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Author Topic: what is legal?  (Read 6081 times)
Staffy Star
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what is legal?
« on: May 01, 2006, 12:26:01 am »

Suppose that I would create a computer game just for fun, not take any charge for it.  Just for you guys. What would be legal? Could I take the ships from star control? Races?

I figured it would be ok since "The ur quan masters" actually is a game like that... or?
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2006, 12:31:44 am »

Short answer: No, you definitely couldn't take the graphics from either of the Star Control games or even The Ur-Quan Masters.

I'll leave it to someone else to give you a long answer.
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Arne
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2006, 01:21:54 am »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_fiction#Legal_aspects

That's just US though. I'm not sure how laws are applied between nations. I'm in Sweden but I think we pretty much have the same copyright laws here.
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2006, 07:01:47 am »

Actually while usually the answer is "no" in the case of StarControl it's "yes".
That's because TfB allows it. You can ask them to be 100% sure, but they pretty much gave a general 'go for it' answer in the past.
And after all, it doesn't hurt them in any way.
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2006, 07:39:21 am »

Quote
Short answer: No, you definitely couldn't take the graphics from either of the Star Control games or even The Ur-Quan Masters.

What exactly is legitimate about TimeWarp, then? They did their own graphics, but just about everything else in that game is ripped out of Star Control and it's very widely distributed as far as freeware games go.
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Arne
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2006, 05:06:53 pm »

As far as I know UQM is using some sort of licence.

I know of people who have had their projects shut down by the copyright/trademark owners.... but it only likely to happen when there's a new game with similar mechanics in the pipe. Hmmmm...

I think satire or fan-art is pretty much legal, but maybe not if the Trademark Dilution Revision Act ( Status ) goes through. Basically I think it can make it illegal to ...dilute (slander?) trademarks, like the macDonalds clown or whatever. Makes me think of the Danish cartoon spectacle a while ago.

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Zeep-Eeep
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2006, 05:47:39 pm »

It's usually considered polite to ask the original author/
copyright owner before using their materials. Once
you have a positive response (in writing) you're free
to do your thing.

I've been threatened with law-suits on a few occasions
and nothing has come of it. Either through compliance
with the copyright owner or because it wasn't worth
the company's time to chase me.

Since the UQM project is distributed via the GNU GPL,
I'm pretty sure a developer would be safe ripping
parts of the game, as long as they also released their
own project under the GPL. (Viral license.)
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2006, 07:19:39 am »

If it's a fan game, you're in grey legal territory. TFB could technically come after you, but I think noncommercial fan projects charm them more than anything.

The game content from UQM is not licensed under a free content license, but TFB has given us permission to distribute it with the game and use it on the wiki. If you want to use it in your game you'll have to get permission from them if you want to be completely safe. Still, why not make your own content, like TimeWarp did?

This gives you copyright over the content, but the intellectual property rights still belong to TFB. They like TimeWarp etc. so they will have no problem with this.

You might want to try asking forum members for permission to use their Revamped Graphics.

Also you can legally reuse any of the UQM code under the GPL as long as you follow its stipulations... Creative Commons has a good human-readable summary of the GPL which can help to understand it.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2006, 07:22:09 am by Halleck » Logged


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Arne
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2006, 07:33:20 pm »

What intellectual property rights are you talking about Halleck? To my knowledge IP is just a deliberately fuzzy umbrella term for copyright, trademark, patent, etc. Fan games would fall under derivative works, probably not fair use, If I were to guess. I think it's infringement regardless of if you make money or not of it.
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #9 on: May 02, 2006, 08:12:31 pm »

As I understand it, if you create a work you automatically own the copyright to that work under US copyright law. However, you may not own the idea or characters that the work is based on; that's the intellectual property of the originator. More specifically, the property rights to the character are retained by the creator of that character, giving them (as I understand it) command over how that character can be merchandised and "exploited", among other things.

So, if you do a drawing of an Orz, you own the copyright to that drawing. However, TFB basically gets to tell you what to do since they own the property rights to the character of the Orz, up to and including sending a "cease and desist" notice for infringement. However, I believe your work is protected by default from others under copyright law.

So, while TFB could potentially stop all "infringement" of their property rights, they choose not to do so and have even publically expressed support for fan game projects. Many corporations operate in the same way: paramount doesn't sue star trek fans for making models of the star trek ships as long as they're not making money off it. It's free publicity and I'd think that it would generally help to increase the fan base without really impacting sales, so most companies don't bear down, though they could.

This is how things work as I understand it, but I am not a lawyer.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2006, 08:16:10 pm by Halleck » Logged


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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #10 on: May 03, 2006, 02:55:47 am »

I think TfB has (maybe) trademark protection for their characters, and copyright for the actual drawings or whatever. Unless I'm misinformed, Copyright is just the right to copy, it has nothing to do with property since nothing tangible is owned. Trademark is some sort of monopoly on using a design in general.

When you say property rights you might just mean Trademark since that's what remains. Unlike Copyrights, Trademarks have to be registered to be enforceable don't they? I've played some 40k and in White Dwarf there's usually long lists of "BloodThristHammer, WarKillahMongo, OrkGibblaGrinkdaBork is a Trademark of [company name]". Doesn't this mean TfB should register Spathi, Druuge, and all the others as Trademarks? Have they?

I have no clue about this. I wonder if little Billy drawing a Splorg also means he can sue people drawing Splorgish things. He certainly have Copyright on his Splorg, but what about the Splorgians? That might require some sort of Trademark registration, unless the Copyright law have some sort of clause for 'very similar looking things'.
« Last Edit: May 03, 2006, 03:11:38 am by Arne » Logged
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #11 on: May 03, 2006, 04:55:23 pm »

I think TfB has (maybe) trademark protection for their characters, and copyright for the actual drawings or whatever. Unless I'm misinformed, Copyright is just the right to copy, it has nothing to do with property since nothing tangible is owned. Trademark is some sort of monopoly on using a design in general.
Essentially, a trademark is a name, logo or suchlike protected from use by anyone other than the owner. Also, while "Star Control" is a registered trademark in the US (owned by Infogrames) (check with the USPTO), none of the UQM race names seem to be.

I have no clue about this. I wonder if little Billy drawing a Splorg also means he can sue people drawing Splorgish things. He certainly have Copyright on his Splorg, but what about the Splorgians? That might require some sort of Trademark registration, unless the Copyright law have some sort of clause for 'very similar looking things'.
Most countries actually have such a clause. See, for example, the Wikipedia article on derivative works.
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #12 on: May 03, 2006, 08:29:27 pm »

If Maxis' "Spore" turns out to be everything it is said to be, I wonder how that will effect copyrights, as fans create undocumented, trademark breaching art that gets automatically distributed across the web. Not that I'd ever think of doing something evil like that, myself. . .Cool
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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2006, 01:26:07 am »

I see, I suspected there was something along those lines (seems like a very judge-case-by-case law). Strangely there's no good translation of the word 'derivative' into Swedish (se:plagiat en:plagiarism maybe), I've just heard the English/American term for it every now and then. Reminded me of this Oswald/Mickey/Astroboy page I found:

Doesn't Trademarks also cover characters though? Mickey Mouse is not only Copyrighted, but also Trademarked and it doesn't seem to be just the name or °o° logo from what I can tell. When the Copyright period ends for a specific cartoon it will be public domain but the characters are still Trademarked (most likely forever, knowing Disney's zeal).


And Sid. That very thought crossed my mind. Also, what happens if people use Spore as a creature design tool? I wonder how the EULA for Spore will look. More importantly, will you be able to do nude women creatures with bouncing breasts?


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Re: what is legal?
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2006, 01:41:17 am »

Yes Im swedish also. But i think I will make up aliens on my own.
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