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Use of Copyrighted Materials for Non-Profit?

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Hello, everyone. This is the first time I've posted in this forum, but I've never had an idea like the one I have right now. Well, I am wanting to make a simple game, nothing too special. And I was thinking about using names, characters, etc., from a cartoon. My little sister would love it, I'm sure. LoL. But how do the owners of cartoon characters, names, etc., feel about people using their materials? I don't plan on making any kind of profit. But I'd like to be able to distribute it freely, here on GameDev, etc. And I don't think I could afford some kind of license. LoL. =P I know it's up to the company that owns the materials. But before I contacted them, I wanted to know if maybe someone had some information on this. Because I don't want to call them, and get a "He!! no"-kind-of answer. LoL. So is it worth a shot? Thanks in advance, Matt U.

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I would ask away, but in a email as opposed to over the phone, thus you can state it more like:


Hello, my name is _______ and I am a freelance game programmer. I wish to make
a game of your cartoon entitled ________. The game will be freely distributed
online so all who wish to download will be able to. This will freely advertise
your show to those who play the game. Will you allow me to use your
copyrighted material, in this setting?

You can contact me at <Your email>

-<Your full name>


This will remind them of the free advertising they will recieve and hopefully make them more willing to let you use it.

[Edit:]I don't know the legal issues though.

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If something is made by someone else, and not explicitly put into the public domain, then IT IS COPYRIGHTED.

If it is copyrighted, then the owning person has a right to treat his work just like he would a physical thing he made -- which includes limiting distribution and copies made.

It doesn't matter if you make money off of it or not, it's still copyrighted by the copyright owner. Thus, if you want to use it, you have to ask the copyright owner, which may be the guy who did the thing; his publisher; or some large syndication company. And I'd get the permission in writing (e-mail isn't good enough).

Even if you get a "hell, no" answer, what's wrong with that? It's not like anyone else will know ;-) You'll just call the next guy until you find someone who agrees -- or come up with your own work.

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Better yet, skip everything except the last step. Trust me on this: making a game based on your _own_ stuff, as opposed to copying the ideas of others, is infinitely more rewarding.

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I think you make it sound like there is no way to use copyright information without the copyright owners consent. That is not the case in general but may be accurate given the context of this forum

http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter9/index.html

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[EDIT - rats! too late]
Fair Use is an important concept to understand about copyrights that I havn't noticed brought up on Gamedev before reguarding these posts. In short: sometimes its OK to just ignore copyrights and use the material anyway!

Fair Use

Quote:
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. ...

There are four factors that can help determine 'fair use':

*the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

*the nature of the copyrighted work; (fiction versus fact - fact more likely to be considered fair use)

*amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;

*the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

All of these factors can be considered and there is no hard set rule, several cases have favored certain factors more then others. Its really up to the judge/jury in the specific case to decide 'fair use'. Keep in mind you'd still need to pay for a lawyer to defend your 'fair use' should the company sue you or even just send you a cease and desist order - and even then its not very likely you could afford to compete with a company in terms of expert witnesses and such. But for the sake of argument lets look at your case [smile]:

Because you are most likely making this game for your own educational purposes and not for profit, the first factor leans in your favor. Because the cartoon is most likely fiction, the second factor leans against you. I can't comment on the third factor as you didn't explain how much of the source cartoon you wished to use. Making your own game and giving it away for free would ruin the market for the makers of the cartoon should they want to create their own video game, so the forth factor pretty much puts the last nail in the 'fair use' coffin for you.

You could always still just ask...

Quote:
Original post by Sneftel
Better yet, skip everything except the last step. Trust me on this: making a game based on your _own_ stuff, as opposed to copying the ideas of others, is infinitely more rewarding.


..But I would agree with Sneftel. Making your own IP is loads more fun then using someone else's, and don't write off the possibility of making your own IP heavily inspired from your cartoon [wink]

(just finished a social/legal issues in computing class)

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Quote:
Original post by Nuget5555
Fair Use is an important concept to understand about copyrights that I havn't noticed brought up on Gamedev before reguarding these posts. In short: sometimes its OK to just ignore copyrights and use the material anyway!

Fair use is often mentioned on here, mainly to point out that it doesn't apply in this sort of case.

To the original poster
The cartoon is copyright and you need permission to use it or distribute it.
It makes no difference if you are charging for it or giving it away free.
The best way to get permission is to phone the company involved and ask to speak to their legal dept. Email isn't a good place to start because it is too easy for an email to be lost/ignored.

There are several reasons why the company is likely to refuse.
1. Most companies want to control the way their characters are developed. They don't want someone taking their characters and making them do something the creators feel is out of character. That means they need to monitor/manage/approve any product with their IP and that cost them money. They are unlikely to be interested in spending their money so you can make a game. - unless you are going to pay them a nice big license fee.
2. They would need to agree a license that states the terms under which you can use the IP. Thed legal work involved would cost them a lot of money. Again, not money they want to spend unless they are getting a big license fee.

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Well, thanks everyone. I had pretty much realized that it wouldn't be a good idea. It just sounds like too much trouble for a small game. LoL. But thanks again. I'll just make my own characters. =)

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Guest Anonymous Poster
This is very useful, thanks, but i have a question. Do you think i can use the likeness of charachters from a 3d game for a 2d game? Specifically, i wouldn't use any ripped graphics, sounds, or even plot, but would use sprites created in a megaman style to make a game (I may HAVE to throw in some humor so that it can be a parody!).

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You can't distribute it without their permission, unless it is some form of parody, or some other use that falls within fair use guidelines. Just making a game as a personal "educational" experience then distributing it would not be covered by fair use. That isn't what is meant by educational use (It means that you could use it or distribute it without permission in a classroom setting, for example).

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orph wrote:
>right, i registered now, and read the material. So the answer is no, right? Even if it's new material, if it uses the ip then i can't even distribute it for non-profit?

Are you the guy who was anonymous before, who Posted - 6/18/2006 1:00:59 AM? What material did you read? Which parts of it are unclear? It helps if you quote specific parts and tell us what isn't clear about it. Especially if you're quoting an FAQ I wrote (your request could help me clarify it for the benefit of future readers). It's highly recommended that you buy a good book on intellectual property rights - Nolo.com has a really nice one!

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I was the anonymous that posted before your previous post. Thank you for creating such a good reosource for people trying to understand the industry before getting into it. I was asking whether using 2d charachter/weapon sprites based off of a 3d game would be ok as long as nothing else from the ip was used. In any case, I believe that it will be ok as two 2d games have already be made using the same 2d sprite sheet (I'd be using a different sheet, but made by the same guy, coincidentally). But just while we're on the subject, have you ever heard of a non-profit game ever being served anything worse than a cease and desist, or is it possible to get sued before that?

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"orph" wrote:

>I was asking whether using 2d charachter/weapon sprites based off of a 3d game would be ok as long as nothing else from the ip was used. In any case, I believe that it will be ok as two 2d games have already be made using the same 2d sprite sheet (I'd be using a different sheet, but made by the same guy, coincidentally).

I don't know what a "sprite sheet" is. But I still insist that it's unwise to make use of anybody's IP. Period. (I guess I failed to convey this idea with my FAQ, sorry!)

>But just while we're on the subject, have you ever heard of a non-profit game ever being served anything worse than a cease and desist, or is it possible to get sued before that?

You should really ask this of a lawyer. He could give you a much better answer than a non-lawyer could.

Reading between the lines, it sounds like you're hell-bent on using the IP of others, and all I can say is that I recommend you don't.

Tom

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