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I am in the middle of creating a online game that was full of references to scifi books, movies, and television series. Can I release the game for free and people pay to use my server? They could download the game and play it off line, but to connect with other people you would need to pay a monthly fee. Is this legal? If not, what exactly constitutes a parody?

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Depends what the "references" actually are. If they are just this, then it is fine (like having people in a MMORPG talk about star wars etc.), but this is a very narrow ine to walk on. Better check with a lawyer.


Thomas Tomiczek
THONA Consulting Ltd.
(Microsoft MVP C#/.NET)

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Parody -
Musical, literary or other composition that mimics the style of another composer, author etc in a humourous or satirical way.
Something so badly done as to seem an intentional mockery.

Look at the movie Space Balls. That is a parody. As are the Austin Powers movies. If that is what your game is like then you are ok.

If however by reference you just mean that your game contains characters/place etc taken from other Sci-Fi works then that isn't ok. To be a parody it needs to be humourous and also "in the style of", rather than a rip off exact copy.

One important issue to remember is that it isn't the law that is most important but your ability to defend a legal claim against you. The Austin Powers movies are clearly a parody but the owners of the rights to James Bond still tried to get the name of Goldmember changed as they felt it infringed the right they have in Goldfinger. The case may be ridiculous but if you can't afford to defend against it you can be in real trouble. Having lots of references in your game also means there are lots of people out there who might decide to sue you.

In short - bad idea.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

Edited for awful typos

[edited by - obscure on March 6, 2003 6:08:38 AM]

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