Friday, March 6, 2009

Modern Oddity

I was recently reminded of a bit of trivia I once knew but had somehow forgotten: George Romero's 1968 horror magnum opus, Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain, because its original distributor released it without a copyright notice. Consequently, anyone can now sell their own copies of the film or produce works derivative of it, including roleplaying games. I personally think that's rather nifty, but it's definitely an oddity in the modern world, where I long ago gave up hope that almost anything will ever pass into the public domain again.

This includes OD&D, which, under the terms of copyright at the time of its publication in 1974, would have entered the public domain in 2030. Those terms have since been revised multiple times, so that's an alternate reality that'll never come to pass. Fortunately, we have the Open Game License, which has given us Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord, among many other fine retro-clones and simulacra. So, whatever else I might say, my non-existent hat's off to the guys who came up with and promoted the OGL. The old school movement owes them a lot.


  1. Yeah, as I said in my review of Spellcraft & Swordplay, the old-school renaissance is surely the most unexpected of results from the OGL. And makes the copyright of D&D somewhat, though not entirely, moot.

    I also think that the idea of using Empire of the Petal Throne to do a run-around is quite intriguing.

  2. The OGL has been one of the greatest gifts that the RPG community has ever received. I am constantly amazed at the great games that have grown out of it.

    Pity that WotC chose to abandon such a wonderful idea.

  3. It was certainly an unfortunate accident that resulted in Night of the Living Dead ending up in the public domain. While it certainly made this landmark film widely available (in various states of quality), its overwhelming success never really translated into money for George Romero. Though I suppose it laid the groundwork for a franchise of Dead films (4 sequels with a 5th on the way, not mention three remakes).

  4. "Though I suppose it laid the groundwork for a franchise of Dead films (4 sequels with a 5th on the way, not mention three remakes)."

    Not to mention the funny Night of the Day of the Dawn of the Son of the...!