thems the rules and either abide by them or do go down that route....still means I can wish for something else though.

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    9. @Johua

      The problem with a link is that it may not meet the requirement in the OGL license:

      "10 Copy of this License: You MUST include a copy of this License with every copy of the Open Game Content You Distribute."

      Raw reading of that implies that anything that can be downloaded should also include a full copy of the license. Links have been shown in some US case law relating to Google that links don't create copies of linked content but direct to new content. The fact you have to go to another location and possibly using a different tool to access the license may void this part of the license, which then voids the entire license use."

      Delete
  3. I am guessing a compendium would be considered a derived work, so would use 1 OGL license at the end, with a combined list of copyright... but then you would have to remove all the product identity in the derived work.

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    1. Which any sane person contributing would not use. In fact, anyone contributing to a One Page Adventure contest should be REQUIRED to state that all content is Open Game Content. Holding back Product Identity is directly counter to the goal of such a project.

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  4. You can publish original PI work by authors under license or permission. So if an author included something and made it fully PI, then you'd have to get their permission to include it. You'd then also have to exclude it from the open content section.

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  5. Eldritch Ent. decided to write generic fantasy adventures without including the OGL... since there's nothing in our creations that requires us to genuflect to WotC. You can do this too, if you know what you're doing. ;>

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    1. Frank,

      Yes, it can be done. But it also means you don't get to draw on the huge amount of content that's already created and build upon it. That's one of the huge benefits of working within the OGL. With a view of using the OGL as a way to develop content and open it up so that others can build upon it, you can create a mixed approach to content creation that benefits creators as well as the community at large.

      Also, White Star was built on Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox, which was an OGL product. It needed to be released as an OGL product.

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    2. If I recall correctly, EE products obscure the traditional stat bar with percentages and such. A solution but not the most elegant nor satisfying for the end user.

      Stars Without Number does without the OGL but is still recognizable from its D&D roots.

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  6. Thanks for having the decency to include me on a discussion of my work. Eric. Right nice of you.

    Since the comment section won't accept a long post, I've responded here:

    https://plus.google.com/+MatthewSchmeerMFA/posts/A2fFiJfYLus

    It's a private post, so you have to be in my circles to read it. For those not in my cirlces, I've also posted it to my blog, here:

    http://rendedpress.blogspot.com/2015/06/in-which-i-respond-to-erik-tenkar.html

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    1. Matt, whatever my faults (and I have many) I don't stifle discussion.

      How many G+ threads did you close to comments today after getting your last words in?

      Not only do I leave your comment up here, but also at 2k coppers (which is my community site) and RPG Bloggers (which I moderate)

      As you closed down all your conversations, I didn't think you wanted to be directly mentioned here.

      Now, maybe you were trying for a vibe that was misunderstood by others, but for someone directly using a product's name, you came off as an ass.


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  7. Am not a part of this WS community so no idea how it all went down. I assume the only error Matt made was not adhering to the defined contest entry rules by making his doc OGL compatible? And that the WS-compatible logo (I assume) requires additional language for use?

    @Matt I noticed what I think is a revised version of the document on your site. It looks pretty much like what 99.9% of all blogs ever seem to post (including use of art online for non-commercial purposes). Seems like the only problem (that I can see) was the submission didn't fit the contest criteria of being properly OGL compatible (which, and this is the most important thing to remember, ever: legal language and jokes don't mix well)

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    1. And to clarify: a lot of art gets dragged around online in a fair-use content on blogs and in free offerings. I think the safest way to use such art is: make sure the site source doesn't forbid its use. Prepare to remove the art on request. Never, ever tie the art to a for-profit site or product without securing permission or payment for use. Problem solved.

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    2. Final comment on my comments, FYI: please refer to TheShadowKnows for the overriding rule on all internet comments, including this one and the above.

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    3. True, but it wasn't for sale or profit. Plus, I substantially transformed it, so it meets one of four factors in the fair use doctrine. Admittedly I might be called on it -- but that is the artist's call, not anyone else's.

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    4. Well, I see no issue with what you have on site as a freebie. It would be cool to get permission of the artist for that one piece. Many artists appreciate the exposure as free advertising with proper attribution....I like that piece, for example, but never would have known it existed without your use of it.

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    5. Actually from poking around over there it looks like Mark really wanted this to be an informal and relaxed contest, but it quickly got out of control.

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  8. Nicholas: The contest didn't have any rules regarding the OGL until the mods & creator insisted on it.

    Erik: Two.They were in the OSR community. Here are the links:

    1st one: https://plus.google.com/+MatthewSchmeerMFA/posts/FMcDXYdGMkB

    2nd one: https://plus.google.com/+MatthewSchmeerMFA/posts/gw2psmun9PS

    The mods deleted the post in the White Star community which contained the original offending file after I left the community. To be clear, I left on my own accord because I was obviously not seeing eye to eye with extremely staunch defenders of the OGL.

    I'm sorry, but I just think it's plain out wrong to go after me for arguing that OGL shouldn't apply to free stuff shared among a small community of fans.

    Please note that the vast majority of stuff posted in the "free stuff" sections of the White Star community uses the White Star logo and does not carry OGL notices.

    So yeah, it's a witch hunt because I dared argue that the OGL isn't needed.

    And as you can see from this post here, the White Star guys don't even understand the OGL and how to properly implement it themselves:

    https://plus.google.com/+ErikTenkar/posts/2zxC8oA9mhS

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    1. Well, it sounds like maybe the contest was not properly conceived or organized.

      For point of record, if the purpose of the contest was purely for fun and non-profit, and also unofficial (with no branding intended) then it is unclear why the OGL was relevant.

      For example, I do not reference and will never reference the OGL on my blog. If I ever move to publish content from there for sale I most definitely will get it OGL compliant before hand, but for my own personal blog? Hell no.

      I don't know how it all went down over there....some comments I read on looking for it make it look ugly, but it really doesn't sound like you did anything unusual for the bloggosphere other than get the cheese moved in the middle of all this.

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  9. Guh. OGL is such an awful, arcane, ugly license. Unless you're basing your work off the WotC d20 SRD, I don't see any reason for a modern product to use it when there's other options like the Creative Commons licenses and the GFDL. OGL seemed like a good idea in 2000, but by 2003 I thought everyone realized how awful it was.

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  10. My half-OGL illusionist got to 54th level and killed Zeus and made Herakles carry his torches for him and married Aphrodite. It was so awesome.

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