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Maximer

Open Source Game With Copyright Questions

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Maximer    107

Hello there,
 
My name is Maxamillion.
 
I am a person that enjoys games and everything about the concept of it, however I have questions about copyright content in a game. I never created a game, I have played in my years countless games of all types and kinds though. However, creating a game or leading to a game development or knowing about copyright laws that needs to go with the creation of a game I have never experienced myself. Now, I have been a Game Master] (GM) of many, many games in the past so I know somewhat a bit about some of the things I have mentioned but instead of lying and stating I know everything, I prefer saying I know nothing so everyone can state things how they know or understand they are from the beginning. Personally I do not like programing and as a result that makes me... Not a programmer. However, I enjoy more creating vividly detailed 3D models and such, I can just about model anything and very close to an actual concept, from sight or blueprint too. That is pretty much the skills I hold when it comes to the field of video games, other then all the experience I have in being a game master.
 
Over the years I have never been able to find any dedicated programmers to help create some games I had in mind. Personally this is mainly because of course, I have no money. Not everyone has a huge company with a lot of money or can save up to even get to the point of getting a team together. Some times one has to place their real dreams aside and face the reality they have... And that is which let's you know you can not do it, do not have the funding to do it or simply you do not have time to do it. But today I want to finally change that and probably create a friendship with people out there that also have my personal views in the same matters. Now this is what I desire to do...
 
I own a Lifetime License to the Hero Engine
This lifetime license includes everything the highest tier payment offers with the addition of 99 developer seats. Probably isn't the most amazing engine out there but it is still an engine to create great things with. Mainly specialized for creating Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMO), it was also used to create Star Wars: The Old Republic, which is a pretty impressive game all on its own. My dream is not a dream of my own but a dream of many. See, even though I have many ideas to create a few games which I am sure will make it big (yes, I know you are probably thinking that everyone says that, but keep in mind that you do not know me just yet) my fascination with games is mainly watching what other people come up with. The game I wish to create are a combination of the following games in this exact order and content:
 
Fighting System: DC Universe Online
Customization: Champions Online
Graphics: Terra Online
 
Now with that said and done, I want the game to be Open Source as well so everyone who is learning or is an elite can jump in and do as they wish to learn, teach or expand. Practically I have created a huge Game Development Document (GDD) over the years to help the creation of my idea game. Now the "Open Source" feature also implies that anyone who has ideas are free to state them and probably even get them into the game itself. The issue I am having is copyright information and the fact I don't have a team at all. But we talk about a team later on, right now I wish to understand far more clearly that of the copyright laws. It is obvious that if one creates a game of heroes verses villains and whatnot, people are always bound to create Superman clones, Spider-man clones, Batman clones, Hulk clones and so on... Everyone who has played Champions Online know just how serious copyright can get. But as far as I know, as long as the game is FREE and fan made (which it is and will be) there should not be any lawsuits against anyone or anything. Because you are pretty much replicating something, but you are not making money off it. However, I can be wrong, maybe just replicating something can also end up in lawsuits.
 
Which brings me to my next point.
To those that have played Champions Online, I am sure you know as well as I do that you can never make a character that looks like an "iconic" character, as in looking like Ryu from the Street Fighter series by Capcom. If you do, you will get the character - as players themselves have named it - "nerfed". This simply means that your character will require a name change and on top of that, will also have their outfit/look retested to the default version of the game. Now in a way, this can bring down many people who play the game because in real life... We will never be as great as those superheros we so admire, the closest we ever get to it is through the use of video games. However, just because a game has a red cape in it, doesn't automatically mean it is Superman's cape or anything of that nature. The cape is there to use and to wear to make whatever you want. Every item and piece is there for you to create what your imagination pleases. But in our time and world there are just so many incredibly large amounts of heroes, villains  sidekicks and such... That I am sure you can not sit there and tell me a certain clothing that a villain or hero has never used already.
 
This in turn makes things hard, but I believe a game and its idea can be kept safe if the game remains open source and free. And I mean this as in, you register, you download, you're in the game playing with everything the game offers. You are not charged real-world whatsoever, no minute fees, no monthly subscriptions, no play-per-days-logged, none of that. It is just... Absolutely free, totally. And so, to finish this really long text of things I wished to get off chest, I ask... What do you all think?
 
What do you believe is the best way to make this happen, legit - without breaking any rules or copyright laws, and of course, can it be down?
 
Now, I want to make this happen, and would love to know after everything is set and down, who would be interested in joining this project and idea, you are more then welcomed. Consider it as an experience, an adventure, a journey, a pass time, a hobby, quick entertainment, a life style... Whatever you want.
 
Thank for you time, all thoughts and opinions count no matter how big or small, and I will read them all and consider them if anything was to take to action in the very near future. Any questions anyone has I will do my best to answer them and may you all enjoy the rest of your day.

Edited by Josh Petrie
hyperlinks smacked of SEO

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jpetrie    13159

But as far as I know, as long as the game is FREE and fan made (which it is and will be) there should not be any lawsuits against anyone or anything. Because you are pretty much replicating something, but you are not making money off it. However, I can be wrong, maybe just replicating something can also end up in lawsuits.

 

 

 

This in turn makes things hard, but I believe a game and its idea can be kept safe if the game remains open source and free. And I mean this as in, you register, you download, you're in the game playing with everything the game offers. You are not charged real-world whatsoever, no minute fees, no monthly subscriptions, no play-per-days-logged, none of that. It is just... Absolutely free, totally. And so, to finish this really long text of things I wished to get off chest, I ask... What do you all think?

 

 

 
You are very wrong. Sorry, but the reality of the world does not match your idealistic view of it.
 
The reasons that Champions Online (and other similar games) don't let you create characters that infringe upon the intellectual property of others is fundamentally because somebody else owns the rights to that intellectual property and don't want you to use it in that fashion. Whether or not your game is free or your use is not-for-profit generally doesn't matter.
 
Whether Champions Online specifically does this because they were involved in a legal battle with some IP holders (I vaguely recall a story like this, though I don't recall if it was Champions Online specifically) or because they chose to do it themselves to proactively protect themselves and/or their players against similar legal action I don't know. But either would be a pretty valid reason. You may discover, upon researching, that the proactive stance is more common than you think. For example, the EULA you agree to when you launch the Skyrim Creation Kit says:
 
You shall not create any New Materials that infringe upon the rights of others, or that are libelous, defamatory, harassing, or threatening, and You shall comply with all applicable laws in connection with the New Materials

 

 
In other words, you can't create mods that use somebody else's intellectual property. (You may be tempted to counter this with "but look at such-and-such a mod, which let's me wear the Superman logo on my Dragonborn's armor," but you have to remember that the ability to do a thing combined with the fact that nobody has been punished for that thing yet doesn't make that thing legal; it's still a violation of the terms of the agreement, it's just one that has not yet been enforced in a particular case. For whatever reason.)
 
 
What do you believe is the best way to make this happen, legit - without breaking any rules or copyright laws, and of course, can it be down?

 

 
Of course it can (technically) be done, although it's rather unfeasible. You simply need to secure an appropriate license to use the intellectual property you want in the fashion you want to.
 
As you might imagine that's a daunting task, both in terms of time and management (there are lots of intellectual property holders in the world), complexity (intellectual property laws vary, sometimes wildly, by national jurisdiction) and money (Disney probably will not let you use any of the Marvel superheroes without paying quite a lot).
 
Because intellectual property law is sufficiently diverse across the world, it's possible you are located in and can build and run your business from a location where IP law is sufficiently lax that you are able to pull this off in a legal fashion. You will want to find yourself a very good lawyer and discuss, in great depth, what your plans and options are.
Edited by Josh Petrie

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frob    44973

But as far as I know, as long as the game is FREE and fan made (which it is and will be) there should not be any lawsuits against anyone or anything.

Completely false.

 

"Free" has no effect on copyright. A Robin Hood defense does not work: "I took this from someone, but then I gave it away for free, so I should not be punished for the infringement" is not going to help you when standing before a judge.

 

For being fan made, that is also not a defense.  Many fan-made works are shut down. Even if the rights holders don't shut down every fan-made work that does not mean they are not infringing, nor does it mean that they will not attempt to shut you down.

 

 

 


Now the "Open Source" feature also implies that anyone who has ideas are free to state them and probably even get them into the game itself.

 

No, the license alone dictates the terms. Nothing is implied.  Either the license grants the additional rights or standard copyright/tradmark/patent/other law applies.

 

For example, if the license does not grant you specific rights to distribute modified copies then the base copyright law applies, which limits the rights of preparing derivative works and restricts distribution and publication of derivative works (among other things) to the original creator. Unless the license explicitly grants those rights they are not passed on.

 

 

 


The game I wish to create are a combination of the following games in this exact order and content:

 

Very dangerous.

 

Broad themes are not protected by copyright. Copyright covers the exact expression or implementation. But copyright is not the only right involved. There are many other rights that potentially apply. There are rights protecting names. There are rights protecting identifying marks. There are rights protecting color themes. 

 

The broad gameplay mechanics, such as "falling blocks" or "platform jumping" are not protected. Specific individual mechanics might be protected. The only way to be certain is to go through the courts, and that is expensive.

 

 

 


you can never make a character that looks like an "iconic" character... This in turn makes things hard, but I believe a game and its idea can be kept safe if the game remains open source and free. And I mean this as in, you register, you download, you're in the game playing with everything the game offers.

 

No. All of those things are independent of each other.

 

The limitations on making existing iconic characters stems from trademark law and some very expensive lawsuits. 

 

The constant patrolling of the characters to shut off IP rights violators is done to avoid lawsuits. It has nothing to do with "open source" nor with "free".

 

Open source covers the source code for the program, allowing others to make use of the source code in ways normally restricted by copyright under the terms of a license. It has nothing to do with trademark protections of iconic characters, or does it have anything to do with "free", zero cost.

 

The cost charged by the company and the in-game elements have everything to do with the services the company is offering.  Their decision to charge or not has nothing to do with trademarks or other IP rights, nor does it have anything to do with open source software.

 

 

In all your reading, I suggest reading some legal primers on IP law, covering copyright, trademark, software licenses, the various open source licenses, and the common licensing systems used in games today.

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Maximer    107

OP: I'm removing your hyperlinks because they look too much like SEO or something.

Oh that's fine, just added it on there so everyone are sure of the things I was talking about. I know their are probably people out there that even today never played the games I have mentioned, so I thought to make everything clear head on.

 

To the of those that have replies, I am reviewing all the replies placed and seeking more information about the situation as mentioned everyone accordingly. The only main thing I find strange is how Champions Online have this issue, yet DC Universe Online doesn't has it at all and they are far more known that "Champions Online" since all the characters in CO are practically made up right for the game itself.

Edited by Maximer

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Anthony Serrano    3285

Whether Champions Online specifically does this because they were involved in a legal battle with some IP holders (I vaguely recall a story like this, though I don't recall if it was Champions Online specifically) or because they chose to do it themselves to proactively protect themselves and/or their players against similar legal action I don't know.


Different game - but same developer.

Marvel Comics sued Cryptic Studios over potential copyright infringement in City of Heroes, their previous highly-customizable superhero MMORPG.

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jpetrie    13159
 The only main thing I find strange is how Champions Online have this issue, yet DC Universe Online doesn't has it at all and they are far more known that "Champions Online" since all the characters in CO are practically made up right for the game itself.

 

 

Ah, but DC Universe Online does have this issue. And, like Bethesda did for Skyrim's tools, they proactively protect themselves against IP litigation by (among other things) including this clause in the EULA you agree to when you play DC Universe Online:

 

11. As part of your Account, you can upload content to our servers in various forms, such as in the selections you make for the Game, in-game posts and chat, and in chat rooms and similar user-to-user areas (collectively, your "Content"). Your Content shall not: (a) infringe any third party intellectual property, other proprietary or publicity/privacy rights; (b) violate any law, rule or regulation;

 
In other words, you can't make Iron Man in DC Universe Online. 

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Maximer    107

11. As part of your Account, you can upload content to our servers in various forms, such as in the selections you make for the Game, in-game posts and chat, and in chat rooms and similar user-to-user areas (collectively, your "Content"). Your Content shall not: (a) infringe any third party intellectual property, other proprietary or publicity/privacy rights; (b) violate any law, rule or regulation;

In other words, you can't make Iron Man in DC Universe Online. 

 

That's the thing right there, I have played DC Universe Online for a very long time because after playing Champions Online I quit the game and started playing DC Universe Online. Every single "Hulk" I seen has never gotten a report from a player. Every friend I have in there whose character is based off an iconic character (Capitan America, Wolverine, Iron Man as you said, and so on) that are not DC Comics based have never had their account banned or suspended, and some of them have their account full of iconic characters, meaning everything time they jump in the game they are playing on an iconic character. The only way you can get banned or suspended or whatever in DC Universe Online is either by hacking the game, using too much profanity, or something of that nature that is normally the reason why people do get banned. I mean, DC Universe Online even added a shield weapon to be able to clone Capitan America almost 100% as well.

 

And even today, all the friends I have had who have a Capitan America alternative character have told me they have never had any issues with their account since the day they made it. In Champions Online, you make an icon character today, and a player will report it. That is probably another thing that is making the Terms And Conditions on Champions Online so strict, because there are players who just sit there and report everything. I have had in the game people send me a /tell to let me know they reported, two minutes later my character is "nerfed". But I have other iconic character, and while I am on them and no one reports them, I can enjoy the game. Until another player reports, I have no problem whatsoever enjoying the game on my iconic. In DC Universe Online, players do not care at all about what you make and never report. They just care about playing the game and that is it. Now this is the two main things I do not understand and also the main things that has me confused with all this copyright stuff, how DC Universe Online get away with it all and Champions Online can't.

Edited by Maximer

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DvDmanDT    1941

While unlikely, there is a theoretical possibility that the DCUO team have in fact signed deals with the owners of some of the icons to avoid lawsuits and are therefore more relaxed.

 

EDIT: They probably don't have permission to use the competitors characters, but they might have signed some form of anti-lawsuit pact.

Edited by DvDmanDT

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Free doesn't matter in the eyes of the law.  Lots of copyright infringement games get closed down and lots don't.  Just because there are ones that don't doesn't mean it is alright for you.  It's hard to say why DC Online doesn't have a problem.  Since it is back by DC Comics which is a worth a lot of money maybe they decided it wasn't worth spending a few million in legal proceedings to get a few people to stop making bad Spiderman clones.  Maybe they have a gentleman's agreement with Marvel.  Maybe there was a cease and desist at one point and they came to some kind of contract agreement.  The point is that nobody knows what the real situation is and basing your argument the fact that is seems alright for them is a bad idea.

 

And to be honest, you have years more worth of work and lots of money (open source doesn't mean it all gets done magically for free) before your game becomes a reality.  I'd be more worried about getting it done then figure out how you are going to keep copyrighted stuff out of it.

Edited by stupid_programmer

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jpetrie    13159
That's the thing right there, I have played DC Universe Online for a very long time because after playing Champions Online I quit the game and started playing DC Universe Online. Every single "Hulk" I seen has never gotten a report from a player. Every friend I have in there whose character is based off an iconic character (Capitan America, Wolverine, Iron Man as you said, and so on) that are not DC Comics based have never had their account banned or suspended, and some of them have their account full of iconic characters, meaning everything time they jump in the game they are playing on an iconic character

 

 

None of that matters though. Those players signed an agreement. They are now in violation of that agreement, which means they are no longer permitted to play the game (that's what the agreement says). Just because they have not yet had that punishment enacted does not mean that they won't eventually or that it's okay.

 

Now this is the two main things I do not understand and also the main things that has me confused with all this copyright stuff, how DC Universe Online get away with it all and Champions Online can't

 

What you aren't understanding is that both games are doing more-or-less the same things to proactively try to defend themselves against IP litigation (they are probably doing more behind-the-scenes in terms of deals and communication that you cannot see). You're only a player of those games, you are given extremely little insight into what's going on within those studios in the operation of those games. Just because you have never personally observed (or heard of such an observation from your friends or community) such a ban doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It just means you haven't seen it. Perhaps DCUO has a more subtle internal policy for dealing with the situation. Perhaps they are just collecting a large list of accounts to ban and will do them all in one fell swoop at some future date. 

 

Even they legitimately have not done anything to ban IP-infringing characters yet, they have still put themselves in a position where they can trivially do so if they need to.

 

If you are really set on creating this game in the fashion you originally described I strongly advise you to hire a lawyer, preferably one with extensive experience in IP law. Your own understanding is dangerously flawed and could result in years of work down the drain in some cease-and-desist or (worse) litigation. Don't risk your time like that, it's worth too much.

Edited by Josh Petrie

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Maximer    107

 Your own understanding is dangerously flawed

That's the reason I am here, to understand it farther from advice of people who are closer to what I require to know.

Edited by Maximer

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