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Bakkerbaard

Indirect references

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I started browsing through this forum to see if I could learn anything for the distant future when I might release something, which might not happen if I keep putting off writing like I am now. Another post ("sued for saying Idocrazy") raised a question or two that I might want answered now that there's still plenty of room to change things.

I'm a big Monkey Island fan. It'll always have a special place in my little black heart, so I have to reference it in my game. I don't reference it by name, it's just tidbits for other fans, namely:

- A drawer with a flyer in it titled "How to get ahead in navigation" which is then dismissed as not usefull.

- A "troll" guarding a bridge at a cosplay event (with the option to give her a red herring, which won't work here).

Normally I wouldn't think twice about these references, but since LucasArts is now Disney I wonder if I should take it out. Or, maybe just ask Disney then? Can I even contact them for trivial stuff like this? Worst part of it is that I'm certain that the people who actually wrote those jokes would have a grin if they saw it.

Oh, and does it matter on a legal front that I am in the Netherlands?

 

Edit: I just mailed Disney, for the hell of it. In about eight weeks I should have a reply from a lawyer in a laughing fit, but anyone else's view on this is still appreciated.

Edited by Bakkerbaard

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As a general rule, stay away from anything you didn't create.  Don't reference it, don't add jokes about it, don't add a 'homage', don't add what you think is a parody (it isn't), don't use it for satire.  It isn't yours, don't use it.

 

After that general guide to stay far away from any products you don't own, everything else comes down to details.  The amount you use, how recognizable it is, what benefits you get from it, what resources you have, how much you should have known, if you had asked for permission and had it denied, if the people who do own it actually liked it, if the people involved think you are worth the cost of enforcement or sending legal challenges, and much more.

Many times the official answer would be "no" but because the product creators like it and there is minimal effect on their brands and products. the companies and brand teams will quietly overlook the violation and quietly enjoy it. I've seen that happen on several products.  Everyone on the team loves it, but more than once I have been reminded that in the official forum posts we are not to talk about the violation: if we're questioned directly that we should say we didn't know if the people had authorization and that questions on the company's social sites should be told to ask the legal team instead of the social sites. Even so, everyone loved it and we knew as long as they didn't "rock the boat" by creating troubles for the product that the company would quietly watch and enjoy what people created.

As you have already asked permission, it is best to abide by whatever they say.  Even if there was a chance they would have ignored it, with an official no you need to respect it.  On the other side, if you get an official 'yes" or even a semi-official nod to do it as long as it is minimal, then go ahead and enjoy the permission.

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Nothing you described seemed to constitute material that could be considered intellectual property, in that it didn't seem to be copyrightable, or a trademark, or a patent, or trade dress, or anything similar to that.

I would say that legally you were on pretty safe ground until you contacted them, at which point you became on their radar and risk getting more attention from their legal department. This is not to say I endorse the "keep quiet and hope for the best approach", more that with there being no clear infringement to speak of, the chance of your project coming to the attention of their legal team was previously zero and now it is one. And most legal teams will err on the side of saying "don't use anything to do with us, at all", even if they would be unlikely to win the case in court, safe in the knowledge that merely the threat of court action will force you to back down.

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On 23-1-2018 at 7:02 AM, frob said:

As you have already asked permission, it is best to abide by whatever they say.

 

On 23-1-2018 at 3:44 PM, Kylotan said:

I would say that legally you were on pretty safe ground until you contacted them, at which point you became on their radar and risk getting more attention from their legal department.

Well shit. I'm trying to remember the last time being up front about something actually worked in my favor, but adding unrelated events of today I'm about ready to give that nonsense up.

Still, since this ship is sailing now, I'll see what comes back, but I'm hoping not even Disney could make much of a fuss about these. Or, if all things fall into place perfectly, Ron Gilbert will have gotten the rights back from Disney by the time I have a release coming up.

Edited by Bakkerbaard
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