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Question about copyright laws,,,

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I've been planning a game that takes place in an existing game universe created by a major developer. I've read about copyright laws, and it seems this is doable, but I need to know for sure before a form a team. The game doesn't use the title of the series it is based on, or any other trademarked titles in any way. None of the graphics, sound effects, maps, or written content will be taken. The only similarities are names of places, factions, and races, and some game mechanics. The gameplay style is completely different, and the story has no relation to the story of any of the games from the existing series. This will be a small, freeware, possibly open-source project. If I were to go through with this project, would I be in any sort of danger? Any help is appreciated.

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I'm not 100% sure about its legality, but I'd lean towards illegal. I doubt you'd be in much danger if you went ahead with the project, though. What you're describing basically sounds like the video game equivalent of fan-fiction. The worst anyone will do is give you a cease and desist order.

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Honestly, it depends on the developer. Valve and id, for instance, have a history of supporting such mods, other people may not be so forthcoming.

I'd write to the developer/publisher and let them know what you're doing. If they're cool with it, great.

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Quote:
Original post by Samith
The worst anyone will do is give you a cease and desist order.

Which of course means that you will have to let the project die after a C&D letter in order to avoid a lawsuit, losing all the effort you put into it. Not so good.

Quote:
Original post by Daggerbot
I've been planning a game that takes place in an existing game universe created by a major developer. I've read about copyright laws, and it seems this is doable, but I need to know for sure before a form a team. The game doesn't use the title of the series it is based on, or any other trademarked titles in any way. None of the graphics, sound effects, maps, or written content will be taken. The only similarities are names of places, factions, and races, and some game mechanics. The gameplay style is completely different, and the story has no relation to the story of any of the games from the existing series.

If everything is different, why would you still reuse that publishers' universe ? Why not just create your own, and avoid all potential problems ?

Quote:

This will be a small, freeware, possibly open-source project.

In terms of copyright or trademark infringement, this is irrelevant.

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Bad idea.

There are many facets of IP law, copyright is only one of them.


Using their "existing game universe" may infringe on quite a few different rights, including copyright (you are deriving from their collective works), trademark (their distinctive elements), unfair competition (infringement or misappropriation), and more.

You say you would copy names, places, factions, and races. All of those are covered under trademark law and others. Their marks do not need to be individually registered trademarks for trademark infringement to happen. They created them and used them in trade, so they get automatic minimal protections.


It does not matter if you plan to make money or not, if your project is commercial or free, if you give away source or not. If you make it available you are infringing.

Also, read Tom Sloper's FAQ 61 (then read the rest of them).

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