Are there laws to put real car models in a game?

Hello, I would like to know if there are rules to put real cars in a game, for example if I have ferrari, porsche, ford with physical damage on the cars, is it necessary an authorization of the manufacturers or no ?

You can’t do it basically. If you do and your game starts making money, they will sue you.

The only way you can do it is with their agreement.

ok thank you that’s what i wanted to know !

… I doubt that the sape of a car is copyrighted to the extent a lawsuit vs a game maker is possible.
That said, many companies are from all over the world and handle copyright differently.

If you take a page from GTA, the car is similar not identical, never named the same.

If you crated the models without using an actual schematic, their design belongs to you. Regardless of how close to something else it seems. You didn’t take their work, you took an end image and reproduced it.

If you take an antique, who’s designer has died, the rights of the design may never even be contested. Yes the company likely still owns the same rights, a share, or manage the design.
However, since it is a model in a 3d game and not a 1:1 replica in real life that you are selling, the companies usually have no issues to raise from a legal perspective.
You don’t impact their sales, you don’t steal their business.

As proof, I can offer this

Keep in mind you aren’t Activision. You likely lack the funds to even defend a case, so I’m not advising you do it on purpose and hope for the best.
​​​​​​​especially when most companies will likely agree if asked…

I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve dealt with this from a technology and business point of view for twenty years.

Here’s what I believe I know about applied US copyright law:

  • The actual shape of a car IS copyrightable. Someone designed that. They went through tons of work to make the lines match up, to fit in all the necessary mirrors/handles/hatches/windows and so on. There’s absolutely artistic copyright in the shape of a vehicle that has had all that work done to it.
  • Publicly displayed objects, such as buildings in a public square or vehicles parked on the street, can be “fair use” to use in some kind of derived work of art, as long as they are incidental to the work, not *fundamental *to it. If I go out and take pictures of people and wildlife in Rockerfeller Plaza in NYC, the people who designed the building don’t automatically have a claim against my pictures. However, if I start taking architectural pictures of specific features of the plaza and the building, that may start to infringe – specific legal doctrine is gray and depends as much on who’s suing who as on the specifics of the derived work.
  • If I have to do significant work to replicate a shape someone has copyright on, that is viewed by the courts as pretty good evidence that the original shape was copyrighted, and thus I would be infringing. Functional work (like “rounded edges on desks so people don’t slice their wrists off when using it”) are not copyrightable to the same level as purely cosmetic features; that’s what patent protection is for (and that’s a totally separate thread I’m not going into here.) Thus, a car tire that is round and black and 200mm wide and 80mm deep to the rims probably isn’t copyrightable, but such a tire that has white text that says “Firestone” on the side, very likely is.
  • If I make a car drivable in my game, I am absolutely doing significant work where I have a choice in what the shape of those vehicles are. The people who own the copyright of those vehicle shapes, will very likely have a claim against me. Some companies are more hard-nosed about it than others, and if I’m a two-bit small developer, I could fly under their radar for years, but I would very likely lose in court (or, more likely, have to settle to avoid complete bankruptcy.)

Also, and this is the part that I had the hardest time to internalize: In the US, it’s “actual legal practice” that matters, not how you happen to interpret the precise text of the law. I may do something that, to my logical interpretation, may fall completely under fair use as a transformative work or other non-infringing use. However, the claimant against me is free to disagree, and the ones who will actually interpret that law will be a panel of 12 people who had nothing better to do with their time than sit on a jury, and hear the well-paid lawyers of the claimant talk about how I’m ruining America and Apple Pie with my grand larceny of their intellectual property. In the American legal system, it’s not what’s “empirically true,” but it’s “what you negotiate based on your power position” that wins the day. (Some European legal systems work differently, but I haven’t done work there for 20 years, so I have no strong opinions on that.)

If you need specific vehicles, contact the brand. They may already have a licensing program. That program may or may not work for your particular situation – e g, “2% of revenues with a $100,000 initial pre-payment” may or may not be in your budget. If you can’t pay, or can’t reach an agreement with the brand (“sorry, Ferrari doesn’t license to games,” or whatever) then you really will have to come up with an alternative.

For an example of a game that did this well, look at the Flat-Out series. They built cars that remind you of classic muscle cars, without being exact replicas, and they gave them different names. It’s still a great series of games! And they didn’t have to worry as much about copyright.

Fun fact:
this is why games with real cars usually don’t have physical damage (gran torismo?)

Its not because the devs were lazy, it’s because the car makers allowed the license for the cars but did not allow to show physical damage to them. Most car makers don’t want their cars to be seen getting wrecked

Your first point makes no sense in a modeling environment.
There is absolutely no way that you could ever create an exact 1 to 1 replica that infringines on any copyright by not having at least 7 different features from reality somewhere - short of doing something stupid like actually 3d scanning the car.

Their case would likely never hold up in court - especially if like you mention at the end you purpously change some features.

The way I remeber it. You only need 7 different design points. And within a car, thats easily achievable depending on the degree of the copyright the company has in place.

Again - not telling anyone that they should “just do it”, it is easier to contact the company and get a yes/no.