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How to claim copyright?

So, how to handle copyrights? Here is my situation: I am working on a small indie game, will release it most likely for free. But I would like to claim the copyright to it so no one can resell it or re-use it for other purposes. What is required for that? Just a readme file with a notice written in clear english? Or do I have to paste a pre-made legal text?
Advice on this would be very appreciated.

You can read up on how copyright applies to game development here Gamasutra - Hey, That’s MY Game! Intellectual Property Protection for Video Games

But basically copyright protection exists the moment an author fixes an expression in a tangible medium. This means the moment you save your source code to disk, or you sketch out the artwork for your game character or level art, you automatically have copyright protection without doing anything further. I would personally suggest keeping documentation of dates (the version control commits would probably work), and keeping some sort of generic readme file would help as well.

However, at that level, you may still have to put up a fight in a court case, unless your documentation is just so flawless. An author can also choose to register the copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office (current registration fee is $45), which provides certain additional benefits, such as the right to statutory damages for copyright infringement.

And as always, remember, copyright protection protects the actual artwork and sounds in the game as an audiovisual work, and the underlying source code as a literary work, but it wouldn’t prevent someone copying your idea. You’d have to look at a patent for that, but then it would have to be an extreme circumstance and couldn’t be too generic a concept or the patent office wouldn’t consider it.

Thanks for the reply. Taking that very page as an example, their copyright notice is this at the bottom of the page:

If I put something like this in a readme file, and on the intro screen itself of my game I should be covered.

Not entirely. In fact, if you are in the US you don’t have to do anything to gain copyright on your product, it’s automatically there by virtue of you creating your work.
The notice is more of a convenience to let other people know who to contact if they want to discuss licensing.

Now, if you ever end up in court with someone you feel has violated your copyright, you will need to prove you actually are the copyright holder. There are many ways to do that, but the one that the court will give the greatest weight to would be the actual US Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov

In my case, would it be enough proof that I am the original creator if I am in sole possession of all the source files (for the animations and rigs, the largest part of the game content). Any animator would agree probably that the way you rig a skeleton is like hand-writing.
I don’t expect any court scenario, for me the copyright is just a precaution so my game does not end up in public domain because I forgot to put a copyright notice on it.

You would still be better off with some form of third-party timestamping. Placing your files in a private repository hosted by Github/Bitbucket/etc… would probably be sufficient. It’s super easy to manipulate timestamps on files on a local computer, so someone could extract a resource, manipulate the time stamp and say “See? I made my version 2 years before he did!”. That’s why you want a third party involved.

CA of 1976 changed that, so there is no longer a notification requirement. In fact, these days if you want to purposely place something in the public domain, you actually have to jump through some hoops to get there.

As others have pointed out, in the United States, copyright laws are very much in favor of creators of any form.
You do not need to include any statement or declaration that any material you create is copyrighted to gain full protection under the law.

If the product is likely to produce a reasonable income, paying to register the copyright is worthwhile. For one it sets a fixed point in time to which you can point to say the product was demonstrably yours at least that far back. This way if someone comes along later and duplicates your work and then tries to copyright it and sue you for violating ‘their’ copyright… you get the picture.

Be aware of what a copyright is and is not.

The game you create, in its digital form, bit - by - bit, is what you copyright.
Precise text from the game is covered under copyright.

But other things require different protections.
Eg. A Character and their likeness are not copyrighted but trademarked.

US Copyright is lengthy, and not an easy read, but IMO even if you will be paying a lawyer to handle all of those needs for you, it is very important that you be aware of the law, both to know what you can and cannot secure as your own, and to help you avoid overstepping the legal property of others.

Wow, that would be nasty as hell.
When I cook my project, is my code, mostly blueprints, safe from being opened by a 3rd party without the project files, like C++ code?

Check out software licencing: Apache Licence

Google uses it, and it is quite effective but simultaneously open :smiley:

The Apache License (ASL) is a permissive free software license written by the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). The Apache (/əˈpætʃi/) License requires preservation of the copyright notice and disclaimer.

Check out software licencing: Apache Licence

Google uses it, and it is quite effective but simultaneously open :smiley:

The Apache License (ASL) is a permissive free software license written by the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). The Apache (/əˈpætʃi/) License requires preservation of the copyright notice and disclaimer.