As Open As We Can Make It

So, The Dresden Files RPG is based on an OGL (open game license) system called Fate, which in turn is based on an open system called Fudge.  The nature of the OGL is such that previously established chunks of content that are inherited must remain open, but it’s up to the publisher then to decide how much of the new material in the product is open.

With this game, we had something of a dilemma, there. While we made much — nearly all — of our previous Fate game Spirit of the Century open content, with the Dresden Files RPG we have a brand new boat of intellectual property issues we have to keep an eye on.  We can’t risk accidentally declaring some part of Jim’s world to be open content and fair game.  (His copyright on that would override it in all likelihood, but the tangled knot of legal issues proceeding from there is one we’d rather not get tied up in in the first place.)

And knowing that, we also had the issue that we’ve really thoroughly entangled Jim Butcher’s intellectual property with our own in this game.  It could not ever be as simple as “Oh, this chapter here, that’s fair game; that chapter there, it’s product identity.” As a result, and with some regret, that meant that in the case of the DFRPG we had to make this statement at the end of our OGL copyright block:

Any material found in this book which is not directly taken from the above named works is deemed to be product identity.

As expected, someone has already given us a raspberry over this choice, which is why this post.  Above, you see the roots of the decision.  Now, I’ll talk about related implications and future plans.

First off, that does not mean that the system content of the Dresden Files RPG will never be open.  It just won’t be open by or in this product.  Whatever we can take out, scrub clean, and make open in our planned upcoming Core Fate product will be.  So the sentence I quoted above from the license isn’t a period at the end of the Fate sentence. It’s more of a semicolon.

Secondly, it moves this product firmly into the territory “governed by any rules involving Jim Butcher’s intellectual property”.  This is actually a good thing, because that means that anything that people do with it can be handled more or less under a fan fiction policy. At first blush that might sound like a bad thing — if you aren’t current on the state of fanfic with Jim’s stuff, you probably only know that it’s been living under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” sort of thing that says keep it out of Jim’s sight so he doesn’t have to take legal action against you.

But that changed a few months back, in January of this year.  You can read all of the particulars of Jim’s new fanfic policy here (but you’ll probably need a forum account to do so) – http://www.jimbutcheronline.com/bb/index.php/topic,15307.msg0.html

I’ll quote the policy as it currently stands from the above thread here:

We are pleased to announce that Jim is altering his stance on fanfiction, much like Mercedes Lackey did last October.  Rather than upholding the awkward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards fanfiction he used in the past, Jim is embracing the Creative Commons.  Now, fanfiction is to be licensed as derivative, noncommercial fiction under the Creative Commons umbrella.

What does this mean?

A)  You can’t make money from fanfic based on Jim’s work.
B)  Jim still isn’t going to read it.  (Wouldn’t you rather he spend that time writing the next book, anyway?)  Do not send Jim your stories or story ideas.
C)  You need to post a disclaimer on your fic, like this handy example: “The Dresden Files/Codex Alera is copyright Jim Butcher.  This story is licensed under the Creative Commons as derivative, noncommercial fiction.”  In doing so, you waive any rights to that work–you can’t sue Jim for compensation if he writes something similar.
D)  Fanfic can now be talked about in places that had previously been off-limits, like our forum.  We’ve created a separate “Fan Creations” section of the forum for for this purpose.

This is the goodness, then.  You can post about your games, share your ideas about how to hack the setting, the stories that result from your games, etc, under this policy. Jim’s intellectual property remains protected, and since our specific game largely falls under that umbrella, you’re pretty much in the clear from there.

It’s maybe not the best solution for the system-heads out there, but until we can get our Core Fate product out the door, it’s what we can give you for now.  But that’s just for now.  The next step awaits.

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