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About monalaw

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  1. Same problem, honestly. The issues are whether it's a) recognizable (will you pop up on the original IP owner's radar); and b) likely to cause consumer confusion (if you actually want to fight it when they send you the C&D). If it's highly recognizable you're more likely to get the threat of legal action. The more invisible your product, generally speaking (this is by no means absolute), the less likely you are to face legal action. The more successful your product, the higher the likelihood of legal action if any of your IP touches a big pocket's IP.
  2. monalaw

    Game Publishing Legal Checklist?

    Honestly, Scouting Ninja sums it up pretty well if all you're doing is releasing a product on Steam: 1. Form your company or sole proprietorship if that kind of thing is legal in your territory 2. Set up your bank account 3. Comply with all of Steam's developer requirements and conditions 4. Submit game 5. Wait 6. Wait 7. Profit. But I also routinely perform "legal audits" for clients (both when I've formed the company on behalf of a client or when I'm setting them up for an equity or asset purchase), which generally includes the following: 1. Entity formation and paperwork (register with relevant Sec. of State or territory, OA, bylaws or other organizing documents, board/shareholder/member consents, first meeting minutes, EIN if applicable, etc.) 2. Intra-company agreements (Employee Incentive Plan, employment agreements, employee handbook, PIIAs, shareholder agreements for founding members) 3. External material agreements (EULA, Privacy Policy, third party content licenses [e.g. software, open source, etc. EULAs], contractor agreements, distribution agreements, console SDK agreements, insurance, HR management service and other vendor service agreements if applicable) 4. IP rights management (product clearance [assets and music], TM filings, Copyright filings, patents, PIIAs and NDAs) 5. Financial statements (Confirm GAAP compliance if required, P&Ls, annual reports) 6. Investment paperwork (where applicable) The list goes on. There is a lot that goes into actually owning an operating a business if you're going to do it right. When you're in a place to make a serious go of it, I strongly advice you first find a great accountant and a decently honest lawyer. Best of luck!
  3. Simply referencing a product or service in context generally falls under fair comment (the trademark equivalent to fair use), but bear in mind that companies threaten meritless litigation on a fairly regular basis. The risk is minimal, but any recognizable use of another brand or product in your own may trigger someone's notice.
  4. monalaw

    Incorporating gift cards into game

    David, Could you explain how you intend to incorporate them? If you're using them as a reward for any chance-based game, gambling laws may be implicated. In addition, you may require permission from Amazon for use of their brand in any promotion in which the eGift cards are featured. just a couple of thoughts.
  5. There are a few factors here, actually. 1. How distinctive is the game style you're borrowing? 2. How similar are you making it? 3. Is the property owner notoriously protective of their IP? The last one is the most practical consideration-- many companies will go after you whether a claim has legal merit or not. Anything that could be recognizably seen as "theirs" or associated with their product in some way will be suspect and possibly subject to some form of legal action, so avoid those brands (Disney and Marvel stand out). Similarity comes into play in 2 ways-- copyright (infringement relies on a) access, which is proven by record of this post, and b) substantial similarity-- direct copying is not the threshold, and trademark (infringement relies on likelihood of confusion in the marketplace). Depending on the country of origin there may also be some author's rights involving creative integrity that come into play. As a rule of thumb, any product that will immediately and recognizably call to mind in the consumer another brand or product may raise a flag and it's something we flag in clearance.
  6. monalaw

    Game names inside of game engine

    1. Where are you located? 2. Where do you want to release the engine? 3. Is the game you're referencing still in active circulation? 3 of the first questions I'd ask as your lawyer. As Frob and Tom mentioned, this isn't a copyright issue, it's a trademark one. Trademarks are typically limited in geographic scope, and as I get the impression you're a non-native English speaker, there's a possibility that the TM's protection won't reach where you want to release or distribute. That being said, any time you release online and it results in US distribution, you may be exposing yourself to a TM suit in the US if you satisfy the minimum contacts requirement of our long-arm statutes. In plain English-- Unless you want to talk to a lawyer about this, you're really better off using a different name. Best, Mona
  7. Kylo's responses are on point, but want to add a couple notes: 1. If you release your library as open source, you aren't necessarily required to release any other source code BUT the library itself depending on the you choose. LGPL is usually a good bet if you want to avoid having to release the code as well. 2. The objective of enforcement under a copyleft/open source license is to prohibit people from releasing the code without attribution or without releasing the library or whatever code is shared as open source. So if you're going to enforce your open source license, you need to make sure they're actually "infringing" under the license itself, not under a traditional notion of copyright infringement. 3. Under any EULA you can specify what people can and cannot do with code that's made available. As with any license breach, if they fail to comply, that's infringement, because the license becomes invalid. So you can say in the license "licensee may use, modify, improve, update, or create derivative works of the Code (herein "Modifications"), but may not directly copy the same absent Modifications." Please note that this isn't something you'll see in an open source license-- it would be unique to your own EULA. 4. Unity has its own Terms of Service, which does offer some limitations of liability, etc., but those are mostly to protect Unity, not you. You will still want to make sure you have your own EULA for anything you publish or sell if you're concerned about what people can and cannot do with your content, and how you can be held liable.
  8. Like Jbadams said. It took me years to talk GD.Net into doing this, but if you plan on hosting content, you'll need to register a "copyright agent" with the Copyright office (copyright.gov), and include a DMCA takedown procedure and Counter Notification procedure in the Terms of Service for your game/server. It's a pretty straightforward process, but it's always best to consult an attorney (obviously doesn't have to be me, whoever you're comfortable with) when you're revising ToS or other legal documentation.
  9. 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
  10. monalaw

    How to protect yourself and your game?

    This is a question every developer struggles with, and I'm a bit late, but it never hurts to let an actual lawyer chime in on the topic. For adding new team members, you may want to consider a "collaboration agreement". If you're just hiring freelancers, you'll probably want a work-for-hire agreement. If you're concerned about enforcement, try not to hire outside of Berne Convention signatory countries and make sure your contract's choice of law and jurisdiction rules are local to you. But if you don't have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands to spend on legal enforcement, this is going to be difficult in any situation, regardless of where the freelancer is located. There are both technical and legal ways to protect your code more extensively than through the letter of an agreement, as well: 1. DRM and other copyright protection software that prohibits copying and/or constrains access; 2. Use of escrow accounts for code and payment; 3. Strict liquidated damages provisions in the event of breach of confidentiality/non-disclosure (this is a specified monetary penalty if they breach-- if you want to be REALLY anal you can require they post a bond into an escrow account, but no one would sign that); 4. Strict liquidated damages provisions in your non-compete/non-solicitation clauses. 5. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE INSURANCE (PLI/E&O, preferably with a Cyber liability rider to cover data breaches), and make sure you are a named beneficiary on their policy. 6. Make sure YOU have insurance, as well. Companies with more money are in a better position to protect their IP because, frankly, protecting IP is expensive. You have to play the cost/benefit game in determining how much you want to spend to protect it. And the best advise I can give anyone on this topic-- don't hire anyone unless you know their reputation and background. Only work with known professionals when possible. The second best advise is to contact a lawyer to determine what you should and should not disclose, and methods of disclosure that may be better suited to protecting your IP. Best of luck! Mona
  11. Assuming a contract of adhesion is legally binding under Danish Law in the first place. These things don't get challenged nearly often enough. Generally speaking, assuming your assets are not otherwise in violation of your license agreement with Unity, the Unity asset store license will cover any assets you sell through it from my experience.
  12. Are you developing a mod for counter-strike? Or a counter-strike like FPS game for Steam? Or are you trying to reskin it? I'm not sure what you're asking, but referencing a pre-existing IP is making my butt twitch a bit. Generally speaking, you need a license first and foremost to do ANYTHING with a pre-existing IP. If it's just an FPS with shared features (like every other FPS on the market) that's a different matter and I recommend contacting a game attorney (*wave*) if you have more specific questions.
  13. monalaw

    A new Game Style

    So not to split hairs, but how are you able to claim that it's "literally unheard of and Revolutionary" when you admit that you don't know anything about game design in the same breath? Fair warning, your post reads like a scam.
  14. monalaw

    A quick question about copyright

    you'd be more likely to run into trademark and trade dress issues rather than copyright, as the components you indicated are more representative of their respective franchises than as copyrightable subject matter. Of course, anyone suing you would likely raise both, as well as unfair competition and a few others.  As Frob said, the issue isn't whether or not you'd win on the merits, it's whether you can bear the cost of defending yourself even against a lawsuit with little merit. You weigh that against the likelihood that this will appear on any of the respective franchise owners' radars. Then you determine the value added by including those elements to the game itself. Looking at those factors, you can decide for yourself whether it's worth the risk. I long ago learned that telling people they "can't" is a waste of energy. They're going to do it anyway, even if the risk is high. It's like speeding on the interstate-- people are aware of the risks (as you are aware of the potential IP implications), but for whatever reason they think they're immune from the consequences or they can "read the system". Or they're in a legitimate hurry, and the consequences of being late are greater than the consequences of a $300 speeding ticket. Everyone has their own circumstances. In 99% of the cases I see the "borrowed" components don't add enough to your product to make it worth the risk of a lawsuit. This is probably one of them. 
  15.   Noooooope. I'm actually not even sure what you're trying to say here. Copyright is life of the author +70 years or 120 years from creation for anonymous works. Generally. Very, very generally. Determining copyright duration is a legitimate exercise in extreme patience and anal retentiveness, but this may help.    http://copyright.cornell.edu/resources/publicdomain.cfm     Sorry - i'm no business / laws guy.  But i remember from working at a record company: If the recording was dated 50 years back my company legally sold CDs (e.g. Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra) without paying (any?) usual fees / licenses. I don't know if that 'public domain' declartion covered anything involved (composition, lyrics, arrangements, musicans...). Maybe reselling that music was just cheaper than usual but not completely free. Maybe it covered only exceptions like live recordings or recordings not done by the original record company, dead Artists, my company was EU, or other special cases i'm not aware of.       Aaaaaah I've heard of that: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/12/arts/music/european-copyright-laws-lead-to-rare-music-releases.html   From my understanding it applies to unreleased music by artists-- if it's not exploited (published) within a particular time frame, the record label would lose rights to release. 
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