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Should I copyright my game?

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Hi, I am a hobbyist game developer, and have developed a board game in Java. I want to give it away for free (not the source code) as an online download. Should I still copyright the game? How much would it cost to copyright the game? What is the procedure? Thanks. Niteen Hatle

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FYI, in the US and most other countries, everything has a copyright unless it is specifically put into the public domain.

You might want to look into a license of some sort, though. Creative Commons can help you make a good license for your game. Or you could use an existing license (GPL, MIT, ZLIB, there are lots of them out there).

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Yes in the US, not only your source code, but also the game in general is automatically copyright as soon as you write it. You can have the simplest proof possible by printing out the source code and notes on the game, and mailing it to yourself, gettign an official date stamp by the US post office.

You can also copyright the name of the game as tied to that particular game if you wish, so no one else can create a board game with the same name even though it may be a completely different board game. I believe this is not automatic, but you actually have to register a name like this with the government.

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Quote:
Original post by rpreller
Yes in the US, not only your source code, but also the game in general is automatically copyright as soon as you write it. You can have the simplest proof possible by printing out the source code and notes on the game, and mailing it to yourself, gettign an official date stamp by the US post office.


And err, don't open the package when you get it back!! :)

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Hi,

Thanks all of you.

But rpeller is that simple, is it enough. Just to mail it to myself will do? I mean if it is then I would be more than happy to do it (I was afraid I would have to give several visits to some gov offices and lawyers to copyright my software).

Is it safe to mail it and release the game? What other precautions should I take?
If any.

Thanks again.

Niteen Hatle.

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You automatically own the copyright on anything you create. It's as simple as that.

Mailing yourself a copy is not going to help anything - what's to stop you sending yourself an empty envelope and putting something in it later?

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Mailing yourself stuff is not a legal proof of copyright.

Go to: http://www.copyright.gov/

Read. Then decide if you feel your game is worth the $40-ish to protect. This is assuming you're in the US. I don't know the procedure or offices for other countries.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
You can have the simplest proof possible by printing out the source code and notes on the game, and mailing it to yourself, gettign an official date stamp by the US post office.

That's an Urban Legend(tm). Even if you use registered mail and official sealed envelopes, courrier companies (US Post Office, FedEX, UPS, etc) cannot and will not provide testimony in court for your copyright infringment case.

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Quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
Quote:
You can have the simplest proof possible by printing out the source code and notes on the game, and mailing it to yourself, gettign an official date stamp by the US post office.

That's an Urban Legend(tm). Even if you use registered mail and official sealed envelopes, courrier companies (US Post Office, FedEX, UPS, etc) cannot and will not provide testimony in court for your copyright infringment case.

In legal terms this concept of "mail yourself copyright" is known as "a load of old bollocks".

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Hi,

Obscure, then I should take legal steps to obtain a copyright, right? Maybe I ought to.

I wish things were more simple. But you have to play by the rules. I'll see how I can get my work copyrighted.

I also took a peek at your site, Obscure, good info there. It got me thinking whether I should do full time game development. But it's a long way ahead. Let's see how things go.

Right now I need to do this properly.

Any more suggestions and comments are welcome.

Thanks.

Niteen Hatle

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The real value in a big successful game is the IP (intellectual property rights - copyright, patents and trademarks). These can be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Registering a copyright costs a reletively small fee (depending on the laws in your particular country) but actually going to court to defend those rights can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (you need an experienced IP lawyer). - in other words it is cheap to register but very expensive to defend.

If this project is a real business then it is worth getting a lawyer to sort out copyright registration for you. If this is your first game (it will likely be worth virtually nothing) or just a hobby project and you don't have the money to defend a case in court there isn't much point in worrying about registration.

If your game does turn out to be the next GTA and you earn a fortune then get a lawyer and sort out registration.

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from what i just read from my governments website, canda (http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrksv/cipo/cp/copy_gd_protect-e.html#1) i get an automatic copyright when i am finished my game. Although the games name, and logo are not protected by copyright and i need a patent. are my findings correct?

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Quote:
The U.S. Copyright Office increased basic registration fees to $45 per application effective July 1, 2006. Fees that changed include registrations, document recordation, supplementary registration, search services, certificates, and additional certificates. Any request received in the U.S. Copyright Office on or after July 1, 2006, for a service whose fee increased on that date must be accompanied by the new fee.


And other COSTS

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Quote:
Original post by Break
from what i just read from my governments website, canda (http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/sc_mrksv/cipo/cp/copy_gd_protect-e.html#1) i get an automatic copyright when i am finished my game. Although the games name, and logo are not protected by copyright and i need a patent. are my findings correct?
First part yes, second part no.
Copyright is automatic, although you may find you get better protection if you pay to register.
On the issue of names and logos these are Trademarks, not patents.

[Edited by - Obscure on July 7, 2006 5:16:31 AM]

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Hi,

Okay, Obscure, I am convinced I should register for a copyright. But what if my game is a clone of an original game (Mario Forever by Buziol Games, for eg.)? What then? Should I apply to the original game publisher for license to make a clone? Would I have the copyright?

What if I don't want to make profit by making the game? Can I make profits in the first place?

If its not stretching too far!!

But I have to make sure I don't get into trouble in future.

Thanks.

Niteen Hatle.

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Quote:
Original post by niteenhatle
Hi,

Okay, Obscure, I am convinced I should register for a copyright. But what if my game is a clone of an original game (Mario Forever by Buziol Games, for eg.)? What then? Should I apply to the original game publisher for license to make a clone? Would I have the copyright?

What if I don't want to make profit by making the game? Can I make profits in the first place?

If its not stretching too far!!

But I have to make sure I don't get into trouble in future.

Thanks.

Niteen Hatle.


i dont think you can make profit, since mario is a trademark of nintendo. but your game is already protected when you right it.

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Hi,

Break, what does it mean? If i make a Mario clone, I can't sell it online? I can't make some money out of advertisements as well?

Should I register a copyright the mario clone(if i make it)?

Sorry for the trouble.

Thanks.

Niteen Hatle

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Define clone.
If you mean a platform game with a character that isn't actually Mario but the game plays in the same way as Mario games (running, jumping, bouncing on things), then you could copyright that (provided it was all your own work and didn't use sound or graphics from the original).

If you copy a Mario game and make graphics/sound which look like Mario then that is a breach of copyright. You can't copyright that because Nintendo own Mario. You aren't allowed to make such a game or distribute it (either for money or free).

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Hi,

Obscure, I want to make a character different than Mario. Giving it a local look. But I have to say this that the enemies might be different and the sound is going to be different. The game play will be similiar and maybe the levels might look similiar as well but not a total copy.

What would be you advice then?

I have played Mario Forever by Buziol Games a lot of times. How are they distributing it?

Thanks for replying Obscure.

Niteen Hatle.

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They don't appear to have a license from Nintendo so what they are doing is breach of copyright. Nintendo just haven't found out yet (the internet is a big place) or have found out an have decided not to take action (unlikely as Nintendo have closed down a number of similar projects in the past).

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Hi,

But it not an exact clone of the original Mario. The levels are different. Only the enemies and Mario are the same. And on that they are not charging any money or making any profit. They are only making money on advertisements, I guess.

That's the question I put in an earlier post. Is it okay to make money on advertisements on a clone of an original? At least they have worked hard and made the game which is quite wonderful.

Thanks.

Niteen Hatle.

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Quote:
Original post by niteenhatle
But it not an exact clone of the original Mario. The levels are different. Only the enemies and Mario are the same. And on that they are not charging any money or making any profit.
Copyright isn't about profit, it is about having some level of control over how your creative works are used.

Mario and the enemies are copied from Nintendo's games and as such it is a breach of copyright. It doesn't matter if they charge money, don't charge money or have advertising, it is still copyright infringement.

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This comes up way to often, and was even described in links to FAQs given earlier in the thread.

Here is yet another review:

Copyright: Control over distributing and performing copies, replicas, etc.
Trademark: Control over words, terms, names, symbols, devices, and other distinctive elements when used in trade or commerce. Putting it out on a public web site qualifies as trade or commerce.

Although the examples I cite are in the United States, there are international treaties and agreements making this pretty much uniform around the globe. The Berne Convention, Paris Conventionand Madrid Protocol are earlier building blocks, modern WIPO work continues to make international agreements (for better or worse).

Quote:
Exact wording from the law in the United States
the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:
(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work
in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies
or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of
literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly; [Note: a video game is an audiovisual work]
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.


It says nothing about profit. It says nothing about fan-created content. It says nothing about motivation.

Derivative works include pictures that look like the other pictures, and levels that are similar to other levels. Creating "your own artwork" that looks like anybody else's works is still a derivative work. This includes Mario image look-alikes, even if you color them purple and change his shoes into slippers. Creating a level that is similar to but slightly different from the Mario levels is still a derivative work.

Fair use can include, but doesn't necessarily include, using unauthorized works as placeholders while it is in-house. Fair use does NOT include distributing those same placeholders to anybody else.

Only the court can decide if your stuff is different enough to be considered an independant work or a derivative work. Make your own stuff. If you aren't creative enough to come up with your own stuff, talk to a real lawyer who specializes in copyright law.

If you derive from somebody else's work, expect to get sued even if you consulted a lawyer. Only the courts will make the final decision.




Next, trademark.

Quote:
(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or

(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities,


shall be liable in a civil action by any person who believes that he or she is or is likely to be damaged by such act.

Mario is protected. The themes of the mario games are combinations of symbols and devices, and as such are all protected. A fan-produced similar game might cause confusion of connection, and so they might be prohibited.

Unlike copyright, trademark has requirements of being used in commerce or trade.

As long as you keep the thing to yourself, you don't have to worry about trademark violations. Yay. The moment you start distributing it on the Internet or elsehwere, you are using it in trade and are subject to trademark law.

Just like copyright infringement, only the court can decide if your stuff is different enough to be considered independant. Make your own stuff. If you aren't creative enough to come up with your own stuff, talk to a real lawyer who specializes in trademark law.

If you derive from somebody else's work, expect to get sued even if you consulted a lawyer. Only the courts will make the final decision.


So going back through the posts:

>> But what if my game is a clone of an original game (Mario Forever by Buziol Games, for eg.)? What then? Should I apply to the original game publisher for license to make a clone?

Yes you should. Nintendo probably won't grant permission.

>> Would I have the copyright?

Only if they gave permission. If they do not give permission, the courts (who are the only one who decide this type of thing) might decide to give the rights back to the origninal owner. In this case, the court might order you to give everything to Nintendo even though you wrote it.

>> What if I don't want to make profit by making the game? Can I make profits in the first place?

Profit doesn't mean anything.

>> but your game is already protected when you right it.

The content has copyright protection automatically when it is created. If you don't have the right to create the content, then it is possible the courts will assign those rights to the original group.


>> If i make a Mario clone, I can't sell it online? I can't make some money out of advertisements as well?

You may do so ONLY if you have permission from the copyright and trademark owners.

>> Should I register a copyright the mario clone(if i make it)?

Talk to a lawyer to help make that decision.

>> I want to make a character different than Mario. Giving it a local look. But I have to say this that the enemies might be different and the sound is going to be different. The game play will be similiar and maybe the levels might look similiar as well but not a total copy.

That is a derivative work. You are not authorized by Nintendo to create a derivative work. It is also probably a trademark violation because you are using one or more word, term, name, symbol, or device from the original Mario game.

>> But it not an exact clone of the original Mario. The levels are different. Only the enemies and Mario are the same. And on that they are not charging any money or making any profit. They are only making money on advertisements, I guess.

It is still a derivative work. Nintendo has the exclusive right to authorize derivative works. It is also a trademark violation because the enemies and Mario each qualify as a word, term, name, symbol, or device with rights owned by Nintendo. The themeatic elements of the levels are also symbols and devices related to the Nintendo products, and are protected.

>> Is it okay to make money on advertisements on a clone of an original? At least they have worked hard and made the game which is quite wonderful.

It is only okay with permission. Distributing a clone without permission is probably both a copyright violation and trademark violation.

The courts might decide that everything related to the game belongs to Nintendo, that you must put out additional advertizing stating that your game was not authroized by Nintendo, and you must pay for other damages.


The law is similar but slightly different around the globe. For local variations, talk to a real lawyer.


It is so much safer and easier to just be creative and come up with your own ideas.

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Hi,

Frob, that was clear, precise and authoritative reply. That was something for me chew on!

Thanks you guys.

Now I have two options: Make an original game or Go Open Source.

Let's see what decision I take. It'll take sometime to swallow Frob's reply. But there is always a way out.

I haven't started on the game yet. So that saved time.

Thanks again.

Niteen Hatle.

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