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Subject: About Copyrights of Ancient games rss

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Gaggy Glax

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Hi.
I don't know if this is right place to discuss about copyrights.

My question are who own copyrights of ancient games like Senet, Backgammon, Checkers, Alquerque, Mancala ...?

Can a company publish it without have permission from authors? Because the authors are not alive anymore. Or these games are published publicly so any company can publish them?

Thanks for your reply!
 
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Pasi Ojala
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Even if the game is in public domain, you can't copy any of the recent rulebooks or appearances verbatim. But you can make you own version with a rulebook of your own creation. (Copyright protects creative works, not ideas, algorithms, or rules. There are also Trademarks and Patents that may apply when Copyrights don't.)

Note: this is not a legal advice.
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Bryan Thunkd
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Copyright only came about with the advent of the printing press really, so ancient boardgames would have predated any sort of copyright laws. And copyright laws extending how long things stayed copyrighted beyond the creator's death only came about in 1922, so anything copyrighted before 1923 is already in the public domain.

Edit:IANAL
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Gaggy Glax

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Thanks for quick reply.

I guess it's legal as long as it's unique in rulebook and appearances. Right?
 
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Gaggy Glax

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Thunkd wrote:
Copyright only came about with the advent of the printing press really, so ancient boardgames would have predated any sort of copyright laws. And copyright laws extending how long things stayed copyrighted beyond the creator's death only came about in 1922, so anything copyrighted before 1923 is already in the public domain.

Edit:IANAL

Wow, that's helpful information. Thank you!
 
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Alison Mandible
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The rights to backgammon are still held by the estate of Jennifer Backgammon, who invented it 5000 years ago in what is now Iran.

Due to the large amount of time involved, her estate now consists of 10 million people, each of whom you will need permission from in order to publish a backgammon game.

I should add that this is not legal advice. In addition to that, it's not even true.
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Gaggy Glax

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grasa_total wrote:
The rights to backgammon are still held by the estate of Jennifer Backgammon, who invented it 5000 years ago in what is now Iran.

Due to the large amount of time involved, her estate now consists of 10 million people, each of whom you will need permission from in order to publish a backgammon game.

I should add that this is not legal advice. In addition to that, it's not even true.

Hilarious.
 
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Joseph Larson
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grasa_total wrote:
The rights to backgammon are still held by the estate of Jennifer Backgammon, who invented it 5000 years ago in what is now Iran.

Due to the large amount of time involved, her estate now consists of 10 million people, each of whom you will need permission from in order to publish a backgammon game.

I should add that this is not legal advice. In addition to that, it's not even true.

Almost correct. You only need permission of 2/3 of her estate to make a backgammon game, and I hear that they're easily swayed by asymmetrical game play and 3D printed dice in your versions. They also love those little wooden tokens that are shaped like things.

Senet is an unfortunate case. The last living descendant of the game died around 400AD and unfortunately took with them the rules of the game that were handed down by oral tradition, as the makers of the game realized that any other medium degrades with time. Had they covered their bases a bit more we may still have at least one set of rules for the game. Rumor has it, however, that the rules were only 3 words, however as their are roughly 1 million words in the English language, ans assuming no repetitions, there are 999997000002000000 possible combinations, one of which is the rules we're looking for. There are Senet reconstruction societies playing games with the known boards and pieces and each combination of words hoping to strike upon the right one. Apparently they had a good run with "Roll ____ Move", but never found the middle word that made a truly timeless play experience.

Mancala was actually invented by mice, and since mice have no legal representation there is no recourse if you decide to make one. Should the mouse/rat/rodent lobby ever gain traction, however, there's a chance you'd have to pay back royalties.

Never heard of Alquerque before. But wikipedia says it originated in the middle east which means there's a good chance it's currently owned by the indigenous people of Australia, as the rights to all Middle Eastern games were given to them in reparations for the "Wet Hanky" event of 1654, but we don't talk about that.
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Stephen Williams
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cymon wrote:

Rumor has it, however, that the rules were only 3 words, however as their are roughly 1 million words in the English language, ans assuming no repetitions, there are 999997000002000000 possible combinations, one of which is the rules we're looking for.


Well, I guess it's time to break out my collection of infinite monkeys and typewriters! And the wife said I'd never find a good use for them!
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Rob Frey
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To start, games themselves aren't covered under copyright law, although aspects of the game may be covered under copyright. Aspects may also be covered under trademark law. The game mechanics and rules themselves, for the most part, can't be legally protected, although theoretically you might be able to get away with patenting a unique mechanic (but probably not).

Any sort of artwork, photographs, and the actual verbatim rules are all protected under copyright. Names of newer in print games, if they are unique, might be covered under trademark or unfair competition.

Rules are generally protected under an honor system. The hobbyist gaming community is small and niche, and also can be loyal to publishers and designers. If a company were to copy every aspect of a game without adding anything new and try to sell it as a different game, it would probably result in a backlash that would reduce sales to the point that the game would not be profitable (unless the original game's designer was also involved with the second rebranded game).

Words With Friends is a good example of stealing a game and rebranding it without legal consequences. The game is Scrabble on the computer. It's also been sold as a board game, which is exactly the same as the board game scrabble. This was only really doable because the game was marketed to the general public and not the hobbyist community, and also because by the time anyone took notice, Words With Friends was already printing so much money a legal battle against them would be pointless.

Which is another point worth bringing up. It usually doesn't matter if what a small publisher is doing is technically legal, or even if their game was influenced at all by another title. If a big company like Hasbro decides that their license has been infringed (even if it obviously legally hasn't), usually all the have to do is begin legal actions to force the small publisher to do what they want or bankrupt them.

As to your original question, no one does, nor can they, own the games Senet, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, or any of the other really old games, beyond their personal writing of the rules and artwork and photographs they've had designed. All of these games are currently published by several different companies.

However I don't think there's a very big market for high end copies of most of these games, and the low end markets are already very competitive.
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Barry Harvey
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Things like artwork can be copyrighted so either create your own, buy the rights or find art that is available for free.

And avoid Trademarks. You can create a generic Zombie Backgammon if you like, but BatGammon and Robin is likely to cause problems.
 
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Anon Y. Mous
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This mentality is very interesting, it suggests that most people are actually entirely unaware that copyrights are supposed to be temporary.
 
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Pasi Ojala
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Ethereality wrote:
This mentality is very interesting, it suggests that most people are actually entirely unaware that copyrights are supposed to be temporary.

What makes you think so? Maybe you misread.
 
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Ian Toltz
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a1bert wrote:
Ethereality wrote:
This mentality is very interesting, it suggests that most people are actually entirely unaware that copyrights are supposed to be temporary.

What makes you think so? Maybe you misread.


This person's asking about the copyright status of things that are thousands of years old. The implication is that this person is unsure whether copyrights expire.

FWIW, as long as the House of Mouse exists, copyrights probably won't ever expire again, so... yeah.
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Pasi Ojala
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Asmor wrote:
This person's asking about the copyright status of things that are thousands of years old. The implication is that this person is unsure whether copyrights expire.

Okay, so one people is most people to you.

(I now see what you meant.)
 
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Ian Toltz
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Now you seem to be confusing me with the person you originally quoted.
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