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Game Development Copyright

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Altissimus, May 19, 2019.

  1. Altissimus

    Altissimus

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    Hi,

    Looking at the iOS Appstore these days there's a bunch of games which are basically the same as a bunch of other games. A "clone" of another game seems to be a relatively frequent thing.

    For example, Clash Royale is a reasonably well-known game from the makers of Clash of Clans.
    Craft Royale is a wholly different game that is basically the same - certainly "borrowing" heavily from many of the original concepts of Clash Royale. Jungle Clash is another game cashing in on the same bandwagon.

    More generally, the concept of "Tower Defence" becomes a genre - and the creation of numerous games, some slightly different from others and some significantly different - is justified under accepting that the concept is now, apparently, in the public domain.

    So as game developers, where does copyright and IPR apply?

    For example, may I legitimately choose a premium game from the 1980s Commodore Amiga portfolio, and re-develop it (with improvements) today for Android/iOS? If I do so, taking the concepts of the original game but none of the artwork, trademarks (obviously), music or code, am I in breach of copyright?

    Is a game concept copyright? If so, what defines a game concept?

    Thanks,
    A.
     
  2. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    It's not a thing, at least not an actionable thing. If it was, we wouldn't have a games industry, period.
     
    Kiwasi, Ony, dadude123 and 3 others like this.
  3. halley

    halley

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    Game concepts are NOT copyrightable. No concepts are copyrightable, as they are abstract and intangible, as opposed to concrete things.

    However, a specific creative expression such as a particular board design, level layout, character appearance, etc., ARE copyrightable. A specific piece of code which implements a game function IS copyrightable.

    Specific very-special algorithms (which are conceptual as well as concrete) may or may not be candidates for Trade Secret or Patent protection, but the use of Patent for software is an area under much controversy.

    And in addition, many names, terms and style decisions can be registered for Trademark rather than Copyright protection.
     
  4. hippocoder

    hippocoder

    Digital Ape Moderator

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    You are good to go providing that the following differences are made:
    • level design
    • art style
    • audio
    • any likenesses and names
    That should cover you. I released The Other Brothers on mobile and did not fall foul of nintendo. Nintendo's legal staff followed my twitter for a short period before losing interest.

    Because it was clear while there were similarities, I wasn't trying to cash in on nintendo's success. Not one single bit of marketing ever hinted so. Instead it was clearly inspired by and even a homage, but never to the extent where we wanted to take from nintendo anything other than wisdom :)

    So long as you respect the original material and don't try to fool anyone about anything official, you are IMHO good to go. I'm not legal counsel, and you should seek it if going to console, but generally just taking the game design is absolutely fine (note: not same level design, this has been legally enforced in the past).
     
    wccrawford, Kiwasi, Ony and 1 other person like this.
  5. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Companies have been able to sort of get concepts protected. For example slide to unlock
     
  6. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    That wasn't copyright, that was patent.
     
  7. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    You could never patent something like that in a country with correct patent laws
     
  8. Antypodish

    Antypodish

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    According to BBC
    in
    HTC defeats Apple in swipe-to-unlock patent dispute
    https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-18709232

    "HTC is claiming victory in a patent dispute with Apple after a ruling by the High Court in London."

    "The judge ruled that HTC had not infringed four technologies that Apple had claimed as its own.

    He said Apple's slide-to-unlock feature was an "obvious" development in the light of a similar function on an earlier Swedish handset."

    "National patent laws thematically are very similar, but can be applied very differently."

    "Not only are the tests different but also the evidence that can be introduced in different courts varies. If the Neonode wasn't released in the US it might not be able to be cited there."

    "So the fact that Apple has lost this particular patent battle in the UK shouldn't mean it should be seen to have lost the global war."
     
    angrypenguin likes this.
  9. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    I also disagree with the laws protecting such things. Alas, whether we agree with them or not doesn't change the fact that we'd better abide by them anyway.
    I'm no expert here, but my understanding is that software can be patented if it's a software equivalent to a mechanical thing which could be patented.

    Slide to unlock could definitely be implemented mechanically, and that implementation could be protected. Thus, the software implementation is able to get equivalent protections. You could not do the same thing for, say, a frustum culling algorithm because there is no way to implement it mechanically. I'm sure there's more subtlety to it than that, it's just my laymans understanding of why some software can be patented while other stuff can't.
     
  10. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    The problem is that 'slide to unlock' is the equivalent of the slide lock/bolt, which cannot be patented since it's with us forever.
    Otherwise I agree with you, it's a shame that it could be done, but we don't have a choice but play along.
     
  11. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Here in Sweden you can only patent mechanical and electronic hardware solutions, not including software. So you can patent the tech to detect motion on a screen. But not the software or concept to slide your finger to unlock.
     
  12. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    If companies like Samsung didnt break these rules, bullies like Apple would be able to continue doing their S*** uninterrupted. Though you better be a company of the size of Samsung to take on a patent troll of that size :D
     
  13. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Yes, this is the bit that I was referring to. Don't pick a fight that you can't afford to lose.
     
    AndersMalmgren likes this.
  14. Kiwasi

    Kiwasi

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    It varies dramatically from country to country. In the US, patents can be issued for "anything that can be invented by a human". In NZ, software can only be patented when it is an integral part of a machine which is patentable. Pretty much every combination of rules on patents imaginable exists somewhere in the world.
     
    angrypenguin likes this.
  15. Antypodish

    Antypodish

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    Next thing you going to say, apple is saint and not looking for reason to make laud, about "theirs" (often stolen) features? This just a big game apple plays for their advantage. Their are not angels, nor M$ is. Just like EPIC did not so long ago, to "promote" their store, playing against Unity. Before then, I never heard about EPIC store. They create any type of noise for marketing purposes.
     
  16. AndersMalmgren

    AndersMalmgren

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    Google, MS etc, are saints in comparison. And those are american companies operating under the same stupid patent laws as Apple. There is a difference, and Apple is tiling towards patent troll.

    Its consumer and innovation hostile
     
  17. ChazBass

    ChazBass

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    Slide to unlock....molecule to cure a disease. People like to deride patent law (especially US patent law) but without such protections, companies and individuals wouldn't undertake the R&D necessary to create inventions. I mean, why would they if someone could just immediately copy their creation? The second instance always costs very little (or even zero for something virtual), but that first one can be incredibly expensive to make.
     
  18. halley

    halley

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    Getting off topic. Seems the original question was answered.
     
  19. better_walk_away

    better_walk_away

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    A game concept is not copyrightable, I had encountered this issue before and had consulted a lawyer.
    My game mechanic was very unique, and it went viral in my region on both Google Play and App Store. After about 4 months, there was another dev who developed a similar game with completely the same game mechanic. That dev promoted his game on multiple sites, many players quickly recognized that his game was so similar to mine, and the dev admitted that he was inspired by my concept. I didn’t know that this was happening until one of my players reported to me that there was a similar game being developed. Then, I started to worry that someone would copy my idea and invest way more money than me to develop the game. So I consult a lawyer, the lawyer answered me that a game idea is not copyrightable, but things like game’s code can.
    Months has passed, I think my fear was unfounded, no one was going to overtake me. Even if someone creates a successful game based on my idea, I will still have my own audiences if I keep doing well.
    If the idea is really original and lots of people are impressed by it, it is a bad idea for someone to try to copy that idea entirely because many players would recognize it, and many players don’t like to see someone copying other person’s idea. The dev who was inspired by my idea has received many criticism from the players when he was trying to promote his game.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    Ryiah likes this.
  20. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Game reskins is actually very common, and I mean literally taking the same game code, making a few minor texture changes, and releasing the game as your own. There are several marketplace websites dedicated to selling game projects, usually under $100, for this purpose. You end up with hundreds or thousands of the same game on the mobile stores.

    As for copyrighting game mechanics, you can copyright your specific code but not the mechanic the code produces. To protect a game mechanic you'd use a patent, but those seem to be only rarely used in the video game industry. The fact that the vast majority of "new" game mechanics are really just slightly novel iterations on mechanics from other games is probably part of the reason.