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Copyright on character creator results

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I need assets, but I'm poor.

Let's say I use a character creation tool from another game (e.g. Sims), take a screenshot, do a bit of editing (new background, color correction, etc) and finally put it in my commercial game as a NPC avatar sprite and make a few million bucks.

Is this legal?

 

On one hand I'm creating some sort of derivative work. (Is it?)

On the other hand it is a creative work done with an "editor" I bought.

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Taking the example of Sims. All the art is owned by e.g. the developer. So, if you take a screenshot and want to sell it, you use a derivation of the work of others. This will most likely get you in trouble. Best to read the license which comes with the tool or game carefully. It should explicitly allow the commercial usage.

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Thanks for the response.

But just to be certain:

I did not mean taking a whole screenshot of an existing, precomposed work and selling the screenshot.

What I mean is using only the character editor to create a composition of assets, changing their parameters (e.g. height of cheek bones), framing it, extracting it, changing the background and colors, putting it in as one asset of many as part of a bigger product.

In my opinion there exists a point where the result is so distant from the original that it can not be called derivative anymore. Or does it?

 

Ad absurdum: If I compose a melody in Mario Paint, record it, pipe it through a dozen filters and include it as a part of my song... could Nintendo sue me, because they own the copyright of the original single-note-sounds?

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Usually, if you need to ask, it is not a good idea.

 

That might be a gross oversimplification, but given what is at stake here (especially when US courts are involved), you rather want to err on the safe side.

Generally speaking, there are laws about how much art and deisgn needs to differ from other works to be seen as non-dervative... yes, given you change some things about the screenshot and make sure nobody can any longer claim with certainity that you started with a screenshot of the sims, you MIGHT get away with it.

 

But: you still can be sued, even if the court would likely decide in your favour... given that again US courts are involved, that means you will need lots of money just to defend your case. IDK if and what sum you get back if you win the case. And lets not imagine how much you are going to pay if you loose.

 

 

Clearly, the easy way out is just to avoid this whole mess and come up with original art. Will that art be as good as what you could have kitbashed together with sims screenshots? Most probably not. Does that really matter? Most probably not.

 

Just give it your best shot, or see if you can find an artists that is ready to work with you even in your financial situation.

 

 

It is better to have suboptimal art in your game than getting sued because of copyright infringement, really....

 

 

 

About your ad absurdum: yes, actually they could do that, depending on the EULA of the game. If you are not allowed to use parts (notes, building blocks in a voxel game, whatever) for commercial purposes, then the owner of these parts can by definition sue you if you compose anything out of these parts and try to sell it.

 

Again, given you run it through enough filters to hide its origin, Nintendo might have a hard time proving you did infringe the EULA, but then again you could have used practically any software at that point to compose the original melody before running it through the filters. And there is awesome software out there that doesn't cost more than Mario Paint, can record a melody and DOES allow you to use your work commercially afterwards.

 

That is also why many software companies, as well as content creators give you 2 license types to choose from today... a personal one for strictly personal use (so hoobyists can compose a tune for their holiday movie shown to their closest friends), and a more expensive commercial on for use in products that will be sold commercially afterwards.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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This is really sad. Annoyingly sad. There are so many game part editors out there, which are faster, better and richer in content, than current, commercial middleware (e.g. Sims 3 > Autodesk Character Generator, Daz3d, Poser, etc.)

It would only take an fbx importer/exporter to make it worth some hundred dollars.

 

But thanks for the warnings, I'll try to stay safe.

Edited by RAtech

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This is really sad. Annoyingly sad. There are so many game part editors out there, which are faster, better and richer in content, than current, commercial middleware (e.g. Sims 3 > Autodesk Character Generator, Daz3d, Poser, etc.)

It would only take an fbx importer/exporter to make it worth some hundred dollars.

 

But thanks for the warnings, I'll try to stay safe.

 

Well, you might want to give the Mixamo character creator, Fuse, a try, if you haven't.

 

Don't think its completly free, but very affordable. Of course until you want to use Mixamos great autorigging tool or tap into their vast animation library... don't get me wrong, both were great from my short testing, a real timesaver, but nowhere near affordable if you cannot live with the price of a one year all access pass (which is 750-1500$, lot of money, but compared to individual purchases you save a lot if you use a lot of animations)...

 

Of course Fuse is just a means to hook game creators to mixamos ecosystem, but last time I checked, it was looking pretty powerful and affordable if you just used the character creation tools.

 

 

Other than that, yeah, you get what you pay for. All of the commercial solutions you described are really more aiming at hobbyists than professionals (with the exception of the autodesk solution, but this sounds more like a tack on solution to make 3DS Max and Maya more attractive to game artists than a real standalone product)... all of the ingame editor tools are so cheap (well, they are a free bonus to the game if you want to call it that) BECAUSE they are not intended for commercial purposes, and because they are sold bundled with a product that is bought by many people.

 

Given the time it took the sims creator to create the character generator, and the much lower user base if this would have been developed standalone without the game and sold as commercial character creator, its price would most probably be much higher than the price of the game.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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On the other hand it is a creative work done with an "editor" I bought.

Depends on the EULA of the game. Some games will explicitly claim that they own the output from their editors. Others will explicitly give permission for users to do whatever they want with the output from the editor. Without having explicit permission, I would be very wary...

In my opinion there exists a point where the result is so distant from the original that it can not be called derivative anymore.

Unfortunately, no.
If it becomes so distant that no one can tell, then, you won't get caught, but it's still technically a derivative work.

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I did not mean taking a whole screenshot of an existing, precomposed work and selling the screenshot.
What I mean is using only the character editor to create a composition of assets, changing their parameters (e.g. height of cheek bones),


Right, but you're starting with someone else's graphics (the cheekbones, for instance) and using them, not creating them yourself.

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