Remake old game and copyrights

I have a question in relation to copyright. Imagine that I remake a old FPS game made ​​with UT99/UT2k4 but now I make with the UE4. I recreate the maps, characters, animations, GUI/HUD but making it look as similar as possible to the original. The damage of weapons is the same, the number of weapons, ammo and other things is also the same. I’m infringing something? What do I need to change for not infringe nothing?
Thank you!

Generally my rule of thumb is if you have to ask the question assume the worst. If I were you then contact the publisher of the original game and get their written authorization detailing what you said above, that you’ll be remaking everything to look and feel as close to the original as possible (although even that might not be enough depending what the original is…is it a full game or a UT mod, etc… you may need to license the rights to it, at the least would probably involve legal consultation)… But then my question is, if it was to look and play just like the original, why go to all the effort and not just play the original.

@Xenogenik’s reply is spot on.

So OP, definitely make sure to either get permission or make sure your game is significantly different enough that there is no copyright claim against you.

With all the stuff that you want to remake it’s quite plausible. I’d check the Megaman remake that is now in the works to see how they did to avoid infringement.

To use copyrighted property without issues, if you publish your project you must make sure that:

° You express clearly to all audience that that is a fan made project.
° You have to be able to present proofs that you did not earn ANY money from doing it.
° You can’t use extracted media, like textures, models, etc.

If the IP owner can prove you earned money from doing it, you’ll pretty much end up bankrupted and in jail.

You would be doing everything from scratch, and you can’t use any content from original game. Also what bruno said.

And this usually means any money - even if you have a site for the project and it has banners to pay for the site hosting, this usually also counts as earning.

I am assuming donations don’t count as earning? I am curious about this myself, in regards to doing a game. The only reason I am wondering now is because of this. I was looking at a slightly older PS1 game to remake

Yes donations would count as earnings at least in a court of law. If you could set up some weird system where people give money directly to the dev and make for something else it might work until you get a summons to court.

yes, that counts as earning (since you aren’t a charitable organization)

By the way, as far as remaking old games goes, the copyright still stands even if you don’t make money off the project, they can still sue you (if they care).

I don’t think that list is enough. For starters even if something is a fan project clearly stating it can still possibly damage the value/reputation of the original IP even if it does not intent it. Also the no profit from project means no one in the chain can profit from it. Hosting files on share sites with ads or a project page using free hosting showing ads is a no go. Allowing people to do fan projects can hinder licensing to other entities of possible remakes/sequels/spin offs so some put a stop to these even after few screenshots or videos of the project have gone viral.

However it varies a lot how and when IP owners protect their stuff. Some don’t care, some get aggressive only after success and so on. Many of the publishers or IP holders don’t even answer the queries about remakes unless they are contacted by respectable party or a licensing lawyer. If you can’t find official info or guidelines (Intellectual Property Policy) about fan creations for the IP you want to use then it’s always risky.

Yes, if owner says it’s ok then it’s ok (they can still sue you later);
But if they didn’t say anything, it’s your own risk… If they say “stop!” just drop it, you’re done.

Chess is not protected so far i know!
In the moment you gain some money with patreaon, or even only small video ads, the show is over quick.
Follow the projects here and you see sometimes nintendo stuff popping out of nowhere.
Gaining fanbase very quick and then the end comes even quicker.

Oh boy! One of my favorite topics: IP, Trademark and Copyright laws. To start off, I am not a lawyer, nor is this meant to be lawyerly advice. Please seek help for yourself if you think I’m a lawyer. I’m not. I have had to dig into this topic extensively for the work I do related to my projects. Some of the folks above have good points, and a few items you actually want to avoid.

Quick Reference-
A Trademark will last 10 years before it needs to be renewed. If it is not renewed, anyone can pick it up.
A Copyright means, all works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain. Works published after 1922, but before 1978 are protected for 95 years from the date of publication. If the work was created, but not published, before 1978, the copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

These are just a few items and questions that usually come up, so here we go!

First off, there are three types if IP.
The first is the kind you own. This allows you to do whatever you want, and prevent or allow others to work with your IP.
The second is IP owned by another party that you want to work with. You will need to get their permission to do this work, and follow all details that they place down.
The third is IP owned by a third party that you don’t care about, but have access to. Enough about that one, as you don’t care about it.

We are going to focus on the second type, owned by another party that you want to work with.
To put it bluntly, get permission. Don’t think that the masses will get behind you, and the company will fold and let you continue. No one likes to be forced into releasing their IP. If you know someone in the company, and they are willing to help you in small ways, use them. If not, then find a way to talk to them. This is how I was able to get permission for my projects. Remember, they hold all the cards, and all the keys. Don’t for a moment think to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

What if I’m a Non-Profit?
Congrats, your a non-profit. Doesn’t mean squat when it comes down to using other peoples IP/Copyright/Trademarks. It does show that you are a true organization and more then likely serious about what you want to do. You will also want to make sure that the non-profit deals with the subject of the IP you want to work with. Don’t try to use a non-profit to do work outside it’s scope, as you may run the risk of jeopardizing your 501-c3 status.

But what about Fair Use?
This is an area that most people think they can use whatever they want, as long as they don’t charge for it. Not quite. We have seen quite a few projects that have been removed because of this miss belief. Fair Use is primarily meant for commentary, reporting, documentaries, research and educational type of papers. You better be able to show that you truly fall into this, as if you don’t, you lose.

But if I don’t charge for it, won’t they leave me alone?
Nope. They still own it, and all they need to do is say that it infringes on their IP, it will be shutdown. However, there are some projects that have made it through. Your mileage may very.

What about donations? Can I take in donations?
This depends on the deal you have with the IP holder. Some will not allow you do take in anything at all, and others will allow you to, as long as you don’t charge for the final project. Most will fall in one of these two areas, but who knows what you will work out with the IP holder.

What if what I want to work on is just inspired by, but not a direct copy?
Ah, you hit on something there. If you are inspired by something, and make your own twist to truly make it your own, it then becomes your own IP. Congrats! Just don’t copy every element and claim it as your own. Many will start with a copy, and then start changing items until they realize that what they are now working on is a new and different project.

You seem to have some idea of what you are talking about, but how do I know your not just blowing smoke?
Once again, I am not a lawyer. Nor have I played one on TV. Epic has brought their lawyers onto their Thursday Twitch show before, and I do recommend that you go back and watch it.
I will tell you how I did it, and am able to work with some of the IP of a major company. This is what worked for me, your results may very.
For quite a few years I have worked with Disney historians on creating and building databases of documents, images, videos and memorabilia that is in their personal collection. This pulled me into learning about IP/Copyright/Trademarks law. I didn’t want to be smacked down for what I was doing. This lead to wanting to experience some of the things I was reading in some of the documents. Because of the databases, people I knew and few other items, I have made contacts in Disney.
I got into 3D modeling and created an interactive demo of the '64 Worlds Fair- Tower of the Four Winds. Because I knew I did not own the IP/Copyright/Trademarks of this item, I needed to reach out to those I knew.
At an event I spoke to one of my contacts. I pulled out an Android tablet, and proceeded to show her what I had made. The conversation went pretty much like this. Her last sentence is exact:
Me: This app allows you to zoom around the Tower, turn the wind on and off and learn more about it’s history.
Her: What are you planning on doing with this?
Me: That’s why I’m showing it to you. Disney owns the IP. I need to know if there is anything I can do.
Her: That’s the right answer.

By showing that I knew who owned it, and that I was willing to follow their rules, these projects will soon go out to the public without issues. Each new project that comes up is brought up to them. Most have been approved, but not all. I don’t fight back. They own it. This lead to me giving a presentation in Virtual Recreations at Disney’s D23 Expo, including a demo in the Archives Exhibit on the main floor, last August. Five major projects have been completed, or nearly so, and will be released to the public over the coming months. I guess you could say I fall under the educational/research section of Fair Use, but I still pass everything by them just in case.

To wrap it up, these are just notes, and what you do may get very different results. If a company sees that you want to play fair, they may play fair with you. You may build it, and the IP holder loves it, and wants you to continue. It has happened in the past, it is happening for projects out there right now and will happen in the future.

Any questions, or corrections, just mention it below.

That part is really important, I would guess! I’m not saying never to try to convince someone after they’ve said no, but just in general, if someone owns the IP, then what do they get out of saying yes to you doing anything? If the answer to that includes an argument with you, then they will likely just save themselves a headache and say no. and for that it doesnt matter if its a Disney IP or one single guy who made an old game thirty years ago.

Also, people have mentioned this somewhat, but I want to slightly expand:

If I’m not making any money from a game, wont they leave me alone?

There are a BUNCH of reasons why they WOULDN’T leave you alone, even if you aren’t profiting.

  • As I stated above, if you are a hassle to deal with, they might simply say NO.
  • Think of the Barbie girl song. In that case Aqua was selling the music, but even if they weren’t, Mattel might think that the sexual nature of the song could end up influencing parents to stop buying Barbies.
  • On the other end of that, let’s say there’s a very dark and serious game, like Slenderman. If you make a cute version that’s silly, the IP owners might worry their game will lose its dark reputation.
  • Another major reason is, competition. If a group of fans make an awesome batman game that’s free, the actual batman games might be bought less. Sure, some people will buy both, but other people who are only casually interested in Batman might just settle for the free game.
  • A million other possible reasons that I’m not going to try to think up. The point here is, just because your game is free doesn’t mean it isn’t a threat to the IP owner. But knowing this can be good news, because it means you can shape your project in a way that will benefit the IP owner, and also allow you to make a fan version too. There are many creative possibilities there.

+1 Nice wall of info for me about us law.

Yeah, totally agree, that was a good read. Thanks Tkfore21!

Its best if you just did an entirely different game.

Thanks Tkfore21! This whole topic should be added into the documentation.