Legal Question

Discussion and feedback on Construct 2

Post » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:59 pm

I know that some of you develop games for profit, so I was wondering. If I want to sell my game, do I have to make sure that there are no more like it that are copyrighted? I mean, do you have to have a completely original idea, or can I publish any game that I want?
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Post » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:39 am

Firstly we'll quickly deal with a common misconception -- it doesn't matter if you're releasing your games for profit or for free -- Intellectual Property rights (that is, copyright and trademarks) still apply either way, and if you're infringing upon someone else's rights you may receive a cease & desist notice or be sued either way.


That being dealt with, as I briefly touched on above the laws you're dealing with fall under "intellectual property protection", and the ones that concern you are:
- Trademark: deals with distinctive names and/or markings used in trade. Examples include the name "Microsoft", and the Nike "Swoosh" (tick shape).
- Copyright: protects the expressive form of an idea. Examples being a book, or a piece of artwork.

Patent law can occasionally apply, but isn't something you're likely to have to concern yourself with. A patent protects a process by which something is achieved.


So, you can't use someone else's trademarks without their permission. In video-games this will usually mean the names of existing games (as well as movies, books, etc.!), major characters (you can use the common name "Tom", but you can't use the specific name "Lara Croft"), and logos. Don't use any of these things. Trademarks also only apply to the market in which you are trading -- there is an "Apple" computer company AND an "Apple" music label for example.

You also can't use someone else's copyrighted material without their permission. This means you can't use the dialogue, instructional text, sound effects, graphics, etc. from an existing product, and also applies to "derivative works", meaning that you shouldn't base your own work on an existing piece of work; i.e. if you create your own version of Mario or Sonic, it is a derivative work and you're still using copyrighted material.



All that being said, you can't generally apply any of the above protections to game-play, so as long as you create (or legally obtain) all your own artwork, sounds, text, etc. and don't use any trademarked names or logos you're able to make a game that is played in the same way as another. For example, you can make a "falling block game", but you can not make "Tetris".



One last quick note, I'll briefly mention "Fair Use", which gets brought up almost every time intellectual property is discussed. Fair Use is an exception to copyright laws which can apply in certain situations, and allows you to use copyrighted material without permission. Examples might include quoting a copyrighted piece of text, or making a parody version of a song. The problem however is that there are no strict rules or limits on what exactly constitutes fair use -- there's no percentage of a work or amount of words (I recall an example where someone was sued for using just 6 words from a speech) that are definitely safe to use, and only a judge can decide if fair use applies in any particular situation -- don't fall for the trap of assuming fair use will definitely protect you.



To summarise, you should be fine as long as you check that the names and titles you want to use aren't already in use, and as long as you aren't using anyone else's artwork, sound effects, help text, dialogue, etc.



...and finally, I am not a lawyer, and if you're concerned about this and want to be absolutely sure you should consult with one.

Does that help? jbadams2012-03-26 01:42:06
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Post » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:50 am

thanks jbadams, nice info there

was wondering some things myself and your post answered it
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Post » Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:18 am

Thank you so much! Wow, you really posted a nice comment and I really appreciate your help. Thank you so much.
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 5:47 am

Hmm... I was thinking of doing a game that I guess I'll have to kill... Thanks for potentially saving my life!

Is Johnny Thunder taken?
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 5:51 am

I was going to make a game where Mario gets blasted through a wall, courtesy of Bowser. He lands in a costume store, walks out with a hedgehog suit on backwards (and with roller skates) , runs into a wall coated in blue wet pain, and comes out looking like Sonic. Eggman mistakes Mario for Sonic, kidnaps Peach from out of Bowser's hands thinking she's Amy on stilts or something, and HyperSonicMario to the Rescue!!!

But scratch that. It'll have to be somebody else. Aww man, that would've made a great game! And a comic book!
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 6:07 am

It's only illegal if you get caught   
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 7:16 am

Here's something commonly heard in game business. Nothing is protecting an idea, only the way you make it(invention). For example you can make Mario style clones as long as you don't use any trademarks, such as names or characters or the code.
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 11:21 am

That was really helpful to know, this post should be included in a FAQ.
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Post » Wed May 02, 2012 1:07 pm

[QUOTE=Wink] It's only illegal if you get caught    [/QUOTE]

Ain't it?

I've seen many (MANY) free a game that uses so called copyrighted material and nothing ever happened. Truth is, if the owners of the material feel like yer game it's a threat, they will ask you to stop, just like crap company Square Enix got scared of a beautiful non-profit indie game. and shut it down. If you are going to do something like this and FREE, keep it secret until it's complete and keep the testing around to a trusted circle of people. Once it's complete, release it in all it's glory and give the finger to crap corps. like SE. Just hide where it really came from.

Not ALL companies care though, believe it or not, some cool companies are actually left.
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