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Can you give away free remakes of old games?


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#21 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18575

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 05:56 AM

Would that be legal? Having ONLY the same gameplay mechanic?

It should be, yes, but only a judge can decide for sure; if you wish to get a more certain answer you should speak to a lawyer.

In general, it's usually accepted that game play mechanics are not protected -- that is, you can make a "falling block game", but you cannot make Tetris.

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#22 TylerBetable   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 12:03 PM

You can check the trademark under uspto.gov and see if it's dead. If it is, you should be able to make a game and give it away as long as you don't see monetary gain. Now this doesn't mean you can make a game with that IP for profit, maybe you can but IANAL so I don't know
I work for Betable, a game monetization platform. I also write about startups, gaming, and marketing.

#23 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9864

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 05:46 PM

You can check the trademark


Is this in response to CodaKiller's August 2009 question?


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#24 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 873

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 06:36 AM

If one gets to the point of worrying about things like "ideas", then I wonder how anyone ever dares to release any kind of game at all - unless the games you write are completely original independent entirely new genres, which is exceedingly rare. If it's not worth taking the risk, then that's an argument against ever releasing anything.

Terms like "remake" and "clone" are hopelessly vague, so we should clarify what is being talked about - "clone" in gaming usually doesn't mean a literal copy, but for games in a similar genre, e.g., "Doom clone". It's not hard to come up with new ideas and not making a complete copy. It is hard to make something that doesn't use _any_ pre-existing ideas, and few people do this. And how many game development tutorials encourage people to start by writing simple games of well known genres ("breakout" etc)? Isn't that better, than suggesting people jump into the deep end trying to write something completely groundbreaking and original that's never been done before?

Edited by mdwh, 01 May 2012 - 06:37 AM.

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#25 monalaw   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1065

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 12:34 AM

I'm wondering if it's legal to give away remakes of old games?


To answer this overly broad question simply, "No." Any work produced during or after the 1930s is more or less still protected under the copyright act, which includes every single video game produced in this century. The only way to legally remake a game from an existing franchise is through a valid license.
~Mona Ibrahim, Esq.
J.D., LL.M.
Trademark & Entertainment Attorney


MAI Entertainment Law

#26 getConnection   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 02:30 AM

I have a similar question.
I want to develope a remake of the game "A Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES - Nintendo)" with own graphics (based on the original style), own music, but same story and world-design.

If I do that, do I infringe the copyright of Nintendo?

Edited by getConnection, 06 May 2012 - 02:33 AM.


#27 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18575

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 03:11 AM

The title and possibly character names will be protected by trademark. The story is definitely protected by copyright, and world-design may or may not also be covered. If you create your own graphics based on the original assets then they'll probably be considered derivative works, which are also protected.

You can't do any sort of remake or sequel to an existing game without permission, or you'll be risking a cease & desist and/or legal action.


You can make a game with the same style and game play -- you can not use any of the existing property.

#28 zissakos   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 07:05 AM

"You can make a game with the same style and game play -- you can not use any of the existing property."

We know that. The question is, what exactly is considered "existing property" except for the obvious: names, graphics, sound etc.

Only a fool would copy works of art straightly from the original and try to sell his/her game.

Level/Puzzle Design? The fact that on position (4/3) there is a black box, while on position (2,6) there is a red box an so forth?
I could actually go ahead and make all black boxes blue and all red boxes green in my game: the abstract level design would still be the same. The strategy to solve the puzzle would still be the same.

My game would look/sound totally different, but I would like to reuse the level design, because with the given gameplay mechanic the creation of levels is very very complex.

Can I do that? Has there ever been a court case where ONLY the abstract level design had been copied?

Edited by zissakos, 10 May 2012 - 07:12 AM.


#29 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18575

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:39 PM

What does your lawyer say...?

"Look and feel" MIGHT be protected, and level design MIGHT be protected, but they also might not. You should always check with your lawyer if you want to be more sure.


This article provides an example of The Tetris Company filing a lawsuit based on the "look and feel" (including level design) of their game.

Edited by jbadams, 10 May 2012 - 06:12 PM.


#30 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9864

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 03:52 PM

1. My game would look/sound totally different, but I would like to reuse the level design, because with the given gameplay mechanic the creation of levels is very very complex.
2. Can I do that?
3. Has there ever been a court case where ONLY the abstract level design had been copied?


1. So you're saying you are incapable of doing this very very complex thing? Or you're just saying "it's too hard"? Then maybe you should make some other kind of game.
2. You CAN do that. But is it a good idea? That depends on your comfort level with risk.
3. Maybe, maybe not. How comfortable are you with there being one, with you as the defendant? The advice we've given is that it's best to do what jbadams says:

You should always check with your lawyer if you want to be more sure.


-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#31 TechnoGoth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2765

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 06:10 AM

I could actually go ahead and make all black boxes blue and all red boxes green in my game:


You're on very shaky ground there I would say. It could be well be argued that the level designs are original creative works governed on normal copy right laws. Especially as all you are doing is textures swapping someone else's work.

You might get away with reusing small sections but ripping off the whole level definitely sounds like a bad practice.




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