View Full Version : Fair Use?

2008-06-27, 03:35 PM
I've been working on a homebrew converion of Exalted 2nd edition to a Matrix RPG and I'm considering posting it online in the homebrew forum, but as White Wolf doesn't have anything like the GSL or SRD I'm not sure what I'm legally allowed to post.

Now, I figure I should be alright if I only post the homebrew parts and leave the rest with "As X, except as noted," but I wanted to confirm this before going ahead. Anyone know if that would be okay?

2008-06-27, 03:39 PM
I'm not an expert in these matters, but as far as I understand:

- Just referring to stuff is pretty much the definition of fair use. There's absolutely nothing wrong with posting a bunch of homebrew rules for running "Matrix" style Exalted.

- More than that, you actually can't copyright game mechanics. You can trademark terms (like "Charm" and "Caste") but you could produce a game with a D10-based dice-pool mechanic no problem. You could even rip off stunting and nobody could say anything (particularly if you didn't call it "Stunting").

2008-06-27, 04:45 PM
WotC's Open Gaming License is actually a fairly clever legal trick, intended for WotC's benefit, not ours (though it does also benefit us). Legally, under copyright law, raw data can't be copyrighted, but the presentation of that data can be. What this means, is that if there weren't any other contractual restrictions, someone could legally put up a website that completely detailed everything in the game system (including things like the XP values needed to gain particular levels, and the stats for a Mind Flayer, and all of the things from the splatbooks that didn't go in the SRD), and, so long as they put everything into their own words, WotC wouldn't be able to do anything to stop them. However, you couldn't do something like put up a listing of all of the spells in the PHB with the exact wording used in the book, because that would be the same presentation, and thus a copyright violation.

This is not a very good situation for Wizards, since it makes it too easy for someone to steal all of their valuable material legally. So what they did was, they issued the Open Gaming License. Under the OGL, they retain the copyright to things like the spell lists, but they give blanket permission to anyone to reproduce it, provided that they meet certain requirements. And one of the requirements is that, if you do reproduce the things they say you can, you also voluntarily give up the right to share things like the XP requirements to level up, and the splatbook mechanics, even though you would be allowed to do that under copyright law. So it's still possible for someone to paraphrase everything in all of the books, but you have a choice between doing that or just directly copying (almost) everything in the core books, and most folks will choose the latter. So their core material is more free than the copyright laws would say, but in return, all the other material is more protected than it would be under copyright law.

2008-06-27, 05:12 PM
Thanks for clearing that up. Time to get to work finishing my conversion.

Zeta Kai
2008-06-27, 09:49 PM
Chronos, that may be the best explanation of the OGL that I've ever seen. If I had room, that whole thing would be in my signature.