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    dropbear8mybaby's Avatar

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    Default How much change to avoid copyright?

    So, I've spent a lot of years working on my homebrew setting and it's matured to a point where I really want to build a PHB-style book for it. Original classes, races, etc. I've tried a few times over the years with different editions of D&D but I'm at a point now where I'm fairly certain I can not only get everything to work, but finish the project.

    The problem is that it did start as a rewrite of the PHB. I was intending on using the OGL and simply reworking the SRD and adding things in. But as the project progressed, I found I was making so many changes and did so much redesign of 5e, that it really no longer can be called 5e. It wouldn't be compatible with 5e materials, for instance. Where this becomes an issue is primarily that I've based the framework of it on the structure of the SRD, it is laid out in very similar fashion and uses a lot of similar language, often paraphrasing or slightly tweaking SRD text.

    So I'm now in this conundrum where I've done a huge amount of work, like, about 100-odd pages worth and I'm thinking that I'm at a tipping point of having to decide on whether I need to wholesale reformat and rewrite everything from scratch or not because it might be too close to SRD to be considered outside the confines of the OGL.

    It's not like this will ever be some major publication but I would like to one day put it out into the wild, so I need to consider this now. In other words, how much do I have to change it before it's no longer in violation of WotC's copyright? Am I just going to have to bite the bullet and start again? That honestly may kill it altogether. Figuring out an entire layout is probably beyond me which was why I used the framework of the SRD in the first place.
    Last edited by dropbear8mybaby; 2017-05-18 at 07:05 PM.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    First of all- cool to see another Australian!

    Second of all, copyright law is a complex area and I can't answer your question. What I can say is that 'how much do I have to change' may not be looking at it the right way. You'd have to talk to a lawyer.

    Thirdly- even if it is very different from 5E, one option is just to publish it under the OGL through the DM's guild and brand it as a 'reinterpretation' of the 5E rules. I doubt Wizards of the Coast would object- it's not like you're taking anything away form them.

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizl' Bjorn View Post
    First of all- cool to see another Australian!

    Second of all, copyright law is a complex area and I can't answer your question. What I can say is that 'how much do I have to change' may not be looking at it the right way. You'd have to talk to a lawyer.

    Thirdly- even if it is very different from 5E, one option is just to publish it under the OGL through the DM's guild and brand it as a 'reinterpretation' of the 5E rules. I doubt Wizards of the Coast would object- it's not like you're taking anything away form them.
    The DM's Guild is a slightly differenta agreement than the OGL from what I understand. I actually think it wouldn't be allowed to be published there at all.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    Quote Originally Posted by dropbear8mybaby View Post
    In other words, how much do I have to change it before it's no longer in violation of WotC's copyright?
    Abandon the hope all ye who have to ask.

    Anything remotely commercial has a chance of being sued for copyright infringement - regardless of how outlandish the claims are. That's how many lawyers earn their living: via mass-produced bullying. If it won't sue back - it's a fair game. And indie designers rarely can sue back (Kenzer's example notwithstanding).

    That's why most indie designers use OGL they could hide behind and make it hard for lawyers to single out someone. Take a look at Mutants&Masterminds - it's basically GURPS/HERO lite: 8 stats, pointbuy and everything - but it pretends to be supplement for 3rd edition anyway. Same goes for OSR games: they have little in common with it, but all have OGL that states that it's d20 supplement.

    Unless you want to live dangerously, you better grab 1.0a OGL (or similar licence) to smile and wave at lawyers if they come a-knocking.


    P.S. Also, it's not WotC whom you should be scared of, but Hasbro.
    Last edited by Lazymancer; 2017-05-19 at 06:25 AM. Reason: typos

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    We aren't able to give specific legal advice on the forum. All I can suggest is ask a lawyer, check the text of the OGL itself, or look at precedents (Pathfinder is very much the same thing that you're trying to do, only for an earlier edition, for example).

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lazymancer View Post
    Unless you want to live dangerously, you better grab 1.0a OGL (or similar licence) to smile and wave at lawyers if they come a-knocking.
    But like I said, I'm pretty sure my stuff wouldn't be covered by OGL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jormengand View Post
    We aren't able to give specific legal advice on the forum. All I can suggest is ask a lawyer, check the text of the OGL itself, or look at precedents (Pathfinder is very much the same thing that you're trying to do, only for an earlier edition, for example).
    Not the same thing at all. PF is very much in line with the licensing requirements. It's called 3.75e for good reason as it's very close and basically compatible with 3.x. Mine is different to the point where you couldn't use anything from 5e in it other than as inspiration.

    The similarity is in the layout and language used. The system aspects, while recognisable as being based on 5e, are as similar to 5e as, say, d20 modern is to 5e. An example of layout and language would be like how the chapter on using ability scores is written. The sections within the chapter are similar and sometimes I've used text from the SRD and just rephrased or tweaked it.

    Rewriting all the sections is probably inevitable. But the layout is the real issue. Have you ever tried to come up with your own version of a PHB? There's a reason why it takes a team.

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    Irrespective, the the answers you seek can't be found here: we can't give you legal advice. All I can recommend is talking to a lawyer, reading the actual content of the licenses, or doing research elsewhere.

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    Default Re: How much change to avoid copyright?

    Quote Originally Posted by dropbear8mybaby View Post
    But like I said, I'm pretty sure my stuff wouldn't be covered by OGL.
    Law does not conform to reality. "Being covered" is based on legal statements, not some objective qualities.

    Such a thing as "not being covered by OGL" requires some definition. People reprinted all previous editions of DnD, but managed to get away with claiming that all were mere modifications of 3rd.

    Quote Originally Posted by dropbear8mybaby View Post
    Not the same thing at all. PF is very much in line with the licensing requirements. It's called 3.75e for good reason as it's very close and basically compatible with 3.x.
    Mutants & Masterminds, ACKS, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, ... At least download and take a look at OSRIC - it's free and legal to do - before talking about compatibility.

    Also, I don't know what you mean by layout, but don't even dream about using anything graphic that was made by Hasbro, doubly so if you want to go commercial. If you really need 100% free graphic design, search up author of Godbound (Crawford, IIRC), he made free graphic packet for indie game books with instructions and stuff.


    Finally, I'll agree with Jormengand - this is not the place to argue. Arguing here cannot and will not change anything. It's just opinions, that might be informative (or not).

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