They destroy what they cannot control to their liking:
For the last 12 years, my company Autarch has published my game Adventurer Conqueror King System under the terms of the Open Game License (OGL) 1.0. For the last 5 years, ACKS has been my full-time job.
Now, Wizards of the Coast, in what I can only describe as an act of perfidious treachery, has decided to retroactively deauthorize the OGL 1.0 and offer up a new Open Game License 1.1 to replace it.
What does this new license mean? Where do we go from here? Before we go further, please note that while I am a trained attorney (Harvard Law magna cum laude, in fact), I’m not a practicing intellectual property specialist. My thoughts should not be construed as legal advice about what you should do. These are just my thoughts about the situation Autarch has now found itself in, and what we need to do.
Can They Really Do That?!
When people learn that WOTC is deauthorizing the OGL, the first question they ask is “can they really do that?” It’s a fair question. After all, for more than 20 years we’ve all relied on the OGL to be irrevocable.
But the question isn’t whether they can do. They are doing it. Right now, on our watch. No, the question is “who is going to stop them from doing it?”
And the answer might be “no one.”
If you’re under the illusion that we live in a country with a court system that rewards the righteous, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. The American justice system is pay-to-play, and the amount you have to pay is unfathomable to those who haven’t gone through it. I consulted with one of New York’s top IP litigators last week to find out how much money I’d have to raise via GoFundMe to fight Wizards. When I asked him if $100,000 would be enough, he laughed. He said I’d need $500,000 to even have a chance of summary judgment, and $4 million for a trial. Wizards has a war chest measured in millions and will fight this out for 4-6 years.
Imagine if WOTC sued Autarch claiming that my game Ascendant was violating their copyright. Ascendant is a d100 superhero game that has nothing in common with D&D and uses no language from the SRD. WOTC would have legitimate claim whatsoever. If we had $4,000,000 to fight, we’d certainly win. But… we don’t have the money. So, we’d lose.
In real life courtroom dramas, the good guys don’t win. The rich guys win.
He’s not wrong. Even if you win, you’re probably not getting your legal fees paid by the losing side. This is a devastating blow to RPG game developers and marks the end of a golden age of game development.