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Dragons, Dwarves and Orcs..ohh my!

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Are those things copyrighted? Does anyone own the right to elves, or dragons, and what not? Or is it public domain, I always thought it was cause it all comes from the dark ages but with the lawsuit happy times we live in I was wondering "The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That''s where we come in; we''re computer professionals. We cause accidents." -Nathaniel Borenstein

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Most your common-or-garden fantasy type things cannot be copyrighted - the origins of these words go back far too far to be owned by anyone.

However, you still have to be a little bit careful with alternate spellings and small variations. I seem to remember reading that Games Workshop own the word ''Ork '', for example. Just make sure you spell everything properly, and you should be alright.

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Yup, Games Workshop are very picky, so try to avoid using their "names"... In other words Ork, Eldar, Genestealers, Tyranids, Slaanesh/Tzeentch/Nurgle etc... (don''t think they''ve copyrighted "khorne", though).

I don''t know how well the old TSR (Dungeons & Dragons) names are protected (like Ettin, Ankheg, Displacer Beast etc). They are owned by Wizards of the Coast now, but i''ve seen them used in more games than I can count so I guess it''s "ok". If you''re making a commercial game I suggest you investigate closer.

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Well, "Eldar" would propably be OK as long as it does not point to dwarfs (or elves - dont remember): eldar is a perfect english ord for "the older ones" and you could use it as long as it is clear that you mean for example the "circle of old men running the country" or something like this, and stay absolutly clear of the GW definition :-)

Thomas

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quote:
Original post by Khaile
I don't know how well the old TSR (Dungeons & Dragons) names are protected (like Ettin, Ankheg, Displacer Beast etc). They are owned by Wizards of the Coast now, but i've seen them used in more games than I can count so I guess it's "ok". If you're making a commercial game I suggest you investigate closer.



Any game using the D20 system or using creatures unique to one of TSR's game worlds, is most likely doing so under license. I think WoTC are just as defensive about their copyrights as anyone else.

quote:

Original post by thona
Well, "Eldar" would propably be OK as long as it does not point to dwarfs (or elves - dont remember): eldar is a perfect english ord for "the older ones" and you could use it as long as it is clear that you mean for example the "circle of old men running the country" or something like this, and stay absolutly clear of the GW definition :-)



No, I think 'Eldar' is owned by GW. The word you are thinking of is 'Elder'.


[edited by - Sandman on June 26, 2002 9:18:34 AM]

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Eldar can be found in TOLKIEN's 'THE SILMARILLION' book.

From 'The Encyclopedia Of Arda' (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm) :
"Eldar: The name given to the Elves by the Vala Oromë when he first found them wandering in the starlight of Cuiviénen. At first, the name was applied to all Elves, but after the summons of the Valar, it came to be used only of the peoples who followed the summons and began the Great Journey. "



-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-


[edited by - ingenu on June 26, 2002 10:10:42 AM]

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quote:
Original post by Ingenu
Eldar can be found in TOLKIEN's 'THE SILMARILLION' book.

From 'The Encyclopedia Of Arda' (http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/default.htm) :
"Eldar: The name given to the Elves by the Vala Oromë when he first found them wandering in the starlight of Cuiviénen. At first, the name was applied to all Elves, but after the summons of the Valar, it came to be used only of the peoples who followed the summons and began the Great Journey. "



I stand corrected.

GW trademarks & copyrights

Couldn't find a similar document from WotC.

[edited by - Sandman on June 26, 2002 10:40:28 AM]

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OMG Haha

GW has trademarked everything that starts with "blood"

On the other hand it should be OK to use names such as "Bloodletter" as long as the creature doesn''t resemble GW''s idea of a "Bloodletter" (a red demon with a two-handed sword, if I remember correctly).



My Stuff : [ Whispers in Akarra (online rpg) || L33T WAR (multiplayer game) || The Asteroid Menace (another game) ]

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Do a simple web search on the names you''re curious about; if you can find them in the mythology and lore of various cultures/ancient civs, they aren''t copyrighted.

http://webhome.idirect.com/~donlong/monsters/monsters.htm is one large database I use of "classic" mythological creatures.

Keep in mind, however, that while the specific name and general concept of a dragon cannot be branded/trademarked, the image created by a company of that creature CAN be copyrighted. WotC, for example, owns the copyright on images of their chromatic dragons along with their specific traits; if you decide that white dragons in your world prefer arctic climates and have ice-beam weapons, prepare for a lawsuit

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While I agree in principle, I would agrue that there is prior art for a white creature due to the arctic surrounding and show samples from nature.

I would, though, not follow the other traits of white dragons with my dragon - thats too much :-)

Thomas

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While technically all of that stuff *could* be trademarked, the likelihood of actually enforcing a mythology-based trademark has about as much chance of happening as my walking on water and gaining telekinetic powers.

Heck, Microsoft couldn''t even successfully defend their "Windows" trademark and 90% of the people out there considered that one a gimme.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by Khaile
Yup, Games Workshop are very picky, so try to avoid using their "names"... In other words Ork, Eldar, Genestealers, Tyranids, Slaanesh/Tzeentch/Nurgle etc... (don''t think they''ve copyrighted "khorne", though).

I don''t know how well the old TSR (Dungeons & Dragons) names are protected (like <b><i>Ettin</i></b>, Ankheg, Displacer Beast etc). They are owned by Wizards of the Coast now, but i''ve seen them used in more games than I can count so I guess it''s "ok". If you''re making a commercial game I suggest you investigate closer.




As far as i know, an Ettin was actually a figure in Norse mythology, and so i doubt its copywritten

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Ok, some clarification - you can't copyright a name. You can trademark it. However it doesn't necessarily mean the trademark will stand up in court. A trademark is only valid in its own context and the use of the same word in a different context or market is not considered a violation. Trademarks exist to ensure that you don't profit unfairly by pretending your product is based on someone else's. As long as you bear that intent in mind, it's usually quite clear what is covered and what is not.

Things like dwarves, elves and so on are clearly public domain as they come from historical tales and so on. Terms such as 'Hobbits' or 'Slaanesh' are presumably trademarks, but if you used the words for something entirely different such that there was no confusion, you would be fine.

Lastly, although WotC are undoubtedly very happy that most people don't understand this, the D20 rules and so on are not copyrighted . You cannot copyright rules or a system. A book containing those rules is under copyright, but the rules themselves are fair game. What they offer you with their license, is the ability to legitimately use their trademark (ie. D20) to promote your product. They cannot stop you using the rules, only stop you from using "This product uses D20 rules" as a selling point.

Copyright and trademark issues are regularly discussed in the Business forum, and further questions on the subject are probably best asked there. Also, check that forum's FAQ as it is very useful.

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[edited by - Kylotan on June 28, 2002 9:57:32 PM]

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