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Usage of real-world military vehicles in commercial games?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by FusionGames, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    Hi all,

    I know this isn't exactly the place to ask for sound legal advice, but I just want to get some general opinions on this right now.

    I am working on a tank game right now, and I just realized something. I am using real-life tanks (Challenger 2, M1A2 Abrams, T-90, etc.) in it. I also plan to sell it eventually. Do I have to go and ask for permission to use the likeness of these tanks, even if I don't include company names, logos, or even real-life locations in the game? Not sure...books and DVD's are for profit, and they sometimes contain images or videos of military vehicles. I'm assuming that it's not necessary to get licenses for military vehicles in indie games...but I couldn't find any rock-solid data confirming this. Does anybody have any better knowledge than me on this topic?

    Oh, and what about tanks like the Merkava(Israel) or the Arjun(India)? Would the Indian/Israeli military consider my usage of a likeness of one of their vehicles copyright infringement, and is it possible for them to sue me through international law?

    Sorry if I'm sounding a bid paranoid here...I just don't want to face any sort of legal lawsuit :p
     
  2. TheCasual

    TheCasual

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    i dunno, i know grand theft auto had things like a Striper .. instead of a Viper etc ... same dam thing , just no logos etc...
     
  3. JamesLeeNZ

    JamesLeeNZ

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    I wouldnt expect so tbh...

    BF3 uses all the real names, but no idea if they had to get permission... its an interestion question tho... do you really have to use the real names? Doesnt overly matter IMO, but I guess if youre going for realism I can appreciate why you might.
     
  4. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    Well, EA did recently get sued by Bell for not getting permission for 3 of their helicopters in BF3 (google it)...so I'm assuming BF3 didn't get permission for anything else either. Right now I'm counting on the fact that tanks are generally commissioned and put together by the military itself...in fact, I'm not sure if there actually is a single company behind manufacturing tanks, unlike aircraft (Lockheed Martin, Bell, etc.)

    As for using the real names...it's not an absolute must, the story takes place in an alternate world/universe (kinda like the Ace Combat series has done with StrangeReal), but I would kinda like the tanks to have recognizable names. Even so, I think that I might be able to just give them their military designation, and not their commercial designation. I think that's what BF3 and other war games do with their guns and such.
     
  5. JamesLeeNZ

    JamesLeeNZ

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    Ha true... Guess it does matter then!

    Im not sure where the line is drawn, but I guess if something is a trademarked (whatever other legal jargon applies here) name, you should avoid using it.

    Since youre in an alternative universe, I would be inclined to make up names.
     
  6. justinlloyd

    justinlloyd

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    The likeness of all real-world vehicles in all games is copyrighted and many of the lines, colours and incidental styling would fall under trade dress. Names, logos and certain designs would fall under trademark law.

    In essence, yes, you will need to get permission from the various manufacturers for any vehicles, guns, armaments or other works that are manufactured or have been manufactured for the military since at least the second world war. You will need to do this more so today than at any other time in the history of video game development.

    Better to make a mock-off of the product that you can claim under fair use, parody or original convention.

    I suggest, if serious about using the actual names and designs of seeking out proper legal advice on this.
     
  7. Zomby138

    Zomby138

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    How come it's not a problem in films? People drive real cars, and talk about AK47s etc.
     
  8. npsf3000

    npsf3000

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    What makes you think it isn't a problem?

    You have to be very careful, know the law, and in the case of the TV shows, Games etc. that you see - have decent legal assistance.

    10s google:

    The movie industry has always been exceedingly cautious about the use of brand names and the names of real people in films. For example, the director Danny Boyle, told the press that he caused Mercedes Benz logos to be digitally removed from cars in his film Slum Dog Millionaire when the manufacturer objected to the depiction of its cars in Bombay slum settings.

    http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2010/12/can-i-mention-brand-name-products-in-my.html
     
  9. Gigiwoo

    Gigiwoo

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    Always best to use caution with any real name or product.
     
  10. Moonjump

    Moonjump

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    A developer I was working for had trouble with an arms manufacturer because of the depiction of one of their guns. They weren't even using the name, it was the just the likeness that was the problem. The appearance was changed to solve the problem.

    Avoid anything identifiable as the product of a particular company to be on the same side. I think this is the best way with any company in any line of business. Unless you get permission from the company. Do this a long time in advance of release, as it is a very slow process, if you get a response at all.
     
  11. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    Hmm...interesting. Okay, so it's pretty much decided at this point that I'm going to have to give the tanks different names...a minor inconvenience, but whatever. With the developer you were working for, how closely did the model resemble the weapon? Do you think I would be safe if I made a few minor changes to the tanks (Added an extra rocket launcher here, removed smoke grenades there, changed location of the MG, barrel length, etc.) and just kept the same general turret and chassis look? Thanks for the opinions guys :)
     
  12. drewradley

    drewradley

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    In big budget movies and TV, companies pay them to say their name or drive their car. It's called product placement and was supposed to eliminate the need for advertising on TV. It didn't. They just double dip now. Ford was a huge sponsor of the Robocop series, hence every car is a ford. GM was a huge sponsor for Transformers, hence, every car is a GM.

    You can also use brand names in fiction, providing it is not derogatory. So it is okay to write "James Bond drove his BMW out the window". But you can't show him doing that without permission. Something about the logos being visible.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2012
  13. npsf3000

    npsf3000

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    I'm no expert but to me this sounds like:

    He only pirated a scene from Avatar to put in his game, not the whole movie!

    The Abrams tanks is still an Abrams tank if you change the barrel - they still own whatever rights to the chassis, Armour, turret design, machine guns, tracks, etc.
     
  14. Photon-Blasting-Service

    Photon-Blasting-Service

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    Anything that can be considered a trademark of a business shouldn't be copied.

    Real world example:
    I was working on a racing game and I went around the city taking reference photos. One thing I took a photo of was a parking ticket dispenser. I used the photo as reference and modeled a parking ticket dispenser. I removed all traces of the company logo, changed the colour, and didn't copy any text written on the dispenser.

    The legal team at the company saw the ticket dispenser model and asked how I modeled it. I told them and sent them my reference photos. They requested that I re-model the ticket dispenser because the SHAPE of the dispenser could be considered a trademark of that parking company.

    They advised me that I should never model directly from photo reference. Using your imagination is the legally safest option.
     
  15. Zomby138

    Zomby138

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    Goddamn parking tickets.

    What about bricks? Bricks are made by companies. People use actual photographs of actual bricks all the time in games.
     
  16. donrogers

    donrogers

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    Where are you getting these pictures? were you in the army? then you better not use them - if you took them from a magazine - hm.. maybe there is a trademark problem so just change it a little
     
  17. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    True, but if you change the barrel, modify the turret, change the chassis, replace the machine gun with a creation of your own, replace all logos/designations with fictional ones, make up it's performance values (most performance/armour values for modern tanks are classified) and call it a "T-69 Destroyer" for example, is it still an "Abrams"? (Also, tracks on most tanks look pretty much the same...). If the silhouette is just generally recognisable to die-hard military fanatics (like me, lol), can they actually claim IP on that?

    First of all, this is a hilarious story, thanks for sharing it :D Secondly, good point. Modeling directly from a photo reference is never a good idea, I'll keep that in mind. I was actually going to get the general silhouette from sketches and blueprints that can be found online...and then use my imagination to fill in/change some details. Do you think that is safe?

    No, I have never been in the army, lol :D And I will be using blueprints bought off the internet. Not sure how accurate they are. I will most likely hire an artist to do the modeling for me...I could do it...but it would take an insanely long time...and it wouldn't be as good in the end anyway :p
     
  18. Moonjump

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    A common method in racing games is to mix and match bits from different cars onto one model, then adjust them so that they look cohesive and not recognisable as a particular car.
     
  19. Photon-Blasting-Service

    Photon-Blasting-Service

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    I'm not a legal expert, I just have some past experience with these issues. If nobody recognizes it, you are probably fine.
     
  20. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    Yeah, I highly doubt that anybody will notice or care really...it's just I'd prefer to be on the safe side, as there is no way I could ever afford a lawsuit of any kind. I think I'll embellish on the designs a bit, change the names, and just keep the silhouette somewhat recognizable.
     
  21. FusionGames

    FusionGames

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    Yeah, I highly doubt that anybody will notice or care really...it's just I'd prefer to be on the safe side, as there is no way I could ever afford a lawsuit of any kind. I think I'll embellish on the designs a bit, change the names, and just keep the silhouette somewhat recognizable.
     
  22. justinlloyd

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    Don't take this as legal advice: Because you're a small, independent developer it is often easier to get forgiveness than permission. Make something that is close enough to make you happy with the design, but not identical to the original, and you will generally skate by just fine. Never admit to using a particular set of references, deny culpability, and when it comes to a fight, state "We weren't real happy with that design anyway and were planning on changing it in the update. We've already designed entirely new models to replace these old ones." And then do it. Midsize to large companies have legal departments that will tend to aggressively protect their IP even when the relationship to their IP is incidental. Over my career as an entrepreneur and software developer I have received several (not many, but more than enough) "you stole our idea" or "you stole our technology" letters that have no foundation in reality. It is just the way some people, and some companies, operate.
     
  23. npsf3000

    npsf3000

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    *cough* Rambus *cough*
     
  24. drewradley

    drewradley

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    I say err on the side of caution. Last thing a small developer needs is to be told to stop selling their hard work. Or worse, hand over any profits. In fact small developers should be extra cautious as they often don't have the funds or time for a legal fight.
     
  25. IPlawyer

    IPlawyer

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    Hi! could you please to tell the name of the game you are working for?
    What is your final decision for described case? Will you license the appearance of tanks for depicting it in the game? Have you found the cases about the similar questions?
    Thank you:)
     
  26. Vaupell

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    You need a licence and contract with each manufacture you use.
    EA,Dice have contracts with all the real world weapon manufactures just to use the real names in the game.
    Previously some of them had different names, because they where unable to obtain a license.

    And that' just a small thing like weapon names in the selection screen.
     
  27. mu-kow

    mu-kow

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    My day job is largely electronics repair of Abrams tank and Bradley. Abrams is General Dynamics and Bradley is BAE though many sub-components are manufactured by other contractors (Lockheed Martin, DRS, Honeywell, etc.) So do not count on the "fact"
     
  28. I am da bawss

    I am da bawss

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    If I am not mistaken, recently there was a news I read that was EXACTLY the argument EA was trying to argue for free use of real world vehicle in game.

    "EA won't pay arms manufacturers for licensed digital replicas of their guns and war paraphernalia in its action games - Battlefield 4 - this year. But it will use them anyway.

    EA is asserting a constitutional free speech right to use the trademarks without permission. "We're telling a story and we have a point of view. A book doesn't pay for saying the word Colt, for example," EA's Frank Gibeau told Reuters."


    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2...-war-paraphernalia-its-action-games-this-year



    It will be quite funny if one of the arms manufacturer making a game using one of EA's trademark and cite it as "free speech". :D
     
    aer0ace likes this.
  29. fringewalker

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    hmmm... insightful:

    My project a solo effort is still in early pre-alpha specifically the DCC asset pipe and I've pondered this IP litigious foible from time to time mostly during a particularly grindy all-night re-topo session.

    Its a tech demo military FPS open beta iteration tentatively slated for a 1st QTR 2015 release on Android mobile/console platforms - 1 map + 6 missions with sentient AI portraying similar content.

    The questions I usually ask myself in relation to this issue is:

    - a. Would a tier 1 weapons contractor even begin to contemplate tasking its inhouse black ops legal team to hunt down some insignificant tosser [me] depicting their TM'ed [very cool] weapon systems comprised of digitised quad/tri's in 3d virtual space computed within a Tegra3 4.3x form factor?

    - b. Or possibly a tier 2 sub-contractor generated stern cease and desist email with the expectation of compliance from the aforementioned developer?

    - c. As the aforementioned developer if either a and/or b eventuated what course of action should I execute ignore or comply?

    - d. Or Just finish the darn thing as is without deviation from the original concept and let the dice fly high?

    d usually wins hands down every time.

    Cheers ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
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