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Selling fan-made programs, but not the graphics.

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I've been pondering on this, and decided I should bring this up to you all. Say I'm wanting to write a Super Metroid styled engine, so you can merely plug in objects through code, and execute. I want to be able to sell the code, make revenue from it. Selling something like Nintendo's Metroid is illegal, so I don't want that route. Say, in the code, I remove all words or references to Nintendo's Metroid. Would it be possible to sell that code, and make the buyer download the graphics for free? Another example[hypothetically], I write a program/engine that allows to to do everything you can do in Bungie's Halo, but remove all references of Halo and words in the code, make the user have to buy the code, and have a free download-able file on the site with the graphics and needed models in it to run. Could I get away with this? I'm not selling the graphics, or any trademarked items, and there is no reference in the code, so I wouldn't be selling things illegally, but the free download-able graphics files go to it, but it's free and has all rights to Nintendo/Other Company's Objects. I want to know what you think.

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You cannot give away someone else's IP, for free or otherwise. If you were to do this, you'd be fine with selling the game/engine (assuming all of the code was written by you and had none of the original game's code in it), but you'd still be breaking copyright law by giving away copies of the assets.

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Original post by PCN
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but you'd still be breaking copyright law by giving away copies of the assets.
What do you mean by 'copy of the assets'?
Why can't you just make up your own similar IP, then get a someone to draw you your own sprites and give them a cut? You could have a nice cell phone game then, and get some good revenue.

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"Play as Chief Master and fight the evil Promise in a sci-fi FPS. With the help of your hot AI named Katana, you must learn the secrets of the Tide-- a biological parasite unleashed by your own stupidity."

Heh, I'd play that.

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From what I'm understanding is that you are making an engine that has similar capabilities to a commercial engine. You're just not using anyone else's IP and are allowing the user to create their own content.

If that's the case, then yeah. It should be legal. And companies do it all the time. It's called middleware.

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Be careful.

The safest route is to not clone any aspect of their IP. Make your own stuff.


If you decide to clone, that is inherently risky. You might carefully craft your stuff so that you are within the law. That's good.

Even if you are within the law, Nintendo (or any other major company) might still accuse you of IP theft if you seem too close to their products. In order to maintain their rights, they must enforce them. This means you will probably get a legal C&D letter as soon as they discover you, and if you don't comply you will end up fighting an expensive legal battle.


Talk to an experienced IP business lawyer, preferably one in the games industry. He can advise you properly.

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Original post by PCN
Okay, so if I lay out everything, but instead of going out and letting them download the images for free from my site, they have to go get it themselves that works perfectly in the engine, then that's fine?


You are safe on the code side.

If those images are indeed, as I understand it, from Super Metroid, then you're not safe to propose them for free from your website.

Y.

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Original post by Ysaneya
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Original post by PCN
Okay, so if I lay out everything, but instead of going out and letting them download the images for free from my site, they have to go get it themselves that works perfectly in the engine, then that's fine?


You are safe on the code side.

If those images are indeed, as I understand it, from Super Metroid, then you're not safe to propose them for free from your website.

Y.

Probably safe on copyright, but there is also trademark law to consider.

If the game (even without images) is similar to their product, the company may still decide to sue or send out C&D letters if they feel the product infringes on their unique elements, or if legitimate usage disproportionately dilutes their own marks.

Also, even if they are "safe", it doesn't mean the company won't decide to send out the attack lawyers anyway. The ONLY way for corporations to preserve their rights is to actively enforce them, and that includes taking action against even the slightest possible violations.

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