In the past few weeks there has been some rather interesting discussion over on the Yog-Sothoth forums about the legal status of a set of rules for d100 Lovecraftian horror gaming that some group attempted to circulate under Wizard of the Coast’s Open Gaming License (OGL). While the OGL is a very common part of RPG publishing in other corners of the industry, it has never had much traction in the world of Cthulhu RPGs (with a few exceptions). With the kerfuffle launched by this YSDC thread, it sounds like there are certainly parties who would like things to stay that way.
The YSDC thread in question is linked here, although you will need to be a YSDC member to sign-in and read it.
In this thread Chaosium has made some fairly bold assertions, although those pale into insignificance compared to their recent (doubtless related) posting over on BRP Central. That posting effectively says that, despite the fact that the BRP system was effectively published back in 2006 as Open Game Content (under the OGL), because Mongoose’s license was terminated in 2011 that means the previously published material is now no longer Open Game Content. This is an interesting assertion given the specific language included in the Open Gaming License contract which says “In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.”
One wonders what that means for the literally hundreds of game books that have used content derived from the 2006 Mongoose SRD, or from a book that sourced content from the Mongoose SRD, or from a book that used a book that used a book … Mongoose SRD. Does Chaosium’s statement mean that all of those hundreds of books can now no longer be sold?
As someone who has several times considered publishing Cthulhu content under the OGL (rather than the Creative Commons License we usually use here on Cthulhu Reborn), this discussion is of particular interest to me.
Is there any OGL expert out there who knows whether it’s even possible for someone to retroactively assert content is no longer open, long after it was published? Inquiring minds want to know! Replies in comments below or send them to me direct at dean <at> cthulhureborn.com