Saturday, June 20, 2009

Question for WOTC/Rouse re: Retroclones

I just posted this over at ENWorld. Hopefully there is an answer which gives the Retroclones a bit more certainty.

Does WOTC have any official position on the question of whether or not OSRIC, Swords and Wizardry, or Labyrinth Lord violates WOTC's intellectual property rights in any way? How about retroclones in general?

If there is no offical position on this question, is the question still under legal review? Is the question on the legal department's radar at all? Might it be in the future?

In other words, are the developers and sellers of the retroclones and those who produce retroclone compatible material ever going to face the threat of legal action from WOTC/Hasbro for violating WOTC's intellectual property rights for what's already been produced as of now?


  1. Since all the ones you mention use the OGL, why would there be any question? Unless your question is really does WotC intend to try to break the OGL in court...and I don't see why they'd admit it prior to filing if that were the case.

  2. @jamused - there are multiple people who feel that the material presented in many of the retroclones steps beyond the auspices of the OGL. Thus this, in their eyes, is not an issue of "breaking" the OGL, but enforcing it.

    @Joe - I expect you will see no "official" response to this. The Rouse as a marketing guy knows better than to step on the toes of the legal team without an established policy already set by them. If there was such a policy, we would have heard about it by now.

    Overall, I don't expect to see any steps taken by Wizards / Hasbro regarding the retro-clones, as they didn't do anything about Secrets of Pact Magic, a book that came out at the tail end of the d20 blitz that was a distinct reverse engineering of the Pact Magic system from a closed-content WotC book released under the OGL.

  3. The real reason they won't do anything is that the retro-clones do not interfere with sales of 4e. The sad truth of the issue is that retro-clones are virtually unknown off of the internet. The few stores I have been to that do know about them won't consider stocking them because there is no market for them.
    So in the end the RC's are safe due to relative obscurity.

  4. Which is also why WotC will never comment on this. They plan to ignore them as long as they're small, and say nothing that would prevent them from crushing them with lawyers if they get big.

  5. I may have been too hasty in my comment. While I do feel what I wrote is true I did not consider another factor. That is that WOTC does not want to look like late era TSR. Backlash from their recent C&D's of other sites showed they cannot make any legal moves without good cause.

    So instead of sending C&D's and suing everyone that may have violated IP they may be just saving their legal moves for those that have blatantly violated copyright.

    Do not take this as me saying that any RC has violated copyright! The guys behind them seem to have the utmost respect for what WOTC owns and have worked carefully not to have a violation.

    A clear answer would be nice but I do not count on getting one. Remember the saying 'If it ain't broke don't fix it.'

  6. yeah i doubt i'll getan answer...but as hairfoot said on enworld:

    Joethelawyer was perhaps a bit presumptuous in calling for Scott Rouse in particular, but I have no truck with this "careful or WotC might hear you" approach.

    If the clones are potentially a target for Hasbro's legal department, I want to know now, because the only reason they're not throwing cease-and-desists around is because they don't see a threat to Hasbro profits.

    "Big Brother will destroy your game if it becomes popular" is not a reasonable or tolerable situation for people to game under.


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