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The Right to Use a City Name/Street/Buildings...etc

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I was just curious as to how you obtain if you need to at all the right to use the name/street or other 'trademark' items of a town.. I live in Ontario, Canada. Of course Im aware that I have to obtain permission from actual stores to use signs ect (as well as being advertising revenue) but are there any legal matters I must address if I would like to use an actual city name in my game title or as a level? [Edited by - eclipticalmedia on November 14, 2004 1:26:03 PM]

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Thanks for the quick reply I assumed the same - it's sunday so I'll call around tomorrow - the only reason I wonder is that lets say my game had sexual or violent content I just wonder if a town would have any say as to being assosiated with that type of product...(My game does not have sexual content but is somewhat violent ) or if they would have any right to ban or otherwise stop it from being distributed or published.

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Nope. Otherwise loads of games wouldn't have released:
GT1
GTA2
GTA3
GTA: SA
Mafia
And loads of others, they can't cotnrol who uses city and location names ingames or movies.

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I just want to be clear on something in your question: are you only intending to use the name of the city/province/county, or are you planning on using the city layout and specific buildings in that city?

In other words, are you only using the name of the region as a reference or are you going to reproduce certain identifiable structures of that city within your game?

If the latter, you may need permission to do so. The same logic applies to films vs. books; you don't need permission to publish a book that contains descriptions of a city and its buildings, but you may need permission to film within that city and permission from the buildings' owners to use their structure in your movie.

Note that I said "may", not "will". Check with a lawyer, as always.

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Just to play devil's advocate, the GTA games you mentioned did NOT have real cities in them. Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas aren't real cities (though they are certainly based on real-life locations). Kind of like you can make tetris clones that are rip-offs of tetris, as long as you don't used that word "Tetris" in the title.

Although they did make a GTA: London expansion for GTA 1 or 2.

Still, I think you're fine using real-life city names. Just watch out for certain specific buildings. I'm sure you can use real landmarks (Statue of Liberty), but some modern buildings might cause problems with the architects and/or whoever designed them.

-Gauvir_Mucca

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by d000hg
But going back to the book example, you could have somebody being shot in Safeway, or terrorists trying to blow up the Statue of Liberty I think?

No, because Safeway is a trademark and as such protected. You would need their permission to use it. As for the Statue of Liberty you might find that its image was a trademark owned by the city council - it probably isn't but given how famous it is it might be - the only real answer to this whole question is "talk to a lawyer".

Many years ago my company made a brochure for T-shirts, caps etc. They did a photoshoot out the back of an office with me standing by a motocycle that just happened to be there. Then at a trade show some months later a guy turns up asking for money. Turns out it was his bike and he had somehow seen the brochure. I don't rememeber what happened (I think we gave him some free games) but the point is you can't just do something and assume no one will spot it.

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If it's a public place (public building, etc.) then there should be no problems. Even if it isn't, I don't think the owner of the building can do much about it, since there are many movies that feature images of an entire city, and it would be impractical to ask for the premission of every building owner from that city.

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The part about the banning of games that would be decide by the gov't, yes the gov't can ban games. Most recently they just banned Leisure Suit Larry from Australia. The part about the specific buildings to my knowledge you would either have to contact the architect or contact the current owner of that building to get permission to use it. Also, if your wanting to put adveetising in your game(such as a McDonald's sign) then you would have to contact the head of McDonalds Advertisment team and get permission. This is usually not a prob becuase companies now days encourage free advertisments they just might ask for you to put in your credits or something that they did not endorse this game.

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I would suggest not listening to anyone here who doesn't have a law degree. The "oh, I've sort of seen something like it, so it must be legal in all ways you can imagine" argument from someone who has no grasp of even basic copyright vs trademark vs patent law isn't a good legal descion.

About the only thing you can use without consulting a lawyer and getting permission from the owner is the name of a state/city. Beyond that you can easily open yourself up to being sued.

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