What does the D&D5e Open Gaming License suggest for the future of Open Access?

What I am about to suggest is, admittedly, a bit of a stretch, but when I was watching the YouTube video below, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be a particular parallel between game licensing and open access licensing.

Understanding the NEW D&D Open Gaming License (OGL)

Let me explain.

Wizards of the Coast, the company behind the popular roll-playing game Dungeons and Dragons, is about to make changes to their ‘Open Gaming License’ and many third-party creators are worried that these changes will mean that they might have to pay royalties. Wizards of the Coast recently released a statement in an attempt to calm fears. It included this assurance:

2. Will the OGL terms change? Yes. We will release version 1.1 of the OGL in early 2023. The OGL needs an update to ensure that it keeps doing what it was intended to do - allow the D&D community's independent creators to build and play and grow the game we love - without allowing things like third-parties to mint D&D NFTs and large businesses to exploit our intellectual property.

I suspect that this licensing amendment is a signal of potential chilling effect and that we are going to soon see others who are likewise, going to slowly start closing once open doors.

Many of those who manage a corpus of images are worried about third parties creating NFTs from their hosted works. Many of those who manage a large corpus of text are concerned about third parties both with filling up their site with non-human text and harvesting their hosted content as training material for “AI bots”. This suggests that in 2023 we might see previously unrestricted APIs becoming more closed and more wide open licenses becoming amended. Closed APIs and amended licenses will make collaborative projects much more difficult to achieve.

It doesn’t even matter if these fears are well grounded. When I was a liaison librarian, I would have faculty tell me that they would not publish in Open Access journals because of their fears of plagiarism. As more and more platforms are found to appropriate their user’s content for their own purposes, these fears are not entirely unfounded.

While I am tempted to end this short post with a this is why we can’t have nice things, I am going to share another insight: in the amended Open Gaming License, Wizards of the Coast suggest that the company is going to be more permissive to third party content creators who work in print than in digital. Maybe this is also something that we will see more of this year.