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GimmeARPG

Using a real world historic site in your game

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If I would use a historic site in my game, are there any legal issues I must be aware of?

With historic sites I mean for example the great pyramid in Egypt or Stonehenge in England. The scenario (in my game) would be that the site I am referring to is not what it is believed to be or does not have the function it is believed to have in history. Instead I inform that the site is actually something entirely different and from here my game takes off. Could I run into problems because of any rights related to the historic site and the use of the historic site in my game?

Also, I would like to use some artwork in my game and on my website which represents the historic site.

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3 hours ago, GimmeARPG said:

Could I run into problems because of any rights related to the historic site and the use of the historic site in my game?

You could, but a lawyer could talk to you about the degree of risk. There are organizations protecting those sites physically, and they might also have some say over depictions. Personally, I would think the risk is probably very low as regards to those two sites, but a lawyer would be best able to advise you. 

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26 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

You could, but a lawyer could talk to you about the degree of risk. There are organizations protecting those sites physically, and they might also have some say over depictions. Personally, I would think the risk is probably very low as regards to those two sites, but a lawyer would be best able to advise you. 

Yes I am aware the sites are physically being protected. For the organizations involved there most likely is a feeling of culture/historic value/pride attached to the site, they might not like to see the site in a game is what I thought.

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There have been some events in the past where using historic accurate sites in games have lead to legal action against the developers. Years back there was a popular church used in the background of a FPS and ended with the developers removing the church after legal problems.

5 hours ago, GimmeARPG said:

pyramid in Egypt or Stonehenge in England.

Why does this have to be historical sites. I can think of many games that used stonehenges and pyramids without using the real ones.

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6 minutes ago, Scouting Ninja said:

There have been some events in the past where using historic accurate sites in games have lead to legal action against the developers. Years back there was a popular church used in the background of a FPS and ended with the developers removing the church after legal problems.

Why does this have to be historical sites. I can think of many games that used stonehenges and pyramids without using the real ones.

I want to use the actual historic site as a starting point for the sake of immersion. The fact that these places actually exist make it easier to get into the story and give a better experience for the player in my opinion. 

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So.... there's an aspect of game development that gets remarkably short shrift from Indies, which is understandable, but kind of problematic. 

That aspect is called "clearance". This is a process whereby your production team works with the legal team to identify all third party assets embodied in a game (whether it be copyrightable content (engines, art assets, code, music), trademarks, places, people, names, etc.), and determine whether the developer has the right to use those third party assets. 

If you ever try to get PLI/E&O insurance (which you should if your games/studio make enough money to make it worthwhile), you'll find that some policies will require clearance reports of properties prior to granting coverage on a property. And your question hints at why. 

You may need to be particularly careful of foreign historical landmarks, as some are more closely guarded than others. For example, in Egypt, the Supreme Council of Antiquities led by Dr. Hawass (personal note-- I'm only mentioning Dr. Hawass because he's also a family friend and I like to name drop, it's a bad habit) sought to copyright the Pyramids and other Egyptian antiquities and assets to prevent rampant unauthorized exploitation. This was back in 2008 and I haven't really kept track, but I know the Prime Minister signed off on it at the time. 

Other historical societies and local governments have strict rules concerning photography, etc. 

You also may have to consider whatever you're using as source material for those places-- are you using a photograph? A video? At that point clearance concerns are doubled, because now you also have to consider the author of the source material as well. 

 

As with all things, this is a cost-benefit analysis. You have to gauge the risk of exposure against the cost of protecting yourself. It's ultimately a business decision and as I am not your lawyer, I can't advise you on that point. 

But clearance is something developers should be aware of and consider as they develop. 

 

Best of luck!

Mona

 

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On 10/26/2017 at 4:47 PM, monalaw said:

So.... there's an aspect of game development that gets remarkably short shrift from Indies, which is understandable, but kind of problematic. 

That aspect is called "clearance". This is a process whereby your production team works with the legal team to identify all third party assets embodied in a game (whether it be copyrightable content (engines, art assets, code, music), trademarks, places, people, names, etc.), and determine whether the developer has the right to use those third party assets. 

If you ever try to get PLI/E&O insurance (which you should if your games/studio make enough money to make it worthwhile), you'll find that some policies will require clearance reports of properties prior to granting coverage on a property. And your question hints at why. 

You may need to be particularly careful of foreign historical landmarks, as some are more closely guarded than others. For example, in Egypt, the Supreme Council of Antiquities led by Dr. Hawass (personal note-- I'm only mentioning Dr. Hawass because he's also a family friend and I like to name drop, it's a bad habit) sought to copyright the Pyramids and other Egyptian antiquities and assets to prevent rampant unauthorized exploitation. This was back in 2008 and I haven't really kept track, but I know the Prime Minister signed off on it at the time. 

Other historical societies and local governments have strict rules concerning photography, etc. 

You also may have to consider whatever you're using as source material for those places-- are you using a photograph? A video? At that point clearance concerns are doubled, because now you also have to consider the author of the source material as well. 

 

As with all things, this is a cost-benefit analysis. You have to gauge the risk of exposure against the cost of protecting yourself. It's ultimately a business decision and as I am not your lawyer, I can't advise you on that point. 

But clearance is something developers should be aware of and consider as they develop. 

 

Best of luck!

Mona

 

Thanks for your reply and advice. I'm on the fence with this but if I would use the real world site I would certainly contact the people protecting the site to ask if I can use it in my game.

Right now I'm thinking about ways to workaround the issue without hurting the story to much.  /undecided

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