So what have we got here? First, the $5,000 dollar fee for early adopters is gone, probably because a lot of the time that money was supposed to buy you has vanished. It also looks like it's very easy to slap an honest-to-God D&D logo on your book if it's a fantasy game supplement. No details yet on just what, exactly, the rules on that will be, but I'd be surprised if there's not some sort of "decency" requirements that make something like "The Book of Erotic Fantasy" unlikely.
Wizards of the Coast is pleased to announce that third-party publishers will be allowed to publish products compatible with the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game system under the new Dungeons & Dragons 4E Game System License (D&D 4E GSL). This royalty-free license will replace the former d20 System Trademark License (STL), and will have a System Reference Document (SRD) available for referencing permissible content.
The D&D 4E GSL will allow third-party publishers to create roleplaying game products in fantasy settings with the D&D 4th Edition rules, and publishers who register with WotC will be granted the right to use a version of the D&D logo that denotes the product as compatible with the D&D 4th Edition Roleplaying Game, in accordance with WotC’s terms and conditions. The effective start date for sales of D&D 4E GSL publications will be October 1, 2008.
The license associated SRD will be available on June 6, 2008, at no cost. A small group of publishers received advanced notice and will receive these documents prior to June 6, at no cost, in order to prepare for publication of compatible materials by the effective start date. If you haven’t already been contacted by WotC, you will be able to access the documents on the Wizards website beginning on June 6, 2008.
Wizards is also working on the details of a second royalty-free license, the d20 Game System License (d20 GSL). This license will allow third-party publishers to create roleplaying game products in non-fantasy settings with the 4E rules. The exact details for the d20 GSL will be released as they become available.
It'll be interesting to see how WotC defines "fantasy". Certainly, Blue Rose and Conan are too fantasy to allow under the new license. But what about True20? Or Shadowrun? Wrangling over whether or not Testament is fantasy isn't likely, but the arguments would be fun to read.
It'll be interesting to see how much this changes things. This looks like a fairly flexible license so far, though we don't have all the details yet. Still, it'll be interesting to see if any of the publishers who'd been planning to stick with the OGL swing over to 4e now that this is in place.
UPDATE: James Maliszewski is skeptical:
So, basically, lots of people are getting excited about ... nothing. We must remember that WotC has already said that GSL will be released "soon" on several occasions, stretching all the way back to last Fall. Each time they failed to deliver anything and each time they returned to the scene they said something different than what they had said previously.
ANOTHER UPDATE: EN World reports that they were among those who received the mentioned email from WotC that reported this earlier. The email includes a Q&A, however, since they are bound by NDA, they are not able to publish it at this time.