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TextureUniverse

Textures, Property Rights and Copyright

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OK, so I''ve been noticing something alot lately: Games are using textures that run the risk of violating copyrights or property rights. Now, I haven''t fully consulted a lawyer on this, but let me give you an example: You''re creating an NYPD scene, such as in the game Max Payne. A NYPD van is textured with an acutal photo of an NYPD van. BUT...the logo, the design of the van, etc..., all belong to the NYPD. I (am guessing) they''re not giving permission for it to be used. It''s they''re trademark, and arguably, they could say that a design is something copyrighted by them. Now, if this were journalism, you could get around trademark and copyright arguments because the van is in a public place and you''re photographing it for news purposes. But if you''re using the images commercially, it''s a different story. Has anyone ever consulted a lawyer on this? It basically affects all textures that aren''t painted by hand. Anything with a design in it that comes from a third party potentially violates someone''s copyright, property rights, or trademarks. Another example: You can''t just photograph a house and use that as a texture for a house. You could if it were totally non-identifiable. But I know you can''t for commercial photography. You need to get property releases to prevent people from suing you, claiming you''re making money off of their property or design. Last example: You can''t just go into a museum and photograph ancient art for use commercially. The museums (often) dictate that nothing on their property be used for a commercial purpose without their permission. And they rarely give it. I''m not looking for opinions on this so much as something grounded in law. Everyone decries property rights/copyright, etc..., but these are real concerns as games are textured with photorealistic digital photos. Particularly ones based on actual places, organizations, etc..., even streetsigns. I avoid using identifiable designs in my textures, but I just wonder if anyone has vetted the legal issues on this. -Scott http://www.TextureUniverse.com

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A very good point. There obviously is a lawyer out there somewhere who knows as this will all have been resolved by the film industry. They have exactly the same situations when they film their latest crime caper in NYC. Going to see my lawyer next week so I will ask him this and will post back a reply.


Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

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You need unfortunately the permission from NYPD, when you will make a commercial product using there logo.
If it''s a movie, game or screensaver it doesn''t matter, you need it, if it''s protected. If it isn''t protected you need also the permission in some countries, you get automatically the author rights if you are the creator/author. But as an author you need to prove it, that it is your property first. You made that logo first and orginal. So the date is very important. You can post the logo in a closed envelop, mail it to your own address and the date on the stamp, is legal prove. Don''t open it of course. Put it in a safe.
You can see it possible as a sort of license when the NYPD is the main subject of the product (movie, game etc.).
But when it''s in the background and it isn''t the subject of the product. I think you can still have problem. Just with car models who can be in the background, volvo, mercedes etc. A solution is to manipulate the cars. Use other names or logos and protect it. When the cars got an other design look, and you can''t relate it to an existing model, you don''t have a problem.
Otherwise you need a license or permission. For instance in a racecar game, you need that permission or so called license.
This is a very interesting point by the way.

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Hey Dan, that would be great.

NYPD isn't really the only example I'm thinking of.

I know a few major texture suppliers that supply "building" textures using photographs of actual windows, architectural elements, real doors, etc... In fact, I believe it to be fairly common practice.

Now...I know it gets stupid...but technically, someone created those designs. I don't know that there's been a lawsuit yet, but what if someone came back to you and said, "You're selling photos of my window design for profit" and have to stop or pay me a royalty.

My basic question is whether they'd have the right to sue.

We've seen court cases where building owners have forced commercial users of the buildings they own to obtain permission, pay a fee, or obtain a property release. When you're dealing with a "door" or "window," you're bringing it down to a minute scale, but I would think the same thing applies.

The question is whether you can sell manipulated, digital photographs of recognizable architectural elements or designs without obtaining permission or paying a fee.

Obviously, there aren't 1000s of texture artists doubling as architects, door, interior and window designers, so they're photo-sourcing some material. I just wonder if they're leaving themself open to a potential lawsuit if someone gets pissed sometime.

This wasn't really a concern up until now, since it's only this generation of games that had the capacity of showing fully photo-realistic graphics in which end-users might recognize original designs belonging to someone else.

But these days, there's a mad dash to fully reproduce the actual world digitally, and I wonder if the legal ramifications have been dealt with or considered outside of reproducing known logos or trademarks.

-Scott
http://www.TextureUniverse.com



Edited by - TextureUniverse on April 23, 2001 11:26:30 AM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
So where is your reply?


quote:
Original post by Obscure

A very good point. There obviously is a lawyer out there somewhere who knows as this will all have been resolved by the film industry. They have exactly the same situations when they film their latest crime caper in NYC. Going to see my lawyer next week so I will ask him this and will post back a reply.


Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions


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