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Sub-licensing classic games

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Hi everyone. I'm looking for some info regarding game's sub-licensing. The thing is, when does one need to get a license to release some game's clone? By clone I mean a game with the same gameplay principle but with lots of new features and/or content. I'm refering to puzzle games like Tetris, arcade games like Arkanoid, Pong and Snake, etc. Basically, i'm refering to those simple classic games that are (probably) licensed. I'd like to know if anything bellow changes the requisite of having or not the license to release a game like I described: - The game is freeware / comercial; - The game's title has / doesn't have the original game's name or something similar on it; - The game's configuration allows / doesn't allow it to be played just like the original game. And what about board games like Chess and card games like Blackjack? Does anyone own their license? I'm sorry if these are stupid questions, but I've googled for this info and it was kinda confusing. Thanks!

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I'm not a laywer, but:

You can't copyright a gameplay mechanic, and I'm pretty sure you can't patent it either, so gameplay is no problem to copy.

Graphics, sound, music, and other game content are copyright(unless it says otherwise), so you'd have to license that (even if you chagned their art - copyright covers derivative works). If you make all the content from scratch, then you don't need to license even if our art looks kinda similar to the original.

Titles are trademarked, and US trademark law says you must to sue people that use your trademark without permission or you lose the trademark. Thus, you can't call your game Tetris, Arkanoid, etc without licensing the name.

How you distribute your game makes no difference at all - if the above says you must license, you must license even if your game is freeware or otherwise noncommercial.

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Quote:
Original post by krum
Quote:
Original post by Extrarius
I'm pretty sure you can't patent it either


See US Patent # 5,662,332
Ok, well I'm pretty sure there aren't any patents that could hold up in court (vs prior art). From what I've read though, it's better to just make the game and not worry about patents than it is to look up the patents then make it anyways.

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A little history...

Capcom sued some company for a game called "Fighter's History", which didnt hold up in court, even though "Fighter's History" was obviously a ripoff of Street Fighter, just google it up and you'll see what I mean.

Atari sued Magnavox for a pac-man clone, Atari wins.

Sega sues EA and FOX for a Crazy Taxi clone, known as Simpson's Road Rage, the lawsuit finished october of 2004, I dont know the results.

Hasbro also sued a bunch of people..:/

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For classic games, you have to make sure not to use any of their artwork or music (they are protected by copyright), and not to use their name, names of special characters and terms (they are protected by trademark).

Most games are not protected by patent, so you can use their gameplay mechanics in your game. So you can make a Pac-Man clone, and as long as the game isn't called Pac-Man or looks too much like Pac-Man you will be okay.

However, there's always the golden rule to consider, "He who has the gold, makes the rules". If a massive company decides to unleash their lawyers on you, there's not a lot you can do as it will cost too much money for a small company to represent themselves.

Thankfully, this is unlikely to happen unless you really are doing well in capitalising on another game's fame, or you are wilfully misusing a trademark, as with trademark law the rule is "protect it or lose it", so companies are forced to send a cease-and-desist letter to you if you violate their trademark even if they know you aren't a threat to them and want to be the nice guy.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
What about the games that are complete clones (ie, intended to duplicate a specific game entirely, rather than just similar gameplay), such as FreeCiv?

The main things to avoid seem to be distributing copyrighted material (ie, the original graphics or sound), and using the original name.

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