Recommend
1 
 Thumb up
 Hide
27 Posts
1 , 2  Next »   | 

BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » General Gaming

Subject: The legality of retheming an existing game rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: copyright [+] [View All]
Mark Crane
United States
Orem
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This is my own curiousity speaking--I represent no one, and barely even myself.

Let's say there was a really great game that was in or out of print, and you wanted to create an online version to play, since all of your gaming buddies only wanted to play Warhammer.

1) Is it legal IN THE UNITED STATES to create an alternate version of the original game, rename it, create new graphics and text, and stick it online, calling it something else like "Toads and Goats" or "Shadows of Camel Snot" or whatever?

2) If you linked to the original game with a big banner that said, "Buy This Game" would that be a tacit admission that you ripped off the original, and subject you to legal penalty?



Thank you, armchair lawyers.

For what it's worth, I have no plans to do this, and it strikes me as ethically dubious at best.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
shumyum
United States
flag msg tools
badge
♒♒♒♒♎♒♒♒♒ sloooowly sinking
Avatar
I am not a lawyer, but I believe this is true:

You are OK if you do not use any of the text (including the title) or the art. Only the actual TEXT of the rules can be protected, not the substance. A very few games have patented mechanisms (Magic's "tapping" is one of those rare examples) that you should be aware of, I guess.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CHAPEL
United States
Round Rock
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Crane
United States
Orem
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
MWChapel wrote:
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?


Uh, Battle Lore?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CHAPEL
United States
Round Rock
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
craniac wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?


Uh, Battle Lore?



HAHA...besides that ripoff. There is another french made game that came out recently.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris B
United States
Oxford
Mississippi
flag msg tools
Hotty Toddy Rebels!
badge
Lets go Blues!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/5481
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
CHAPEL
United States
Round Rock
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
"that's a smith and wesson, and you've had your six"
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
SybotCB wrote:

YES! Thank you. It was biting at my tongue.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Rodriguez
United States
Carrollton
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
craniac wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?


Uh, Battle Lore?


LOL!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Anthony Thompson
United States
Berkeley
California
flag msg tools
designer
AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW YESH
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I am not a lawyer, but have consulted with many and various on this issue.

In the US, only the art work and the exact text are protected (specifically, by trademark); a product's title is considered part of that exact text. You can re-draw the art from scratch and you can re-write the text/re-title the game. If challenged it will be up to the courts to decide if your work is derivitive without being satirical (satire is strongly protected thanks in part to many challenges levelled against Mad magazine over the years...)

WRT most boardgames, very little can be patented. A patent covers a novel non-trivial mechanism or process, and most board games have tired-and-true trivial mechanisms and processes. Again, you can patent what you want (these days, anyway; [rant]the Inet tech boom has destroyed the professionalism of the US patent office...[/rant]) but it will up to the courts to decide the merits of a challenge, if any.

So to answer your questions:

1) Yes, but the more transparent the copy, the greater risk of rousing the ire of the original copyright holder and having a legal judgement go against you.

2) That seems pretty innocuous, but again, if the entire concept is challenged in court, I suppose a lawyer might try and enter that as evidence. But standing alone it seems perfectly legal.

Lastly, the ethics. It does seem grossly unfair that you put all the sweat (of your brow at least) equity into a product and I just copy it and we have the potential to profit equally. Some people feel differently about a product that is out of print, such as analogs of Titan or Talisman. The bright side is that there is actually very little money in board gaming, and the incidence of this is exceedingly rare.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Crane
United States
Orem
Utah
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
TableStar_Thompson wrote:
I am not a lawyer, but have consulted with many and various on this issue.

In the US, only the art work and the exact text are protected (specifically, by trademark); a product's title is considered part of that exact text. You can re-draw the art from scratch and you can re-write the text/re-title the game. If challenged it will be up to the courts to decide if your work is derivitive without being satirical (satire is strongly protected thanks in part to many challenges levelled against Mad magazine over the years...)

WRT most boardgames, very little can be patented. A patent covers a novel non-trivial mechanism or process, and most board games have tired-and-true trivial mechanisms and processes. Again, you can patent what you want (these days, anyway; [rant]the Inet tech boom has destroyed the professionalism of the US patent office...[/rant]) but it will up to the courts to decide the merits of a challenge, if any.

So to answer your questions:

1) Yes, but the more transparent the copy, the greater risk of rousing the ire of the original copyright holder and having a legal judgement go against you.

2) That seems pretty innocuous, but again, if the entire concept is challenged in court, I suppose a lawyer might try and enter that as evidence. But standing alone it seems perfectly legal.

Lastly, the ethics. It does seem grossly unfair that you put all the sweat (of your brow at least) equity into a product and I just copy it and we have the potential to profit equally. Some people feel differently about a product that is out of print, such as analogs of Titan or Talisman. The bright side is that there is actually very little money in board gaming, and the incidence of this is exceedingly rare.


What are the ethics of doing this on a non-profit basis, like Vassal? Thank you for the analysis and info.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kent Reuber
United States
San Mateo
California
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
MWChapel wrote:
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?


You may be thinking of the Napoleonic game "Vive l'Empereur", which is published by the Italian firm Gio Games. http://giogames.it/VLEenglish.html

They credit Richard Borg and the game Battle Cry in the basic rules. There are a number of rules that add to the C&C system such as zones of control, etc.

Another game that borrows heavily is "Clash for a Continent" by Worthington Games, although they use dice to generate APs rather than action cards.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Rodriguez
United States
Carrollton
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
craniac wrote:

What are the ethics of doing this on a non-profit basis, like Vassal? Thank you for the analysis and info.


Thats pretty debatable - copyright issues have always been controversial.

IMHO, if the game is out of print I wouldn't have a problem with it at all. If the game is in-print and all that is differnt is the theme (the rules are the same - even if they are reworded) then I would advise against it unless you get the orginial designers sign-off. If it is for non-profit / Vassel I would bet most designers wouldn't care though.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Alexius Exfalso
United Kingdom
flag msg tools
mb
What are the ethics of doing this on a non-profit basis, like Vassal? Thank you for the analysis and info.

Well, Vassal reproduces games for online play; provided it does so with the author's/publisher's permission and a mod maker doesn't actually claim authorship himself, there is no real ethical hang-up.

From the point of view of promoting the hobby, it has great potential; the Vassal mods are online samples of the real thing, and so even lacking the rules and scenarios it is possible to view and interact with the componants. That, and the creation of games-playing communites spanning continents: it is win/win, surely.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David
Canada
Ontario
flag msg tools
mb
Quote:
You are OK if you do not use any of the text (including the title) or the art. Only the actual TEXT of the rules can be protected, not the substance. A very few games have patented mechanisms (Magic's "tapping" is one of those rare examples) that you should be aware of, I guess.


Wait, wait, "tapping" is copyrighted?

You mean I can't design a game where you turn cards sideways to show they've been used that turn without WoTC's permission. (or paying them money or whatever, it's been awhile and I've forgotten exactly how copyrights work)
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SAKURA in KYOTO 2018 Back to Kansai
England
York
North Yorkshire
flag msg tools
admin
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
This has come up on the geek a few times. My understanding (and I'm a High Court judge, leading barrister, QC and outrageous liar) is that you're talking about three different things.

1. Copyright - this applies to text and graphic design. If you re-write and re-draw the game so that it doesn't copy the original, whilst retaining the actual mechanisms, you're not open to a legal action.

2. Trademark - when a firm uses certain words or phrases as a recognisable trading identity (and this applies to packaging and logos too), they can apply for a registered trademark. Copy those and you're open to legal action.

3. Patent - if the game contains a unique and original mechanism not used previous, the designers may apply for a patent, which if granted gives them rights for a limited period. When that patent expires, it's open season.

So you can take that hexagonal based island trading game and re-theme it to a small planet with space dust converting into domes and space ports. But don't call it settlers of anything and check that rolling 2 dice to yield a resource hasn't been patented in your territory.

And don't confuse being sued for damages with being prosecuted for a crime.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Rodriguez
United States
Carrollton
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
Shryke wrote:

Wait, wait, "tapping" is copyrighted?

You mean I can't design a game where you turn cards sideways to show they've been used that turn without WoTC's permission. (or paying them money or whatever, it's been awhile and I've forgotten exactly how copyrights work)


You CAN turn a card sideways to show it has been used and call it something else - you just CANNOT call it "tapping". You'll never see anohter card game that says you must "tap" a card - they will call it something different.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Beyak
United States
Santa Rosa
California
flag msg tools
badge
Combat Commander gets your blood flowing.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
In the US, only the art work and the exact text are protected (specifically, by trademark);


I believe the protection here comes from copyright law. Trademark law protects names that uniquely identify a product or service.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Paul DeStefano
United States
Long Island
New York
flag msg tools
designer
badge
It's a Zendrum. www.zendrum.com
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
shumyum wrote:
very few games have patented mechanisms (Magic's "tapping" is one of those rare examples)


Nin-Gonost's dice (Gradiated D6s - ie 1-6, 2-7, 3-8) and the magnetic board are patented.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mark Beyak
United States
Santa Rosa
California
flag msg tools
badge
Combat Commander gets your blood flowing.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
from Wikipedia:

Quote:
Patent

Main article: Collectible card game#Patent

Magic was the basis for a controversial patent granted to Wizards of the Coast in 1997. The patent describes several of the game's concepts such as "tapping" and constructing a play deck by selecting cards from a larger pool. As of 2006, the patent's legal standing has not been fully challenged in court.


I'd say they wasted their money on the patent. Well, I guess they have a lot of money to waste.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Clinton McHugh
United States
Greenwood Village
Colorado
flag msg tools
badge
Every bald guy should own at least one great hat.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Beyak wrote:
Quote:
In the US, only the art work and the exact text are protected (specifically, by trademark);


I believe the protection here comes from copyright law. Trademark law protects names that uniquely identify a product or service.


Trademarks can also apply to symbols.

Jon Power does correctly describe the rough categories.

As for giving away the game and not turning a profit - that's a non-starter on anything that is protected. Reason being that the owner of the IP may argue that it suffered loss of sales (and if the IP is not currently in use, could argue that it planned to release something using it).

For very small circulation, you're unlikely to have any problems as a practical matter. If you're worried about it spreading though, you're better off leaving it alone.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Brian Smith
United States
Perry Hall
Maryland
flag msg tools
IA!! IA!!
badge
FTAGHN!
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:
You CAN turn a card sideways to show it has been used and call it something else - you just CANNOT call it "tapping". You'll never see anohter card game that says you must "tap" a card - they will call it something different.


this is not entirely accurate. WOTC has used the term "tapping" in some of their other card games. However, other companies do not, as that term is patented, as well as trademarked, I believe. The term "tap" in this context was first used by magic, and they trademarked it as such.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Finn
United States
St. Louis
Missouri
flag msg tools
badge
MWChapel wrote:
Wasn;t there a game recently that blatantly ripped off the C&C BattleCry engine? Some game in france?



When I learned about BGG, one of the first type of games I looked for were light wargames. In the past, I had played table top miniatures and tried some of the more serious wargames, but now I was looking for easy to learn/teach and fun to play wargames.

The Command & Colors game system by Borg fit the bill perfectly, but I was looking for a Napoleonic themed light wargame. When I started searching, Vive L'Empereur appeared as a possible game. Then I saw some of the complaints that the designer had stolen the game system from Borg. I didn't want to buy a rip-off, so I continued to look for easy and fun light wargames. The more I researched - BBG and the internet are great for finding game information - the more I learned about other, older wargames that used the same and/or very similar game mechanics as Command & Colors.


High Ground (1986): Abstract miniatures with flags, defined starting points with other possible scenarios, action cards and dice for combat.

Battle Masters (1992):
uses miniatures, specialty combat dice, action cards, fortification/terrain tiles to place on hexagon map, and even flags.

Sirocco (1985):
uses miniatures, order cards with dice used for combat resolution.

The above game "systems" are just a few of the wargames that can rightly claim to be the "GrandDaddys" of our newer, easy and fun to play light wargames.

So I decided it would be OK to buy Vive L'Empereur, since it is not "stolen" from anybody. Actually L'Empereur has been hard to find, so I bought Yankees & Rebels. Then I bought Memoir '44, High Ground and now I am looking for that new Waterloo game.....




1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ken H.
United States
Amherst
Ohio
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Velusion wrote:
Shryke wrote:

Wait, wait, "tapping" is copyrighted?

You mean I can't design a game where you turn cards sideways to show they've been used that turn without WoTC's permission. (or paying them money or whatever, it's been awhile and I've forgotten exactly how copyrights work)


You CAN turn a card sideways to show it has been used and call it something else - you just CANNOT call it "tapping". You'll never see anohter card game that says you must "tap" a card - they will call it something different.



Not true. Patent law goes way beyond the name of the invention. Otherwise you would see companies reverse engineering everything under the sun, and just giving it a different name. Names generally fall under trademark law.

I think the actual WotC patent has been published on line somewhere. The gist of it is that they claim ownership of the concept of rotating a game component as a means of paying the cost of putting another game component into play, or paying the cost of using a game component that is already in play.

In other words, it has nothing to do with what you call it. Legend of the Five Rings originally called it "bowing", and they were still subject to the patent.

Then again, as someone else said, with patents you never really know if it will hold up when challenged in court. Some companies with deep pockets will "patent" theoretical inventions that don't even exist yet. Then, when some small start-up actually invents it, the big company has leverage.

 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Barton Campbell
United States
Jersey City
New Jersey
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm not a lawyer but I have an opinion.

Part of copyright infringement is the concept of what you can convince a jury of. In this regard game designers are very lucky that the general public has no familiarity with games. In other words, lets say someone were to rip off Totaler Krieg!, for example, but re-theme it as a Napoleonic War game or fantasy game. Try to convince a jury that a Napoleonic game is a copy of a WWII game or a fantasy game. To the non-gaming public WWII is totally different from the Napoleonic Wars. It matters little that the mechanics might be essentially the same. No jury in the world would buy that one was a rip-off of the other.

"Gentlemen and women of the jury, the plaintiff contends that a dragon is the same as a wing of German Luftwaffe aircraft."

The jury breaks out in spontaneous and uncontrolled laughter.

"I rest my case."
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael J
United States
Folsom
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
If you create all new art, all new text, use all new names, and have an all new theme, you generally should be OK. However, very few games can be re-themed with no other rules changes and still be as good as the original. Good games have rules that are tied to a theme in some organic way. The odds are that after you have re-themed your game, there will start to be rules differences anyway. Add a few rules here and there, and your game will be completely different!
 
 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.