Content design copyright questions

To keep everyone happy and nobody going to jail I had a few questions on copyright for the legal vs illegal ideas.

If I created a 2d sprite box (original design) and made my character jump to hit it for an item to pop out (Similar to mario) that is legal right? The box, the item, the char, even the sounds will be original made and not copied.

Yea I understand stuff like that might not be ethical as in copying someone else’s design, but I’m just trying to get an idea of the full extent of what’s actually legal in making vs what is not legal to make and include in a fully finished game you intend on selling.

You’re safe using that, game mechanics can not be copyrighted.

They can be patented in some cases, but patents last for 20 years and Mario bros has been out since 1985, so they can’t have any valid patents on those mechanics. (If they do, the patents would have been wrongly issued for a thing that is too old and not new or innovative.)

Patents on game concepts are evil and usually just limit the entire game development industry. Like the concept of having mini-games on loading screens, was patented almost 20 years ago and that’s why you never see them, even though it’s clearly a fun simple generic idea and loads of games could have benefited from them. Also the company that patented it wasn’t the first to use them, so it was questionably issued in the first place. Luckily that one expires in about 10 days, so maybe we’ll see some more of those in the future. :smiley:

Different countries have COMPLETELY different laws regarding this, so keep that in mind everyone.

The laws are more or less the same in most countries I’ve cared to check up on. If you play nice with US copyright and patent laws, you’re most likely not going to get into trouble in other areas either.

Unless you’ve got some examples of game related copyright/trademark/patent issues due to the differences in those laws in different countries?

I don’t have any specific examples, but it is unwise to assume anything when it comes to laws in other countries, likewise for the OP to ask this question without stating which country they are located in. The OP could easily be mislead if I was posting general rules for this kind of thing for Venezuela.

Exactly, you can be “pretty sure” about something, and still get into a lot of trouble.

My bad about that, I’m from the US. Didn’t want to create something that had original artwork on it but followed the same concept as something else and get in trouble about it.

I have actually a lot of question regarding copyright.

Can you put poster of old moves or poster of stars. I mean you can if you are making a movie (as long as you did not purposely try to make fun of the movie of celebrities.

I would like some Bon Jovi poster or Metallica logo in a room to drive soeone is a rock 90’ fan as an example. Of course I can make up some false rock-band, but its just not the same.

Not sure if that would fall under the category of having to have permission or not. As for 1, you didn’t design the poster, and 2 seeing as how Metallica got ****** at people sharing their music for free years ago when Napster was big, all it would take is someone to get in touch with the right person for the trouble to begin.

Not sure if it’s the same in games, but I figured that’s why a lot of TV shows block out a lot of shirts the people are wearing or they block out some of the pictures or other products like coca-cola, pepsi, ect.

But also, going back to the poster thing. Don’t people sell stuff like that in yard-sales, on craigslist, and other ebay all the time and not have to pay the band? Or that could fall under a whole different set of laws where as those things are physical items and not digital artwork. Guess if you had a decent camera and a poster you wanted to use, you could set it up against a white background and take a picture of it then import it into photoshop and eventually into UE. But again I’m not that up to par on copyright laws so I wouldn’t be able to tell you what you was allowed to do and what you couldn’t do.

This is quite different. Physical items are limited (an economy of sorts), and you bought the item, so it is yours to do with as you please (sort of), whether it be to sell it, destroy it, etc. Digital items are not limited, so you redistributing a digital item can cause A LOT more harm to the creators than if it were a physical item.

I’m not a lawyer so if it really matters consult one and not take my advice at face value and just another voice on a message board.

As a primer

What is legal and what is not as to civil law is rather subjective as what it really comes down to is who has the better story as to rights or damages in a court of law and copyright is only enforceable by the individual or company who owns the rights and will act in their best interests even if what’s considered fair use doctrine does apply. So no copyright infringement is not criminal law and you will not go to jail, assuming of course your not just paraphrasing.

Patents only applies to manufacture goods or as a means of functionality as to design. If you make a digital weapon that shoots digital bullets it is not manufactured or functions in the same manner as a real weapon would as to it’s intended purpose of use.

You can not copyright what is common knowledge or what is considered prior art so a mechanic of a player bumping their head on a box to activate an event is neither unique or a function that a patent would apply to a given game or as a trademark entity, like Mickey Mouse, that would be considered as an infringement that has nothing to do with either copyright or patents.

You can not copyright common words, letters, or numbers even though Apple would have you believe other wise as to the commonly used letter “I”. Can only imagine having to pay Apple a fee every time a game reviewer said “I love this game” ;). MacDonald’s gets around this as they call their letter “M” the Golden Arch and although they can not claim ownership of a letter they can copyright the font that is called a golden arch font. :smiley:

Where copyright does apply is in the completed shape and form of intellectual property and copy-right is a means of conveyance between the owner of the IP as property to another for the purpose of distribution. For example as the author J.K. Rowling “owns” as property the Harry Potter series but grants others permission the Right to Copy in other media like films or merchandise. In this case Rowling’s, and her estate, will always own the IP as property in hand which is a right that never expires.

Trademark Infringement.

You can call a digital side arm a 1911 but you can not call it a COLT 1911 but it does not take much Googling skills to come to the conclusion that there is no recorded case where a game developer was sued for use of weapon branding and the only case as an issue is EA saying they will no longer pay branding fees in their games. Really does raise the question just how much does EA pay for licensing and is it just another fee to pay as part of the day to day business of games development and not just more look at me hype?

The use of Trademark though is where most developers can get into trouble from entities that are not even related to the ideology of game development. Trademark is in fact the true identity of any company that produces goods and services and the use of their trademarks, even in a video game, would be on par of someone stealing your identity and leaving you to have to deal with the consequences. This is their identity and something as unassuming as the Red Cross means something more to someone else as it does to you.

Not all companies are Draconian though as George Lucas does allow fans to use his trademarks and works as part of the Star Wars universe where Disney will shut your 90 year old grandmother’s Disney fan site down for using a few images of Mickey Mouse. As a matter of fact there is an extension to US copyrights called “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act”. In all though it’s if you plan to distribute your works, video game or other wise, is where due diligence needs to be served to understand how nasty the free market actually is and most fail because they do not understand the difference between making something and selling it to others.

In all <insert descriptive word I can’t use> shoot as to what will happen once you and your game, product, does get noticed but Universal vs Nintendo is a good starting point as to case study as this is where it all started so don’t worry about copyright until due diligence needs to be served prior to distribution and with luck you will make a ton of bucks that you can hire someone to deal with the annoyances afterwards. After all I’m willing to bet that Epic has a few in house lawyers hanging around that knows their/this stuff better than I do. :wink:

Appreciate the long and detailed response Frankie.

Another question I had. The content we find on the Epic launcher, is that free use in anything we make? Such as the stuff in the Content Examples project and the Kite Demo?

Yes, but they are only licensed for use within UE4.

Well, Mario Bros is a good example how iffy it can get if lawyers just decide to give it a shot…