17
\$\begingroup\$

I have been thinking of publishing a D&D 5th edition module under the open gaming license (OGL).

I understand the phrase "Dungeons & Dragons" product title is copyrighted trademarked and thus can't be mentioned in the module.

My question is can I use "Dungeons & Dragons" for the product description on the website I plan to sell it on?

E.g say "compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition".

\$\endgroup\$
0
37
\$\begingroup\$

It appears that you cannot.

The issue here is not copyright. Titles and short phrases generally aren't protected by copyright ­— there is trademark law for that. Dungeons & Dragons certainly is a trademark, but even that isn't really the point here — you can probably use trademarks in a nominative sense even without special permission (hello, Boston Marathon). The important thing is: you want to use 5E stuff beyond just the name, and the OGL — the Open Game License — is what lets you do that. If you want use that license, you have to do what it says. The relevant section is:

  1. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trade mark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.

... and in the 5E SRD, the phrase "Dungeons & Dragons" is clearly designated as "Product Identity" — in fact, it's the first thing listed. So, unless you have a separate agreement, it looks like the answer is no — but, of course, keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, and this is just the interpretation of some guy on the Internet.

Note that the wording specifically forbids use of this "Product Identity" — including "Dungeons & Dragons" — in conjunction with a work, not just "in the work itself". This would appear to cover the website situation. This is probably more restrictive than normal trademark rules — but that's basically part of the price you pay in order to get the benefits the OGL grants you.

As with "Marathon Monday" or "The Big Game" in the sports world, you'll probably need to find an alternate phrase which your audience will understand to indicate compatibility without violating the license.

\$\endgroup\$
4
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the speedy reply. It's a double edged sword. I want to distribute my work on various platforms other than dmsguild and its annoying how I can't specify what my product is for. \$\endgroup\$ – Computing Corn Dec 5 '17 at 13:08
  • 27
    \$\begingroup\$ @ComputingCorn the euphemism that's widely used is "compatible with [the fifth edition of] the world's most popular role-playing game." It's been my experience that everyone using wording like that is in exactly your position. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 5 '17 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's sounds like a great workaround \$\endgroup\$ – Computing Corn Dec 5 '17 at 13:31
  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ And, of course, I am not a lawyer, that comment neither constitutes nor contains legal advice, I'm only reporting what I've seen around the tubes. If you need legal advice you should consult an attorney. Happy gaming =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 5 '17 at 13:34
1
\$\begingroup\$

The analysis by @mattdm is very reasonable but it's a little strange that you can't explicitly indicate that your content is released as authorized by a publicly available license document.

Clause [8] of the license also explicitly requires that you:

... clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Game Content.

Clause [10] also requires that you:

... include a copy of this License with every copy of the Open Game Content You Distribute

IANAL, but, based on my understanding of the Open Gaming License Version 1.0a, you must include a copy of the OGL in your content!

Given that the license text includes this (at the end):

  1. COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, LLC.

System Reference Document 5.1 Copyright 2016, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Chris Perkins, Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell, Chris Sims, and Steve Townshend, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Also see clause [6] about copyright:

  1. Notice of License Copyright: You must update the COPYRIGHT NOTICE portion of this License to include the exact text of the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any Open Game Content You are copying, modifying or distributing, and You must add the title, the copyright date, and the copyright holder's name to the COPYRIGHT NOTICE of any original Open Game Content you Distribute.

So, if your content uses the SRD, you have to include its copyright notice (see above) in all copies of your content that you distribute.

So, instead of including this in your product's description:

... compatible with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition

You can include something like:

... released as Open Game Content using the Open Gaming License Version 1.0a. See the copyright notice for details.

The 'compatibility' then will be (at least somewhat) implied by both "Open Game Content" and "Open Gaming License Version 1.0a" and your content's copyright notice, which should include the notice for the SRD itself.

Note though that Open Game Content isn't (necessarily) compatible – you might have modified the rules in the SRD, as you're allowed to do.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.