PDA

View Full Version : Homebrew, Copyrights, Licensing, and You



Surgo
2010-07-05, 10:30 AM
Over the course of my time here, I have PMed a few people I feel have made quality homebrew asking permission from them to upload their material onto my wiki. But for every single person I've asked permission because I liked their stuff, there have been two that I haven't been able to ask because they have vanished from the forums.

I think that's a real tragedy -- quality stuff basically gets lost, as it cannot be redistributed because the people who could grant such permission have vanished. For that reason, I am asking homebrew authors to preemptively grant -- or not grant -- certain permissions by licensing their works. This means that you put the homebrew you create under a certain copyright license, that says what someone else who wants to use the work can or cannot do with it. The SRD itself was placed under one of these licenses, to allow the community at large to legally use it and create derivative works (such as this homebrew forum). I'll go over several such licensing options below.

If I Vanish... License
This is not so much a license as it is a guarantee. By taking this option, you are saying: "If I am unreachable for <this amount of time>, you are free to do what you want with the material." This means that before then, you need to be asked permission to do anything with it, and after you are gone it can be used under the terms you set down. A number of authors in the modding communities of various games use this, and it is very helpful for fellow modders and users there.

This can be combined with one of the licenses below, ie, you say: "If I vanish for more than a month, this can be used under the terms of the CC-BY-SA license".

Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike License
I believe this to be the best possible license to use. When you put your work under this license, it allows the public to copy and reproduce your work, as well as adapt and modify it, provided they give you credit. In addition, if they do adapt and modify the work, they must release their modifications under the same license so that others can do the same.

My wiki is almost entirely under this license, and I firmly believe it is the proper license to use for most creative enterprises in the internet era. A more detailed description can be found here (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/).

Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License
This is like the share-alike license above, but use of the work is restricted to non-commercial uses only. Ultimately I believe that this is a bad idea in most cases because, say, someone might get a great idea from something of yours and use it to create something larger and then want to sell it -- using this license means you can't do that. But some people don't want others to be able to do that with their work, and that's understandable. A more detailed description can be found here (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/).

This license is often used by those who are already selling their work, and want it freely distributable but not able to be sold by anyone else. An example is the award-winning Eclipse Phase (http://www.eclipsephase.com), which is distributed under this license. If you aren't publishing, I strongly recommend the Share-alike license instead.

Open Gaming License
This is included for completeness purposes, and I strongly recommend against using this license. It is similar to the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license mentioned above, except attribution is not required outside of including the license when you copy the material, and the license text itself is extremely WotC-specific. If you aren't from WotC, I recommend choosing one of the two licenses above instead.

Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives
I strongly recommend against using this license. When you license your work under this, you say that it can be freely copied provided you are given credit, but no one can use it to make a derivative work. For example, if someone put a base class under this license, I couldn't change a few of the class features and republish it. It also means you don't give permission to correct typos. A more detailed description can be found here (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/).

Public Domain
This is not actually a license -- what it means is that the work is not copyrighted. Anyone is free to do anything they want with it, without regard to copyright, because the work does not have one. Public domain is the most free status a work can have. It used to be that every creative work entered the public domain after a certain point (usually upon the death of the author); in America it is now unlikely that anything created after the year 1927 will ever enter the public domain again.


Hopefully in the future we'll see more people licensing their work from the start, so we as the users can know right away what we can and can't do with what you post. If you make homebrew, I hope you'll consider releasing it under one of these licenses. In any case, I hope this was informative.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, I just have an interest in copyright and society.

SilveryCord
2010-07-05, 11:05 AM
I totally agree with you about this---it's a big issue in a lot of the creative world. It really sucks when you'd like to license or reuse a work and you have no idea who actually own the work (the author is dead, the company that produced it folded), but it's still in copyright.

I know Fax Celestis's wiki has an open content policy like this, and I usually post my stuff there, but I'll definitely keep this in mind for future projects.

Mulletmanalive
2010-07-05, 12:43 PM
What you haven't said on this is how exactly we would go about establishing licenses on our works.

Do we just write " Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives" on the bottom of our work or what?

If this is one of those cases where we have to insert a copy of the license, it would certainly increase the likelihood of someone actually doing it if you created some No-Parse scoop and drop license spoilers.

Beyond that, while you're unlikely to want my work, I'd be more than happy to be thorough [i do this on Deviantart already]. That said, it might be the case that everything on this forum is already under a specific license like it was on WotC. Might be worth asking Roland on that one?

Surgo
2010-07-05, 12:54 PM
What you haven't said on this is how exactly we would go about establishing licenses on our works.
Good point. All it takes is to say, on the top or the bottom, "This is copyright under <this license>", and then link to the license. That last part is optional.

Some copy/paste-able templates:
* This work is under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/).
* This work is under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/).

(Quote the post to see the code.)


That said, it might be the case that everything on this forum is already under a specific license like it was on WotC.
The one on WotC gave WotC a license to use your work, but not anyone else. I didn't see such a message when I signed up and never clicked agree, and it does not appear anywhere in the rules, so I doubt there's one here.

lesser_minion
2010-07-05, 01:13 PM
We're not really supposed to hand out legal advice here, since it has the potential to open a can of worms to end all cans of worms. It might be better if you simply explained why you'd like people to say that their work is open content, and then linked to either a relevant wikipedia page or the creative commons website.

It's also important to phrase things in such a way that you don't appear to be claiming rights you don't have. For example, the copyright in any rules text from a D&D book is controlled by WotC.

Surgo
2010-07-05, 01:17 PM
We're not really supposed to hand out legal advice here, since it has the potential to open a can of worms to end all cans of worms. It might be better if you simply explained why you'd like people to say that their work is open content, and then linked to either a relevant wikipedia page or the creative commons website.
There's nothing in the rules saying this, I made certain to note that I was not a lawyer, and I'm also not handing out any legal advice -- merely requesting that people consider giving their work an explicit license and stating my opinion on the options available. That's not legal advice.

Mulletmanalive
2010-07-05, 01:18 PM
I assume I can still designate content on the Creative Commons, like with the designation of trademark on the OGL?

I had my lawyer friend look over my last publication so i'm not clear on this stuff.

Surgo
2010-07-05, 01:19 PM
I assume I can still designate content on the Creative Commons, like with the designation of trademark on the OGL?

I had my lawyer friend look over my last publication so i'm not clear on this stuff.
I don't really understand what you're asking -- maybe you're better off asking this question to your lawyer friend.

lesser_minion
2010-07-05, 01:24 PM
There's nothing in the rules saying this, I made certain to note that I was not a lawyer, and I'm also not handing out any legal advice -- merely requesting that people consider giving their work an explicit license and stating my opinion on the options available. That's not legal advice.

Roland makes a habit of closing threads that even look like they're talking about legal issues.


I assume I can still designate content on the Creative Commons, like with the designation of trademark on the OGL?

I'd hope so, but you might want to ask your friend.

For any D&D works, part of it will be under either the OGL or GSL, and you have to make it clear what is under the OGL and what isn't.

Mulletmanalive
2010-07-05, 01:25 PM
I was asking about splitting parts of a thing between share-along and no-commercial licenses.

I'll just assume that I can. It normally applies. I'd bother him, but last i heard, he was living in Australia and had decided to change his name...:smallconfused:

lesser_minion
2010-07-05, 01:31 PM
I was asking about splitting parts of a thing between share-along and no-commercial licenses.

I'll just assume that I can. It normally applies. I'd bother him, but last i heard, he was living in Australia and had decided to change his name...:smallconfused:

Non-commercial licenses are really intended for people who want to sell their work themselves, but don't mind others copying it. It's basically what a lot of people incorrectly think of as 'fair use'.

Share-alike is generally restrictive enough if you're not selling your work.

Mulletmanalive
2010-07-05, 01:42 PM
Non-commercial licenses are really intended for people who want to sell their work themselves, but don't mind others copying it. It's basically what a lot of people incorrectly think of as 'fair use'.


I do, though that's a ways off. I make D&D stuff simply becausesome folks like my work and it gives me pleasure. A lot of my work is aimed at a modified system, which i intend to sell if i can get either a publisher or the capital to kick off.

Surgo
2010-07-05, 02:12 PM
I was asking about splitting parts of a thing between share-along and no-commercial licenses.

Ah, I get it now. Yes, you can do that -- and it's in fact done all the time in the software world.

Debihuman
2010-07-05, 03:28 PM
Forgive me Surgo, but as far as I understood, everything posted on these forums must be open content because we're not permitted to post non-open content (see Forum Rules).

Debby

Surgo
2010-07-05, 03:33 PM
Forgive me Surgo, but as far as I understood, everything posted on these forums must be open content because we're not permitted to post non-open content (see Forum Rules).

Debby
I should have brought this up in the opening post; thank you.

I've seen that rule, but it specifically refers to content taken from game books. However, even if it referred to all content, it does not actually give a license that tells us exactly what our rights are -- another reason it's good to specify explicitly.

Debihuman
2010-07-05, 03:53 PM
I beg to differ. Here is the relevant portion from the forum rules:



Posting Copyrighted Content

Posting any copyrighted material without permission is against the rules. Posts containing such content will be edited to remove that content. In particular, posts containing copyrighted material from game books that are not designated Open Gaming Content (OGC) will be edited to remove the copyrighted portions. As an example, mentioning a specific rule item or general mechanic, or explaining in general how it functions, does not violate this rule. However, posting an entire stat block for a monster would. OGC is published under the Open Gaming License. OGC may be reproduced in full, as per the terms of that license. Please keep in mind that material under the d20 License may not be OGC. When in doubt, refer to the primary source to see if there is a copy of the OGL included. Note that any content in the System Reference Document (SRD) can be reproduced as well.

Debby

PairO'Dice Lost
2010-07-05, 04:00 PM
I beg to differ. Here is the relevant portion from the forum rules:



Debby

That refers to content which is already under another's copyright. Content you create yourself is only under your own copyright by default, thus what you do with it license-wise is up to you.

Debihuman
2010-07-05, 04:07 PM
If you want to violate the rules and post your own copyright material, that's your choice. However, technically, it is still against the forum rules because posting any copyright material is against forum policy. That includes your own work. However, I've seen few posts that indicate any copyright notice one way or another. If you put a copyright notice on your homebrew, the mods have the right to delete the post for that reason. It doesn't mean that they will but it does mean that they can.

Debby

lesser_minion
2010-07-05, 04:11 PM
I beg to differ. Here is the relevant portion from the forum rules

If you control the copyright, then you're free to post it wherever. That doesn't make it open content, however.

The rules you quote actually say that you must have permission to post copyright material, and if you control the copyright in the material, that presumably applies to everything you do with it.

Also, there is no need to write out the whole "Copyright (C) dd/mm/yyyy Given Names FamilyName. All rights reserved". It's implied.

PairO'Dice Lost
2010-07-05, 04:19 PM
If you want to violate the rules and post your own copyright material, that's your choice. However, technically, it is still against the forum rules because posting any copyright material is against forum policy. That includes your own work. However, I've seen few posts that indicate any copyright notice one way or another. If you put a copyright notice on your homebrew, the mods have the right to delete the post for that reason. It doesn't mean that they will but it does mean that they can.

Debby

You misunderstand me--anything you create is, by definition and automatically, copyright to you (though complaining about infringement of something you post on a message board is likely to get you nowhere). If I were to post a PrC in the Homebrew section today, it would effectively have " [my real name], July 5, 2010" at the end whether it's in the post or not. Since the Homebrew board exists at all, something tells me the mods don't mind that sort of copyrighted work. :smallwink: Adding in a note about different kinds of protection as per Surgo's suggestion doesn't add or remove copyright, it simply changes it, and it does not infringe any other party's copyright, and thus it would be fine under the forum rules.

Surgo
2010-07-05, 04:26 PM
However, technically, it is still against the forum rules because posting any copyright material is against forum policy.
Other people have replied before me, but I just want to clarify that "open gaming content" is not "non-copyrighted content". It's copyrighted stuff that's released to us under the terms of the Open Gaming License.

The Open Gaming License contains a bunch of WotC-specific text so isn't really good for use outside of them, hence my suggestion of other licenses. The Creative Commons licenses have also been created since the OGL came out and are, in my opinion, far more suited to any creative work, and thus I suggest that they be used instead.

The only items that are non-copyright are Public Domain items -- that's the definition of public domain.

JoshuaZ
2010-07-05, 05:13 PM
I beg to differ. Here is the relevant portion from the forum rules:



Yes, and the first sentence of that is


Posting any copyrighted material without permission is against the rules. Bold added by me.

Surgo
2010-07-06, 11:12 AM
Non-commercial licenses are really intended for people who want to sell their work themselves, but don't mind others copying it. It's basically what a lot of people incorrectly think of as 'fair use'.

Share-alike is generally restrictive enough if you're not selling your work.
Thanks, I should have mentioned this (along with a prominent example) in the OP. Updated!

DracoDei
2010-07-12, 10:49 PM
What I want is something (probably along the lines of "Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike License"...) but with an additional stipulation of giving me a play-test data report after using it in a game. A whole board worth of homebrew, and presumably it actually gets used, but very little feedback from actual use...

Peregrine
2010-07-13, 12:17 AM
Outstanding idea. I've got a licence bit in my sig now. But it's for the Open Game License, not a Creative Commons licence. Why? Because pretty much any homebrew I post here is going to be based on the System Reference Document and has to be licensed on those terms. TANGENT ALERT: At least I think it does. It's a bit dense and not clearly written; most of the operative parts of the licence actually appear in its "definitions" section. Which seems to say that all derivative works are also covered by this licence, but it doesn't say it explicitly like other licences do. But anyway, arguing over its exact meaning would be edging ever closer to "legal advice". :smalltongue:

I would think the same goes for most pre-4e homebrew posted here. TANGENT ALERT:Well, except those parts that rely on material not from an OGC source, like incarnum or Tome of Battle. Those are operating in a legal grey area anyway. WotC haven't (to my knowledge) tried to stop people writing new ToB powers (for example), and would seem to be happy with people writing stuff that has to be used with their books. (It was the whole point of the d20 System License, after all.) So as long as you don't actually reprint the rules, you're okay -- by these boards' rules as well as by WotC's past behaviour.

And then I guess it's up to you what licence you put your part of the work under, though you don't truly hold a completely clear and unencumbered copyright to it.

But put aside whether we're obligated to use it or not. While it's a bit more dense, less clear, and less accepted in the wider open content community than other licences, I'm not really sure why you recommend against it.


Open Gaming License
This is included for completeness purposes, and I strongly recommend against using this license. It is similar to the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license mentioned above, except attribution is not required outside of including the license when you copy the material, and the license text itself is extremely WotC-specific. If you aren't from WotC, I recommend choosing one of the two licenses above instead.

What WotC-specific text would that be? I see two mentions: the copyright of the licence, and Section 9, covering updates to the licence. This is all pretty standard for open licences, including Creative Commons licences.

There's the Product Identity bit, but that's just WotC's idiosyncratic way of saying that people can specifically have parts of a work be non-open.


What I want is something (probably along the lines of "Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike License"...) but with an additional stipulation of giving me a play-test data report after using it in a game. A whole board worth of homebrew, and presumably it actually gets used, but very little feedback from actual use...

The very nature of an open licence means not making this obligatory. What if you leave the forums? Do we have to track you or your heirs and successors down in real life? What about derivatives of your work -- if I modify your stuff before using it, do you still want playtest data? Do you want it from other people who use my modified version? What about the nth generation of modified versions of your stuff? Et cetera. :smallsmile:

You're welcome of course to ask people to give playtest data; it's just not really an open licence if you insist on it.