Oops, Crap. Copyright.
FAQ Through the Heart
So there I was, minding my own goddamn business wandering around on the internet at work, checking the gamedev.net forums when I started reading up on legal issues. I kind of like those threads where a new poster comes in and wants to make a sequel to an already extant IP, and they don't want to believe the fact that copyright law is basically a sword of Damocles hanging over their project.
Well in one of those threads (don't remember which one exactly), I clicked my merry way to Tom Sloper's website (one of the moderators here) which has an extensive FAQ about game development, including this entry, which has this gem:
Q:I want to depict a specific car or airplane or handgun, and I don't wanna deal with asking permission. Should be OK, right?
A: Better ask permission, or make your car or airplane or handgun look different from the actual one. A lot of manufacturers have taken to enforcing their IP rights recently, with model kit manufacturers and video game makers. License it or change it.
Ooooohh shit. I remember thinking about that once, probably the last summer when I was working on this sprite pack, but obviously completely forgot about it. I remember quite clearly that Tom Clancy's HAWX had the approval of all the aircraft manufactures since their logos were plastered all over the intro screen (which was actually pretty neat for an airplane nerd for me), so there's a very obvious precedent I can't really ignore. Plus there's the fact that I can't really just ask for permission because each person that tries to release a game containing the sprites will also have to get permission. Having end users other than myself also adds the complication that they might use the sprites for some unsavory game the original IP holders might not appreciate like "Super Orphanage Napalmer 64". So once again: Shit.
Okay, Now What?
Luckily it's not too bad since a significant proportion of my designs are completely original, like my signature "Fighter Jet Montage" here:
Only the F-22, F-35, F-15, Su-37K, and Su-49 (real-life T-50) are actual, but all are fictional variants and altered somewhat to significantly from the real-work counterparts. I think the path forward is to rename them within sprite pack, and change the real-world aircraft more than most of the ones seen above.
The side view sprites are going to be a little more difficult since the long-lost point of that project was to make a game with actual airplanes from every era after Korea.
For example, the following new sprite LOOKS SUSPICIOUSLY LIKE BUT TOTALLY IS NOT an F-16 right now. That's a problem.
By basically moving things a row of pixels down or up, I came up with this:
I think this one is satisfactorily different, and might be even a little overboard (although that might be the airplane pro within me saying that), to avoid copyright issues with any company named vaguely like Blockeed Fartin. Although now I have to do this with every real-world aircraft in my collection... oh well. By the way, you might have noticed that the Not-Fighting Falcons above are significantly more boring that the jets in the full montage. That's because I draw the base art in MS Paint to get the pixely-feel (gray being the easiest color to gradient), and then make color alterations (including camouflage versions) and other random polishing within Photoshop. I'm sure the dudes at pixeljoint would be super pissed if they found out, but whatever. I actually wrote a draft of a detailed explanation of my process, so look forward to that in the next entry.
Let me know what you guys think about how close or how far I should go to the original aircraft, especially since I'm so close to the issue (ie, have these jets ingrained in my subconscious).
Thanks for reading!