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iDG

Are freeware clones legal?

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Hello all, Although I run a Mac game dev site, this issue crosses all platforms. We are running a game contest and one of the games was a tribute to an old game for the Mac. The original developer asked that we remove it. I''d like to hear your comments on this topic. Here is the thread in our forum.. http://www.idevgames.com/cgi-bin/UltraBoard/UltraBoard.cgi?action=Read&BID=3&TID=422&SID=47058 Thanks, Carlos Editor http://www.idevgames.com/ Portal for Macintosh Game Developers

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Funny, 90% of games these days ARE clones of older games... the gameplay is almost identical, the storys are similar, sounds are much alike, etc.

Clones arent illegal unless they steal directly from the product they are cloning. If the clone uses graphics/sound/code/etc taken directly from the original, then there would be a legal issue there. If it was used as inspiration, I personally believe that it is BS for another company to get pissed off.

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May I remind you guys of the hasseling Hasbrow lawsuit that is likely still in progress.

No, they are not legal without the permission of the copyright holder for the original(s).

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As many people have pointed out before, the Hasbro case is seeking patent level protection from a copyright. If Hasbro didn''t have such a huge legal budget, it would have been lost quite quickly.

Clones /are/ legal, within certain restrictions. (After all, Windows originally was a clone of MacOS, which was in turn a clone of a Xerox windowing system.)

You just need to make sure you don''t utilize the same names or characters, so as to avoid trademark infringements.

Copyright only protects a specific implementation, guys. In court, this has previously meant that a software clone is legal so long as the clone''s developers have never been exposed to the source code of the original.

Morally, though... if I liked a game enough to do a tribute contest about it, I think I''d respect the wishes of the original developer.

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Notice that I didn''t said I like the way it is. Fact is if you want to prevent a lawsuit don''t copy a game. The more you copy from the game, the higher the chance someone gets upset. Maybe you win, maybe you lose. But in USA you need to pay your lawyers whether you win or not.

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quote:
Original post by Jester101
Notice that I didn''t said I like the way it is. Fact is if you want to prevent a lawsuit don''t copy a game. The more you copy from the game, the higher the chance someone gets upset. Maybe you win, maybe you lose. But in USA you need to pay your lawyers whether you win or not.

Yeah, but you said "clones are never legal", which is wrong. The fact is, there is no direct legal problem with making a clone in any country I can think of. Doesn''t mean they won''t try and bankrupt you if you try, but there''s not some law prohibiting it. You can''t copyright gameplay or game rules, nor can you really patent it/them (although you can almost do so in America). And you can only trademark names, brands, logos and the like. So if you don''t steal graphics/sounds/any other resource, don''t use their naming or story or dialogue, and don''t use any patented algorithms (only applicable in the US and some other countries), then the only way they can win is if you run out of money to pay your lawyers, because you''re doing nothing illegal.

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Me and a friend made a Castlevania clone for a school project and we emailed Konami and they told us that we could even rip the graphics from their games. The only thing they didn''t want was us selling it. Try emailing the company that you are doing a clone of and lots of times they will suprise you. Just hope the company that first made the game was not Hasbro

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Quote (too lazy to use the forum code): "then the only way they can win is if you run out of money to pay your lawyers, because you''re doing nothing illegal."

Yep. That''s right. But that''s all they need to be able to? Isn''t it?
And although I grant you that my use of the term "legal" maybe was not 100% correct, but in the USA they have a case law. Which means if one company wins ever such a clone-case, others will have it a lot easier to do so. And if the courts to decide to regularly sue you for doing clones you ARE doing something illegal - whether there are offical laws for it or not, you.

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I believe the precedent for this has already been set when the makers of that Odyssey game K.C. Munchkin (if I remember correctly) successfully defended a suit against them for cloning Pac-Man. This is all from distant memory so forgive me if I''m wrong, but I believe the court decided that you couldn''t copyright the "look and feel" of a game, so unless they stole some copyrightable resource material from the game then the clone was legal. But then the court sided with the creator of Tetris in that now you can''t do a Tetris clone and call it Teri-something or Something-tris. It gets pretty tricky.

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