Using designs from famous characters

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Post » Mon May 05, 2014 5:51 am

Hi guys, I am not clear on this so I was hoping someone might be able to shed some light on this.

My game is almost complete now, and I am planning to release it on GooglePlay with income only from advertisements. My game has a section where you can change the character skin or design. The default character design is an original. The 5 others, well I am taking it from famous characters and modifying them a bit. Characters like Darth Vader, Iron Man and even UltraMan. The characters are all in a ball shape so it only has the designs of their head. Is this ok to have this in my game?

I notice that many games do the same, taking advantage of famous characters and people. I would like to know if there are any implications in doing this, or is there anyway around it?
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Post » Mon May 05, 2014 2:17 pm

I don't think major developers would mind if a small time developer used some of their characters.

There would only be implications if you started selling your game. When you start making money, thats when they get angry.

Otherwise, you should be fine. Also make sure to credit them for the character concept.
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Post » Mon May 05, 2014 3:34 pm

It doesn't matter if you make any money, using copyrighted material can get you sued.
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Post » Mon May 05, 2014 4:19 pm

Thanks @Nickorama. Ya, it mostly seems to be the case. Haha people only get angry when you get famous, cause they only know about you that way.

@newt. Thanks, it definitely seems better to play it safe as it is still an infringement. Coincidentally, I just came back from a futsal session.....and found out one of our members is a lawyer, so I asked him about it and he said he will check and get back to me soon. What I asked him is, how much of a change do we need to edit before we are legally safe to use it. For example, 50% design changes or the color scheme must be entirely different, etc etc. Hopefully it might be something I can work with, or I will have to come up with 5 entirely original designs for my characters. Will post any update once I know.
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 1:45 am

Play safe. Even if there's 99% chance nobody will ever notice and you won't make any money, why risk?
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 5:56 am

@roberto, yup I definitely plan to.
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 11:47 am

You answered your own question.
Many paid games have "homage" characters/skins, designs that resemble existing character, named in a way that makes the reference recognizable while not being a direct rip-off.

It's more of an Easter-egg type of thing than willful infringement, if done tastefully.
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 4:23 pm

@PurohanPirilu. Yes, that's very true. I guess the million dollar question is to what degree of similarity can we create the characters that as you say makes it instantly recognizable, yet avoiding a law suit. I just got feedback from my lawyer friend and he says that there is no clear line or definition in this. I guess it depends on the personal views of the judges.
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 5:04 pm

Judges rarely get involved, however lawyers do, and they care little about how different it is, but much more that they can make money off of someone who can barely afford a lawyer to begin with.
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Post » Tue May 06, 2014 5:15 pm

@newt. Ya I guess you are right on that. In the hands of lawyers, even a 10% similarity will be made into a big issue. Guess I will have to come out with new designs and play it safe.
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