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I would like to make a better version of the DnDBeyond spell search tool (mainly so I do not need to overcomplicate this answer), but I would like to know if abiding by a layman's reading of the 'Fan Content Policy' would be sufficient to do so?

The gist of the policy is:

In short, your use of Wizards’ IP in your Fan Content is governed by the same rules you learned on the playground: share freely, keep it clean, and don’t hurt others.

And then lists in plain English (i.e. not legalese) some points to abide by.

The policy is fairly simple, but I want to be certain that my intended use case doesn't fall foul of this policy (say, some spells are some how excluded), or others I haven't seen, without involving lawyers or other paid legal services.

The only potential issue is that I intend to allow filtering and sorting over information extracted from text.

Although my understanding of the policy is that my intended 'content', I'm seeking advice about it, hopefully people who have used it or been involved in its use before. I'm strictly not seeking legal advice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to close this question because we are not lawyers. [ <-- Edited in from previous comment for inclusion by nitsua60] Specifically, while some individual members may be lawyers, or even IP lawyers, to my knowledge no one is here to represent any of the relevant companies. Nothing we say can possibly be authoritative and it's unwise to have answers leaving that impression. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Nov 22 '21 at 0:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm voting to reopen because this stack can and does handle questions about the law within the RPG sphere. We are not ill-suited; the legal landscapes of copyright and publishing are an essential part of our hobby and our site's domain of expertise. It's on topic. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 24 '21 at 14:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation about whether or not we are well-suited to tackling this question has been moved to chat. I've restored a representative comment from each side of the debate for the casual reader to see, but please continue any discussion in the attached chat or on meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 24 '21 at 15:55
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The Fan Content Policy is the same thing that enables the fan-made Magic card search engine Scryfall to operate. I've been active in Scryfall's community nearly since the time it was launched: they get along with Wizards of the Coast, whose staff have been using it on the public record as staff members for years. I've never heard of them having to remove features or content. They extensively record Wizards's IP, filter it, and sort it in loads of different ways.

You'll see them mention this explicitly in their footer:

Portions of Scryfall are unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy. [...]

Safe to say the Fan Content Policy is basically fine with you making a detailed search of publicly available D&D content. Naturally you still have to abide by other restrictions, including that the search engine and its content must be free to use with no paywalls at any point.

That said, you wouldn't be able to just reproduce everything from inside the books, since that'd be damaging to Wizards's IP. We know, however, that you are permitted to use the D&D 5e SRD under the OGL and produce content shared by that. This is the license that let Paizo take D&D 3.5e and create and sell Pathfinder—you can make a search engine with this license.

Scryfall's allowed to archive the data of every single Magic card that exists because knowing about the Magic cards doesn't let you play Magic—you still have to buy the physical cards themselves. But that same principle doesn't apply to D&D game content.

In summary:

  • Fan Content License: Is fine with you making a detailed search engine.
  • Wizards Copyright (which wins vs the Fan Content License): Almost certainly limits you to just the SRD text.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahhh I forgot you were involved in Scryfall or even that it would fall under the same policy. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21 '21 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know magic but do they have a version of DND beyond who might not appreciate a rival site? \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 22 '21 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Gatherer is the official Scryfall 'rival', whereas DnDBeyond is not made or run by WoTC \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22 '21 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ And note significantly that there are plenty of options out there for ‘just the SRD text’ already (Roll20 has such functionality for example), and that it’s not actually all that useful except for people taking the Pathfinder route to create OGL content. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22 '21 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage the important difference between comparing Gatherer/Scryfall (et.al.) and D&DBeyond/your proposed service is that Gatherer has no paid features, In Magic the product is the physical cards (or a digital representation thereof on Arena / Magic Online), whereas in D&D the product is the rules \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleth
    Nov 24 '21 at 16:42
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The key is that it is your creation... Fan Content does not include the verbatim copying and reposting of Wizard's IP (e.g. freely distributing D&D rules content...)

I'd take that to mean:

  • Your derivative database is fine; "these spells provoke a CON save" isn't something copy pasted from the book.
  • Stating a spells' range, area of effect, elemental type, save, damage type, save-for-halfness, etc also isn't verbatim and therefore fine, even if this encompasses all the details of the spell's info, and even if you print it all in one block.
  • Including the full-text spell description in the output of the search function is not acceptable unless there's a separate license (OGL)

There's nothing stopping you from using the text to power your database, or keeping a copy in the backend for comparing with your annotations. Just don't show the user.

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