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Ricki80

Using RealWorld People in Games and law?

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Hello, i would like to ask, if i would wanted to make game where there would be some famous people existing in the real world, is that possible (legally, wont anybody sue me?) More info:

"Famous existing people"- I do not mean now mainly some "stars" like Kim Kardashiens, or some singer, but i mean mainly people in "politics and history". Lets say for example i would like to make a game where there will be General Eisenhower (some strategy game for example from 2nd world war), or Eistein. Or even for example in some cutscene on TV current president Obama... That means "public figures".

 

1) Am i allowed to use the real names of these characters (with some random face)? Is it Legal? (of course i wont have any signed agreement from Eisenhower or Obama or Einsten :-) ). Would it be legal?

 

2) Am i allowed to use their Real Face (or try to emulate their real face as close as possible)? Is it again legal?

 

Can someone elaborate on that more deeply please?

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There are several sets of laws, and they vary by country.

 

There are publicity rights, personality rights, celebrity rights, and public figure rights, to name a few.

 

There is a great deal of nuance involved. Exactly what information you present about them is important. Exactly how they are presented is important. A slight change in those from what was described can make your use slip from legal and easily defensible to becoming an infringing use that is hard to defend.

 

You really need to discuss the exact details with a lawyer. 

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Thanks for replies, will read! :-)

 

"There is a great deal of nuance involved...."

 

Yeah thats exactly what i thought... so the best way will be to go with fictional names...

 

But even with fictional names and random faces, how close can i get, whats your experience...?

 

For example ill make a game where there is a Black President (as current president of the USA as portrayed in the game), he will have just a general black mans face (not modelled to anyone in particular), but will have the name for example:

 

"Harry Ebony", or "Bertold Adomu"?

 

Would this be sufficient for me to be cleared from any problems, what do you think?

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how close can i get


How comfortable are you with the risk of being sued? Your comfort level determines the degree of closeness to actual personages. (The more likely people will recognize whose name you are alluding to, the higher your risk of being sued.)

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how close can i get, whats your experience...?

FAQ.

 

You are asking wrong questions. How fast can you speed before you get caught? How close to the edge of a cliff can you drive without falling off? How many banks can you rob without getting caught? These are all along the same vein. The question should never be "how much can I get away with."

 

Don't do it at all.  Don't even approach the edge.  Stay far away from it.  Make your own stuff and be creative.

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Don't do it at all. Don't even approach the edge. Stay far away from it. Make your own stuff and be creative.

 

You hit the nail on the head with that one. This is less a question of 'can you' and more a question of 'should you' and the short answer is no.

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I worked on a game recently where the player-base demands lots of likenesses, but they were impossible to license. The solution this developer came up with was to ship the game with a character creator so players could create the likenesses themselves, and a sharing server so they could give them to other players. n.b. The sharing server has to have a process in place to deal with DMCA take-down notices.

 

When you first start the game, the first thing it asks you is if you'd like to replace the default (non-real) characters with the most popular replacements from the sharing server, which always happen to be the real people they're supposed to be laugh.png

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I worked on a game recently where the player-base demands lots of likenesses, but they were impossible to license. The solution this developer came up with was to ship the game with a character creator so players could create the likenesses themselves, and a sharing server so they could give them to other players. n.b. The sharing server has to have a process in place to deal with DMCA take-down notices.

 

And the coin flip goes to, DMCA safe harbor laws! \o/

 

However, if you make it look too closely like you're trying to encourage your userbase to infringe on your behalf, winking at your fans while giving copyright holders the middle finger, a judge might not be too pleased about that, and side with the copyright holder. Point in check: The Pirate Bay doesn't actually host any pirated content - they just let their users upload tiny text files (torrent files) that point to where the real content is hosted (on user's computers, not Pirate Bay's servers). But because it's obvious that, even though they aren't technically infringing on anything, they are trying to facilitate the pirating of content, the government has consistently gone against them in favor of the copyright owners.

 

And regardless, anyone can sue you for anything, and even if it gets thrown out of court, it'll still cost you money to defend yourself, so this route may not be the best route for indie developers.

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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