Paizo has two overall licenses for people to use:

The Compatibility License allows you to make products that use their rules and charge money for them; you can't generally use their intellectual property (proper names, etc.). Those of us producing 3PP (Third-Party Press) materials, like Run Amok Games, use this license. 

The Community Use Policy (or CUP) outlines how you can use their rules and their intellectual property for fan-made stuff. You get to use their intellectual property and even some of their art, but you can't make any money off of them. Fan sites rely on this.

Paizo just updated their CUP. Like I did when they updated their Compatibility License, I wanted to go through and break down the changes. If you're relying on the CUP, you should probably use some common sense in your own reading and application of it, and maybe even get a lawyer to advise you specifically on that; I'm not providing any legal advice to anyone here.

But I will say this: the new CUP appears significantly more burdensome than the old one, and I'm no longer using it. I've deactivated my CUP site (this site, with products under the Compatibility License, will remain!).

First, a text wall! Unlike the change in the Compatibility License, Paizo didn't keep the old CUP around. The website just goes to the new license (which you can see here: I had to poke around to find the old CUP so I can see what's changed. Here is the former CUP, in its entirety.

Paizo Inc. Community Use Policy
Applicable to Non-Commercial Activity

Last Updated Monday, September 9, 2019

The Paizo Inc. community is an intelligent, creative, dedicated, and enthusiastic group of people, and we at Paizo appreciate and value the contributions of our community members. This Community Use Policy is designed to encourage you to spread your enthusiasm and creativity while respecting ownership of our copyrights, trademarks, and other intellectual properties.

While copyright and trademark laws protect our property, they also prevent you from using our intellectual properties in most circumstances. That means that you are generally prohibited from using any of our logos, images, or other trademarks or copyrighted content without our consent. This policy grants you the consent to use some of our intellectual property under certain circumstances.

This policy authorizes certain non-commercial use of the Paizo-related material specifically identified in the Permissions section of this policy ("Paizo Material").

When we say "non-commercial," we mean you cannot sell or otherwise charge anyone for access to content used under this Policy. If you make any commercial use of Paizo Material, your rights under this Policy will be automatically terminated, and any permission granted by this Policy will be immediately revoked. If Paizo believes that you are in the publishing business, you are considered to be a commercial user, and you are not granted any right to use any Paizo Material under this Policy. (Commercial users may be able to take advantage of our Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License or Starfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility License. Commercial users may also be able to use or license certain Paizo Material outside of this Policy and the Pathfinder and Starfinder Roleplaying Game Compatibility Licenses with our express written consent. If you are interested in securing permission or a license, please contact us at

Usage Requirements

To use Paizo Material under this Policy you must include the following notice in plainly legible and accessible form in each product or on each website that uses any Paizo Material:

"This [website, character sheet, or whatever it is] uses trademarks and/or copyrights owned by Paizo Inc., which are used under Paizo's Community Use Policy. We are expressly prohibited from charging you to use or access this content. This [website, character sheet, or whatever it is] is not published, endorsed, or specifically approved by Paizo Inc. For more information about Paizo's Community Use Policy, please visit For more information about Paizo Inc. and Paizo products, please visit"

By using content under this Policy, you agree to not use any material in a way that suggests Paizo endorses or is in any way responsible for anything you create, or that suggests that you have any other relationship with Paizo, unless we have a separate written agreement that lets you do so. You agree to not use Paizo's trade dress—that is, you may not make your material look like ours. You agree that such use could irreparably harm Paizo.

You agree to use your best efforts to preserve the high standard of our intellectual property. You agree to present Paizo, our products, and the Paizo Material in a generally positive light. You agree to not use this permission for material that the general public would classify as "adult content," offensive, or inappropriate for minors, and you agree that such use would irreparably harm Paizo. You agree to not do anything illegal in or with products or websites produced under this Policy.

You agree to create an account on and add an entry describing your material on our Community Use Registry at, with links where appropriate. You agree to endeavor to keep this information up-to-date.


As long as you comply with all of the above usage requirements, we hereby grant you the following permissions:

  • You may use the contents of the Community Use Package at You may use only those versions of the Paizo Materials from the Community Use Package. You may not alter the color, typography, design, or proportions of the logos or icons, or otherwise modify them. Should an item be removed from the Community Use Package, you don't need to remove it from existing projects, but you may not use it in future projects.
  • You may use the cover images, as displayed on, of all of the products on our Community Use Approved Product List below. Product covers may not be cropped, color adjusted, edited, distorted, or modified.
  • You may use the textual product descriptions, as they appear on the back of each product or in the product listings on, of all of the products on our Community Use Approved Product List below.
  • You may use any of the text or artwork published in the Paizo Blog at, with the exception of excerpts of Planet Stories publications, Pathfinder Comics, and any logos and icons that aren't also in the Community Use Package. You may not use any photographs published in the blog (because those rights are usually not ours to offer). You may not use artwork, including maps, that have not been published in the blog, although you may create your own interpretations of material presented in our artwork and maps, provided that your interpretations don't look substantially similar to our materials.
  • You may use the artwork published to illustrate the Web Fiction at Note that the web fiction itself may not be used under this policy—just the artwork.
  • You may descriptively reference trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, artifacts, places, etc.), locations and characters from products listed in Section 1 of our Community Use Approved Product List below, provided it is clear that these are our marks.
  • You may descriptively reference dialogue, plots, storylines, language, and incidents from products listed in Section 1 of our Community Use Approved Product List below in campaign journals and play-by-post or play-by-email games.
  • The permissions granted under this Policy are personal to you and may not be assigned or transferred without our consent. Please do not hotlink to images on our website, as we may move those images (thus breaking your links) at any time.
  • This policy in no way alters Paizo's ownership of any of our intellectual property and we reserve the right to amend, modify or terminate this Policy at any time. We will post revisions to this Policy on our website, so check back frequently to make sure you have the most current version.

Community Use Approved Product List

As long as you comply with the Community Use Policy, you may descriptively reference trademarks, proper names (characters, deities, artifacts, places, etc.), locations and characters from products listed in Section 1 of this list. You may use the cover images, as displayed on, from products listed in Section 1 or Section 2.

This list is updated automatically as we announce new products.

Section 1

  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Game books
  • Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box
  • Pathfinder Society products
  • Pathfinder Adventure Card Game products
  • Pathfinder Comics
  • Pathfinder: Kingmaker CRPG
  • Pathfinder Tales products
  • Pathfinder Legends products
  • Starfinder Roleplaying Game books
  • Starfinder Society products
  • GameMastery RPG books
  • GameMastery Compleat Encounters

Section 2

  • Pathfinder, Starfinder, and GameMastery game accessories (map products, miniatures, pawns, cards, GM screens, Combat Pads, etc.)
  • Planet Stories books
  • Titanic Games products
  • Visions of WAR: The Art of Wayne Reynolds

That's the End

(I had to put up that huge header just to let you know where the old CUP ends and where my comparison begins.) So, what's different between the old policy (above) and the new policy right here? Lots of things.

More Conversational. The new policy is much more conversational in tone, which seems like a win because most users aren't going to legally trained. Clear explanations help, and this new policy has more of those.

Twitch and YouTube mentioned. The new CUP is more clear what it applies to. The first paragraph is worded a bit differently, and has this now added to the end: "It [the CUP] applies to Twitch and YouTube videos, adventures, websites, podcasts, software, and other extensions of Paizo products." I've had people ask me whether the CUP applies to these platforms or products, and I didn't have a good answer before (I still don't, frankly), but this change shows that Paizo is trying to make clear what the CUP covers.

More Direct Commercial License Reference. There's a clear, specific reference to commercial licenses, and a section at the bottom describing the Compatibility Licenses (one for Pathfinder, one for Starfinder). This isn't new, exactly, but it was tucked away in a parenthetical before. It's helpful to point out this license, but it seems a little backwards to me: Compatibility License users are much more likely to need to know "oh, hey, there's a CUP where I can use all the lore I'm seeing but I thought I couldn't use" than CUP users are likely to need to know, "oh, hey, I can go into business but I can't use any of the cool world lore that brought me to the CUP in the first place." Maybe that's just because it's the direction I went, personally, though.

Fair Use Deletion. Third, the new policy subtly quashes some fair use. The previous policy included the sentence, "While copyright and trademark laws protect our property, they also prevent you from using our intellectual properties in most circumstances." The new policy removes the words "in most circumstances." Those words did a lot; they made clear Paizo's recognition that certain IP use is protected under the doctrine of "fair use," such as criticism, review, comedy, education, and so on. The deletion of these words seems most likely to have been a minor clean-up, but I worry it was an intentional change to steer people away from the fact that some use of Paizo's IP without using the CUP is, in fact, totally legal, just as it was before.

Works to Close the "At-Cost Product" Gap. The previous CUP had a strange gap in it--one I'd considered using, in fact. The previous CUP sets up two separate universes of "user can't pay" and "creator is commercial." But there's a space in the middle there: what if I want to create a print product under the CUP, but make no money from it? That is, I point people to a print-on-demand product where my take is set at zero; the purchaser has to pay the printing and shipping costs, but I don't get anything. I'm not selling or charging anyone (the print service is). The user isn't paying me, and I'm not in any sort of commercial business. This sort of at-cost product didn't squarely fit in the old policy, although I would have said it was arguably permitted.

This new policy purports to close that gap, but doesn't do so completely. There's a new "Your project must be free" paragraph that states it "is accessible by everyone for free." Okay, this is clearer, and it closes the gap a bit more. This goes on to talk about being free from "hassle," such as ensuring people don't need to complete surveys, pass paywalls, or make product downloads. This seems well-intentioned, but "free" here never means free. A creator is, by necessity, requiring internet access (which carries a cost), accessibility accommodations like screen readers for the visually impaired (which carries a cost), and so on. "Everyone" means "people generally situated to enjoy on-line game content already," which seems a little exclusionary to me.

Also, the new policy says the creator can't require product downloads...but then how does the user even get things like adventures or supplements or stories and such? This is either an oversight, and means can't require "other downloads" or "pay downloads," but it might be a intentional move to restrict any CUP product that can't be viewed right on a screen.

Donations and Paid Sponsorships Expressly Permitted. The new policy specifically states that creators can have Patreons, YouTube sponsors, and so on. This is good, because this wasn't clear before. It still doesn't answer some corner-case specifics, like what if I have a Patreon that gives CUP material to my backers immediately, but I don't release them for free for anyone for a week (or a month, or a year)? I think that would be permissible, but the policy could be clearer on delayed provision of CUP products.  

Onerous Notice Requirement. The new policy has the requirement "You must reproduce Paizo's copyright and trademark notices from all Paizo Materials that you use in your project." I think this is much more of a hassle than Paizo intends it to be. Let's say you want to talk about the Firebrands, a cool rebel organization in Golarion, which you read about in Lost Omens Character Guide. You are now required to reproduce, at a minimum, the copyright notice from Lost Omens Character Guide. That notice is 96 words long, and you have to find it and duplicate it. The Core Rulebook also mentions the Firebrands, and its notice is different (but only 72 words long). So perhaps you use this in addition? Or instead? At any rate, you must do this with every single product you "use in your project." "Use" isn't well-defined, but the safest reading would be to capture the notices from all the IP you reference. A sentence like "I think Kassi Aziril should turn to the worship Chaldira Zazuristan and join the Firebrands!" requires reproducing notices from at least 3 separate books. For one sentence. That doesn't seem to be what Paizo intended, as virtually no one will meet this requirement properly.

I was talking with one friend about this, and her suggestion was that her CUP site could have a link to every copyright notice of every Paizo book she has (in her case, there are only five or six) so she's covered no matter what she says. That might be the best way to meet the technical requirements of this new provision.

Third Party IP Requirement. The new policy requires that a creator follow the rules of all other IP owners used in the content. That's fair, and good advice. But it goes further (and, to my mind, too far): a creator Paizo deems in violation of this requirement can have the CUP revoked. I consider this a bit scary. Someone I don't know, whose IP I don't use, can go to Paizo and say, "that dude is misusing our IP, here's a takedown notice we provided to them and everything." And even if it's a lie, but a convincing one, Paizo can say, "welp, that's a violation of our CUP so we're forcing you to kill your content, Ron." This is why few agreements permit enforcement of other people's rights; it's tough to prove and tough to administer. For as much as this new policy tries to make things more hands-off for Paizo, putting Paizo into the role of "Other People's IP Police" will require a surprising amount of review and analysis on their part. And it opens the door to fraud in a way that could endanger both CUP creators and Paizo.

Obey the Law. There's a new sentence about having to obey your local laws, and that the CUP isn't "a replacement for the laws of the land in your country." I'm not sure who's thinking they can break laws because Paizo's policy said they can, but this doesn't seem harmful to add. 

Dual-Use Still Problematic. I've written before about how an individual might use both the Compatibility License and the CUP for different product streams, even though this is a little dicey. The new CUP doesn't clear this up at all; it preserves all the old language that gives Paizo the authority to be the arbiter: "If Paizo believes that you are in the publishing business, you are considered to be a commercial user, and you are not granted any right to use any Paizo Material under this Policy." Paizo could, and still can, cut off your CUP use if you're profiting off of the CUP in a way they deem inappropriate. That doesn't seem unfair to me; it is their IP, after all. People using both the CL and CUP must still be careful to keep them separate.

Slightly Different Required Notice. The notice creators are required to provide is subtly different, but not substantively so. I suppose Paizo could "clean house" by looking up everyone using the old language and demanding their takedown until they put up the new language, but this seems pretty unlikely. I don't imagine many people will be updating their old CUP products with the new language, but new products should certainly use it.

Onerous Authorship Notice. There's now a requirement that "When known, you should include artist and author credits from the Paizo Material used in your project (including materials from blogs)." Like the trademark/copyright requirement, this is surprisingly burdensome. It's also unclear. Known by whom? By Paizo? By the CUP creator? In a book with a lot of authors, you probably don't know which specific person wrote the specific thing you're referencing (or which specific artist among a lot of listed artists). But that doesn't mean it's not "known," just that it isn't individually identifiable. You know that it's one of this list of people, so your safest bet to follow this requirement is to list all of them. That same sentence I used before ("I think Kassi Aziril should turn to the worship Chaldira Zazuristan and join the Firebrands!") requires you to name at least 54 different people (and I'm one of them, actually). Virtually no one will meet this requirement properly, either, but it might not be as important. It's clear Paizo added "when known" to give most casual CUP users a pass, and I don't see them coming down too hard on this. Still, as with the copyright text requirement, it's better to be safe and thorough. 

Broader Use of Text and Plot Summaries. Text from the web fiction was previously off-limits under the CUP, but now it's included. Additionally, CUP creators used to be able to "descriptively reference dialogue, plots, storylines, language, and incidents from [listed products] in campaign journals and play-by-post or play-by-email games". In the new policy, the "in campaign journals and play-by-post or play-by-email games" has been removed, so these can be referenced in more types of products. Most significantly, they can be referenced in the on-line play we now see on Twitch and YouTube and such, which was probably the point of this change. But it's a broadening nonetheless, and that's good for all CUP creators.

Printing for Personal Use Permitted. The CUP now specifically allows printing for personal use. That's nice, but misplaced; the CUP has nothing to do with personal use, it's about fan-created content that other people will use.

Paizo Can Pull the License. There's now a specific right for Paizo to pull the use of IP from anyone they feel is misusing it, for any reason or no reason, in their sole discretion. This seems like unreasonable legalese, but it's not; Paizo already has the right to revise the CUP at any time as they see fit, and this is just a clear restatement of that right as it applies to specific CUP creators.

Unreasonable Indemnification. There's a new requirement in the CUP that makes it, I feel, a show-stopper that no one should use. It's a requirement that, if you're using the CUP, you are indemnifying Paizo for any kind of legal claim or dispute, and you'll pay Paizo's lawyers to defend it. That's not actually how our legal system works, for most arrangements. Let me explain it with an example: let's say your product suggests that one of Paizo's characters could beat another one in a fight. Someone sues Paizo over the product, claiming they were psychologically scarred by the implication of violence, and Paizo needs to pay them a million dollars in damages. Of course that's a silly claim, but Paizo sighs and has their lawyer file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which succeeds. This new provision means that Paizo can charge you the cost of their lawyer. That is, your use of their IP, for which you are expressly prohibited from charging anyone, might land you a legal bill without your foreknowledge. Even a simple motion to dismiss a frivolous claim might cost hundreds of dollars. I think that's unreasonable, and that this alone makes the new CUP too risky for me to use.

Discourage Licensees. The former policy had a statement about how you might be able to get more rights if you become a Paizo licensee, with an email how to reach out to them. The new policy says, "We also offer commercial licenses, but generally only to established companies with good reputations and solid business plans." To me, this reads like Paizo had too many small-scale people reaching out to them for licenses, and they wanted to say, basically, "serious applicants only." That's understandable. But I worry about the chilling effect of this new statement, particularly for eager but novice entrants into this business (such as content creators from marginalized minorities); being outside the traditionally white-male-dominated power brokers in our hobby, they might be too easily dismissed as not having "good reputations."

Community Use Approved Product List. This is virtually identical, with the inclusion of the more-recent product line of "Pathfinder Adventure Card Society products."

Much is Still Unclear. There's a whole lot this new CUP doesn't clear up; in fact, I think it adds more confusion by bringing in Twitch streams and YouTube and such. Let's look at what most likely goes on there: people play games that go up for streaming using Paizo's IP (like adventures, or art). Who's under the CUP there? All the players? The GM? The person who uploads the video of the game? If it's everyone, then you should, technically, never see an online game with anyone who publishes a commercial product (because they're barred from using the CUP). That doesn't seem like the right answer. Also, where does a YouTube or Twitch user put up all the required notices? On screen at the beginning of the show? In the comments? In an overlay throughout the game? Finally, as I mentioned above, timing on Patreons and sponsorships isn't clear, and "free must mean free" has some decidedly non-free limitations on the ultimate user. 

My overall takeaway (or, the tl;dr): The CUP was once geared for fan-created .pdfs (like character sheets) and websites. It's now geared for fan-created websites and videos. Maybe that gives people a little more comfort in their Golarion-based (or Pact Worlds-based) actual-play podcast or Twitch stream, but that's about it. I suspect this new CUP isn't going to stop anyone from playing online games or making fan content, just as they've been doing. But many changes seem very burdensome (the copyright/trademark notices and the author/artist notices, in particular), and the new indemnification provision scares me off of this entirely. I won't be using the new CUP.