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Subject: Using Real World Location - Legal Questions rss

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Michael M.
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This post is aimed primarily at people who have gone through the process of actually publishing a game, but anyone with pertinent information or advice is welcome to comment!

What are the legal issues that come along with using real world locations in games? Two examples that jump to mind are Pandemic and Eldritch Horror, but there are many others. Is there a difference between using the name of a real world location and a visual depiction of it? Here are some of my assumptions, elaborate on or correct them:

1) The name of any public, government run location, such as a state or city, may be used in text without needing any special permission. For example, if it states on your character sheet that your character's hometown is New Buffalo, Michigan, that's fine.

2) Visual/physical representations of real world locations will need permission from the appriopriate people since those are privately owned. However, does this only relate to seeing names within a visual representation? For example, Los Santos in GTA5 is pretty much an exact copy of L.A., including the skyline... however, the tallest building in the skyline, clearly meant to be the U.S. Bank building, does not have the words "U.S. Bank" anywhere on it.

3) Similarly, Los Angeles is one of the locations you can travel to in Rock Band, and in the background you can see the HOLLYWOOD sign... but if you look closely it's actually spelled HOLLYWODD. Looking back at the first two games I mentioned, Pandemic uses the names of different cities but not really visual representations (outside of a map), and while Eldritch Horror does have images of real world places, none of them are of specific buildings or landmarks... at least as far as I can tell

Since the game I am currently working on takes place entirely within real world locations, this is a really important issue for me to clear up before proceeding with it.
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Grant Stewart
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If you're using any photographs you may wish to read this; http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/columns/tech-tips/do-i-ne...

Otherwise I think most people use a representation rather then the real thing with the exception of real world location names.
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Michael Iachini
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I think you'll get better answers if you get a little more specific with your questions. For instance:

- Can I have a map with actual city / state / country names on it? Sure, lots of games do this.
- Can I use someone else's photographs of a city skyline? Only if you get the rights to the photograph itself.
- Can I use names of famous buildings as locations in my game, such as Willis Tower, the Pentagon, PNC Park? You would potentially be on shakier ground here with public buildings, and almost certainly not allowed to use the names of private buildings because of trademark issues.
- Can I use actual street names on a city map board? This is probably okay, although I'm not an expert.

Michael Iachini
Clay Crucible Games
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Stijn Hommes
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Using real world locations is fine and you are right to assume you need to obtain the rights to any photographs you wish to use.

Brands and business names are another thing altogether.
 
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Michael M.
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ChaosAndAlchemy wrote:
I think you'll get better answers if you get a little more specific with your questions. For instance:

- Can I have a map with actual city / state / country names on it? Sure, lots of games do this.
- Can I use someone else's photographs of a city skyline? Only if you get the rights to the photograph itself.
- Can I use names of famous buildings as locations in my game, such as Willis Tower, the Pentagon, PNC Park? You would potentially be on shakier ground here with public buildings, and almost certainly not allowed to use the names of private buildings because of trademark issues.
- Can I use actual street names on a city map board? This is probably okay, although I'm not an expert.

Michael Iachini
Clay Crucible Games


Thanks, these are a lot more specific! For the record, I don't plan on using ANY photographs, it would all be original art /of/ cities. Due to the theme f my game, these will be somewhat futuristic versions of each city, so I can play around with which buildings are there or not, but I would like to maintain iconographic skylines.


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mike
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If it's set in the future I assume you'll be creating original artwork so the only real issue would be using names of buildings if they are trademarked
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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A question that popped into my head is, if you contacted a company to ask if you could use their name on a graphic which depicts their building, how long do you have to wait for a reply? or does it not have a time limit attached?

PS I am surprised no one has thumbed this post, an excellent question.
 
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