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Subject: Custom Board Games? rss

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I had an interesting idea. How cool would it be to create custom board games and sell them online on ebay? Obviously, games that are in print and obviously owned by a company with a copyright is out of the question. But how about games for companies that went out of business years ago? Can I construct a replica of game and sell it if the company is no longer around? How can I find out if the copyright is still held? When do games become public domain? Any discussion would be appreciated, I was just curious.
 
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Michael Campbell
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Excelsior
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Most games that are out of print are still owned by someone. Whether it's the original game designer or the publisher (usually).

As to the public domain question, here is what Wikipedia has to say:

Copyrights are more complex than patents; generally, in current law they expire in all countries when all of the following conditions are satisfied (except Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Samoa):

* The work was created and first published before January 1, 1923, or at least 95 years before January 1 of the current year, whichever is later;

* The last surviving author died at least 70 years before January 1 of the current year;

* No Berne Convention signatory has passed a perpetual copyright on the work; and

* Neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. (This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.)
 
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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Major Sholto wrote:
* Neither the United States nor the European Union has passed a copyright term extension since these conditions were last updated. (This must be a condition because the exact numbers in the other conditions depend on the state of the law at any given moment.)

If I recall correctly, EU copyright law does not make such extensions retroactive; so a work with a given copyright expiry will expire according to the original terms. This is what frustrates Disney so much, since their early works will in fact pass into the public domain here...

(The irony of it is that Disney themselves have saved a lot of money by making works based on expired works like Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Pocahontas stories).

As for games, only particular expressions of an idea are copyrightable, but game mechanics can be patented, e.g. Garfield's patent for the mechanics used in Deckmaster games like Magic: the Gathering and V:tES. So keep that in mind as well.
 
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