Recommend
5 
 Thumb up
 Hide
26 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Board Game Design » Board Game Design

Subject: Acquiring rights to Remake Games rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
boyce mcclellan
United States
Harrisonburg
VA
flag msg tools
Forgive me, I only briefly searched for a thread of this nature,

BUT

I was wondering if there is anything I have to do to use my graphic design skills in my off time to remake a game. Not looking at changing any of the rules just making it more aesthetically pleasing.

Do people usually take it upon themselves to do this?
How do you find out who has the rights to certain games?
How receptive are designers, or whoever own the rights to older games?

I feel like there could be a nice resurgence of simulations if the games weren't so rules intensive. Its hard to sell a new player on ASL, or even SL for that matter. MBT's charts alone make people run. Especially now that Euro games have cornered the market. But then there are other games that could use a more modern bit of editing, and art work and could be rereleased and be just as successful as they were in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Panzer blitz/leader? I think that cleaning up a lot of the rules and adding better artwork would make them more readable and people wouldn't mind jumping into them as much. After all just because something is legible, doesn't make it readable.

I'm an avid collector, but sadly have hardly ever played any of my games for lack of players. Trying to get them interested in playing but 1970's artwork and rules don't help my cause. Thanks for any suggestions.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
For personal use? You can do as you please.

As a fan free reskin? You can usually do as you please here too. One or two companies may C&D, but that is very rare.

As a complete game and reskin/retheme? 50/50. Some publishers freak out, others dont care and a rare few encourage it.

As a item to be sold? Then youd sure better have permission or you are very likely going to find trouble.
14 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
William Ford
United States
Illinois
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
boyce1981 wrote:
But then there are other games that could use a more modern bit of editing, and art work and could be rereleased and be just as successful as they were in the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Panzer blitz/leader?

Take a look at Panzerblitz: Hill of Death, which is based on PanzerBlitz and Panzer Leader.

boyce1981 wrote:
and be just as successful as they were in the 60's, 70's, and 80's.

In 1980, Avalon Hill reported that PanzerBlitz had sold over 200,000 copies. I don't think that happens with wargames anymore. Source: The General Index and Company History page 9 (1980).
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
boyce mcclellan
United States
Harrisonburg
VA
flag msg tools
" Then youd sure better have permission or you are very likely going to find trouble."



Who do we go to? Or find that out?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jake Staines
United Kingdom
Grantham
Lincolnshire
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
boyce1981 wrote:

Who do we go to? Or find that out?


You'll need to find who has the rights to the game in question presently. (In the case of Avalon Hill games I believe it's Hasbro? In which case the answer is almost certainly 'no'.)

As to how to do this - look around for news and/or company histories or whatever to see if you can find who bought them and/or their portfolio when they went out of business, as a starting point. You may have some luck looking up registered trademarks associated with the game/brand/publisher. And of course there's nothing wrong with asking around, particularly if you're asking a more specific and easy-to-answer question like "who has the rights to X these days".
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Figure out the rights holder and ask.

Take note that it likely wont be cheap.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike Watne
United States
Burlington
Washington
flag msg tools
badge
Good times.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
It can be a huge pain, too. I've never had to get rights to board games, but I do run a little motion picture production company and have had to do the dance a few times to use licensed music in a film. In the case of music, it is a multi-step process, because usually the owner of the rights to the master recording is not the same person who has rights to the license, the distribution, or any of the ancillaries. In short, to put a song into a film, I had to get permission from 3 different companies, each of which had a thick bureaucratic web to penetrate and all of which independently asked for money.

So, for a board game, probably start by contacting the current publisher. Spend some time on the AH/Hasbro corporate site and see if you can find a reasonable person to ask. Send them an email and expect them to bounce you around a bit. It could take a busy person a week or two to respond. If you haven't heard anything by then, you probably contacted the wrong person and they ignored you. Pick somebody else and repeat. Eventually, you'll get it sorted.

But do yourself a favor and steer well clear of licensed properties like TV show adaptations and stuff. That is when you get into the sort of multi-tiered hoop-jumping nightmare that makes using licensed music seem like a walk in the park.

Be patient, but be persistent. You'll get where you need to be eventually. Good luck!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
And be prepared to be told No.

Also be aware of one of the pitfalls of a remake. If you change anything the fans you are trying to attract are going to likely make you regret those changes. Especially if you "streamlined" the game for them.

Sometimes its easier to just make your own game thats simmilar to the one you liked.
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Best to ask the designer as well as the current owner of the publisher.

Merchant of Venus had a bit of a debacle when 2 reprints were announced, one company got permission from the designer who thought he had the rights, and the other company got permission from the current owner of the company that originally published the game.

4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Wahl
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm not sure how related this is, but there are a few great, but long OOP games that I would pay to have rethemed, redesigned, and published on the geek for everyone to P&P. There are a number of amazing rethemes on the geek now, and I'd love to support that kind of work.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pharmakon wrote:
I'm not sure how related this is, but there are a few great, but long OOP games that I would pay to have rethemed, redesigned, and published on the geek for everyone to P&P. There are a number of amazing rethemes on the geek now, and I'd love to support that kind of work.


Just depends on who has the urge and the ability to do so. Some games just are not feasible to redo as a PNP without major sacrifices.

Some games are mostly off limits.

A rare few publishers have opened their OOP games to PNP.

Which ones were you hoping to see?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Herr
United States
Palos Hills
Illinois
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I've been working for some time on a rework of the combination of Avalon Hill/L2's War at Sea + AH's Victory in The Pacific. Many of you, I am sure, know this pairing as Victory at Sea. Those of you who do will also know that VAS was not sold as a game per se, but rather came in the General magazine as a handful of counters, two tiny paper maps, and a few extra rules to be added to the existing games.

My reboot - which began when I got tired of waiting for L2 to finish the job they said they were going to do - is designed as a single game with a single large map and a unified set of rules and is not intended for either the Atlantic or Pacific theatre to be played separately. The flavor of the older versions and many of the mechanics are still there, but there are also many significant differences. I don't want to go into a lot of details here for fear of accidentally hijacking the thread, but I will mention that all artwork has been completely redone.

Anybody have any thoughts on this specific case? Legally, I mean; not about the whole "How dare you mess with a classic?" thing.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Wahl
United States
Chicago
Illinois
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Omega2064 wrote:
Which ones were you hoping to see?


Cartel
Election
Manager

These games are actually games that I own, and are always hits. Sucks that people can't get their own copies.

Hotel Life used to be one, but that itch is in the process of being scratched.

Most people just make them and quietly publish them in the file sections, or on a thread, and if/when the game gets reprinted, they get deleted. No games that I'm interested in having rethemed are difficult to do, it's just that it's a lot of work to do a retheme. Luckily, we have passionate people like Carthaginian, Kwanchai, Todd Sanders and many others bringing these things back to life.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
OldPhartWargamer wrote:
I've been working for some time on a rework of the combination of Avalon Hill/L2's War at Sea + AH's Victory in The Pacific. Many of you, I am sure, know this pairing as Victory at Sea. Those of you who do will also know that VAS was not sold as a game per se, but rather came in the General magazine as a handful of counters, two tiny paper maps, and a few extra rules to be added to the existing games.

Anybody have any thoughts on this specific case? Legally, I mean; not about the whole "How dare you mess with a classic?" thing.


If it has so many changes then what is the point of calling it by the original game? Totally retheme it and present it as a game inspired by the original. People are less likely to just dismiss it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Hernan Ruiz Camauer
Argentina
Buenos Aires
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
boyce1981 wrote:
I was wondering if there is anything I have to do to use my graphic design skills in my off time to remake a game. Not looking at changing any of the rules just making it more aesthetically pleasing.

Do people usually take it upon themselves to do this?
How do you find out who has the rights to certain games?
How receptive are designers, or whoever own the rights to older games?


I have done what you are describing on numerous occasions. Sometimes I just re-designed the game board and counters, and sometimes I went so far as to create a new game cover and completely recreated the rulebooks, incorporated errata, fixed typos I encountered, etc. so as to essentially republish the game title (albeit strictly in digital format, for use in my virtual tabletop software).

In my experience, the game designer is typically the rights holder for the game, since they usually license it out to a publisher to print while retaining ownership of the design itself. More rarely, you may need to contact the game publisher, if the game designer sold the game design outright to the publisher.

I simply looked up the game designer on BGG and contacted them via GeekMail to request permission to release my re-design. For game designers who don't have BGG accounts, I would look for email addresses for them using Google searches. About 50% of the time that I contacted someone, I got permission. That's actually not too bad.

If your re-design is strictly for yourself, you don't need to request permission, but you probably should own a copy of the original game.

I am providing links below in case you would like to see samples of some of my game re-designs. In the first three links, you can see a graphic showing what the game components looked like before and after the re-design.

Aliens boardgame
Valkenburg Castle
Asteroid Zero-Four
Intruder
Close Assault (Basic Game)
Close Assault (Advanced Game)

Another nice way to re-design a game is to completely re-theme it (change the original genre and/or subject matter), as I did with Feudal Ops, a re-theme of Nexus Ops. (scroll down for the screenshots)
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Seth Iniguez
United States
Idaho Springs
Colorado
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Sort of related, but . . .

If you change rules to a game, change the theme, but it is clearly based on an existing game, should you try to contact the current owner for permission? Ignore the similarity to an existing game? Reference the existing game as the inspiration, but don't worry about rights?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Hutchings
Australia
Unspecified
Unspecified
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Rules to a game aren't copyrightable. Nor is a broad theme such as 'small scale combat in the European theatre of World War Two'. So you could make a 'retro-clone', just as OSRIC is a clone of AD&D.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
apeloverage wrote:
Rules to a game aren't copyrightable. Nor is a broad theme such as 'small scale combat in the European theatre of World War Two'. So you could make a 'retro-clone', just as OSRIC is a clone of AD&D.


Rules are copyrightable. But within certain limits. The closer to an exact copy of the original you get. The more likely it is that trouble may ensue if someone is so minded. You need to change things around, reword things, retheme it.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
boyce mcclellan
United States
Harrisonburg
VA
flag msg tools
If the game designer is not around any more and the company has since closed what then?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Start with this thread.

The US Copyright Office has stated that there is no protection for a board game. The rules as written/expressed are copyrighted, as is the art. The mechanics could be patented, but that has only been done a handful of times.

According to the U.S. Copyright Office:
Quote:
Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game. Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game or the pictorial matter appearing on the gameboard or container may be registrable.


So, could you make a roll and move game that plays like Life or Monopoly with a new name, newly written rules, and a whole re-themed art and theme? By the letter of the law, it looks like yes.

A bigger issue is trademarks. Use Mr. monopoly, the Monopoly name, and you are in for a lot of legal trouble. Copyright comes into play if you reuse the art or copy sections of the rules word-for-word.

One case I can think of is Flash Duel vs En Garde. As far as I know no legal action was brought nor even deemed possible, but Reiner Knizia was very much not happy with the retheme of one of his games.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Take note. The rules say simmilar principle. It does not say same rules. its a grey area totally up to local judicial interpretation. Tread carefully.

This is why publishers have gone after bootlegs and free PNPs of games if they notice and have the mind to.

But. Some countries apparently are much more open with interpretation to the point that outright theft of a game is permitted as long as you change one little element.

Also note that just because the game is OOP and the company and/or designer gone. NEVER means that it is not in someone elses hands. Hasbro has acquired ALOT of old games by absorbing older companies and their game libraries.

Look at the mess that occurred with Merchant of Venus. Publisher S gets the rights to the game from the designer who worked for Publisher A. Publisher F says they bought the rights from Publisher H who absorbed Publisher A and their games library.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jake Staines
United Kingdom
Grantham
Lincolnshire
flag msg tools
designer
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Omega2064 wrote:

Also note that just because the game is OOP and the company and/or designer gone. NEVER means that it is not in someone elses hands. Hasbro has acquired ALOT of old games by absorbing older companies and their game libraries.


Seconded - it's nearly never the case that a piece of IP just falls out of ownership just because a company folds. If a company goes bankrupt, its assets (and this includes IP) are dealt out amongst its creditors to pay back at least a little of what the company owed. If a company closes down voluntarily, it will nearly always sell off its assets one way or another. Even if the company does just release them for whatever reason, the rights will quite probably revert to the original designer/s.

Only once it's fifty seventy a hundred (or whatever it is these days in your jurisdiction of choice) years past the original publication date and everyone involved with the production has been dead for a similar period of time can you assume that the rights are in the public domain. And even that only goes for copyrights; trademarks last forever and patents have their own weird rules.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul Nowak
United States
Greenville
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
You have paid retail for the last time.
badge
The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. - GKC
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Bichatse wrote:
Omega2064 wrote:

Also note that just because the game is OOP and the company and/or designer gone. NEVER means that it is not in someone elses hands. Hasbro has acquired ALOT of old games by absorbing older companies and their game libraries.


Seconded - it's nearly never the case that a piece of IP just falls out of ownership just because a company folds. If a company goes bankrupt, its assets (and this includes IP) are dealt out amongst its creditors to pay back at least a little of what the company owed. If a company closes down voluntarily, it will nearly always sell off its assets one way or another. Even if the company does just release them for whatever reason, the rights will quite probably revert to the original designer/s.

Only once it's fifty seventy a hundred (or whatever it is these days in your jurisdiction of choice) years past the original publication date and everyone involved with the production has been dead for a similar period of time can you assume that the rights are in the public domain. And even that only goes for copyrights; trademarks last forever and patents have their own weird rules.


Trademarks have shorter terms than copyright, but they have to be defended, and if they are renewed they can sometimes last longer than a copyright.

Best thing is to be specific about your case and talk to an copyright or trademark attorney.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Scott
New Zealand
Auckland
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmb
Omega2064 wrote:
Take note. The rules say simmilar principle. It does not say same rules. its a grey area totally up to local judicial interpretation. Tread carefully.

This is why publishers have gone after bootlegs and free PNPs of games if they notice and have the mind to.


I believe you are misinterpreting similar principles to artificially exclude the possibility that a game plays identically. That the person who wrote the short summary quoted from the US Copyright Office hasn't opted for excessive verbosity and noted "similar or identical" is no grounds to exclude identical principles being involved. Similar includes identical as the latter is a special case of the former. Similarity is less stringent and thus easier to prove than identity so legally one is a fool to contest the latter when the former suffices. As has been repeatedly hashed out in these threads it is the artistic expression of the rules that is copyrighted, not the mechanisms or interactions defined by the rules.

Your second paragraph asserts a causal relationship from the first that does not exist. Publishers have gone after PnPs even if they aren't violating copyright on the basis that the litigation won't be defended, due to cost or time or whatever. There's also the possibility that they feel a need to do this to be seen to be actively defending their IP whether for trademark or to discourage others who might be tempted to violate copyright for real.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John "Omega" Williams
United States
Kentwood
Michigan
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Its still a grey legal area and so the advice to tread carefully.

At the very least it can potentially get you viewed as a thief and blacklisted from certain publishers. Its happened before.

Get permission. Its not worth it otherwise unless you are doing a free PNP retheme/reskin. In which case the lightning bolt is less likely to strike. But again. You NEVER know.

If you can figure out who currently holds the rights. Try asking. They will lokely say no. But on occasion publishers have said yes. Thats how Barbarian Prince saw its update. Magic Realm is around because people got ahold of the designer who was ok with their work.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
1 , 2  Next »   | 
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.