Frequently Anticipated Questions

1) Is Homebrew Avenue an official not-for-profit organization?

No. At present, Homebrew Avenue is just a website created as a home for the Text Liberation License.

2) Are there plans to make Homebrew Avenue an official not-for-profit organization?

The creation of a Homebrew Avenue not-for-profit depends on community feedback. The Text Liberation License is the brainchild of one person. As such, it is quite possible that the community at large will reject it. If that’s the case, there’s no point in going to all the effort of creating a not-for-profit business to manage it. On the other hand, if a community emerges around the license and the philosophy on which it is built, then Homebrew Avenue will transition to become a not-for-profit, and stewardship of the Text Liberation License (TLL) will be handed over to it. The specific nature of that not-for-profit will be driven by the emerging community.

3) How does the Text Liberation License (TLL) relate to the Open RPG Creative (ORC) License?

It doesn’t; the two license efforts are independent from one another. I am aware of the initiative, though, and wish them all the best. I am sure the ORC license will be a great benefit to the open gaming community. I had already sent off my draft TLL to my lawyer before they made their announcement, though, and I didn’t see their efforts as a reason to stop my own. In the end, I believe the community can only benefit from having more options. The Open Source community has many open licenses, each of which is tailored to fill a specific role. That is a strength of the Open Source community, not a weakness. After all, the open gaming community has recently experienced the potential catastrophe of becoming too over-reliant on a single license.

4) How do I specify in my work that I’m licensing it under the TLL?

Once we’ve finalized the license, you can do it simply by putting the following text in your work (probably near your copyright notices), where DATE is the date you wish to liberate its text. Note that DATE can be no later than 25 years after the work’s release date:

This work is licensed under the Text Liberation License (version 1.0 or later), with a Text Liberation Date of DATE. You can download all versions of the Text Liberation License from

5) What problem does the TLL solve for open content?

Virtually all licenses developed for open content require the content falling under the license to be made immediately available for others to utilize in creating their own derivative works. It is certainly altruistic to release content under such a license. And, many such licenses allow their content to be used for commercial purposes. However, many business decision makers are naturally reluctant to pour their company’s resources into developing new high-quality content into a project under such a license, when their competitors could immediately turn around and sell all their hard work without having contributed anything to the project in the first place. Any such license doesn’t actually prevent commercial use of content licensed under it. But, neither does it encourage companies to develop new content under it. The TLL gives business decision makers a couple of complementary reasons to utilize and expand on content developed under it: a) their project gains the advantage of being able to draw upon all the text already liberated under the TLL, and b) the license gives them a mechanism to prevent their competitors from immediately grabbing those contributions and undermining their efforts with those same contributions.

In other words, the TLL allows contributors to claim a limited time during which they retain exclusive rights to their new contributions, but also guarantees that the newly contributed text will be liberated for use by the next generation.

6) What problem does the TLL solve for commercial content?

The life-cycle of most commercial content goes something like this: some brilliant creator produces a truly unique novel, game, song, or other work of art. Some publishing company licenses the rights to that work. The work is published and is either successful in the marketplace or not. Either way, the company usually is not, itself, the creator who cherishes the work. And, even if it is, the actual person(s) that created the work eventually dies. So, even if the work’s creator and the company that created it are one and the same, eventually that situation changes. Inevitably, the work is viewed less as a work of art, and more as intellectual property (IP). Those IPs that aren’t successful are forgotten and are left to die by the company that owns them. Those that are successful make the company a lot of money initially, but their sales inevitably taper off over time. Sometimes, companies will hire other artists to create derivative works from their more successful IPs, to extend the time that their IP is profitable. Again, some of these are successful, while others fall by the wayside and are forgotten. Often, the rights to these IPs are either licensed or bought by other companies, or the companies that own the rights are, themselves, bought by bigger companies. In this way, the largest IP corporations act as vortices, into which control over our society’s works of art slowly spiral, and from which they are unable to escape for a century or more, when their copyrights finally expire. In the meantime, these corporations maintain tight control over their IPs, to ensure that their “brand” remains untarnished. But, in protecting their brand to maximize profits, they put significant effort into ensuring their IPs are politically correct. In this way, the soul of the original work drains away. In essentially no case will such a corporation allow other creators complete freedom to create new derivative works based on their IPs. So, most works of art in the modern age are eventually either consigned to oblivion or sterilized to conform to a corporate brand. This situation is unacceptable.

The TLL attempts to alleviate this problem by putting a much stricter limit on the amount of time any single entity has control over a work of art. Specifically, it limits the period of exclusive use of any text licensed under it to a period of 25 years. So, the generation after the one that initially created the work is guaranteed that they are able to freely use it to create derivative works, regardless of who controls the work during that quarter of a century time-frame.

In other words, the TLL allows contributors to claim a limited time during which they retain exclusive rights to their new contributions, but also guarantees that the newly contributed text will be liberated for use by the next generation.

7) What prompted you to create the TLL?

I had an itch. So, I scratched it.

I have a lot of experience writing software, and am quite familiar with the most popular Open Source licenses from which the TLL draws many of its ideas. I’ve also been creating homebrew games for a long time. Back in the early 2000’s, I released a game called Legendary Quest. At the time, I looked around to see what open licenses were available. But, none of those I found satisfied me. I ended up putting my own simple, restrictive, license on the game as a placeholder that allowed recipients to make electronic copies of the game, but didn’t allow them to do much else with it. Later, I wrote a game design book for RPGs, and again looked around for open content licenses. I decided to put it under the Creative Commons by-sc-sa license, as that made the most sense to me at the time. It’s a good license, albeit a non-commercial one. However, I never felt that the Creative Commons commercial licenses actually provided everything that most businesses would need to adopt them. Specifically, they do not provide creators with a period of exclusivity on their own contributions. When I later created a storytelling game, MacGuffin, I decided to try my hand at creating an open license for it that provided both businesses and homebrewers with the capabilities they’d need to use it. I called this license the Viral Sanity License, as I thought it was a cute name emphasizing the fact that I was trying to bring some sanity to the domain of copyrights. This license is similar in spirit to the TLL, but covers all of the game’s content, including its artwork. I’m a homebrewer with limited artistic skills, so I created MacGuffin using public domain clip art, with some tweaks of my own. Quite a bit later I realized that, if I had actually licensed professional artwork in creating MacGuffin, the Viral Sanity License would actually have gotten in my way. I could only license artwork under the Viral Sanity License if I had full rights to the art. Once I realized this, I decided to reduce the scope of what my vision of an ideal open content license would cover. I figured that the most important part of my work was its text, so that’s what I focused on. I made another attempt at a license to apply to the RPG I am currently working on: Mythmagica. When the whole Open Gaming License (OGL) debacle with Wizard’s of the Coast cropped up, the entire RPG community got up in arms, including myself. At that point, I got off my butt and sent the latest draft TLL to my lawyer, and we went back-and-forth several times over the course of a month giving it the proper legal verbiage it required. I have to say that my lawyer has done a fantastic job with both clarifying my vision and translating it into legalese.

8) Why doesn’t the TLL cover all text of a work?

In designing the TLL, I wanted it to be more widely applicable in scope than just games. I see a very blurry boundary between games, literature, plays, and movies. As such, I could foresee that, if a movie were to be placed under the TLL, its director would undoubtedly want it to have a professional soundtrack to which they, most likely, would not have full rights. So, I narrowed the scope of the TLL so that it wouldn’t even cover all verbiage of a work, as the primary goal is to cover a work’s central lessons, instructions, and/or story. In the case of a movie, for example, this corresponds to its script alone; it has nothing to do with its soundtrack. For a game, on the other hand, I want the TLL to cover its setting and rules (or, at least, the expression of its rules). So, I excluded forms of verbiage that didn’t fit that purpose.

9) Does the TLL allow me to exclude parts of my work from the license?

No. The TLL covers the text of an entire work, aside from some exceptions specified by the license. The exceptions are: computer code, legal notices, licenses, musical works, poetic lyrics, and advertisements.

10) I’m writing a Role-Playing Game, and want to provide a System Reference Document (SRD) for it so 3rd party develops can develop content for it. But, I want to retain exclusivity over my own setting materials. Can this be done using the TLL?

Yes. Create a separate SRD file available for download licensed under the TLL, and give it a Text Liberation Date identical (or earlier) than the date you release it. This SRD will be immediately available for anyone to build from. Then, create a separate product containing both your setting material and any other material you want to include from your SRD. Give this separate product a Text Liberation Date anywhere up to 25 years after its release date. You will then retain exclusive use over your setting materials until its Text Liberation Date passes, at which time that material will also be liberated.

11) I’m writing a setting book for a Role-Playing Game that has an SRD, which is licensed with the TLL and whose Text Liberation Date has already passed. However, the setting book incorporates licensed IP that I cannot put under the TLL (such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, etc.). How can I do this?

You cannot freely mix Liberated Text with IP to which you do not have the right to apply a Text Liberation Date. However, there is a “play-nice-with-others” provision in the TLL that may satisfy your needs. The TLL explicitly allows any work to reference common terms and headings within TLL liberated text without requiring that separate work to adopt the TLL itself. So, you could create your setting book independent of the TLL, as long as you restrict yourself to referencing the Liberated Text of the SRD through use of its common terms and headings (Hit Points, Attack Roll, Elf, etc.).

12) Suppose I license the 1st edition of a book under the TLL, and give it a Text Liberation Date that is 25 years after its release date. Then, five years later, I create a 2nd edition of the book. Will the 2nd edition’s text be liberated on the date of the 1st edition, or can I give it a Text Liberation Date that is 25 years after the 2nd edition’s release date?

You can give the 2nd edition its own Text Liberation Date. In this case, the text of the 1st edition will be liberated 25 years after its release date. The additions and/or modifications you made to the 2nd edition won’t be liberated until its Text Liberation Date passes 25 years after the 2nd edition’s release date.