Mechanic Name: Open Game License
System: Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition
Summary: A legal document that allows for publishes to declare what is their intellectual property and what they are releasing as open game content.
The Open Game License (OGL* ) was created by Wizards of the Coast to allow their game material to be referenced and enhanced by third party content publishers. The general idea being that Wizards of the Coast defined certain elements of their Dungeons and Dragons rules system as “open game content.” With that definition, anyone else, by adhering to the Open Game License, could reproduce or modify open game content, even if they publish that content for a profit.
To provide incentive for other publishers, the Open Game License allows the publisher to define what is open game content and what is product identity; Often times product identity is proper nouns, story, and themes (i.e. the “creative” aspect of the published content). Product identity could not be reproduced in any fashion by other publishers using the Open Game License. So there was a tremendous incentive to use the license. The result was an explosion in role-playing game offerings.
One of the requirements is that a publisher using the open gaming license must include a copy of the license. The publisher must also update the copyright notice of the license to include the exact text of all of the OGL* copyright notices of all sources that they are copying, modifying, or distributing.
What I Like About It
Oddly enough, when I buy books, I really enjoy looking to see if there is a copy of Open Gaming License; If one is present, I look at the updated copyright notice to see the rules systems that contributed and influenced the making of the book in hand.
I also truly appreciate that Ryan Dancey, the man who spearheaded the OGL* , fought to make available, forever and ever, the engine behind an extremely popular and successful game system (Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition). It is a system that is available for the people to use and modify, so long as they adhere to the legal requirements of the Open Gaming License.
Ultimately, this license grants a level of freedom to use open game content from any source, without fear of legal retaliation; It gives protection to the owner of the product, in the form of product identity; and requires credit to be given for the systems that were influential.
I have included a copy of the Open Gaming License on my site; At some point, I may just contribute something.