On WOTCs permissive licences

Dave Levy
8 min readDec 29, 2022
Photo by Nika Benedictova on Unsplash

Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), the owners of Dungeons & Dragons, bought D&D Beyond, the premiere and largest web store for the rules of D&D and they are now trialling a new version of the rules called One D&D; they are also planning to release a virtual table top solution and have a new movie in production. Also recently at a Hasbro, who own WOTC, earnings call, one of their executives stated that D&D was now a lifestyle brand and was under-monetised. This has created a sense of fear amongst 3rd party creators that WOTC will revise their intellectual property sharing agreements to the detriment of themselves and non-Dungeon Master players who have been identified as under spenders. Depending on where you look, this has created a lot of noise; I think there’s a lot of fear being generated, and it interests me to consider the issues in the context of the software industry practice. I think that software industry grew the open source models and the interaction by games vendors such as WOTC with software continues to inform good & bad practice

What they’re doing.

This is what I think the current state of WOTC’s commitment to permitted use of their intellectual property is. (I am not a lawyer etc.),

You may produce written material aimed at supporting table-top gaming using material from the Systems Reference Document (SRD)[1] and charge for it. Any other use of WOTC’s intellectual property is governed by the Fan Content Policy, which says any other artefacts must be free (as in zero cost) or subject to a specific commercial agreement.

There’s probably a change coming in WOTC’s zero cost licensing of D&D although their statement says that they will probably only change the Fan Content policy which requires fan content to be free to the market. What is there today is less than some seem to think. It’s not in the interests of WOTC to eliminate or reduce the business opportunity the current licencing permits, but it seems they plan to extend their offerings into games and movies and want/need to assert their copyright ownership of what has always only been available under specific bi-lateral agreements and to assert and protect their trademarks. Third party creators will probably be able to continue to monetise what they already have as they will keep rights under the OGL; they…

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Dave Levy

Brit, Londoner, economist, Labour, privacy, cybersecurity, traveller, father - mainly writing about UK politics & IT, https://linktr.ee/davelevy