Some time ago, I bought the book Bard’s Gate by Necromancer Games. City sourcebook, plain and simple. I liked it. I’m playing in a nearby town called Fairhill (→ CrucibleOfFreya). I was planning on using hooks from Bard’s Gate and was hoping to make my material available to others. The rest of this page is based on the wiki thread in the Bard’s Gate Forum.
On page 3 of the book it says “If you go to […] the fan site…”
But such a site did not exist, yet! I decided to get the domain bardsgate.org and install a wiki on it.
Then I looked at the OGL and realized that you can specify “Product Identity”. You are not allowed to create derivative works based on “Product Identity”. You’re only allowed to build on the “Open Content” of the work.
“Designation of Open Content” on p. 223 says: “All text containing game-related content within this product—excluding any text on the inside or outside of the front or back cover or on the Credits page—is hereby designated as Open Game Content, subject to the Product Identity designation below.”
Further down: “Any and all material or content that could be claimed as Product Identity pursuant to section 1(e), below, is hereby claimed as product identity, including but not limited to: […] proper names, personality […] of all characters, races, countries, creatures, geographic locations […]” etc.
In the worst case, this means that we cannot refer to anything from the book beyond the general fair use exception available to everybody. D’Oh!
I think an interesting approach would have been for the copyright holders (see below) to provide the owner of the bardsgate.org domain (me or anybody else volunteering) a perpetual license to host the site, to be revoked within a two-week notice or something similar.
This means that bardsgate.org would be granted an exception: We could add all the content we wanted, they could keep an eye on us and force us to remove content they felt was abusing their license.
It’s not freedom, but it seems like a good compromise given the fact that they’ve used the license to give us as little freedom as possible.
The copyright holders are Necromancer Games, Inc. for most products, Clark Peterson for Original Spell Name Compendium, Creature Collection and Relics and Rituals, Clark Peterson and Bill Webb for Crucible of Freya and Rappan Athuk I + II. I’m ignoring Creature Collection Revised for the moment, since it’s © White Wolf Publishing, Inc.
An exception for all the material copyright by Necromancer Games, Inc., Clark Peterson, and Bill Webb, allowing Bard’s Gate Wiki to publish derived works would have been great.
Well, I assumed they must have had something like it in mind when they mentioned “the fan site” on p. 3, so I was hoping there would be an easy answer to all of this.
I think I was wrong, because my email went unanswered. Casey Christofferson, one of the co-authors, sent me two mails and liked the idea. But no reply from Clark Peterson.
I sent a first mail on 2007-04-20. I sent a second mail on 2007-05-28.
Was the legal mumbo jumbo too much for him? Was he too busy? Does he think I’m wasting my time and that I should just go ahead? Did he feel attacked by my move to secure the domain name?
I don’t know.
I don’t feel like risking my legal butt by creating a fan site that depends on “fair use”, specially since there is no such thing here in Switzerland. Here, the copyright exception says that I’m allowed to quote existing works for citation purposes. Having a real license, even just two or three sentences, would be better than the current situation.
I also don’t feel like I have to solve this problem all by myself, because Necromancer Games brought this request upon themselves by claiming as much as possible as Product Identity. As it stands, I am more or less supposed not to mention anything that has a name from the book on my website. Unless I misunderstood the license. Did I?
Anyway. Waiting is frustrating. I’ve waited long enough. I’ll just let the domain name expire and do something else instead.