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  1. #1
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    On Licensing; Distribution of Community Content

    This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer, expert in intellectual property, or software licensing. But it has been a topic of interest for me for years and something I have researched many times and believe the information below to be accurate. If you have concerns then you should research the topic on your own. If you have significant financial interests, you should seek the legal advice of a qualified attorney.

    This post is designed to help community members, both user and developers, understand some of the legal and social aspects around community extensions, modules and other content. Though written for the FG forums, only the discussion of section 5 of the FG EULA is specific to this forum or this program. It also is generally applicable though of particular focus on the laws of the United States, which is generally applicable since SmiteWorks is a US company and the website is hosted in the USA.

    The Summary – The short of what you need to know;

    If you are a user, anything posted online you can use for your personal and non-commercial use (generally that’s why it’s been posted). Do not redistribute anything in any form, unless it is posted with a license that says you can. Assume it is illegal to do so (because it is) and if you want to redistribute it or use it in your own creations (in whole or in part; on your website, Discord server, or anywhere else), ask the person who created it. Remember, the laws are about distribution, not commercialization so it doesn’t matter if you are charging money or not.

    If you are a developer (i.e. you want to create something and share it with others), please do, please share! But remember a few things;
    • First, if you do not mark or license what you post, then the law assumes you retain full rights. If you want anyone to be able to use it for anything but their personal and non-commercial use, then you need to license it per your desires (see License Types below).
    • Just because some else has posted something else online, does not mean you can use it in whole or part. If it does not include a license, ask. The community here is very open, responsive, and helpful; and usually all people ask is to be given credit for their work and that you don’t commercialize their work without their permission.
    • Please put a license on your work. Even a simple line in your post stating your desires will help others. See the License Types discussion below for a simple summary of some common licenses you can use and how you can mark your work accordingly.


    The Details – Common License Types and the FG EULA

    License Types
    There are many types of licenses and an infinite number of licenses, but their have been several well received licenses that have been written for generalized use that are simple to understand and easy to use. These (mostly Creative Commons) are the ones I will talk about. What they mean, when you should use them, and how to use them.

    In general, there are a couple aspect that these licenses attempt to control/identify;
    Derivation: Can someone use this to make something else? Can they take it apart and uses pieces of it to do something else?
    Commercialization: Can someone else use this to make money?
    Distribution: How & where can someone else distribute your work?
    Attribution: Does someone else have to indicate others who contributed to the work or give them credit?

    If you want to indicate that anyone can use your work for …

    ...anything they want;
    Release it to the Public Domain. You can do this by a simple statement like “This work is Public Domain” or “License: CC0”. This means anyone can use it in whole or part in anyway they want, including commercially and also applying any license they wish.

    … anything they want as long as they give you credit and share it under the same terms;
    Add a statement like; “License: GNU GPLv3” (or less preferred “License: CC-BY-SA”). This means they can commercialize it or do anything else with it, as long as they give you credit for the parts of your work they use and they too release it under the same license.

    … anything they want as long as it is non-commercial;
    Add a statement like “License: CC-BY-NC”. This means they can use all or part of your work as long as they give you credit and do not commercialize it.

    … redistributing it, but can not change it or commercialize it;
    Add a statement like “License: CC-BY-NC-ND” This means they can share it all they want, but they have to keep it whole and cannot change it or commercialize it. In short, others can redistribute your work, but only in whole and not for money.

    The Fantasy Grounds EULA
    Fantasy Grounds has a specific End User License Agreement (EULA) that discusses content distribution. See section 5, https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forum...s_faq#faq_eula

    5. AUTHORIZED CONTENT DISTRIBUTION. You agree not to use the SOFTWARE in any way to create unauthorized content for distribution to other users. This includes any content which violates any copyrights of any persons or for which you own the copyright but you have not obtained a LICENSE AGREEMENT with SMITEWORKS for authorized content distribution. You may create and distribute content in a strictly non-commercial capacity without a LICENSE AGREEMENT as if it were authorized content as long as that content does not violate any copyrights of any person.
    This applies directly to what is commonly referred to as DLC (Down Loadable Content) such as conversion of printed RPG materials that contain copyrighted material and new creations. And has two aspects to it; 1) this means you can not distribute text of rules, classes, items, stories, locations, etc that does not have some sort of permissive license, and in which case you must also follow the terms of that license. Permissive licenses include things like the; OGL (Open Gaming License), Paizo Community Use Policy, & the Wizard Fan Content Policy. And, 2) you can not commercialize (sell) FG modules or content without a License Agreement with SmiteWorks. If you are looking to sell commercial content for FG, you can do so through www.DMsGuild.com (because they already have a license with SmiteWorks) or by reaching an agreement with SmiteWorks.

    Remember, this is not legal advice. Please discuss and if you think something in the above should be changed, please let me know.

    edit: (3/14) Interpretation of Section 5 changed to include info on commercialization. Changed section on GNU GPLv3 to prefer that type, change to CC-BY-SA and include requirement to re-share under the same license.
    Last edited by LordEntrails; March 14th, 2020 at 22:52.

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  2. #2
    This is SO helpful. Thank you!

  3. #3
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Thanks Jim, I'm glad it was clear and concise enough to be useful

    Hopefully community developers will be able to use these guidelines to mark what they share with the license(s) they desire.

    Current Projects: Ultimate Undermountain (NYDUM)
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    Mortar's Avatar
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    Very concise LE!
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    List of completed DLC products

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    Mortar's Avatar
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    Bummer...

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  6. #6
    First: Disclaimer! This is no legal advice!

    Second: Thank you! Great concise information on a difficult topic!

    I had to learn a bit about software licensing and copyright myself. So here are a few small additions.

    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails View Post
    Add a statement like; “License: CC-BY” or “License: GNU GPL v3”.
    To any of your "add a statement like" steps: Not sure if that actually counts as a legal license statement. I believe you would have to at least add a link to, or better include, the full license text within your work. (i.e. a license file or something)
    Even though the “This work is Public Domain” seems to be pretty unambiguous, depending on your country and laws it might not be that easy to actually create a legally sound statement to release something into public domain. Many jurisdictions just have never planned for this to happen before your copyright expires (after your death etc.). So using a very permissive like CC0 might be better.

    With the exception of CC0, using a CC license for software might not be ideal and using one of the similar software licenses like GPL or MIT might be better (extension code might fall into that category, while a typical module would not).
    https://creativecommons.org/faq/#can...se-to-software
    Yeah, legal stuff is always a lot of fun...

    Quote Originally Posted by LordEntrails View Post
    This section 5 of the license agreement really doesn’t change any rights or restrictions that would be in place without this section. Local and national laws generally already restrict distribution of Intellectual Property. This simple says that if you are going to break the laws, you can’t use Fantasy Grounds and protects SmiteWorks from being culpable in the illegal activities of its’ customers.
    If I understand section 5 correctly, it changes what is allowed in so far, that you are not allowed to sell something without a license agreement with SmiteWorks, when you used Fantasy Grounds to create it. Just an agreement with the copyright holder of the distributed material is not enough. Even if you yourself are the original author/creator and copyright holder. Not sure if you could in theory create something completely without using the FG software and sell that work to be used with FG...

  7. #7
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speculi View Post
    To any of your "add a statement like" steps: Not sure if that actually counts as a legal license statement. I believe you would have to at least add a link to, or better include, the full license text within your work. (i.e. a license file or something)
    Even though the “This work is Public Domain” seems to be pretty unambiguous, depending on your country and laws it might not be that easy to actually create a legally sound statement to release something into public domain. Many jurisdictions just have never planned for this to happen before your copyright expires (after your death etc.). So using a very permissive like CC0 might be better.
    Agree. Some jurisdictions and some license allow a simple statement like I mention, but many also require the full text of what you are referring to be included or linked. I'll add a little something above, but I do want to keep things simple. In part because I think in most cases that if any such dispute became a legal issue, I think many courts would feel the creator has made their intent clear with such a statement and would not expect or require more legally ... defined statements. And I'll defer back to the statement I started with, that if someone has significant concerns or financial interest, what I outlined is certainly not sufficient.

    EDIT: also, I would hope this would serve more as a community notifier and not as a legal basis. i.e. this is a way for community creators to state what they would like. A way to help us respect each others wishes in a clear manner. To me, that is more important than the legal aspects.

    With the exception of CC0, using a CC license for software might not be ideal and using one of the similar software licenses like GPL or MIT might be better (extension code might fall into that category, while a typical module would not).
    https://creativecommons.org/faq/#can...se-to-software
    Yeah, legal stuff is always a lot of fun...
    I have always struggled to understand the MIT license. It also has some challenges with it, one in that I think it requires it to be attached to the work and not just referenced. Just one reason I've shied away from it.

    I'm welcome to rewording anything, feel free to propose changes and we will see where we end up

    If I understand section 5 correctly, it changes what is allowed in so far, that you are not allowed to sell something without a license agreement with SmiteWorks, when you used Fantasy Grounds to create it. Just an agreement with the copyright holder of the distributed material is not enough. Even if you yourself are the original author/creator and copyright holder. Not sure if you could in theory create something completely without using the FG software and sell that work to be used with FG...
    I wanted to do a little more research and have a discussion or two on this. And you are right. I believe the intent of this section is indeed to require that FG content be sold with permission from SmiteWorks. I'll update the first post to reflect this shortly.
    Last edited by LordEntrails; March 14th, 2020 at 18:05.

    Current Projects: Ultimate Undermountain (NYDUM)
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  8. #8
    Does that mean, I can’t make an FG module and sell it on DMsGuild without Smiteworks’s say-so?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimSocks View Post
    Does that mean, I can’t make an FG module and sell it on DMsGuild without Smiteworks’s say-so?
    No, because Smiteworks has an agreement with DMsGuild. So you are covered under that.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by JimSocks View Post
    Does that mean, I can’t make an FG module and sell it on DMsGuild without Smiteworks’s say-so?
    Have a look at this: https://www.fantasygrounds.com/forum...kickstarter3pp

    TL;DR; There is an exception in place which allows you to distribute Fantasy Grounds content via DMsGuild.

    Edit: Ah, mattekure was faster, still leaving this here for the linked reference.

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