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El Barto

Real World Weapons - How to avoid legal issues?

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Realistic games seem to be all the rage these days...every game you see is chok full of MP5 and M4A1 goodness. But the question is, how do these games legally use such weapons? I''m currently producing a game which plans on using real world weapons and vehicles but I would like to do so without having H&K pounding on my door. I know that Counter-Strike the mod uses the real names, while the retail version uses fake names...but the fact remains that the weapons with the fake names are obvious exact replicas of their real-world counterparts. Isn''t this just as illegal? If anyone could shed some light on this subject, I''d very much appreciate it.

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Don''t take my word for it, but I''m sure you''re totally allowed to use weaponry in your games. Besides, I really wouldn''t worry about it. Do you think the manufacturers of military assault rifles really care what an amateur video game programmer is doing?

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quote:
Original post by El Barto
Realistic games seem to be all the rage these days...every game you see is chok full of MP5 and M4A1 goodness. But the question is, how do these games legally use such weapons?

...

I know that Counter-Strike the mod uses the real names, while the retail version uses fake names...but the fact remains that the weapons with the fake names are obvious exact replicas of their real-world counterparts. Isn''t this just as illegal?

IANAL but... No. The manufacturer''s name and the weapon model designation are trademarked. The technology upon which the weapon is based may be patented. It''s likeness, generally, isn''t. The only reasons guns look different is a) so we can tell them apart, or b) so certain unique functionality can be added. Since you''re not employing trademarks towards your own profit without permission, you are not in legal violation.

Furthermore, since your product is neither a competitor nor a complement, and since there is no data indicating any form of relationship between video game exposure and gun sales or use (or other such stats), the company stands to gain nothing from you placing their name in your amateur game. In your professional game, they could seek some royalties, but most game manufacturers skirt this by altering names as you have noted.

[Moved to Business...]

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Thanks for the advice. I probably should have been more clear about the game...we plan on selling it and not freely distributing it. Creating a gun in a game based on a real life weapon then altering the name may not sound that legal, but you''re right...it''s a video game, and we''re not a gun manufacturer. Who knows if the toy manufacturers who create toy guns that look like Berettas and Colt M4A1''s get proper permission.

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quote:
Original post by El Barto
Who knows if the toy manufacturers who create toy guns that look like Berettas and Colt M4A1''s get proper permission.

Yes they do and yes the gun companies will protect their copyright and trademarks.

The design (look) of a gun/car/stereo etc is covered by copyright on the design. The workings are covered by patents and the name/logos/company name are trademarks. The owners employ entire buildings full of lawyers whose job it is to protect their corporate image.

Gun makers will certainly not want their weapons to appear in "High School Massacre Rampage" for the PC and even if the context of the game is acceptable they will want some cash or at least approval of how their property is used.

And if you think they wont notice think again. Fox stopped publication of a game because they spotted screen shots that showed an enemy in the game that was identical to their Alien (cost to publisher of remastering game several $100,000). Ford Motors also spoted a breach and again delayed publication of a racing game. The developer had taken a race car image to use for the box art/loading screen and carefully removed all the trade mark logos of the sponsors. The boxes were made, the game mastered, the standees printed and then Ford stepped in. The developer had overlooked the fact that the car in question was a ford and had their badge on the front (boxes/standees scrapped game remastered).

If it was a free game (CS) you would likely get away with it. There is no point in taking you to court if you haveno money. But, if you try to sell the product then everything changes.




Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

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yeah, using the real names is simply bad. using designs that are slightly similar is ussually safe. since your guns dont replicate the actual working (ie its not a full blown gunc simulation with physics deciding how the bullet is fired from the barrel and collision detection as the bullet travels in the barral, etc) there is little a company can do. many games tend to use parodies of the original names with similar looks possibly with some slightly different colorings/shapes. there are limitations on gun design and since you are only replicating the look of the gun and not how it functioned, patents mean nothing. trademarks cover the name, and the actual design is copyrighted however you can get away with some slight changes since copyright is mean for exactness. slight differences help get away from the copyright, the greater the differences the less likly the company will care or have the ability for legal action.

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How does all this figure for military vehicles? Games are filled with Shermans, Mustangs, BAR''s, Tigers, Corsairs, M1A1''s, F-15''s, etc. Do wargame makers really have to go through licensing issues just to be historically accurate?

Jack

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some military stuff is public domain or at least free for use (ie no trademark issues). you have to research and see what falls under this catagory. almost anything 50 yrs or older is free for use. if your unsure ask the maker of the unit or email a government representitive. i am pretty sure anything government created is automagically alowed for use by the public so long as it dont threaten national security. check out military.com and use their forums to get better understanding of what is consider acceptable/lega use of "their" (ie military)stuff. since afterall we do pay for it via taxes so we do get some "rights" to its use (ie images).
as in all cases like ask the source.

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I''ve never heard of the defence industry burning anyone for this, but I''m sure it could happen. Most games, I notice, use the military designations/codes for weapons but not the manufacturer''s names. I don''t know for certain, but I''d imagine US military designations are not protected by trademarks - ie you could probably call something M16-A2 without problems, but using Colt''s name in vain might be a different story. In general, I''d stick with government designations/NATO codes and steer well clear of manufacturer''s product/brand names. Just call a rifle an "M-14", for example, not a "Ruger M-14". That said, if you''re going commercial, get legal advice or avoid real names altogether.

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The game America''s Army: Operations uses real weapon names and real objects in the world. Rogue Spear and Rainbow Six do also I believe. So being large games, did they have to get a ton of copyright exceptions signed by the creators or how would they do that with so many weapons?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
You know.. this is one place where the game industry has managed to do everything half ass backwords. In hollywood they''d be charging for all that advertising. Product placement. That''s what it is. :-)

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