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Legality of Remakes

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Hi, I am new to this forum, so just wack me on the head with a big trout if I am totally out of context :) I am doing lately some remakes (http://www.lodgia.com/games), for example space invaders and crazy comets. I am doing them totally for free. But as I am thinking of doing something more complex, based on a remake, It could be nice to get a few $s for all the hours of effort put into it. Seeying that may humble game has been downloaded several hundreds of times, maybe there is some money in shareware after all.. (Yes, I know some people think all software should be free, but what about the pour souls programming it?) Anyway, how long are things from a old-and-long-dead game, like space invaders, still subjected to copyright?? My freeware game has space invaders in the title, but what is copyrighted and what is not? The name? The graphics? The attack pattern? And how much does it have to differ to avoid legal mumbo-jumbo? Any ideas on this are very welcome. /Dusty Murray aka Chaos51 @ www.lodgia.com

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Oddly enough I work for a games company which once published the game you mention, not to mention several other 'classic' games from around that era.

I think the licensing of these games is definately a grey area, but I will say that the same company has just re-released an equally well known game from this era as a gambling machine. The name, logo and graphics on this game are identical to those featured in the original game. The copyright on this particular game (which is even older than the one you mention) is very much still active.

I personally think that it is better to be safe and rename the name of your game if you plan on making money from your efforts. Companies can be very protective when it comes to licensing. Although they may be a little less strict when it comes to older licenses, it's impossible to predict whether a company lawyer is going to go after an individual/small company. Just look at how many people (programmers/webmasters) have been messed about by 'Fox'.

Although you may consider this to be overly cautious, my advice is definately try to make the game look different (particularly any logos, enemies etc as these are probably all trademarks) and change the title slightly.

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First of all, I'm not a lawyer or any other kind of legal expert. If you want to be sure consult someone with a professional background in law.


Before you remake a game you should probably try to find out the following:

a) If there is there a (valid) copyright (most likely) and who is the current copyright holder?
b) If there is there a trademark (the game's name for example), who owns it?
c) Maybe there are even one or more patents covering the game or techniques used therein (mp3 for playback comes to mind).


Your first source of information would be the owner's website, the game manual, the EULA or a similar license agreement.

As for the rest you should check out your countries law on how long a copyright is valid, if it can be sold etc.

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Thanks guys,


This is basicaly what I feared, better to be cautious then sorry I suppose,
Ok I look into renaming and rebranding the games.
Also I check the trademarks, and copyrights as well.

One thing that I am stil curious about is, if you make a game, and have it completely for free, does the same copyrighttrademark stuff still hold?

And a second thing, if you do a remake, dedicated, to the original, still claiming the original is best, but your just honouring the memory. Does that have any legal bearings?

Anyway, Benelio, I dont know which game, and what company you are talking about, but I have some ideas.... If thats true, it's fascinatining to meet someone who actually worked on the original of such a game... :)

/C51

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even if it's for free, even if it's only honoring a great game with a humble remaking, the company can still decide to enforce their copyright. What usually happens is you get a cease & desist letter, and if you ignore their warning then they sue you.

For example, many people have tried to make games based on the legend of zelda, and they get the C&D simply because nintendo doesn't want anyone else making zelda games.

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Quote:
Original post by chao51
And a second thing, if you do a remake, dedicated, to the original, still claiming the original is best, but your just honouring the memory. Does that have any legal bearings?

Anyway, Benelio, I dont know which game, and what company you are talking about, but I have some ideas.... If thats true, it's fascinatining to meet someone who actually worked on the original of such a game... :)

/C51


Funkymunky is quite correct in what he says about the C&D orders. Although you are obviously less likely to be a target by a company if you aren't making a profit by breaching their copyrights, it's still a risk to do it even if you're not making any personal gain.

I think Wildfire hit the nail on the head in his post on what you need to do. Find out as much as you can about any type of game you want to create and where and how you plan on selling it. Good luck with it all.

Unfortunately I've only been at the company i'm at for a couple of years. I wasn't even born for all the groundbreaking work they used to do back in the 70s and early 80s. Now the company only works in the gambling industry, so my chances of ever working on something truely innovative are nil while I'm working here. Ah well... that's what weekends are for! :)

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Quote:
Original post by chao51
One thing that I am still curious about is, if you make a game, and have it completely for free, does the same copyright/trademark stuff still hold?

And a second thing, if you do a remake, dedicated, to the original, still claiming the original is best, but your just honouring the memory. Does that have any legal bearings?


Yes. Whether you offer the game for free or not does not have any influence on the owners copyright. Even if you "honour" the original by mentioning its name the owner is free to sue you. They could even claim you are using their name to advertise your game or that due to the lacking quality of the remake you are damaging the image of their brand.


Simply said, whenever you create something you implicitly have a copyright, or "the right to copy" your work. Anyone else copying your work without your explicit permission is violating your copyright. You can waiver those rights by putting your work into the public domain, or using a license (the infamous GPL for example) that expressly allows others to copy your work.

If you want to go a step further you can establish a trademark. This registers the name/image/character as your icon of trade. Usually the name of a company, their logo, the characters used in their games and even the games engine (think: Steam™) are trademarked. You can usually tell by the little icon "™".
Like I said before I'm not a legal expert, so my understanding is a bit vague, but basically a trademark is an "upgraded" version of copyright ("more official"). You usually need to pay a fee to register a trademark and and even larger fee when violating someone elses trademark [lol].

The last of the bunch is the patent (think: MP3). Unlike the trademark it doesn't protect a certain symbol but rather an abstract idea or a certain process. What exactly can be patented depends on where you live. For example, software patents are possible in the US, but, so far, not in Europe (which is the source of a lot of heated debate). Also a patent must not be valid worldwide, so while you might get into trouble someone in Zimbabwe might not when reproducing a patented work (same thing goes for trademarks and probably copyright).


Like I and others said before, be very cautious about remakes.
Even if your game is original, a company might feel the need to sue you if for example they think your character too closely resembles one of their own. Even if they have no chance of winning the cost of the lawsuit alone might be enough to break you. However unless you're threatening their market shares this is an unlikely event.

That being said, get up to date on copyright laws before you put something online, and best consult a lawyer before trying to sell stuff. Better safe then sorry =) (...and, possibly, broke).

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Quote:
Original post by BenelioNow the company only works in the gambling industry, so my chances of ever working on something truely innovative are nil while I'm working here. Ah well... that's what weekends are for! :)


That is EXACTLY my case. Making casino games is boring... But hey, the big money is in there ;).
And make free "fun" games the weekend, indeed.

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