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Hi, I''ve seen that many shareware developers are selling clones of very known games of the past. For example, Arkanoid, BoobleBooble and Namco''s Pacman in Alawar. How is that supposed to work? Aren''t you supposed to pay the enterprise which owns the rights of Arkanoid, for example, to make a clon of it? Even if the clon is only copying the game design, with graphics different to the original. By the other way, it''s so common to see clones in retail games (say, Doom clones all around in the past, now Quake clones), that I start to doubt it could be a problem for those. My question is, are unofficial game clones legal? Best regards, --DK --H. Hernán Moraldo http://www.hhm.com.ar/ Sign up to the HHM''s developers'' newsletter.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by DoctorK
Hi,

I''ve seen that many shareware developers are selling clones of very known games of the past. For example, Arkanoid, BoobleBooble and Namco''s Pacman in <A HREF="http://www.alawar.com">Alawar</A>.

How is that supposed to work? Aren''t you supposed to pay the enterprise which owns the rights of Arkanoid, for example, to make a clon of it? Even if the clon is only copying the game design, with graphics different to the original.

By the other way, it''s so common to see clones in retail games (say, Doom clones all around in the past, now Quake clones), that I start to doubt it could be a problem for those.

My question is, are unofficial game clones legal?




Most people (i.e. lawyers) say yes, but Namco still does sue people over pacman clones. And they usually get their way.

Sometimes it''s not about wether it''s legal, but wether you can afford to go to court over it.

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There tends to be restrictions, but they''re not very tight. For example if you create a game with falling blocks with the word "tris" in the title then you''ll need to start forking out to whoever owns the tetris copyrights.

...call it something else though and you''re fine. Copyright isn''t on ideas, more on symbols and names. Something like the pacman shape is probably going to get you in trouble, but sustitute for a stick man and you''re home free.

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Some of the companies do take action against game clones. The Tetris Company, for one, has been trying to snuff out "unlicensed" freeware and shareware clones. At least in the case of Tetris, I''m not aware of any action being taken beyond letters, but often that''s all it takes. Can you afford to go to court if it does come to that? Even if you''re willing to, is your ISP willing to back you? Many ISPs would sooner shut down your website than risk legal action if they get a warning letter from a recognizable company.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
There tends to be restrictions, but they''re not very tight. For example if you create a game with falling blocks with the word "tris" in the title then you''ll need to start forking out to whoever owns the tetris copyrights.

...call it something else though and you''re fine. Copyright isn''t on ideas, more on symbols and names. Something like the pacman shape is probably going to get you in trouble, but sustitute for a stick man and you''re home free.


I hope you''re right. But The Tetris Company has been going after clones even when they''re called something other than *tris. They are claiming violation of the "look and feel" and "trade dress" of Tetris. So far, they haven''t tested their claims in court, but they might have something there.

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Coincidentally, this goes right along with one of the links I posted in another thread in this board: "Sales figures on non blockbuster games?"

The article is Lawsuits in the Internet Age. In the article Brad Wardell was talking about his company and how he got "letters" (ie: threats of a lawsuit) left an right. He made a game and got "a letter" from Entrepreneur Media over the name of his game. He changed the name, and got another "letter" from Hasbro. Finally he changed the name to something appearantly complately safe, and got "a letter" from American Airlines over the contents of the game. He also had some trouble with Apple over another one of his products.

The overwhelming idea of the article, however, is that in life it''s not about "Am I right or am I wrong", but rather "do I have the financial resources to fight a multi-million/billion dollar company in court just to prove I''m right".

This article really made me think about what I am doing right now. I am working on a game, and the name of one of the characters does have a resemblance to a disney character. It isnt exactly the same (only somewhat similar) and I most definitely wasnt trying to take advantage of it (in fact, the disney character never even entered my mind until I read this article), but I am now considering either renaming or redesigning the character just to be sure I am in the clear. After all, Disney can be a pretty brutal company, and I would hate to have to go to court or pull my product 3 months after launch.

Its really sad when you have to do a datailed analysis of every step you take in life just to make sure you dont leave yourself open and have to prove your innocence in court (at great expense).

And by the way, I too noticed all the games on Alawar''s site, and I came away wondering how much trouble they might be looking for (Tetris, Bubble Bobble, Pac Man, and Arkanoid).

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Whoa! That article really impressed me... It seems very obvious now that clones aren''t the way to go, and that it''s very dangerous even if you aren''t doing anything bad at all.

I cannot imagine how bad can it be to have a giant like Microsoft or Apple sending lawyers against you...


--DK
--H. Hernán Moraldo
http://www.hhm.com.ar/
Sign up to the HHM''s developers'' newsletter.

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