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spacerat

Legal stuff when using free art / models in an own game

11 posts in this topic

I am wondering how and to what extent free art / sprites / 3d models can be used in an own game.

 

For example, lets say in the case of an animated mickey-mouse sprite, where the readme inside states:

 

"This sprite may be freely distributed UNALTERED.  Which means, you can't pull the readme file out of the zip,or add your own stuff to it and pass it along as your own!"

 

I believe including it in the game an selling it bundled will not be allowed.

On the other hand, if the user downloads the free model himself and installs it in the game-folder, there wont be any problem.

 

Now where is the boundary ?

Lets consider the following cases:

 

Like what happens if the game does not contain this sprite and 

 

-downloads and installs it automatically after installation ?

-downloads and installs it on request (pushing a button) ?

-contains a script to download and install the sprite ?

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Is there any contact info in the readme? I would contact the person if possible to simply ask permission. Worst case is they say no.

 

I think it's likely from what they wrote that they were simply worried about someone taking their art and claiming it as their own (shoving it into their own art pack), rather than someone actually using it as intended as a game sprite (or they wouldn't have released it in such a format). This is coming from someone who has slapped together sprite packs and handed them out like candy. I simply ask for a credit somewhere, and I'm afraid I didn't bend over backwards researching the licenses when I made mine so I can imagine there might be a gap between their intention and strictest interpretation of their wording.

 

Of course, their intention may have also been to release the resources for use in non-commercial games only, so I would really just see if you could their permission directly.

 

And if it really is Micky Mouse, you have a bigger problem to worry about, as Frob pointed out.

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I think it's likely from what they wrote that they were simply worried about someone taking their art and claiming it as their own (shoving it into their own art pack), rather than someone actually using it as intended as a game sprite (or they wouldn't have released it in such a format). This is coming from someone who has slapped together sprite packs and handed them out like candy. I simply ask for a credit somewhere, and I'm afraid I didn't bend over backwards researching the licenses when I made mine so I can imagine there might be a gap between their intention and strictest interpretation of their wording.

 

 

I think the point in Frobs comment was that you should not assume anything, and if the license is unclear, you should assume 'no' until you clear thing up with the author.  While you may be, and probably is right in your assumption, it is the very act of assuming that it 'dangerous'.  It doesn't say anything about usage at all?

 

If it is Mickey Mouse, you can be sure you can't use the sprite no matter what permissions the author gave.  Disney pushes the envelope all the time for how old a work can be before it can be considered 'public domain'.  According to initial intentions, the oldest animated shorts, should have been in public domain already, but I figure 'money talks'.  Regardless: That Disney is lobbying for law changes working against public, in favour of economic interests shows just how fiercely they will protect their intellectual property.  Apart from that, Mickey Mouse would probably not be in public domain, even though the oldest shorts would, since Disney is still actively using and utilising that figure in present day. 

Edited by aregee
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Ok, so in case of

 

- a sprite that is not any famous character like mickey mouse, its sufficient to get the permission of the author. ( I believe then, depending on the case, it can be included directly in the game by giving credits to the author )

 

- sprites such as mickey mouse, the game could point to a page where the gamer may download and install that file by himself, in case automation of this process is a violation. 

 

now, is hosting a mickey mouse sprite on your own server also against law ? I mean I havent seen Disney taking down deviantart.com for copyright issues of mickey mouse wallpapers e.g.

 

next, if you game contains an editor where players can create their own character that is then automatically available to all other players via internet, and one player creates a mickey mouse e.g. , what is the situation there ? 

Edited by spacerat
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if you game contains an editor where players can create their own character that is then automatically available to all other players via internet, and one player creates a mickey mouse e.g. , what is the situation there ?

You could potentially be taken to court by Disney (or whoever owns the character in question if it isn't specifically Mickey Mouse).  See for example Marvel v. NCSoft, where the makers of "City of Heroes" were sued because players were able to recreate comic-book characters in game.

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if you game contains an editor where players can create their own character that is then automatically available to all other players via internet, and one player creates a mickey mouse e.g. , what is the situation there ?

You could potentially be taken to court by Disney (or whoever owns the character in question if it isn't specifically Mickey Mouse).  See for example Marvel v. NCSoft, where the makers of "City of Heroes" were sued because players were able to recreate comic-book characters in game.

 

 

Thank you for that example. I also found how it was resolved:

 

Marvel and NCsoft did not disclose terms of the settlement, but the result appears to allow NCsoft's games -- both City of Heroes and City of Villains, the expansion released in the interim -- to proceed unhindered, allowing players to create characters as they wish, without physical restrictions on what characters look like.

 

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/98473/NCsoft_Marvel_Settle_City_of_Heroes_Suit.php

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I would try to avoid "permissions" that are loosely verbalized. Depending on where you live there is an automatic copyright on everything people make so by default others cannot do much with it. Also depending on where you live loosely verbalized permissions can be treated as invalid if they don't meet judicial requirements like being specific enough. The combination of those two things could theoretically lead you to problems in case of a lawsuit. Better use things that are published under one of those open licenses since they are usually made with a lawyer.

 

This is not a likely scenario (why would someone sue someone if they don't mind?) but better safe than sorry.

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No, you did not find out how it was resolved. The key part is "did not disclose terms of the settlement". For all you know NCSoft needed to pay millions of dollars to "proceed unhindered".

 

Apparently Marvel failed to sue NCsoft for most items according to these news:

 

http://www.finanzen.net/nachricht/Marvel-Gericht-entscheidet-zugunsten-von-NCsoft-18253

http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Federal+Judge+Dismisses+Claims+and+Strikes+Allegations+in+Marvel...-a0130132401

 

The court ruled that the similarities were insufficient

 

interesting is also this part:

"certain allegedly infringing works depicted in Marvel's pleadings were created not by users, but by Marvel itself. "

 

Further, if they would have paid some amount, I wonder about that statement " all parties agree that this case was never about monetary issues "

Edited by spacerat
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