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Freeware vs Copyrights

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I recently dropped by this section of the forums because I was confused on copyright rules and regulations. The FAQ section of the forums tells me that producing a freeware based on copyright material is a violation of c. law because it can lessen the commercial value of the copyright material. Well right now I''m almost done with a 2d game about Boba Fett from StarWars. I was hoping to launch it as a fan-made freeware game, for starwars fans to enjoy, but I''m guessing they can sue me for doing this? I''m still quite confused, and I don''t know where to go now. Would I have to contact LucasArts and ask them for a license to produce freeware material? Will it cost me to obtain freeware licenses, because that would be a serious problem for me. Would I have to scrap the entire game because of all these copyright issues? The main purpose of creating the game was to give people a chance to be Boba Fett. Right now, LucasArts has a game based on Jango Fett(boba''s father) in a 3D bounty hunter game. Surely a small 2D game would not detract from the sales of that Bounty Hunter game? I guess these are the arguments I should give to Lucas then? -=~''''^''''~=-.,_Wicked_,.-=~''''^''''~=-

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Guest Anonymous Poster
LucasArts is notorious for shutting down fangame projects. They have shut down projects to create fan games of Indiana Jones and Monkey Island. I doubt they would allow you to use Boba Fett in your game. Why not change the graphics and references and release the game? Or you could turn it into a parody and I think that is legal, though LucasArts still may attempt to hassle you for it.

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quote:
Original post by Wicked Ewok
I recently dropped by this section of the forums because I was confused on copyright rules and regulations. The FAQ section of the forums tells me that producing a freeware based on copyright material is a violation of c. law because it can lessen the commercial value of the copyright material. Well right now I'm almost done with a 2d game about Boba Fett from StarWars. I was hoping to launch it as a fan-made freeware game, for starwars fans to enjoy, but I'm guessing they can sue me for doing this?

The term is "freeware", not "a freeware". Not that it matters here, but if you are going to be talking to Lucasarts, you will want to sound literate.

Yes, it's in violation of the copyright material. The price of your product is irrelevant. The law is not there to stop you making money off someone else's product - that happens all the time. The law is to give the author control over their creation.

quote:
Would I have to contact LucasArts and ask them for a license to produce freeware material?

Legally, yes. Again, the fact that it's freeware makes no difference legally. It may influence their decision however.

quote:
Will it cost me to obtain freeware licenses, because that would be a serious problem for me.

That's up to them.

quote:
Would I have to scrap the entire game because of all these copyright issues? The main purpose of creating the game was to give people a chance to be Boba Fett.

If you were prepared to drop all Star Wars and Boba Fett references, then your game is safe. Otherwise, you're at risk.

There are notable exceptions. For instance, under UK law, you are allowed to use copyrighted material in your work if your work is considered to be a "parody" (eg. mocking comedy of some nature). This is simply because without this clause, parody would almost always be illegal and that was never the intention of copyright. This may apply in your country too. Check for 'fair use' details, but simply writing a game based on someone else's characters is almost certainly not going to be considered fair use.

quote:
Right now, LucasArts has a game based on Jango Fett(boba's father) in a 3D bounty hunter game. Surely a small 2D game would not detract from the sales of that Bounty Hunter game? I guess these are the arguments I should give to Lucas then?

Sales or no sales, they may feel it detracts from the license. It may give Star Wars games a bad name. It's their call.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost | Asking Questions ]

[edited by - Kylotan on April 19, 2002 6:17:21 PM]

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yep, in the usa, parodies are legal, but in even in this case you may have to change some names and references since after all its a parody and not a copy of the original.

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quote:
The price of your product is irrelevant. The law is not there to stop you making money off someone else's product - that happens all the time. The law is to give the author control over their creation.

The intention of the law was to help the author get compensated for his work, not necessarily give him control over it (which is why public libraries can exist and why there are legal, 'fair', uses, such as that for parody). I just think it is important to be aware of the original intention of the law as the media companies are doing their best to eliminate any and all consumer rights and turn the law into a mechanism for total control.

An article about fair use. The fact that a copied work has no impact on the market for the original can apparently make it fair use, but I would not count on it in your case As always, I'm not a lawyer so don't take this as legal advice.

[edited by - HenryAPe on April 19, 2002 6:48:16 PM]

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So now my next step is to ask Lucas eh... This is not fun:p But, if I can get a freeware license somehow, that would make it all worthwhile...Thank you all for all the insightful input

-=~''''^''''~=-.,_Wicked_,.-=~''''^''''~=-

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Guest Anonymous Poster
This discussion isn''t really about copyright, it''s more about trademarks.

If you have created the graphics/code/sound/music/etc for the game by yourself (or someone else on your team has done it), then you have (most likely) not broken any LucasArts/LucasFilms *copyrights*. What you are infringing on is trademarks.

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Ah wait, here''s another question. What if I put the title public domain under my game. Where fans will be able to create new mods and send them in for posting. What is the definition of public domain? I am skeptical that it can even be done anymore, producing a game based on starwars without lucas'' consent..but my friend thinks so, so I just have to know. Thanks again!

-=~''''^''''~=-.,_Wicked_,.-=~''''^''''~=-

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Anon, this discussion is about copyright. You don''t just hold copyright on physical things (like drawings, artwork, etc), you can also hold it on a likeness or name (or other intangeble things). That means the name "Star Wars" is copyright; it''s the star wars logo that is a trademark. Also, the likeness of Boba Fett is copyright, so even if you draw it yourself, it''s a violation.

You can make "educational", "newsworthy" and "public interest" uses of copyright material, but you can''t assume that all public interest uses are automatically exempt. Especially when it''s pretty obvious that the only reason you''re making the game public domain is to try and get around copyright laws


codeka.com - Just click it.

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quote:
Original post by Dean Harding
Anon, this discussion is about copyright. You don''t just hold copyright on physical things (like drawings, artwork, etc), you can also hold it on a likeness or name (or other intangeble things). That means the name "Star Wars" is copyright; it''s the star wars logo that is a trademark. Also, the likeness of Boba Fett is copyright, so even if you draw it yourself, it''s a violation.



Dean, from my standpoint here in the US, anon is right. The same ''star wars'' and the likeness of Boba Fett are all trademarked. Copyright only protects specific works, like a specific picture of Boba Fett. Only a trademark can prevent the production of new, original drawings of Boba Fett. You can''t copyright a name or a likeness, only specific works.

Wicked Ewok, ''Public Domain'' basically means that you have relinquished all your copyright priveleges to the public. It means you will allow people to freely copy your work, now and for all time. In this case, that has absolutely no legal implications for your use of the Boba Fett trademark.

You need to get written permission from the owners of the Boba Fett trademark. If you don''t get such permission, you will be liable for any profits they might lose due to your game.

I would personally respect the will of the trademark holder, but...
You are only liable for the amount that LucasArts/LucasFilm can _prove_ that you devalued the trademark. In this case, that''s pretty likely to be zero, unless your game turns out to be more popular than theirs. You''ll probably be fine if you just release it.

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Ah, a nice shot of optimism in the last post there I still need time to research and think, and maybe ask lucas for permission if I get brave enough(squeak). Thank you again for all your input.

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I am sorry cheesgrater but Dean is correct.

1. A trademark is a word, words or an image used to market a product. There are limits on what can or can not be trade marked (the Beatles were not allowed to trade mark the word Apple, only the imgae and word together). The name of Star Wars and the likeness of Boba Fett may well be registered trademarks but that is just a marketing issue. If Boba Fett was not a registered trade mark the use of his likeness would still be a copyright violation.

2. Doing a drawing of Boba Fett would be deemed a derivative work and as such would also be a breach of copyright because the creator has moral rights to control how their creation is exploited or represented.

3. Picking up on the "free" issue the fact that something is free makes it less likely that you will be allowed to do it. Companies/people spend their time and money creating things. They may wish to make money from that effort, charging for games, films, books or whatever. As they see it, if you can get a free Star Wars game then you are going to view it as a worthless item (as in no commercial value as opposed to no qualitative value) and are less likely to pay for their Star Wars game. They think it devalues their franchise and also decreases their ability to license Star Wars to other companies.

One final point of note is that you could well be sued by a company other than LucasArts. They have licensed a number of other companies to sell Star Wars games (THQ for example). Those companies have paid a lot of money for the rights and they are not likely to allow you to do the same thing for free.

Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions

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Both Cheesegrater and Dean seem to be right as the character Boba Fett is probably covered by copyright while the title "Star Wars" is not (instead, that is protected by trademark).

About things that are not covered by copyright according to the copyright basics section at the US Copyright Office: "Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents"

[edited by - HenryAPe on April 21, 2002 5:58:51 AM]

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