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Galaxian, Joust, Breakout as inspirations ; legal?


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#1 Littleberu   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:00 PM

Hey there!

Forgive me if this is a typical questions that's been asked multiple times ; I've done my best to look around with the Search options, but I couldn't find a satisfying answer.

It's more of a discussion than a question, but let's see how it goes : Where is the line drawn, usually, with inspirations from older Arcade games?

For example, Balloon Fight and Joust ; they clearly have similar gameplay structure. Joust is older, and Balloon Fight is a bit younger. You could say Balloon Fight was inspired by Joust.

Same things with Breakout and the multiple clones that have been released using the same basic concept.

Let's say you have a game where you ride big birds around, and that it uses the same basic concept as Joust. Would this be ground for cease and desist and lawsuits?

I know it's a tough one to answers, as it depends entirely on the action of Warner Bros (the current owners of the Joust property).

Just want to know what you guys think about this! :)

Thanks!

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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10178

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 02:42 PM

Where is the line drawn, usually, with inspirations from older... games?


YOU get to draw the line. You draw the line based on your own tolerance for risk. If you are very concerned about being sued, then you draw the line farther away from the original IP. If you are less concerned about being sued, then you can move the line closer.

Forgive me if this is a typical questions that's been asked multiple times ; I've done my best to look around with the Search options, but I couldn't find a satisfying answer.



I gave you the same answer everybody else who's asked the same question has gotten. I guess you saw those, and I guess this is still unsatisfying. But it's the answer that can be rightly given. Your lawyer can help you figure out where you want to draw the line you don't want to cross. Nobody can give you a more satisfying answer.


For more on this (and doubtless equally unsatisfying) there's FAQ 61

.


-- 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.

#3 Littleberu   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 03:34 PM

Thanks for the answer!

Again, I'm sorry if this read like a re-thread of an old question! ;)

I appreciate the distinction between my personal tolerance for risk and the amount of inspiration one can take from another game.

However, I still don't understand (but that might be a simple formality) how come there are some many clones of original older ideas. Even games such as the Great Giana Sisters. Have those case historically ever went to court (and I ask that by simple curiosity)?

I'd be interested to read more about it if anyone has resources on those kind of stories.

#4 monalaw   Moderators   -  Reputation: 1065

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 04:51 PM

Because I've gone into this topic ad nauseum in the past I'm just going to let what I've written earlier stand.

http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=26290
~Mona Ibrahim, Esq.
J.D., LL.M.
Trademark & Entertainment Attorney


MAI Entertainment Law

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10178

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 05:19 PM

However, I still don't understand (but that might be a simple formality) how come there are some many clones of original older ideas.

Because the risk tolerance level of those games' creators was fairly high.
There is no crisp clear line we can give you. FAQ 61
-- 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.

#6 Littleberu   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 06:09 PM

Because I've gone into this topic ad nauseum in the past I'm just going to let what I've written earlier stand.

http://www.gamasutra...php?story=26290


Thanks for the article, very interesting read!

However, I still don't understand (but that might be a simple formality) how come there are some many clones of original older ideas.

Because the risk tolerance level of those games' creators was fairly high.
There is no crisp clear line we can give you. FAQ 61



That was meant as a rhetorical question. I was only confirming my misunderstanding of such a complex and unintuitive system.

My real question is to know if any cases when to court in recent history, especially with the AppStore and more companies reviving old IPs for the mobile space.

It's not a personal question concerning a personal project, more of a base for a discussion about the issue.

#7 Littleberu   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 12 January 2012 - 06:09 PM

*went to court in recent history,

#8 mdwh   Members   -  Reputation: 901

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 08:44 AM

However, I still don't understand (but that might be a simple formality) how come there are some many clones of original older ideas. Even games such as the Great Giana Sisters. Have those case historically ever went to court (and I ask that by simple curiosity)?

Because people draw the line such that they take the risk. Never mind old stuff - even today, the game industry seems littered with similar ideas. (Thankfully ideas on their own aren't covered by copyright.) Obvious commercial examples would be the Civilization clones Call To Power, or the numerous Doom/Quake. In open source, there are many examples (e.g., Free Civ, Widelands).

But then, you could do something entirely seemingly innocent, and someone might sue you because they think they own the word you used (example because someone mentioned "the" AppStore, I presume they meant Apple's app store, which made me think of the recent case over trademarks).

AFAIK, most of the cases I've read about are due to issues with trademarks, or clear cases of copyright (using the original media or characters). Have there been any assertions of owning copyright of things like ideas or game mechanics/rules?

Re: http://www.gamasutra...php?story=26290 - this is a good and useful article so thanks for that - some people on here run a mile as soon as the words "clone" or "remake" are mentioned, but it depends on the specifics - especially if we're only talking about games that are inspired by, rather than direct clones. I did however note:

Creating a video game clone of board games, card games, and the like could create just as many problems. One famous example is the suit brought by Hasbro against the developers of Scrabulous, a well-known Facebook application.

It's probably worth noting that, AFAICT, the specific issue was the name sounding similar, and not claiming ownership of the rules? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lexulous suggests they were allowed to continue under a new name? (Not that that disagrees with the point - it is indeed true that copying board games can run into problems.)
http://erebusrpg.sourceforge.net/ - Erebus, Open Source RPG for Windows/Linux/Android
http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mark.harman/conquests.html - Conquests, Open Source Civ-like Game for Windows/Linux




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