Is using real world buildings in commercial products illegal.

Hi, if I were to recreate a real-world city like Newyork or maybe just a place like town square in a commercial product or for selling on the UE4 Marketplace would it be illegal to use the building’s likeness? besides a few games like Gran Tourismo and Watchdogs 2 I haven’t seen many games using and accurately recreating real world buildings and locations.

Buildings (and some defining features associated with them) can be trademarked. Seek legal advice before using them. (This is not legal advice btw.)

I’m sure it varies on which building / location you’re talking about, but definitely do research on any building and country you’d want to use because I know that there can be issues. A big-name game I worked on had a London skyline that was mostly an artistic representation, but it had a building that looked obviously like the “gherkin” tower ( and iirc, there was some legal trouble.

Here’s a good thread about this issue on another site:

TLDR: It depends. Do your research before exposing yourself to possible legal issues.

Some buildings require licenses to sell photos of them… so in general, you just can’t use them in commercial products without proper researches and approvals. (this is not a legal advice, but I am not lawyer anyway).

Best solution is, ask to the city that you want to use. They will probably answer, and if the city has been used on another project, they will answer more faster.
It’s complicated because it’s difficult to tell who own the right, and then who will be paid?
And building is also the architect owns the building’s some of rights.
I’m also interested in this issue.

For instance, filming a city is different issue but it seems cost a lot of money.

Regarding The States, Section 102 of Copyright Act defines list of stuff that can be copyrighted, Architectural work included. This means that buildings are subjected to copyright regulations. But provided that such buildings are located in public places, the copyright protection does not spread to pictorial representations of this building(this includes photos, paintings, and surprisingly 3d model of the building).

The practical reasoning behind why real places are not being re-created lies in a slightly different field. The legal issues you might run into are not about depicting exactly the same place or building, but doing so in unwanted manner. Potentially speaking, if you re-create a place of a certain city, and slap into a game with elements of violence, you have a chance of receiving claim from as high as city administration, motivated by statements, that your product depicts city in a bad way and causes loss of tourist/financial attraction and the claim sum can be sky-high.

If you are in doubt, seek proper legal advice.(This post is not a legal advice either).

Why take the risk / will it ultimately be worth it?

Feel like saying anything about the gameplay yet, (its for a new project you mentioned)?
Beyond legal, as good an artist as you surely are, modeling real-world buildings / cities…
Means you also stand to get your work heavily scrutinized with the best work out there.
It seems wiser to use real buildings for inspiration, then go wild in a new direction, no?

Ask a judge or a lawyer.