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SnakeM120

Weapon copyright?

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Hello everyone

 

I'm curios about the copyright for video game weapons. I'm not sure how this actually works... But when i see a car with the brand mazda or a screen of samsung in game. They mostly payed the companies to use their brand in game right?

 

Well what about weapons? I mean ive been watching Miculek on youtube and he mostly pointed out that the weapons are copyrighted in italy were their made or in canada were he imports them from.

 

Yet that doesn't explain how games like mgs and cod can use so many weapons under their name. Does no one care if you use branded guns or is there something behind it?

 

I would really like to know more before planning on making a game including any type of firearm.

 

Best Regards

 

Enigma.

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This has come up before, so you should find the discussion on this or other forums.

 

Yes, there where some big cases where weapon manufacturers sued game studios for using their weapons without paying license cost. Cannot give you a link, but google would most probably be the best way to find it.

 

What does this mean for you though? Basically, if the manufacturer is still in business, or their name has been bought by someone else, avoid exact reproductions of the wapons, or even worse, using the name.

If its a HISTORICAL weapons from a manufacturer out of business, you should be fine.

 

 

And of course nobody can sue you if you weapon happens to look similar to a Double Eagle, but is named differently, without using copyrighted names or trademarks.

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I heard EA doesn't pay licensing for weapons on the grounds that they don't support weapons manufacturing or some such. I heard this only from someone who works for EA/DICE so I don't know how much truth is in that.

 

I don't see how this is any different from e.g. using a car make/model in a game so they should have to pay surely.

Edited by Nanoha

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Generally if you can advertise it it can be licensed and you should speak to a lawyer if you are unsure not people on the Internet.

Hell, speak to a lawyer anyway. It's certainly cheaper than defending yourself against a lawsuit from smith and wesson :)

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I am not a lawyer, but if you have played GTA you'll notice there are a lot of vehicles that look very similar to vehicles you may have seen in real life. They even have similar names, or names that evoke the meaning of the real-life vehicle. My assumption is that Rockstar did this to avoid licensing costs and the headaches of negotiating licenses with all those companies. I would also assume that same logic would apply to weapons.

So avoid using trademarked names and logos. Also, I'm not sure if "design language" can be trademarked or under copyright. You should look into that too. Design language might be the unique styling of the tail lamps on a Ford Mustang, for example. Not sure if that even relates to weapons, but keep it on mind.

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Weapons are subject to copyright laws like any other product, so if you use any weapon in your game (except the AK-47 which is in the public domain I heard), you'll have to pay the license fee.

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IANAL.

 

If a copyrighted thing is in your game, but it's not a feature of your game. then it's fair use. For example, there's a Chewbacca image on a poster in the background of your character's room in an RPG.

 

If an image is part of your game, then you have to pay for the rights. For example, you play as Chewbacca in your RPG, Chewbacca would have to be licensed.  
Or if the Chewbacca poster in the first example plays an important part in an arc of your story, then it would have to be licensed.

 

An ok test is if you can swap the item out for anything else and it's still the same game, then it's probably fair use. As the first example, the Chewbacca image could be any nerdy poster and it would still convoy the same message. 

 

EA claims that guns, while part of a game, are not a "feature" of the game, and so it's fair use. 

 

Of course, what EA can get away with and what you personally can get away with are two different things. I'd advise that you file off the trademarks on anything in your game as an independent.

Edited by Binomine

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Ah great to know :) So i just need to figure out now which guns i may or may not beable to use in a game. Trying to search over a list to see if the companies are outdated or not and to see if i can also put some modern guns into my game.

 

Thank you all who replied to this Topic you helped me alot!

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IANAL.

 

If a copyrighted thing is in your game, but it's not a feature of your game. then it's fair use. For example, there's a Chewbacca image on a poster in the background of your character's room in an RPG.

 

If an image is part of your game, then you have to pay for the rights. For example, you play as Chewbacca in your RPG, Chewbacca would have to be licensed.  
Or if the Chewbacca poster in the first example plays an important part in an arc of your story, then it would have to be licensed.

 

An ok test is if you can swap the item out for anything else and it's still the same game, then it's probably fair use. As the first example, the Chewbacca image could be any nerdy poster and it would still convoy the same message. 

 

EA claims that guns, while part of a game, are not a "feature" of the game, and so it's fair use. 

 

Of course, what EA can get away with and what you personally can get away with are two different things. I'd advise that you file off the trademarks on anything in your game as an independent.

 

You might be understanding "fair use" wrong... AFAIK it means you use it as a kind of parody, and it needs to be linked quite closely to the original (you need to be making fun of mario, not use mario to make fun of something else).

 

Cannot be satire though....

 

 

Yeah, its a slippery slope, and certainly not what you described. If chewbacca is only visible in your background, you are still infringing and cannot get away on the grounds of "fair use".

 

Of course, it all depends on IF the copyright holder wants to sue you, and what the judge decides....

 

 

IMO: If in doubt, if you are not creating a parody, don't try to use fair use as a defense against getting sued.

 

 

So avoid using trademarked names and logos. Also, I'm not sure if "design language" can be trademarked or under copyright. You should look into that too. Design language might be the unique styling of the tail lamps on a Ford Mustang, for example. Not sure if that even relates to weapons, but keep it on mind.

 

I don't think design language will be easy to defend before a judge.

 

If you copy the "trademark design" of the BMW Sign, or something like that... yeah, you most probably will not get away with it. If you copy a BMW car exactly, just leave away the BMW sign, that might also get you in trouble.

Using the BMW typical double air intake grille in the front on a car of your own design will most probably not be something you could get successfully sued for. Or using an existing BMW design as an inspiration for your own design.

 

So if your weapon looks similar to the double eagle, but with small alterations, its not a double eagle. Again, thats a slippery slope, but the amount of alterations until something becomes no longer a copy close enough to the original so you can get sued for it is surprisingly small.... AFAIK, of course.

 

Something different are patents... don't know if there really are that many design patents, but Apple tried to sue many of its competition because they seem to think that the design of the iPhone had been copied by them. So there is alway the danger that someone DID patent something that you shouldn't copy (a special hinge on a 2-1 device for example)...

 

How defendable such a case is when you depict a patented design or part in a depicition of a similar device in a video game though would be questionable at best. Again, I guess depends on the judge.

 

 

Ah great to know smile.png So i just need to figure out now which guns i may or may not beable to use in a game. Trying to search over a list to see if the companies are outdated or not and to see if i can also put some modern guns into my game.

 

Thank you all who replied to this Topic you helped me alot!

 

Does it really matter this much to your game idea that the weapons in it a) look exactly like their real world counterparts and b) bear the exact same names?

 

If it does (you want to create a simulator that HAS to be as close to real life as possible), I would ideally make it something historical. If you go back to the 19th century, you shouldn't face any problems.... some of these companies are still around, at least in name, but if the current owner of S&W really cares that you are using depictions of 19th century S&W weapons without paying license costs is doubtful.

 

If it doesn't (like in GTA... yes, its a realistic looking game, but the names of cities and people have been changed for a good reason, why should weapons and cars bear realworld names in it?), better roll your own versions of these weapons.

Costs you some additional thinking now, but MOST players will not care (Its not called a Deagle and looks slightly different, but people know what you mean... and who cares about the names of ingame items as long as they kick arse?), and you are certain nobody can sue you.

Edited by Gian-Reto

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Moving to Business and Law.

 

I'm also not a lawyer, but I've dealt with lawyers many times and have read quite a lot on the subjects involved.

 

 

You could benefit from reading up a bit about the various intellectual property rights.

 

Copyright protects original creative works, like books, audio recordings, photos, movies. It protects the author's rights to distribute copies, to make derived works (like sequels), to publicly perform the work, and to publicly display the work.

 

Trademark protects names, logos, distinctive marks, and distinctive designs. Mostly they are used to help identify the source of a product. If you buy "Coca-cola" you know who it came from. Distinctive names like Superman, Batman, The Hulk, these are also trademarked so when you see them you know you are getting the official product.

 

Trade dress is similar to trademarks, protecting the distinctive appearance and look.  For example, Subway Sandwiches has a distinctive look in their restaurants of pale yellow/brown subway maps, a white/yellow/green/wood color scheme, and certain decorative patterns. If another company had a different name but used those same distinctive appearance, they are likely violating trade dress protections.

 

 

You probably don't realize this, but just about everything you see in television and movies has gone through copyright and trademark clearance. Distinctive door panels, automobiles, clothing and wardrobe, chairs and other furniture, wallpaper, EVERYTHING, goes through clearance with lawyers.  Major studios have broad licenses for common things, like vehicle companies and certain clothing manufacturers.  Even so, note that most clothing is generic with few logos, most equipment is generic or uses custom-made sets rather than store-bought well-known brands. 

 

With that in mind...

 

 

 


But when i see a car with the brand mazda or a screen of samsung in game. They mostly payed the companies to use their brand in game right?

Yes. When companies use the vehicle's name (trademark) and the vehicle's distinctive look (trade dress) they typically pay to license those rights.

 

 

 


Yet that doesn't explain how games like mgs and cod can use so many weapons under their name. Does no one care if you use branded guns or is there something behind it?

Licensing deals are everywhere.

 

 

 


I heard EA doesn't pay licensing for weapons on the grounds that they don't support weapons manufacturing or some such. I heard this only from someone who works for EA/DICE so I don't know how much truth is in that.

They tried it for a limited number of government-owned weapons designations.  It didn't hold up in court. They ended up paying.

 

 

 


Hell, speak to a lawyer anyway. It's certainly cheaper than defending yourself against a lawsuit from smith and wesson

Absolutely.  A $200 or $500 consultation and discussion is far cheaper than a $20,000 pre-court settlement or $500,000 legal defense.

 

 

 


if you have played GTA you'll notice there are a lot of vehicles that look very similar to vehicles you may have seen in real life.

Rockstar has legal team.  The development team wanted to do it, and they had their lawyers review all the details.  They did quite a lot of things that were borderline infringement and probably if challenged in the courts would have lost a lot of money. But the critical thing is that they had their lawyers review the details, and their lawyers evaluated the risks and potential costs.

 

If you want to do something like that, you also need a legal team who will review everything, and review the risks and potential costs.

 

 

 


If a copyrighted thing is in your game, but it's not a feature of your game. then it's fair use. For example, there's a Chewbacca image on a poster in the background of your character's room in an RPG.

Very wrong, for most of the world.

 

In the US, fair use for copyright is determined by a four-prong test.  First, the purpose of the use, such as for educational use, for news reporting, or commercial use. Second, the nature of the copyright work being used. Third, the amount of the work being used, and fourth, the effect of the potential market value of the copyrighted work.

 

Using a Chewbacca image in a game basically fails all the prongs.  It's purpose is entirely commercial (you have it as part of your game for decoration,not as a news commentary or educational tutorial about how the star wars universe is being marketed, or similar).  Second, the nature of the work is entirely unrelated to your product; the use is entirely gratuitous. It is not like a <i>scenes a faire</i>, a stock item that needs to be included, you threw it in because it added value.  Third, you used the entire work, the entire poster. You didn't have the bare minimum, you took it all. And fourth, the effect of the potential market is big. Star Wars makes the bulk of its money on merchandising and branding. Most businesses pay for it. I recently read it is somewhere around 4 billion dollars annually. You did not pay. If everyone used it like that, the damages would be billions of dollars per year. 

 

Finally, Disney is very aggressive about protecting their legal rights and intellectual property.  

 

So no, do not do that unless you want to get some legal nasty-grams and a high risk of a very costly lawsuit.

 

 

 

 


Trying to search over a list to see if the companies are outdated or not and to see if i can also put some modern guns into my game.

 

Somebody still owns the rights.

 

How about you have your artists get creative and make their own weapons that are unique to your game universe?  

 

Be creative and make something unique and valuable, rather than using other people's objects and other people's creativity.

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