Other Licenses:
Frequently Asked Questions

Version 2.0 -- January 26, 2004


Please send comments, questions, or feedback to Linae Foster. Contents of this FAQ Copyright 2001, by the Open Gaming Foundation. Much of the information contained in this FAQ relates to copyright and trademark law. The author, Ryan Dancey, is not an attorney and makes no representation about the accuracy of the legal material contained herein. This FAQ does not constitute legal advice. Readers are advised to consult their own legal counsel before proceeding with any Open Gaming project. Permission is granted to reproduce this document, in whole or in part, provided that this notice is preserved intact.

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Q: Are there other licenses that meet the definition of an Open Game?

A: Yes, there are several.

Q: How about the GNU licenses?

A: The General Public License (GPL), the Lesser General Public License (LGPL), and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL) all provide terms that could be used to publish an Open Game.

Q: There are lots of Open Source software licenses. Can those be used to create Open Games?

A: In general, if a license meets the Open Source Definition, it will almost certainly provide the tools to distribute an Open Game as well.

Q: Why not use those licenses then?

A: The biggest impediment to using the Open Source licenses is that most of them do not provide for a separation between game rules and trademarks, setting content, fiction, illustrations, and maps. The Open Gaming License does this through the use of the Product Identity clause, and by not requiring that everything in a given work be Open Game Content.

Q: How about the Dominion Rules License?

A: The DRL provides terms that can be used to publish an Open Game.

Q: What about the October Open Game License?

A: The October Open Game License provides terms that can be used to publish an Open Game.

Q: Why not use one of those licenses then?

A: The DRL is designed to support the development of the Dominion Rules game system. While it is fully capable of being used for a non-affiliated game system, the terms of the license will leave bits and pieces of the Dominion Rules copyright notices and licensing requirements behind. It is simply not designed to be used as a generic Open Game license.

The October Open Game License is simply an adaptation of the GNU Free Documentation License with some terms slightly amended. It shares the basic problems of the GFDL: It is very complex and very long, and it does not provide an easy framework for works where Open content is intermixed with Closed content.

Q: What about the FUDGE License?

A: The FUDGE License does not meet the definition of an Open Game license. The problem with the FUDGE license is the requirement that any commercial distribution first obtain a separate license from a third party prior to release.

Q: What about GURPS Lite or FUZION?

A: Both are examples of games that are "free as in beer", but not "free as in speech." No rights are provided to allow you to freely copy, modify, and distribute either game, beyond a limited right to make copies of the rules as provided and as long as you do not charge for their distribution.

Q: How do I use various Open Game licenses in a joint project?

A: Generally speaking, Open Game licenses are mutually incompatible. Each requires an exclusive, invariant set of licensing terms, and most Open Game licenses explicitly forbid adding additional terms.

If you have created a work that relies on content provided under two different licensing schemes, it will be necessary to get all the copyright holders of all the previous works your work is derived from to all agree to a single set of licensing terms. In the real world, that means that products with multiple-license ancestors are going to be rare to nonexistent.

Q: Can I create a work that contains content from various Open Game licenses if all the material is kept segregated?

A: If the terms of the licenses involved allow you to do so, then you could, so long as you can comply with the other terms involved. For example, you could create such a product using the Open Game License, simply by clearly indicating which parts of your product were covered exclusively by the terms of the OGL, and using a different system to identify content licensed under other terms. You would still have to comply with all of the terms of the OGL (and the other license or licenses) that referred to the work as a whole, however.



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